#1. “Follow Me.” (John 1:43 [to Philip]; Matthew 8:22 [unnamed disciple]; compare Matt. 4:19 = Mark 1:17 [Peter and Andrew]—“and I will make you fishers of men.” (NIV)
Freedom: From bewilderment among life’s options and from life without purpose and high meaning.
Jesus spoke His first recorded command to members of what became the 12 apostles. Is this for average Christians to obey? “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:26).
A Christian follows Christ. We follow a living leader, who can still communicate detailed instructions to His followers. Guidance is not equal to the Bible, but will not contradict the Bible. Christ will “show” (NIV) or “disclose” (NAS) Himself to the one who has and obeys His commands (John 14:21 ). A Christology that asserts that Christ does not communicate directly with His followers tries to put Christ in a box—rather futile. As God, He can do whatever He wishes. He is with those who make disciples to the “very end of the age”—certainly not as a silent partner (Matt. 28:20).
Actually we do not choose to follow Christ. Just as with the 12 apostles (and Paul), Christ chooses followers. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” (John 15:16). “(N)o one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 7:65).
Some, like the prophet Isaiah, enthusiastically embrace God’s call (Isaiah 6:8). The prophet Jeremiah, who followed Isaiah, was called by God before he was born, but tried to be excused (Jer. 1:5-6). He did obey, reluctantly. Whether we embrace or reject the call of God upon us, God sends out preachers with the Good News (Romans 10:14 -15), and His call is not revoked (Rom. 11:29 ).
What priority should it have for the one invited?
“Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” (Matt. 8:21)
“I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” (Luke 9:61). Jesus denied both requests (Luke 9: 60, 62).
Model obedience: “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’” At once they [Peter and Andrew] left their nets and followed him.” (Matt. 4:19-20). James and John left their fishing business and father (Matt. 4:21 -22), but it appears that for some reason they had to be recalled away from that business later (Luke 5:11 ), where they finally left everything.
Following Christ comes before self and family: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27).
We are to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23 ). The cross was the most brutal form of death that the Romans could conceive. We decide to die to sin, self-centeredness and our own way, daily. Most leaders tell the advantages of following them—Jesus demanded absolute supremacy, no definite objective other than following Him, and a life of self-denying trust. God, referring to the apostle Paul, said “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16 ).
Discipleship means walking in the Spirit, and keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25 ). It’s fine to have plans (Prov. 16:3), but following Christ may at times conflict with those plans.
Where do we go?
Jesus is the Way (John 14:6). We’re called to a life of ministry in Jesus’ companionship. We go with Jesus (Matt. 28:20).
We travel a narrow road that leads to eternal life, that few find, not the popular and populated road leading to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). We won’t be doing what the majority of non-Christians do. It’s a straight road, not crooked and devious. Our conscience will align with God’s Word against the work of darkness and meaningless pursuits. I met a man who confessed to being a Christian and who avoided wrongdoing, he said. He said that his only problem was that he was wasting his time and his life. He had stopped on the narrow way, and was not carrying forward God’s work. He had buried the gifts and probably the calling of God.
“The Way” was synonymous with early Christianity (Acts. 9:1; 19:9). Christianity isn’t primarily a philosophy, as is Hinduism and Buddhism, or laws, as is Judaism, but a complete lifestyle (as Islam claims to be). Christians haven’t arrived, but are on pilgrimage—passing as aliens and strangers until they meet God (1 Peter 2:11 ), abstaining from sin.
The Way isn’t necessarily one of asceticism or monasticism or self-abasement. God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17 ). However God may call some to more public, or private, self abasement and self-denial. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) lived a life of poverty, and itinerant preaching in the area of Italy and briefly in the Middle East . He founded the Franciscan monastic order. God also allows martyrdom.
Some, like Demas, desert the Way (2 Timothy 4:10 ), and selfish ambition can sidetrack us (James 3:14 , 16).
To follow Christ our eyes must be upon Him, not upon self or others. Our eyes must not be on the storms but upon Jesus.
Our ambition is not selfish, but to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9).
What is my reward?
Some believe that the Bible teaches that all rewards to Christians are in the next life. Jesus promised that whatever a person relinquishes in this life will be also repaid 100 times over in this life—including “homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields” (Mark 10:29-30).
“Each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” (I Corinthians 3:8).
The ultimate reward is to please God and hear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom, prepared for your since the creation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34).