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The Call Ė Follow Me!

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/16) One of the most flattering things a dad can experience is when he hears his son say, "I want to be just like you, dad," or, when he sees his child imitating him in some way. The exception, of course is when they are imitating something that isnít good or positive. We donít need to go into details, but when they want to follow in our footsteps, go to the school we went to, or enter our profession, or become part of the family business, we feel honored. Some of the saddest words in the Bible concern some of the Kings whose sons did not follow in their fatherís ways.

Asa was basically a good, God fearing, King in Judah. He had some weak spots but basically he was good. When he died his son Jehoshaphat became king. I Kings 22:43a says, "And he walked in all the ways of his father Asa. He did not turn aside from them, doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Likewise Ahab, a terribly wicked King died and his son Ahaziah also flowed in His steps. Verse 52 says, "He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother." When good King Jehoshaphat died, his son Jehoram became king and this is the scripture account, (2 Chron. 21:6), "And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord."

Dadís and grand-dads, make sure you are living your life in such a way that you would be honored to have your child or grandchildren imitating and following your ways. Itís no guarantee that they will, but its honoring when they do.

Do you know that the Lord God wants you to imitate Him, and walk in His ways? Ephesians 5:1-4 says this, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. The word imitators is the Greek word, Mimickers. Some translations use the word follow to translate mimic. Find out what God has done or would do and then do the same. Mimic Him. The context here in Ephesians is self-less love, kindness, grace, and forgiveness. Since you are His adopted child, watch and listen to your Father and then imitate Him.

Likewise, our Words in Red, for today are about the Call to Follow Jesus. Our study for the next ten months will continue to be based on the last recorded words of Matthewís Gospel, (Matt. 28:18-20) "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. We have looked for the last 6 months at His Sermon on the Mount. I want to take you back to 4:18-22 and His encounter with the Johnson brothers and their business partners. While this may be the second time He has met them, (the first being in John 1), notice what He says to them, "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. 19 Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.21 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, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him." He called them, and they left what they were doing and their family and they followed Him.

Look at Matthew 9:9, He had just healed the paralytic that was let down through a roof in Capernaum and the people marveled and glorified God, "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." Luke 5:28 says, "So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. More about Matthew next week.

Look at John 1:43, "The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, (Just two words) "Follow Me."

Look at Matthew 8:18-22, "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." Luke 9:61-62 adds a third person, "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."

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."

John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." And there are many more. Look at Jesusís last earthly words to Peter John 21:19, "This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me." Now look at vv. 21-22, "Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" (John) Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You Follow Me." Peter had just heard that following Jesus would lead to a martyrís death and wanted to know about John. Jesus basically told him, not to worry about what happens to John; that was His business. He was to concern himself with his own obedience and commitment to Christ. That is good advice. We often focus on what others or doing or not doing and wonder how that is fair, or why we should serve when others are not. Jesus says, that is His concern, we are to concern ourselves with following Him.

So, letís take a few moments and ask, what does it mean to Follow Jesus? What is our Lord Jesus calling them and us to do?

Letís look at this call, "Follow me." The Greek word is akoleutheo and is different from mimicking, and means to walk in the same way, or to accompany, to travel this road with me, as my student or disciple. It was almost exclusively used of a Rabbi-Student relationship. But not in a classroom type of setting; it literally means, to accompany me in my travels and I will teach you as we go. Listen carefully, it is always used as an invitation to a decisive and intimate relationship of discipleship. For these men it literally meant, a total change of direction in life. They left families, jobs, careers, and possessions to follow Jesus; "To come walk this way with me!" The expectations are that you will then do what He teaches you, and you will continue the life, goals, and ministry of the Rabbi. I believe that is exactly what Jesus means in the great invitation of Matthew 11:28-30. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Jesusí intention in this calling is that you will learn as you travel with Him, beside Him, and you will make His goals and purposes your own, and will commit your life to accomplishing those purposes and as you do you will discover peace and rest.

However, I fear that for many, this invitation to discipleship is misunderstood by many. Perhaps that is the fault of those of us who teach. We are anxious to get people to pray the sinnerís prayer, and we stress what Jesus wants to save them from, but we often donít tell them what Jesus wants to save them to. In essence we are only sharing half of the invitation message. The result is that many people pray, get baptized, and then often drop out, Or, they think that being a disciple is simply attending Church, giving a tithe on Sunday, and voting against immoral issues on election day. Maybe we can get some to usher, collect the offering, sit in the nursery, or teach Sunday School, but most would prefer not to, because they are too busy, or have done their share in the past. Now we are meddling.

Many, think that being a disciple is having their, Get Out of Hell Free card in their pocket, and therefore, they are okay. But, look at Matthew 16:24-26 and Luke 14:25-33. Notice the tremendous demands Jesus makes and then notice that these are words in red. Jesus is the speaker. Look at Matt. 19:13-22. In the future we are going to go over these texts word by word, but what I want to point out is that He doesnít say, just pray this prayer and attend church. Following Jesus is the total commitment of my total life to the total Lordship of Jesus Christ even to a cross, or martyrís death.

Does that mean that every person knows this as soon as they hear the Gospel? Of course not. But it does mean that they are to understand that Jesus is God in the flesh, and that He has the right to be Lord, and I pledge my life to Him and His ways. I will then begin to learn from Him and travel with Him, and imitate Him on the journey through the rest of my life. Do you understand this? If so, say Amen! So, letís consider what is implied in these two words, Follow Me.

1. To Learn to Live Life all over again. From the time we were born we have thought that life has been all about us. We learned that if we cry we will be feed, changed, and burped. Our human nature has been about pursuing what we want in life. We are about pursuing life, liberty, and happiness. But Jesus says, "Follow Me," and let me teach you to put God and others first, and yourself last. Let me teach you to meet the needs of others, because that is what real love is. Let, me teach you that you were created for a purpose, and that purpose is about glorifying God. Letís re-learn life.

2. To Be His Friend (John 15:12-17). He doesnít just want to be your teacher, He wants to be your Friend. His invitation is to a life-long friendship in which He will bare His heart and soul to you and ask you to embrace His friendship and concerns.

3. To Follow His example (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21) "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. Peter says, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" Letís think about it. How did Jesus:

  • Respond to criticism and persecution?
  • Respond to Children?
  • Respond to Hypocrites?
  • How did Jesus pray?
  • When did He pray?
  • How did He treat the wealthy?
  • How did He treat the poor?
  • How did He respond to interruptions about the needs of people?
  • What was His view of things like possessions, houses, lands, or money?
  • How did He respond to an unholy government?
  • What was His view of Life and death?
  • How did Jesus handle temptation and trials and hardships?
  • What was the major motivation of His life?
  • What were His goals or Mission Statement?
  • What broke His heart?
  • What made Him smile?

Again, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. And, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" I have told you of the famous Christian novel of the late 120 years ago, by Charles Sheldon called, In His Steps, which is built around the question, "What would Jesus do?" WWJD may seem like a passing fad, but it ought to be what we ask ourselves several times every day. We should ask it before we make any decision about anything.

4. To Give Up Your Life For a Higher Calling. This is probably the hardest one for anyone to deal with. Most of us donít mind believing in Jesus as long as He doesnít demand too much from us. But I remind you again of the passages we looked earlier. Following Him demands self-denial, and a cross, and a forsaking of everything else in order to represent Him and continue His ministry. He called His disciples to stop catching fish and to start catching men (Matt. 4:19; Luke 5:10). He wants you to be Ambassadors for Him. (2 Cor. 5:18-20) Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for ChristÖ,"

5. To Step out of Your Comfort Zone. Jesus ministered to lepers, and the demon possessed, and the epileptic, and the paralyzed. He often hung out with the social outcasts, and known sinners. We will look at that next week. When was the last time you hung out with someone who had AIDs or was just different? When did you last visit a nursing home, or jail, or pregnancy center? Mother Theresa became famous, not because she climbed the ladder of Catholic orders, but because she was determined to care for those who society rejected. Jesus is asking you to follow Him in going to the sick, the poor, the different, the sinners, and showing them grace and mercy. It may mean taking a mission trip to Mexico or another country, or ministering in the inner city of Baltimore or Washington. Will you follow Him?

6. To Live by Faith. We just looked at this in Matthew 6. He is asking you to trust and obey Him even when you donít understand (Prov. 3:5-6; Heb. 11:6).

7. To a Cross. I know that there are those who go by the prosperity-faith gospel, that believes that being a disciple is to claim material wealth and health, But friends what I see is that Jesus says, to follow me means a cross. Your life is over, and it just might end as a martyr. (Matt. 16:24; Luke 14:27 says, "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.")

8. The Call to Follow Jesus is a Call to a New Destiny. It is to follow Him to His home. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28). John 17:24 says, "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (cp. Ps. 23:6; John 14:1-3), and John 12:25-26 says, "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also."

Let me close with this. Dads and Grand-dads, Are you following Jesus? You need to and you need to start today. Paul said this, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). Show your children and Grandchildren what a genuine Christ Follower looks like.

Church, isnít it time to stop just going to Church and start following Jesus? Standing up is no guarantee that you will follow through. And I know I am putting you on the spot, But itís time. Too much time has gone by. The days before most of us are fewer than what we have behind us. Letís make the most of them and change the world. Letís make the decision to leave the boats, and the accounting tables and the things that the world says we must have, and letís change the world.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman