Following Jesus

Comedian Flip Wilson was once asked what faith he was. He replied, “I’m a Jehovah’s Bystander. They wanted me as a witness, but I didn’t want to get involved!” We all know that feeling, don’t we? The problem is that there is no such thing as an “innocent bystander!”

We have all sinned and made wrong choices, but God is a God of second chances Who wants to save us, so in His great mercy He gives us the opportunity (usually many) to make the right choice!

Joshua 24:15 – “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” NKJV

Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Joshua, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, David, Peter, Paul – all had to make the choice between the gods of this world and the God of heaven – between life and death, heaven or hell, eternal life or eternal damnation – we must make the same choice they did!  Every person must make their own choice:

Peter, Andrew, James, and John had to choose between being “fishermen” or “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

The rich young ruler had to choose between his “great possessions” or “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 19:16-30).

From His first sermon to His last revelation, Jesus places this same choice before us which will determine the eternal destiny of our souls – “Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and if we do, are we going to do as He commands?”

Luke 9:18-20:And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” NKJV

Luke 9:23 – “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” NKJV

Jesus was saying, “Now that you believe in Who I am and where I am going, let me share with you what will be necessary on your part if you continue to follow Me.”

Jesus is confronting each one of us right now with this same choice to believe in Him and to follow Him, or to turn away and be “lost!”

I.  The cost of discipleship

At times, large crowds would follow Jesus. Many were merely going along with Him, attracted by one thing or another – food, miracles, because it was popular, etc. However, Jesus made it crystal clear that if you want to follow Him, there is a price to be paid!

You see, it’s easy for us to say, “Oh, me too; sign me up, Lord; Lord, I want to be where you are; absolutely God, put my name down!” But Jesus says you better check your spiritual wallet because there is a cost in coming where He is.

Luke 9:57-62: “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” NKJV

Luke 14:25-33: “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” NKJV

Jesus doesn’t want anybody to miss the point.  He says, “Don’t you dare come to Me and say ‘I want to come to you Jesus, but I want to do it on my own terms. And don’t you dare use your family or anything else as an excuse to put off following Me.   And anybody who jumps out and then says ‘Well I think so’ and keeps looking back at what he left behind is not fit so just go ahead and stay where you are!’”

II.  Is Jesus enough

In John 6, Jesus addresses a crowd that has likely grown to more than 5000.  At this point, He has never been more popular. Word has spread about His miraculous healings and His inspirational teaching – thousands have come to cheer him on.

After a full day of teaching, Jesus feeds them. After dinner the crowd decides to camp out for the night so they can be with Jesus the next day. The next morning when they wake up and are hungry again, they look around for Jesus, their meal ticket, but He’s nowhere to be found: John 6:24-25: “…when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” NKJV

By the time they catch up to Him they are starving. They’ve missed their chance to order breakfast, so now they are ready to find out what’s on the lunch menu.  But Jesus has decided to shut down the “all you can eat” buffet. He’s not handing out any more free samples.

John 6:26 – “Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” NKJV

Jesus knows these people are not really following Him – they just want “free food!”  He knew they didn’t really want Him – they were only interested in what He could do for them or give to them! So Jesus offers Himself, but the question is, “Would that be enough?”

John 6:35 – “And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” NKJV

Suddenly Jesus is the only thing on the menu.  The crowd has to decide if Jesus is enough?

John 6:47-69:Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.  Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” NKJV

Many of Jesus’ disciples were shocked, and as a result, quit following Him – they went home!  Jesus didn’t chase after them! He doesn’t send the disciples chasing after them! He doesn’t soften His message to make it more appealing.  He seems okay with the fact that His popularity has plummeted.

It’s clear – “It wasn’t the size of the crowd following Jesus that He cared about – it was their level of commitment.”

Luke 9:24 – “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” NKJV

Following Jesus is easy as long as you are talking about blessings in this life and glory in heaven in the next. But one day we must face the “cross!” Luke 14:27 – “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” NKJV

When challenges arise and our faith is tested, will we be true to Him as disciples, even if it means our death, or will we turn back when we realize this is not all grace and glory?

Following Jesus can cost you your life/job/friends/family! Remember Stephen (Acts 7:60), James (Acts 12:2), and Paul (2 Timothy 4:6).

But the idea here is even more fundamental – taking up our cross every day and following Jesus means “dying to ourselves” – the death of the “old man,” the “body of sin” (Romans 6:6), the “carnal mind” (Romans 8:7), the self-centered, sin-shackled, Satan-serving personality which Paul describes as “…wretched…” (Romans 7:24).

Following Jesus requires a radical rejection of our former value system and lifestyle – i.e. “true repentance!”  Augustine modeled this transformation when, after his conversion to Christianity, he walked past a former lover on the street one day.

Shocked at his apparent failure to recognize her, she called to him, “Augustine, it’s me!” He turned and answered, “But it is not me.”

The “old man” was dead: Romans 6:3-7: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” NKJV

For the true disciple, this death is more than an event; it is a way of life! “…I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). That’s true repentance!

III.  Conclusion

One of the most sobering passages of Scripture tells of a day when many who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus will be stunned to find out that He doesn’t even recognize them:

Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” NKJV

They, and maybe you, have never really listened to the unedited version of what Jesus taught about “following Him.”

 

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