———————————————————-WILL YOU FOLLOW?
Matthew 4:18: “Follow Me,
Jesus said to “Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother”, “Follow Me”. Jesus said to “James the son of Zebedee, and his brother” – the “Sons of Thunder” – “Follow Me”. Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow Me”. Jesus said to Philip, “Follow Me”. Jesus says of His sheep, “they follow Me”. Jesus says to “anyone [who] desires to come after” Him, “Follow Me”.
And Jesus says to you, “Follow Me.”
There are many reasons for you to follow Christ. And there are many reasons not to. Peter, it is generally understood, was martyred. As was Andrew. Herod “killed James…. with the sword.” John was banished to “the island that is called Patmos”. Probably Matthew and Philip were executed as were many of His “sheep” throughout church history. And there was Paul: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned.” And John the baptist: “His head was brought on a platter.” And Stephen: “They stoned Stephen.”
Those of us in North America don’t have to worry about stoning and flogging and such, but one thing is certain for those responding to His call “Follow Me”….
2 Timothy 3:12: all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Persecution is guaranteed to those determined “to live godly in Christ Jesus”. That’s why so many don’t. The cost of Christ is greater than most are willing to pay. Choosing Christ over the way it is will assure unpleasant repercussions. There is a way to dodge these repercussions…. compromise. Example….
Matthew 23:10: do not be called teacher; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.
Had it been customary for the people to call religious leaders “Lord”, Lord Jesus would have said, “Do not be called lord; for One is your Lord, the Christ.” If it were customary to call religious leaders “Pastor” (pastor means shepherd) Jesus would have said, “Do not be called pastor; for One is your Pastor, the Christ.” (“The Lord is my shepherd.”) You can see that. But, as you know, there is pressure on evangelical church people to do what everyone does, to call the man “Pastor”. Refusing to bow to group ‘correctness’ will mark you. Leadership of the way it is will notice. But there is a solution…. compromise. Another example….
2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT): You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.
Since Jesus is your Lord you want to resist “pressure” and submit your giving to His lordship. So here comes that collection thingy again (plate, basket, bucket, whatever) strategically timed immediately after the twenty-two minutes of praise and worship when hearts have been softened. From the pulpit pressure has been skillfully applied to feed it. But does the One you call “Lord” want you to contribute? It has been suggested that you are part of this church family…. and this is your home church…. and we are all team players….. and the pastor’s salary must be paid…. and there is the church mortgage…. and who’s gonna pay for lights and repairs and maintenance? Pressure, lotsa pressure. And yet…. and yet….
Jesus never referred to a gathering of christians as one’s family…. and you know there’s no such thing as “home church” in the Bible…. and you are called to be Christ’s disciple, not a team player…. and there is no precedent for a salary…. and this church building wasn’t your idea. But, thou thinkest, if you don’t feed the thingy, regularly and generously, who’s gonna pay the bills?
May I be quite blunt?….. that is none of your business! Your business is to do the will of God, nothing more and nothing less. The will of God, which is your appointed cross, will consume all the time you have, none left over to do the will of confused christians.
But if you don’t do what they want you to do and what you don’t want to do, you will lose acceptance and approval. What to do? …. what to do? Well, you know the simple solution…. compromise. Just “give reluctantly or in response to pressure.” And take heart…. compromise gets easier with practice. But your virtuous heart tells you compromise is betrayal to the One everyone calls Lord. (Caution: It has been well said compromise is like drinking salt water…. the more you drink, the thirstier you become.)
John 2:23-25 (AMP): many believed in His name [identifying themselves with Him] after seeing His signs (attesting miracles) which He was doing. But Jesus, for His part, did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people [and understood the superficiality and fickleness of human nature], and He did not need anyone to testify concerning man [and human nature], for He Himself knew what was in man [in their hearts—in the very core of their being].
Have you done what Jesus would never do? Have you entrusted yourself to men? To a church body? To a denomination? Perhaps you have not “understood the superficiality and fickleness of human nature.” God certainly did and said so: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man.” (Jer.17:5)
Let’s be forthright (as was Jesus): Religious leaders want your money. Religion costs lotsa money and you are a likely prospect. If you are wealthy they want plenty; if you are poor a little will do. To get your money they go after your commitment. Nothing less than weekly contributions will satisfy religion’s insatiable appetite. Certainly they also want to nourish you spiritually. Some are more concerned with your welfare than your financial support. And some are not.
Luke 9:23: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Jesus’ cross was the cross of Calvary. Your cross is unlike that of any other. Your cross is your assignments, just as my cross is my assignments (The Way It Is being but one). Jesus said to the Father, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” Will you one day be able to say to Jesus, “I have finished the work which You have given me to do”? Consider….
Do you really think financing a church mortgage or a non-biblical salary is your assignment? Do you think helping to cover church expenses is what Jesus meant by “take up [your] cross daily, and follow Me”? And consider….
How are you to finance the assignments Lord Jesus entrusted to you if you direct your giving elsewhere? You can ask the church in which you invested so much time and capital to support you; you are part of the team, right? (Yes, I’m being facetious.) After they turn you down, you might consider financing your own God-given (and therefore holy) commissions. Set your faith on that. You can do it.
What might your “cross” look like? Well….
Acts 18:9: the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;
Followers of Christ do what followers of Christ did. They and we “do not keep silent”. “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.” Paul “preached the Christ in the synagogues.” Paul to Timothy: “Preach the word…. Convince, rebuke, exhort.” Barnabas “remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.” Stephen preached. Titus preached. Mark and Luke preached. The twelve preached. The seventy preached.
Followers of Christ preach Christ. You are His ambassador, as much as anyone. Ambassadors cannot represent silently. You must know you are appointed to preach, teach, exhort…. and perhaps rebuke. You don’t need any man’s or any group’s permission or guidance or support. Christ is your Lord and sufficiency; the Holy Spirit is your guide.
2 Timothy 3:12: all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
The “godly” speak out against wrong, against injustice, against disobedience, against “the tradition[s] of men” that “have made the commandment[s] of God of no effect”. Jesus is your example. So are the eleven. So are the reformers of centuries past. They all suffered persecution.
You will be made the target of (what I call) dirty tricks. Dirty tricks? Yes, dirty tricks, such as…. a hard stare…. exclusion…. body language…. pulpit bullying…. accusations…. gossip…. public putdowns…. coded messages. I call these tactics dirty because they are done slyly and unexpectedly, like a sucker punch.
If these don’t bring you into submission the man might one day say, “Perhaps you should find a church more to your liking.” Ouch! Talk about rejection.
Luke 6:46: why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?
Evangelicalism is bloated with compromisers. It was compromisers who created this religion and it is compromisers who maintain it and it is compromisers who insist you join their rank. Resistance is rebellion. Your independence is a small fire that must be snuffed out before it spreads.
Compromisers call Jesus “Lord, Lord” but live contrary to His words. Leadership adds to and takes away from His Bible without blushing. You can’t follow compromisers and Christ. You and I have no right to call Jesus “Lord, Lord” unless our intention and determination is to obey Him.
Hebrews 10:24,25: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another,
This verse has often been used (misused) to corral the sheep. “The assembling ourselves together” is somehow interpreted as “You gotta go to church…. every Sunday…. rain or shine.” I’ve got good news for you….
You don’t have to ‘go to church’!!! You can, but you don’t have to. I don’t. Millions of christians don’t. These verses are actually one of many “one another” verses found throughout the New Testament, christians ministering to one another, not one christian ministering to all. We are to “consider one another.” The NLT says it this way: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Doesn’t that sound like a small group sitting in someone’s living room rather than a large gathering lined up neatly in pews, forbidden to express? Does anyone think ‘going to church’ is fellowship, a place of “exhorting one another”?
What we today consider church is not church. Church is not a building. You don’t go to church…. you don’t do church…. you are the church! Church is where you are. Church is where I am. Since Christ is
“head of the church”, He is your “head”. Head means superintendent. Jesus Christ is your Superintendent! He is your Lord. The issue is not how you do church but how you do Christ. “Let these words sink down into your ears.”
John 6:66: many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
The title of this chapter is, “Will You Follow?” Many disciples stop following Christ (cease being His disciples); they “walked with Him no more”. That’s why you can’t follow the crowd. Fully understand: A disciple of Christ is a follower of Christ; if you are not a follower you are not a disciple. Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” Peter said to Jesus, “We have left all and followed You.” Following Jesus will cost your “all”, your everything and everybody. I ask again, “Will you follow?”
I want to convey to you the rarity of the person who follows Jesus Christ implicitly. You will not be this rare person if you follow the crowd. We think there is safety in numbers; so many can’t be wrong. As one reared in catholicism I can assure you this is fallacy. Most followers of religion and religionists assume they are followers of Christ though all evidence says otherwise. Please consider….
Consider Joshua and Caleb. They were only two of many thousands who believed God’s promise to deliver to them “a land of milk and honey”; the rest refused to follow God’s instructions and perished in the wilderness.
And consider Exodus 32:3: “So all the people broke off their golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron” for the purpose of fashioning for them a golden calf.
And consider Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way.”
And consider Luke 23:18: “And they all cried out at once, saying, ‘Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas.’ ”
And consider Galatians 3:1: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?”
And consider Jesus’ message to “the [entire] church of Ephesus”: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
And consider the worlds largest evangelical denominations; isn’t their sharp disagreement on many doctrinal issues proof so many can be wrong?
And finally, consider the christians you know. Do they speak Christ primarily, or do they speak christians and/or church and/or whatever? (“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”)
Rare indeed is the follower of Jesus Christ. A decision to follow Christ will bring you both fulfillment and loneliness, both an abundance of good fruit and an abundance of criticism. I sincerely wish you courage. I sincerely wish you well.
—————————————————–A TRIBUTE TO JESUS CHRIST
he has borne
we esteemed him
smitten by god
he was wounded
for our transgressions
he was bruised
for our iniquities
for our peace
was upon him
by his stripes
we are healed