Follow Me

Matthew 4:19

Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

A Christian hymn you might be familiar with has the lines, “I will follow, follow Thee My Lord, follow every passing day.  My tomorrows are all known to Thee My Lord, I will follow you today.”  Another hymn has the line, “I traveled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care.  The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair.  I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me, and then I heard Him say so tenderly.  My feet were also weary as I traveled Calvary’s road.  The cross became so heavy, I fell beneath the load.  Be faithful weary pilgrim, the morning I can see.  Just take My hand and follow close to Me.”

  1.  The call of the disciples

Matthew 4:18-22 – And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.  Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Matthew 8:18-23 – And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, 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 another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Matthew 9:9-13 – As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.  Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Mark 2:14 – As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

Luke 5:27 – After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.”

There are several stories we could talk about in these brief passages, but the story I want you to see in each of them is as follows:

  • In the first story, Jesus called Peter and Andrew to leave their life’s occupation, their means of support and follow Him.  He told James and John to do the same, to leave their life’s occupation, their means of support as well as their father and follow Him.
  • In the second story, Jesus saw two disciples who were eager to follow Him.  Jesus told them both that they would have nothing if they followed Him.  The second one He told basically to not let anything, even the death of a loved one, prevent him from following Jesus.
  • In the last three scripture portions Jesus called Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector, to leave his very lucrative occupation and his sinner friends and follow Him.
  • The words of a hymn state, “Jesus is tenderly calling today, calling today, calling today.  Why from the sunshine of love will you roam farther and farther away?  Calling today, calling today.  Jesus is calling, is tenderly calling today.”
  • It does not matter what your occupation is, where you live, what your social standing is.  Jesus is calling for you to follow Him.  You may to need to leave your occupation, leave your family and friends, your grief and certainly your sin behind.  Make no mistake.  Jesus calls to each of us and He wants nothing else but for us to follow Him.  He calls all of us to follow Him in a closer daily walk with Him. 

The Universal Call – What is Required?

Mark 10:21 – Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Matthew 10:38 – And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

Mark 8:34-37 – When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Luke 14:27 – And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple

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.

Luke 9:61-62 – 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.”

In these brief passages, you must go back and read several verses to get the full impact of the story.  Basically Jesus is calling us to follow Him, but more than just follow Him.  He is calling us to a life separate from the world and wholly His.  This means more than saying “yes” to God and “no” to sin today and then going our way and forgetting all our promises to Him.  He is calling us to more than being baptized or joining the church or just sitting in the pew.

  • He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.
  • He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross DAILY and follow Him.
  • He says that unless we forsake all, unless we forsake family, occupation, cares of the world personal desires, rid ourselves of everything, take up our cross daily, deny ourselves and follow Him, we are not worthy of Him.
  • This is a big thing He is asking.  Or is it?  Basically all He is asking is for us to put Him first in our life.  To put Him before riches, family, things of this world.  Is that too much to ask if we are to be His disciples, especially after what He did for us on the cross.
  • Jesus found Phillip and Phillip found Nathaniel.  He asks us to reach others.
  • He said His sheep will not follow a stranger, only Him.  We cannot listen to others.  What He speaks to us we must listen and follow in obedience.  If you have doubts about who is speaking to your heart, consult Him in prayer and in His Word.  The enemy would not call you to follow Christ.  It is Christ who calls you today.  Do not turn Him away.

The hymn referred to at the beginning continues with this line:

“I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss.  My hands were nailed in anger upon a cruel cross.  Just take my hand and follow, follow Me.”

Revelations 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  

What Does It Mean to Be a Separate People”

2 Corinthians 6:11-18

O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open.  You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.  Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.  Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:  “I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”  “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

The word in verses 16-18 “akathartos” is translated into English meaning “unclean or foul.”  We get our English word “catharsis” meaning “purification or to cleanse” from this root word.

Have you ever heard that phrase, “There’s something rotten in Denmark.”  I really do not know what that phrase originally meant and am almost afraid to go on a rabbit hunt to find out, but the point I want to make is this.  Sometimes there are things rotten in our lives that God calls unclean or foul, but we excuse it as being a character flaw, misstep, accident, etc.  All demonic, moral and physical uncleanness must be removed from our lives, that is, our body and spirit, if we want the fulfillment of the promises in God’s Word.

2 Samuel 7:14 – I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 

While this verse was a promise to King David from God.  Since God is no respecter of persons, I think we can apply the principle here to our lives.  God will assume responsibility of parental concern and give Himself to the eternal care of all His children, of all those who walk rightly before Him.  Earthly parents may lack the power and the means to supply all things for their family, but this is not true of God who owns all and rules over all.  However, there are six conditions for us to have this marvelous watch care by God.

  • Be not unequally yoked
  • Come out from the world
  • Be a separate people
  • Touch not those things that are wrong

This seems opposite of Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples.  How do we remain separate from the world and yet be a witness to others?

We need to understand there are three basic meanings in the Bible to the word “world.”

First, there is the created world.  “God made the world and everything in it.”  Acts 17:24

Then there are the inhabitants of the world.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Finally, there is the world system which is headed by Satan and is based on all that is opposed to God and godly lives.  This is the world we are to remain separated from.  “ And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  Romans 12:2

Jesus prayer just before going to the cross was for all of us.  “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”  John 17:14-16

In our culture today it is easy for Christians to be deceived.  In much of our entertainment and news God is either ignored or Christian beliefs are laughed at.  Sadly even in our political world we now see men being praised and elevated by Christians – men whose lifestyle and actions are opposite of what God’s Word has said.  We must remember that when Satan tempted Jesus he quoted scripture. 

Jesus warned that in the end there was a danger that His followers would be deceived.  “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  Matthew 24:24

Paul called Satan “an angel of light in 2 Corinthians 11:14. 

But as we seek to remain faithful to God’s Word and not be caught up in the culture around us, we do not separate ourselves from the people.  Remember Jesus ate with sinners and publicans.  Many of the people he associated with were outcasts and not part of the religious crowd.  But His goal in all of these relationships was to show love and point them to Himself. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul called us “ambassadors for Christ.”  What is an ambassador?

One definition says:  “A diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.”

So to be separate from the world does not mean we act self-righteous like we are better than others.  We should live in the realization that this present culture and time is not our home.  We want to represent our king, our “world” in such a way that they will see something good and wonderful and want that something for themselves. 

Good advice on how to do this:

Colossians 3:12-17 – Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Where is the Harvest?

Galatians 6:6-10

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

  • We must not grow weary in discharging our responsibility and in obedience to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 3:13 – But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good

1 Corinthians 4:1 – Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

  • Blessings if we do not lose heart.

Matthew 24:12-13 – And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Peter 1:10-11 – Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

James 5:7-8 – Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Rev 2:7 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

Rev 2:11 – He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.

Rev 2:17 – To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.

Rev 3:5 – He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Rev 3:12 – He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Rev 3:21 – To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

  • In due season

We do not know when the Lord will return or when we will go to be with the Lord by our death.  But we do know that He has promised to return.  In the parable He told about the faithful and unfaithful servants – we must be found sowing the seeds of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus said our prayer should be for reapers because the harvest is ripe. 

Matthew 9:37-38 – Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

You cannot reap the harvest if the seed corn is still in the barn.  Go and make disciples. 

Christ’s Church – Part 3

Ephesians 2:19-22

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Helen Keller was asked one time, “What would be worse than being born blind?”  She quickly replied, “To have sight and no vision.”  John Maxwell says, “Successful people are motivated by a dream beyond them.”  It is something that constantly keeps them going for they are always reaching higher and higher to ultimately reach that goal. 

One of the diseases that can affect the church today is to have no vision.  To not have something that is bigger than they are.  The church can then become complacent and happy in a comfort zone.  This is a dangerous place to be for a church for they will begin to feed on one another rather than being occupied with fulfilling the vision.  A complacent church falls in love with itself and the rest of the world does not matter.

Isaiah 6:1-9 – In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.  Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one cried to another and said:  “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”  And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.   So I said:  “Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”   Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”   Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:  “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”   Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”  And He said, “Go, and tell this people:  ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

  1. Isaiah saw God.  When he saw God, he saw a holy God.
  2. He saw himself.  He saw that just as God was holy and perfect, he was needy and imperfect.
  3. He saw others; he looked at the multitudes around him.
  4. He allowed God to change him.
  5. He began to stretch himself.  He began to say, “OK God, allow me to be part of this vision.  Allow me to reach out and be what you want me to become.”

Like, Isaiah, once you have had a glimpse of what God can make of you, you will never be satisfied with what you now are.  God has given to every church a mission, a vision and when we grasp that vision and begin to share it, the church will never be satisfied with status quo.  It will change our attitude and our outlook. 

Church growth/evangelism is not gaining people from other churches.  That is not any different than Farmer Brown moving cows from one feed lot to another. 

One of the biggest problems that has stunted the growth in most churches today is the lack of understanding of the divine purposes of the church.  The church is more than a Sunday worship service, or a social club, it is the house of God.  Jesus Himself said, “I will build my church.”  Let us take a look at two scriptures that give us the understanding of the purpose of the church.

Matthew 22:37 and 40 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…love your neighbor as yourself.  All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

  1.  Love the Lord with all your heart – #1 is very easy to grasp!  It is simply the worship of God.  As a church we are called to worship Him.  Jesus said of worship, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”  The Father is literally seeking worshipers.  We are the church and one of our great purposes is to worship Him.  Worship is not a duty, but a joy!
  • Love your neighbor as yourself – #2 is a beautiful description of ministry!  The church simply exists to minister to people.  People have needs, all kinds of needs.  We are to be in the need meeting business.  We demonstrate God’s love by meeting the needs of those around us, and this means more than just their spiritual needs.  It means emotional, relational and physical.  In the book of Ephesians, we find again this purpose defined in this manner, “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  Ministry is the work of the church!  Unfortunately, very little ministry takes place in many churches.  Faithfulness is often defined in terms of attendance rather than service, and members just sit, soak and sour.  Wrong.  We are to edify, encourage, exalt, equip, and evangelize.
  • Go and make disciples – #3 is simply called evangelism.  It is our responsibility to let the world know of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and then to point them to Christ.  A true disciple maker is one who makes disciples and then teaches them to trust in Christ and Christ alone.  As long as there is one person in the world who does not know Christ, the church has a mandate to keep growing.  Growth is not optional; it is commanded by Jesus.  We should not seek church growth for our own benefit, but because Christ wants people saved.
  • Baptizing them – Why is baptism so important to warrant inclusion in Christ’s Great Commission?  It is because it symbolizes one of the purposes of the church:  fellowship-identification with the body of Christ.  As Christians we are called to belong, not just to believe.  As we relate to those who are being baptized in our churches, this is a symbol of the death of the old man and coming alive as a new reborn person.  Your life has changed and now you are identified with the people of God.  Our people must belong to this body.  They must identify with the body of Christ.  If in our churches they are simply a number or a face in the crowd they lose out on their importance in the body of Christ.  They must be brought into the fellowship of the brothers and sisters in Christ and find their place in ministry.  In other words, the church is here to help them have a sense of belonging.
  • Teaching them to obey – Dr. Paul Laverne Walker says, “In the scripture we find the word ‘disciple’ listed 320 times.”  This reveals to us the tremendous responsibility God gives the church today.  We are to make disciples.  The church exists to edify, or educate, God’s people.  Discipleship is the process of helping people become more like Christ in their thoughts, feelings and actions.  The apostle Paul said, “So everywhere we go we talk about Christ to all who will listen, warning them and teaching them as well as we know how.  We want to be able to present each one to God, perfect, because of what Christ has done for each of them.”  Colossian 1:28

We are called to reach them and teach them!  To bring them to spiritual maturity where they may be able to listen and obey the voice of God.  We disciple them to be ministers of the gospel.  One of the saddest things we find in the church today is the difference we make between the ministry and the laity.  We are all ministers of the gospel, and we all have our place in the work of the kingdom.  We are to make disciples and help everyone to find their place in the work of the kingdom.

These are the purposes of the church today.  They will be met in different ways by different churches but the purposes remain unchanged.  We exist to “Edify, encourage, exalt, equip and evangelize.” 

IF WE DO NOT DO THAT WE HAVE FAILED!