"Follow me" - Jesus
I was raised in a family of believers. I went to church pretty much every Sunday, either at my home church in Salisbury or at my mom’s home church in Wilkes County when we were visiting family, which was often. It was a rural Baptist church where my great uncle was chairman of the deacons and choir director. As a child, I often sat in the choir loft with him or with my great grandpa. I was blessed to have a family who brought me up in the “way I should go”.
Because of the example my family set for me, it seemed like an easy decision for me to make a “profession of faith” and ask Jesus to be my Savior when I was 12. I remember talking to my home church pastor, “Preacher Pless” and telling him that I was ready to pray to receive Christ. Shortly after that, I was baptized as a new believer. I’ll never forget the walk out of church to the car the Sunday I was baptized. The thought I had in my mind was that “I am free from sin! My sins have been washed away!” It was a feeling that wouldn't last because I’m almost sure I did something sinful before my hair was even dry! (Probably got in an argument with my little brother on the way home from church or something along those lines.)
The truth is, inviting Jesus to save me was not a hard decision for me. It made all the sense in the world. I knew I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I knew Jesus died to save me and make me right with God. The hard part was to come… understanding the implication of the decision I made, not just to accept Jesus as Savior, but to surrender my life to His leadership. That would be the challenge for me, just as it is for every believer who wants to move from a follower of Jesus to a fully devoted disciple of Jesus.
Maybe you made a decision to follow Jesus when you were young, or maybe you made it later in life. I have baptized people from age 8 to 80, so it doesn’t matter what age you make the decision, but that you make it before you die because it is a decision of eternal significance. So don’t delay. Asking Jesus to save us is an easy decision. Most people love the idea of a forgiving and gracious God relieving them of the penalty of sin, which is death. But many stall at that point, failing to take the next step to make Him Lord and Master of their life.
Jesus called people to “follow me.” What was He looking for from those who followed Him? What are His expectations for His disciples or fully devoted followers?
The Bible teaches us that once we believe, we should begin to mature or to “grow up” in our faith. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, Hebrews 6:1a. So what is Jesus looking for from His followers?
In Luke 14, Jesus offers us some answers. At this point in His ministry, Jesus was getting a lot of attention. There were plenty of people who were starting to follow Him. Many admired Him, but they were far from fully devoted; in fact many were just looking for something from Him, maybe a miracle or a free meal. So Jesus shared some hard teaching with them so they were clear about His expectations. (Luke 14:26-30;33). Three times in this passage, Jesus tells us if we are unwilling to do these things, we cannot be His disciple.
1. Following Jesus means loving Him above anything or anyone else in my life.
(Luke 14:26). Jesus wasn’t teaching to “hate” anyone, especially family; but rather that our love for Him would be so great that our love for anyone else would seem like hatred in comparison. The truth is, following Jesus may mean giving up some friendships or creating some tension at home. Many won’t make that choice, so they hold back, staying in the shallow end of the discipleship pool, never going or growing deeper.
2. Following Jesus may not always be convenient. Some people are looking for a convenient way to follow Jesus. They want to follow Jesus on their terms, not His. Jesus actually had a conversation one day with a man he called to follow Him, but the man wanted to follow Jesus on His terms, when it fit his schedule. (Luke 9:59-60). This man essentially told Jesus that he would follow Him, once his father passed away. In other words, when it fit his schedule. But the reality is that following Jesus may not always be convenient.
3. Following Jesus may cause tension with other people in your life. The truth is, if we live the way God wants us to live, it is going to bother some people; in fact, it may even offend them. They may talk badly or poorly about you. (Luke 6:26). When you choose to follow Jesus and live life the way He calls you to live, some people may not like you. They may even reject you. Don’t let that bother you. There is a term for that. It is called persecution. Early Christ followers experienced persecution in their time and we will too…. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:20a
4. Following Jesus means letting Him direct every aspect of your life. (Luke 9:23-24). Jesus calls us to “take up our cross” and follow Him. The cross in the first century Roman empire meant just one thing - death. Why would Jesus use such a symbol of certain death to describe following Him? Because He wanted His followers to know that being a disciple means to “die to self.” Many would prefer to not do that! They want to maintain control; but being a disciple means giving Jesus complete, unfettered control of your life. That is letting Him direct your path, your actions, your words.
5. Following Jesus means putting Him above everything else in your life. (Luke 14:33). Jesus doesn’t expect us to give everything we have away and become destitute; but He does expect us to surrender our claim to our possessions. That is difficult in a culture obsessed with stuff; but Jesus says, to be His disciple, we can’t value anything above Him.
These are hard truths… but if you want to move toward maturity as a Christ-Follower, it is imperative to surrender your life to His leadership and become a fully devoted disciple.