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If I were to tell you that your response to a two word sentence could radically change your life, would you be interested? It’s true! A simple search of the NIV New Testament gives 23 times that Jesus said specifically or by reference, “Follow Me!”
What does it mean to follow? The dictionary has several definitions that are pertinent to our relationship to Jesus. Let’s look at a few.
Follow: Go or come after a person or thing who is proceeding ahead.
Example: Joe followed Sally into the room.
This may seem pretty simple, but I must admit I am frequently out of order. Sometimes it seems Jesus is just moving too slow for me, and I try to run ahead. Of course, I find that I really don’t know where I am going and I have to fall back in line behind Him to find out.
Follow: Go in the same direction toward a common point.
Example: Joe followed Sally to the family room.
Again, I must raise my hand to acknowledge I don’t always do this one either. I’m very distractible. Satan makes full use of that one. Rarely do I take just one step off the route Jesus is taking. I start with one step. But then I see something else that looks interesting, and before I know it, I’m not following Jesus at all. I’m following everything else!
Follow: Come after in time or order.
Example: There followed seven years of prosperity.
That solidly affirms God’s Order and Timing. As noted, I’m a little (ok … a lot) impatient. And I frequently want to skip over steps. Jesus walks at just the right pace and does everything in the perfect Order.
Follow: Act according to an instruction or precept.
Example: Joe followed the instructions to the letter.
Remember our discussion of the child’s game, “Simon Says?” We were only to follow the command if it were preceded by “Simon Says.” God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit really do give clear instructions. If we simply followed The Instructions of The One, Life would be much less confusing.
Follow: Pay close attention to.
Example: John followed what Susan was saying.
In order to get the instructions, we need to listen and watch the One Who is ahead of us.
Example: I follow a strict diet.
When we follow something, it means we look at the guidelines with a goal in mind. We believe if we practice the instructions, we will make a change in our life that is worthwhile.
So What Does It Mean To Follow Jesus?
Let’s go back and pick up the definitions we just reviewed from the dictionary and apply it to a Life of Following Jesus.
He goes first always. We are behind Him. We learned that in our “marriage to God,” we always put His Name (I AM) first and then we follow with statements that are true of Him. When we follow this order, He will reveal His Will for us. Example: I AM joyful!
We are going in the same direction as Jesus. We follow Him step by step and don’t digress from the Direction He is going.
We keep the same pace as He has. We don’t lag behind and we don’t run ahead.
We take every step He takes. We don’t try to detour around parts of life and catch up with Him on the other side of the hill. We go in whatever order He decides. If He stops, we stop. If He moves, we move.
We follow His Instructions to the letter. We learn His Word so well that we recognize Him instantly. We know His Voice. We know what He has taught us.
Even though we know what He has already taught us, we cannot afford to zone out and think we know what He is going to say. We must pay attention to every Word at every second. Remember satan can quote scripture, but he always puts it in the wrong context. To catch the difference, we must pay attention at all times!
We must practice following Jesus. We know we are prone to wander, but Praise The One, He gives us another chance to get it right. Practice! Practice! Practice!
OK, got it? Ready to follow Jesus? Before you run out the door, there are a few more things you should know about following Him. We won’t go over all 23 scriptures that have to do with following Jesus. But we will look at what is recorded about what Jesus said to those who wanted to follow Him.
You are not on earth as just a random collection of protoplasm. You were created specifically to do a job. You may already know what that is. You may not! You may be surprised!
Matthew 4:18 records,
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee,
He saw two brothers,
Simon called Peter and his brother, Andrew.
They were casting a net into the lake,
for they were fishermen.
They thought they knew their purpose on earth. It was to go out with their families and catch fish. Jesus had something else in mind.
Verse 19 records,
“Come, follow Me, Jesus said,
“and I will send you out
to fish for people!”
Jesus showed an important trend He used throughout His Ministry. He used what was already known to usher people into things that were previously unknown to them. He whispered over and over again with great joy, what God had said through the Prophet Jeremiah,
“Call to Me and
I will answer you
and tell you great and unsearchable things
you do not know.”
Jesus used the skills Simon and Andrew already had to bring them into a world beyond anything they could have ever imagined.
Matthew 9:9 records,
As Jesus went on from there,
He saw a man named Matthew
sitting at the tax collector’s booth.
“Follow Me!” He told him,
and Matthew got up and followed Him!
Mark 2:14 records,
As He walked along, He saw Levi,
son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax collector’s booth.
“Follow Me!” Jesus told him,
and Levi got up and followed Him.
John 1:43 records,
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee.
Finding Philip, He said to him,
These men and others were called specifically by Jesus. And the wonder of it all is that they did so immediately! If someone were to show up at your place of work or at some other random place and just say, “Follow Me!” would you do it?
I suspect there was something else about being in The Full Presence of Jesus that resonated with each one He called. The “homing device” inside each of them came on in full force and they knew they were in the Presence of their Creator!
John 10:27 records Jesus’ Words,
My sheep listen to My Voice;
I know them and they follow Me!
Those who were called heard the call and recognized it. They followed!
What Do We Get?
Even those who clearly hear The Lord’s Voice and immediately follow Him get a reality check when the world comes into full view. But, there is even more of a reality check when we discover what Jesus expects of those who follow Him.
Hey, He’s part of The One! He has All The Power of the Universe. This is going to be fun … isn’t it? Jesus was never One to sugar coat things. He was plain spoken. Hear what He said to some would be Followers and see if you still want to sign on.
No Fancy Accommodations
Matthew 8:18-20 records that a teacher of the law came to Jesus and said,
“Teacher, I will follow You wherever you go.”
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place
to lay His Head.”
What? No fancy hotels? Not even a tent? Jesus started out with “no place for His Head.” Shouldn’t He have moved up since then?
No Funeral Leave
Matthew 8:21-22 records,
Another disciple said to Him,
“Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
But Jesus said to him,
and let the dead bury their own dead.”
The Head Of Your Family Will Be Jesus!
He and The Mission Will Come First!
Matthew 10:37 records Jesus’ Words,
Anyone who loves their father or mother
more than Me
is not worthy of Me!
As A Matter of Fact, Forget About Yourself Too!
Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34 records Jesus’ Words,
Whoever wants to be My Disciple
must deny themselves
and take up their cross
and follow Me!
But, What About My Stuff? I Can’t Just Walk Away From That!
Matthew 19:21 and Mark 10:21 records Jesus’ Words,
If you want to be perfect,
go, sell your possessions
and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in Heaven!
OK, This Taking Up the Cross Keeps Coming Up.
I’m Not Really Into Pain and Suffering.
Not only Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34, but also Luke 9:23 records Jesus Words,
Whoever wants to be My Disciple
must deny themselves
and take up their cross daily
and follow Me!
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever losses their life for Me will save it!
“This is not OK,” you might say. “Give up everything and what we get is an instrument of torture, which we choose to take up … take up daily … and then we die??? I don’t know what I was thinking!”
Peter Starts to Put It All Together!
Peter was clearly an impulsive young man, who was filled with passion and daring. He was ready to call down fire from heaven to punctuate what he believed people should understand. He had the fastest sword in the group and used it. He believed he could do what no other human had done. He actually believed he could walk on water!
But, at some point on his journey with Jesus, he began to see just how much he and the other disciples had given up to follow Jesus. Peter boldly asked the question that was probably on the minds of the others.
Matthew 19:27 records Peter’s Question:
We have left everything to follow you!
What will there be for us?
Verse 28 records Jesus’ Answer:
Jesus said to them,
“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things,
when The Son of Man sits on His Glorious Throne,
you who have followed Me
will also sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has left houses
or brothers or sisters
or father or mother
or wife or children or fields
for My Sake will receive
a hundred times as much
and will inherit Eternal Life!
Wow, that sounds pretty good! Perhaps Jesus mercifully withheld the whole picture from Peter that day. He knew Peter believed himself to be loyal, but Jesus knew Peter’s big test of loyalty was coming.
He would wait until Peter had fully passed that exam before telling him the rest of his future.
Jesus also knew Peter had more growing up to do before he could become a servant and genuinely love other people. And taking up that cross — well, it had everything to do with loving people.
While the vertical beam of the cross can be considered to represent the connection of earth and heaven, the horizontal beam was the one carried by Jesus on His Way to Golgotha. The horizontal beam on which Jesus’ Arms would be stretched out represents the Love He had for man. Jesus was the open Bridge that reinforced man had a choice. They had a choice to love or not.
On another day, Jesus gave Peter a chance at a do over of his exam, which he had failed miserably. After Jesus’ Resurrection, He came to His Followers. He found them, as He had found them in the beginning. They were fishing. But their lives had been turned upside down since that first day. Now they were not sure of anything anymore. Jesus needed them to be sure.
He had shared that last supper with them. Even though He had plainly told them that they would see Him again, when time passed, they began to think all they had left was what they had to begin with. And yet, hope lingered that it had not all been a dream.
John 21:15-19 records Jesus’ Discussion with Peter.
When they had finished eating,
Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said,
“You know that I love You!”
Jesus said, “Feed My Lambs.”
Again Jesus said,
“Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You!”
Jesus said, “Take care of My Sheep.”
The third time He said to him,
“Simon, Son of John, do you love Me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked Him the third time,
“Do you love Me?”
He said, “Lord, you know all things;
You know that I love You!”
Jesus said, “Feed My Sheep.”
Peter had had the opportunity to hear himself say how much he loved Jesus. And in the telling of his Love for Jesus, He realized it was his voice, but in actuality, the words he was speaking were coming back to him from Jesus. Jesus loved him! Jesus trusted him! Jesus was giving him a trusted job to do.”
But before Peter’s old adversary, satan, could take advantage of what could have been an ego trip, Jesus told Peter what it would cost him to follow Jesus.
Verse 18 records,
“Very truly I tell you,
when you were younger, you dressed yourself
and went where you wanted;
but when you are old,
you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Peter would have the honor of dying by the same route as Jesus, a life symbolized by submission to The One inside of him, a life of loving other people and connecting them to each other and to The Father.
It is said Peter died crucified, upside down. He is reported to have said that he was not worthy to die exactly as his Savior had. There seems to be a message in the way he died. Peter was a part of the group who chose to follow Jesus and in doing so, turned the world upside down!
Points to Ponder
Are you following Jesus?
Go back through the definitions at the beginning of this post. How many different ways are you following Jesus? Talk with God about any that are particularly challenging for you.
Look at each person or thing Jesus asked you to give up to follow Him. Have you surrendered all to Him? If you have not, talk with God about what you need to do to trust Him completely with the people and things you love.
Do you follow Jesus for what you can get from Him or do you follow Him because you love Him completely?
Review the conversation Jesus had with Peter. This time hear it, as Jesus speaking to you. Do you love Him? What does He want you to do for Him?