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What Does It Mean To Follow #1

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            Spring Mills, Pa.  At the Antioch Church

On Sunday Sunday, January 09, 2000 By Pastor Chester Marshall

 

Series - Following Christ.

 

(1)  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FOLLOW

 

Matthew 4:18-22  As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."20At once they left their nets and followed him. 21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Mark 10:28

Then Peter began to mention all that he and the other disciples had left behind. "We've given up everything to follow you," he said.

            Someone asked by a close friend, “If you admire Christ so much, why don’t you become a Christian?”  Gandhi reportedly replied, “When I meet a Christian who is a follower of Christ, I may consider it.”

            It seems to me that this is not what Christ had in mind when He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Something significant has happened since Christ issued that call nearly two thousand years ago.  We have become quite happy to call ourselves Christians with little or no thought of following. As a result, we are paying dearly through a loss of fulfillment, personal satisfaction, and our impact on our world.

            It is not that we have denied Christ or even that we have done horrible things.  In fact, most us of us have mastered the codes of conduct and rituals of our religion.  The problem is, we have masqueraded Christ with our own ways.  When non-Christians see more of our distorted portrayal of Christianity than they do a clear reflection of the character and quality of Christ.

            Too often we have grafted the face of Christ.  His image becomes clouded by our prejudices and preferences.  Apart from our activities on Sunday and our conformity to external codes of dos and don’ts, the world doesn’t notice much difference between us and the people who don’t claim to be Christians.  All they see in Christianity is the loss of a day of leisure on the weekend and the denial of common pleasures.

            Nor does it go unnoticed that many professing Christians manifest as much greed, self-centerness, materialism, anger, aggressiveness and sensualism as the average pagan on the street.

            And this brings me to my first point.

            1.     We Are To Be Mirrors That Are In Motion--   Fully devoted followers are like mirrors in motion.

            By the very definition of following, we are called into a deepening intimacy with Christ.  This increasingly close proximity to Christ transforms us and results in a clear reflection of His character.

            As followers we replicate the grace, mercy, love, justice, compassion, truth, and righteousness of Christ our leader.  Followers refuse to be satisfied just to be saved and on their way to heaven.  For followers, Christianity is a relationship, an adventure, a passionate pursuit of Christ.  Followers escape the boredom and drudgery of a system of rituals and regulations and revel in the discovery of this intriguing Person.

            As followers we are liberated from religious traditions and conventions that do not reflect the perspective, character, and conduct of Christ.  Although we hear a multiplicity of voices from both within and outside the church, we listen to only one.  It is the voice of Christ, who simply said, “Follow Me.”

            No conditions.  No negotiations.  No particulars.  No contractual exceptions.  Just follow.  It was the first and the last thing Jesus said to Peter  Mark 1:17  "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."  John 21:19  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" John 21:22  Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

Following is the beginning and the end of what it means to

be a Christian.  Everything in between is measured by it.

            2.     How Do We Identify Ourselves--   It seems to me that we don’t readily perceive ourselves as followers.

            When we identify ourselves, it is most often with terms such as “Christian,” “believer,” “brother” or “sister.”  To say, “I am a Christian,”  focuses our attention on our privileges and entitlements.

            Perhaps it is simply a way to change ourselves from other kinds of people.  For some it means little more than not being a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist.  The title itself does little to produce a sense of calling, action, or definition of what being a Christian is all about.

            Some of us have understood the vagueness of the title “Christian” and have opted for “believer”.  But this only focuses on a time or season when we confirmed the fact that we had chosen to believe in Christ and His gospel.

            Again, this fails to define or outline what it actually means to live as a believer.  What does a believer do apart from giving mental agreement to a system of belief?   

·         Then there is the identity of “brother” or  “sister”.  The problem here is that

these terms focus our attention horizontally, in terms of relationships to one another, not primarily on our relationship to Christ.

·         Others of us think of our relationship with Christ in terms of “I am a Baptist”

or Lutheran, Presbyterian, Free Methodist, Wesleyan, Nazarene, or some other denominational or group label.  My wife and I pastored a church in the South that was called “Independent Wesleyan Bible Methodist Holiness Church.”

            As good and important as these identities may be, at some point we have to get beyond these labels to a self-perception that will demand the right stuff of our lifestyle.

·         Identifying ourselves as followers captures the essence of what it means to be

a believing Christian.

                                    ò  Think of the difference it would make if we answered questions about who we are by saying, “I am a follower of Christ.” 

                                    ò  Calling one “follower” would draw out both encouragement and accountability.  Thinking of ourselves as followers keeps our focus on Christ and holds us accountable for how we live.

            Yet, in a strange, twisted sort of way, many of us live out our faith in Christ as though He exists to follow us.

1.      We come to believe that Christ exists to satisfy our demands.

2.      We come to believe in these distorted perceptions that we use the power of

faith and prayer as instruments to get Christ to serve our impulses for peace and prosperity.


            3.   This disguised form of self-serving religion sets Christ up as just one more merchandise in life that will enhance and empower our dreams and destinations.

            Of course, Christ wishes to grant to good things to us because He is generous.  But He gives us good things out of His pleasure, in His time and His way, not out of any authority that we supposedly have over Him.

            We were created to follow.  In the very beginning, God created us in His image so that we could connect with Him as our transcendent guide who would lead us to the reality of the life He desires for us.

            But if we have chosen life on our own terms, we become disillusioned, wondering why life is not all it’s cracked up to be.

            3.         Will You Accept The Challenge   It is not that we have not heard that intriguing call, “Follow Me.”

            It’s not that we do not believe in the One who calls us to Follow.  Our struggle is that it is just plain difficult to be a follower.  In a world consumed with leadership; independence, and self-led living, its tough to find volunteers who will even admit that they want to be followers.

            We get and give the impression that followers are limp, vulnerable, weak, controlled by others, and lacking in initiative or motivation. 

            I don’t know whether kids still play Follow the Leader, but I can remember spending some of my wasted youth in the pursuit.  Of course I always wanted to be the leader.  In fact, so did just about everyone else.  The reason?  The leader was always right, never caught off guard, and never embarrassed by having to imitate others.  It is like playing Simon Sez:  The leader always looks good, and the followers are the ones who stumble and can’t quite keep up.

            All of life and its outcomes rise and fall on whether or not we will choose to be the leader of our own destiny or a follower of someone wiser and better fit to lead.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the life choices that matter most, we resist yielding control. 

            We don’t want to give the impression that we are unable to figure out life for ourselves.  Like men who refuse to stop and ask directions when they are lost, we fear that others will think we aren’t wise and strong.  Or perhaps it’s just our “want-tos” that lead us astray.

            In face of our resistance to being vulnerable, Christ calls us to come after Him.  He calls us to count ourselves singularly, wholly, and without compromise fully devoted followers of Him ----- not as a part-time expression of, or add-on to, our Christianity, but as the all-consuming center point of our existence.

            Yet at the core of it all, it is not a struggle with rules and regulations. The issue is something far more significant, more compelling.  Following Christ is a relationship that drives and defines all we are and do.

            In fact that’s what I love about followership.  It’s not a project.  It’s a person.  It’s a relationship to a Person who perfectly loves and cares for us and who is wise beyond comparison-- a Person who has done so much for His followers that they look for ways to please and obey Him.

If Christianity is dull and boring, if it is a burden

and not a blessing, then most likely we are involved

in a project, not a Person­­­­­---a system not a Savior

rules rather than a relationship.

 

AMEN.

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