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Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:16

Come, Follow Me!

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COME, follow Me. How simple was the call that Jesus made to His disciples. “I will make you fishers of men,” He promised Simon Peter and Andrew. And their response was immediate. They left their nets and followed!
Symbolically, their nets represented everything they stood for. Fishing was their living, their passion, their very character and nature. Yet they were prepared to let go of it all.

“Let the dead bury the dead,” was Jesus’ reaction to a disciple who said that he needed to go and bury his father. How unfeeling, some might think. But straight away Jesus got in the boat and they followed Him into a veritable storm, both literally and figuratively.
Matthew was sitting at his desk in the tax office when he got the call. He, too, arose immediately and followed Jesus!
We know, too, that Jesus twice called “follow me” to Peter. The first was the aforementioned incident but the second was some three and a half years later, after Peter had denied Jesus.
The question, simply asked three times as our Lord restored the errant disciple, was “Peter, do you love me more than these?” Bottom line, did Peter love Jesus more than anything else in the world? Having established this unreservedly, Peter was told “follow Me” and “feed my sheep.” Peter’s very first response, we may assume, was in body and soul strength, the second came with spiritual conviction.

And indeed Peter would never be the same again!
“Don’t worry about what happens to John,” added Jesus “you just follow Me.” I wonder if we really appreciate just how profound and awesome is God’s call to His disciples. We have tended to underplay it as just another career option or ministerial course.
If we desire to follow Jesus, it is very clearly stressed in Mark 8:34 that we have to “deny” ourselves and “take up the cross.” Again, I would say that we have hopelessly underplayed what it means to deny self and take up the cross.

“Follow” is an idiom for discipleship and “come” means getting up and turning our backs on our roots and circumstances.
Let’s not forget in a hurry the classic confrontation Jesus had with the rich young ruler. He had it all! He was wealthy, religious and well established in society. He was a success story, but knew that there was still something missing. He was honest enough to acknowledge this “shortage” and had come to Jesus to get an answer.
Certainly he was at the right place, because only Jesus can provide the solution. But Jesus dropped a thunderbolt! Go give it all away. Take up your cross. Money was a problem and it always is, because while you have plenty of it, it is very difficult not to rely on it.

We do try and fool ourselves that we have not made money a “god” but the only way we could truly test that would be to give it all away.
The rich young ruler turned his back on Jesus. Yes, he turned his back on the greatest preacher of all time. And was probably back in the synagogue the following week. What’s more, Jesus did not run after him!
Abraham, the father of all believers, was similarly called. Get out of your country. From your family. From your father’s house. Clearly, God does not highly regard nationalism, patriotism and cultures. Abraham obediently departed as the Lord had spoken to him. He let go of everything.

Come, follow Me! Not men, ministries or the church. Only when we truly follow Jesus do we then become the “real” church, the “remnant” church, not the giant apostate monster that man has built for himself over the ages!
The great commission was very clear. Go and make disciples. We were not called to make “converts” to our way of thinking. Personal belief seems more important than doctrine these days. People are devoted to causes, to humanity, to the needs of the people, to the “church” and to ministries. But they are not devoted, sold out, to Jesus!
“Jesus Christ is deeply offensive to the educated minds of today, to those who want Him to be their friend and are unwilling to accept Him in any other way.” So wrote Oswald Chambers. The hallmark of the true disciple is total devotion to Jesus.

C-O-M-E! What do those letters stand for?
The “C” I believe is complete surrender. One day every single one of us is going to come to grips with the greatest truth of our time. We will obviously be viewing it from different vantage points. But the great truth is simply this: while we were here on earth there was only one issue of any consequence -- the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Yes, we will finally see that nothing else really mattered.
The Bible confirms “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord.” That means that everybody who has ever lived on earth will face the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; that He is the way, the truth and the life and that He was and is the only name by which man can be saved.
All God wants is everything! As Oswald Chambers writes, we need to give up our independent right to ourselves, abdicate the throne of our lives and love Jesus more than anything else in the world.
Pride is the sin of making “self” a god and we are going to see that Almighty God does not tolerate sin in any shape or form. He hates it! We really do battle to acknowledge our egos and our self-centeredness and, rather like the prodigal son’s elder brother, a considerable part of the church has become demandingly religious and self-righteously ignorant of the true gospel message that is contained in the prodigal son’s life-changing experience. He recognised his sin, repented and then, in his father’s arms, came to grips with God’s amazing grace.

The “O” stands for obedience. And here I am not talking about rules and regulations and qualifications. We can’t earn our way to heaven nor do we deserve what Jesus did for us. There is just no debate about that. However, the obedience I refer to involves discipleship that sees us willingly submit ourselves to the discipline of the Holy Spirit. The Great Commission calls us to go out and make disciples.
We are not just commanded to preach the word and ask people to put up their hands up if they agree with what we say. No, discipleship involves commitment, teaching and accountability. The job of the Church is to be a facilitator in helping converts become true disciples of the faith. True disciples will always attempt to honour the Lord in everything they say and do and certainly “obedience” will be a major factor. Important to note, though, is that this obedience is solely motivated by a great love for Jesus. “If you love me you do as I say.”

The “M” for me is marriage. Yes, it is a marriage, a marriage of accountability and commitment. We are the “Bride of Christ” and it is not one of those 50-50 marriage relationships that the world teaches about, it is one of those 100-0 Christian affairs where each partner puts in everything expecting nothing in return.
That should be our relationship with Jesus. It is certainly not a marriage of convenience. Isaiah 4:1 says: “Seven women take hold of one man saying we will eat our own food and provide our own clothes, only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace.” This verse sadly describes the end-time church, the church we are seeing all around us.
The seven women represent the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. The “one man” is Jesus. The seven women are grasping for Jesus. They are happy to “eat their own food” and “provide their own clothes” but all they want is forgiveness and a ticket to heaven. This is a marriage of convenience!
If you read Isaiah 3, it describes a collapsing, godless world and that leads into Isaiah 4, describing the return of Jesus Christ. Slotted in the middle is the apt one-verse description of the apostate church. All we want from Jesus is forgiveness, symbolically, figuratively and spiritually.
This modern-day “bride” is not interested in loving Jesus, or obeying Him, being intimate with Him or depending upon Him. All she wants is forgiveness, on her own terms.

It does tie in with the Revelation churches! “Lost first love,” “lukewarm,” “adultery,” “soiled bridal outfits” to quote a few phrases. God offers to clothe us in white in Jesus and this is often symbolised as marriage in all its commitment, obedience, accountability and intimacy.
But modernly, there is no ways we want that. We only want the glory side of marriage, the title, the sex and the goosebumps.
Our own food and our own clothes. We prefer to dress as we please, doing our own thing. We love false prophets tickling our ears and preachers teaching about cheap grace and unlimited love and mercy.

What is missing? No intimacy! No love! No companionship! No submission! No fasting! No time seeking His face and His presence! No secret place! No passion!
It is just about what Jesus can do for me. I just want to be called a Christian. I just want to be forgiven and get to heaven. I just want a saviour. I don’t need a Lord!
It’s a marriage of convenience. A sugar-daddy affair.

Finally the “E” is for eternity focused. It is all about a bigger picture that we only know and see in part, says 1 Corinthians 13, but which will be revealed to us one day. It is about the Kingdom of God that is not of this world and the fact that we are strangers and aliens in a derailed world.
“Come, follow me” is a huge ask. But anything less is just playing games!
In John 6, Jesus tells his listeners that they seek Him merely for their bellies. He then explains that to be the wrong food, what they need is the bread of life. Jesus points out the Moses and the “manna” were daily available in the wilderness, but it did not help anyone. “Your fathers ate manna but they are dead.” They needed to “look up” that they may never hunger or thirst. Jesus is the living bread.

The spirit gives life. The flesh profits nothing. “Eat my flesh” and “drink my blood” does emphasise the need to partake in His death. It was personal, intimate, profound and life-changing. Unless we die with Christ we do not rise with him.
“That is a hard teaching! Who can accept it?” said some of the would-be disciples and many turned back and no longer followed Him. They had been offended. In many respects Jesus is a rock of offence. “Do you want to leave, too?” He asked the twelve. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You are the Christ.” There are no other options. None whatsoever!
Come, follow Me.
Have you “heard” those three little words? More important, have you responded with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. That is the bottom line!

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