What does it mean to “Follow Christ?” Jesus’ first words to each disciple was “Follow Me.” Peter and Andrew were casting their nets in the sea and Jesus interrupted their fishing trip with the words “Follow Me.” Shortly after that, He walked past James and John who were mending their nets and they left their nets, and their father, and followed Jesus. Matthew was collecting tax money when Jesus stopped and requested him to follow Him. In all three of these incidents there was no hesitation whatsoever to follow Christ. Peter and Andrew “straightway” left their nets. James and John “immediately” left the ship. Matthew “arose” and followed Christ. What was it about Jesus that they would not question, debate, or delay in following Him? He had not yet performed one miracle, but they followed Him at once. They had not yet heard His teachings, yet they followed Him at once. The Holy Spirit was revealing to them that this was what they were supposed to do and who they were supposed to follow. They yielded to what Holy Spirit was speaking to them. They had a choice. It was not in any way a forced obedience. They chose to follow Him and to follow Him at once. When Holy Spirit is revealing truth to us, it is advantageous to us to submit ourselves to that truth at once. If we hesitate, we are setting ourselves up for disobedience. Jesus was very plain about following Him immediately in Luke 9:57-62. He encounters three different men concerning the subject of following Him. In Verses 57 and 58, the man speaks first to Jesus that he will follow Him wherever He goes. But Jesus discerns that this man is not ready to make the sacrifice and lay down the comforts of life as he knew it. I believe this man had the “Rich Young Ruler” syndrome that we see in Matthew 19:16-22. There are some that follow Jesus to look good, improve their status in the community, and even receive personal gain. I have seen businessmen and women filter through a church marketing their products to individuals and then conveniently leaving when their “work” was done. They are not following Christ. They are merchandising the church for personal gain. I seem to remember a story in which Jesus over turned some tables when that was taking place.
Understand I am not saying we must take a vow of poverty to follow Christ, but if our prosperity is priority over Christ, there needs to be an adjustment. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “If you want to reach spiritual maturity, then sell what you have, give to the poor, and follow Me.” Jesus was dealing with the issue of priorities in his life and in the life of the first man in Luke 9:57,58.
The second man in Verses 59 and 60 was asked by Jesus to follow Him. Rather than follow immediately as the disciples did, he requested to go bury his father. Jesus very plainly dealt with an issue in this man’s heart by saying, “Let the dead bury their dead, but you should go now and preach the Kingdom of God.” It may seem Jesus was disrespectful, but it is not the case at all. The whole scenario is not revealed in this account why this man wanted to go to his father, but Jesus knew it was an excuse. It is believed by some scholars that this man’s father was not yet dead, so the idea was that Jesus would have to wait for him. Jesus could not wait. He had a mission to accomplish. This man could not hesitate in fulfilling his mission in the Kingdom of God. Once again, the priorities were not right because this man said let me first bury my father. Jesus, the Gospel, and the hope it brings, must be first.
We see priorities are not right in the third man as well in Verses 61,62. He said he would follow Christ, but first he had to go back home and say farewell to his family. Jesus told him in no uncertain terms that he should not do that. It was follow Him now or not at all. Once again it seems to us to be a harmless desire to go say good bye to his family, but Jesus knew the heart of this man. Chances are if he would have gone home, he would have stayed home and possibly never have followed Christ.
It is interesting to note in all three cases that we do not know the final choice they made. I believe Scripture leaves it unfinished so we will contemplate our own lives to choose to follow Christ immediately and first. The rich young ruler in Matthew 19:22 went away sorrowful. We know the decision he made was not to follow Christ immediately and first.
The decision to follow Christ immediately and first is not to add to the fame of Christ and to make Him look good. Jesus does not thrive on fortune and fame. He needs no one to defend or prove Who He is. The decision to follow Him is for our benefit. We can understand the concept of unbelievers not putting Jesus first and living their lives placing other priorities first, but it is happening in the Church and in the lives of believers as well. If Jesus isn’t first, then are we following Him? There is a children’s activity called Follow The Leader. Our Leader is Christ. If He is not first, we cannot follow Him. If He is not first in finances, we are not following Him. If He is not first in our relationships, then we are not following Him. If He is not first in our ideal of citizenship and the governmental realm, then we are not following Him.
I am first a citizen of Heaven and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is an eternal citizenship that I gain at the moment of salvation. That citizenship supersedes my citizenship as an American. But my citizenship in the Kingdom does not excuse me from my citizenship in the United States. It is actually just the opposite. My citizenship in the Kingdom of God places upon me a duty, a responsibility, to be an active participant of righteousness as a citizen in the nation I live in. Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” How can the righteous be in authority if we sit back and do nothing and do not participate in earthly government? We need righteous men and women in all levels of government. We need the righteous citizens of this nation to participate in the privilege we have in this nation to vote.
Look at Proverbs 14:34. “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Once again how can righteousness exalt a nation if the righteous do not participate in the governmental opportunities we are given? How about Psalm 33:12 ? “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.” We love the second part of that verse and rightfully so. We are chosen by God to receive the inheritance of life, life more abundantly, eternal life and all the benefits that come with knowing Christ.
But don’t forget the first part that tells us a nation will be blessed when God is Lord. How can God be Lord if the righteous do not take an active part in the opportunities of its government? Let me make it clear that not all of us as citizens of the Kingdom of God are called to hold positions in the government of our nation, but we are all called to participate in the privilege to vote.
Let’s look at the words of Jesus Himself in John 10:10, but I want you to look at it with a slightly different perspective. He is using the illustration of a shepherd and His sheep. Jesus is the Shepherd, the authority over the sheep (Verse 11). In His “True to Life” illustration, He mentions thieves and robbers always lingering around the sheep (Verses 1,8). These thieves and robbers have the intention of destroying the sheep by pulling them out of the pasture of righteousness and placing them in the pasture of unrighteousness. Thieves and robbers base their success on what they have in their possession that is not rightfully theirs. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That is the objective of our enemy in our personal walk with Christ. It is also the objective of the enemy that desires to remove righteousness from our nation.
Satan is on an all out effort to steal, kill, and destroy the righteousness that our nation was founded upon, and He will do whatever he can to accomplish it, including placing thoughts in the minds of the righteous that our participation in governmental privileges does not make a difference. That is a lie. Let me ask you this? Do you think those who are living unrighteous lives think their vote does not matter? Absolutely not. The enemy and his cohorts will not refrain from any activity, legal or illegal, to participate in voting, protests, and even unrighteous agendas as well, to cause the nation to turn to their evil principles. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
Now allow me to deal with another issue that believers are struggling with. I have heard the phrase “the lesser of two evils” often concerning political candidates. Some have the opinion of not voting at all and others of the opinion I am going to vote, but I will vote for the “lesser of two evils.”
First, let me reiterate that if you do not vote at all, then you are voting for the worse of the two evils because, once again, the unrighteous are going to vote. So is it right to vote for the lesser of two evils? Has there ever been a political candidate who has been perfect? How many votes have you cast for someone who you knew without a doubt was a sincere Christian striving to live by the standards of the Word of God and know Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour?
Let me give you some sincere, sound, biblical advice. The Word of God is our standard. It is the standard for our life and to examine the fruit of the lives of others (Matthew 7:15-20). By their fruits we shall know them. Now some will say, “Pastor, I can’t even see the fruits of the candidates”
or “I see good and bad fruit in all the candidates.” Then look at the moral platform of each candidate. There are many sources available to us today revealing the stand taken by each candidate on the issues of morality. This includes the sanctity of life, same sex marriages, and other moral issues. The Word of God is the standard we have before us and Holy Spirit is the One Who will guide us to all truth. Follow Christ by heeding to His words, “His sheep hear His voice” (John 10:27) and “A stranger we will not follow” (John 10:5). Be sincere in your effort to follow Christ. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Compare each candidates stand on moral issues to The Standard, The Word of God. I have included a couple websites at the end of this devotional to assist you in doing that.
Another issue I have seen in the lives of concerned believers is that there is no hope. They feel as if our nation has sunk too far in unrighteousness and there is no way to rise up out of it. Let me boldly and confidently say there is hope in none other than Jesus Christ, and for that hope to be injected into this fallen nation, the Church must awaken out of its spiritual slumber. Do not forget the promise in 2nd Chronicles 7:14 to the Church that will humble itself, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. He will hear us, forgive us, and heal us. Psalms 33:12 says, ” Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Let us meet the conditions of 2nd Chronicles 7:14 and expect our nation to be blessed.
Psalms 33:10 says, ” The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought. He makes the devices, the thoughts and plans , of them to no effect.” Verse 18, “Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him and upon them that hope in His mercy.” He is a God of grace and of justice.
I believe it is vitally important that the Church ( the individuals ) go to church, (the sanctuary) as well. 2nd Chronicles 7:11-16 focuses on the House of God, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Sanctuary. God says in Verse 12, “I have chosen this place to myself for an House of Sacrifice.” Verses 15,16, “Now mine eyes shall be open and mine ears attentive unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house that my name may be there forever and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.” Don’t you desire to be in the place where His ears are turned, where His eyes are looking, and where His heart is? That place is the House of God. I have heard people use the excuse that where they are is where the Church is. Thus the Church is everywhere, and they do not need to go to the sanctuary. They have been deceived. Yes, we as individuals are the Church, but it is vital that we as individuals gather together in the Tabernacle of His Presence. “Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as you see the day (of His return) approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Gathering in God’s House is another principle of following Christ. Let us be examples to the younger generation before us of the importance of gathering in the house of God. This election plays a major part in the lives of our children and grandchildren. It is not just about the next four years , but much longer. The next president will have a direct effect on the appointing of Supreme Court justices. Pastor David Jeremiah says ,” The next president will select between two and four Supreme Court justices who will reign over the cultural issues of our nation for the next 30 years. One of the most interesting things about the Supreme Court is it is the least democratically selected body of leaders in our nation and they now wield the most influence. Supreme Court justices have more power than many kings and dictators.” If we care at all about the future of our children, then we should make a concerted effort hear from God and cry out for wisdom concerning the appointment of the next president.
A common phrase in social media is “follow us.” You will find it on virtually every page you go. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Google, the list goes on and on of individuals and businesses that encourage the on-looker to follow them. Let us “click on” following Christ. Be careful who you follow. There is a children’s song that says these “following” words: “Oh be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little ears what you hear. Oh be careful little hands what you do. Oh be careful little feet where you go. Oh be careful little mouth what you say. There’s a Father up above and He’s looking down in love.” One way to guard our eyes, ears, hands, feet, and mouth is to follow Christ.
Take a moment and ask Holy Spirit to reveal any adjustments you must make to be sure you are following Christ. Continue to pray for the Church and pray the Church will hear the voice of the Lord clearly in the election of our next president. Fulfill Paul’s request in 1st Timothy 2:1-3 and pray for those in authority, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.”
Following Him With You , Pastor Wes
Additional “following Christ” scriptures:
Joshua 14:6-15 ,1st Kings 18:21 ,Luke 9:22,23 , John 21:18-22
For information on the stand of presidential candidates on the major issues you can go to:
www.billygraham.org and read the September issue Of Decision magazine or call and request a free issue.
www.ohioca.org and view the Ohio Christian Alliance Voter Guide.