I will follow…
Seemingly innocuous words, this statement carries much
weight behind it. As we ask whether you
are a fan of Jesus or a follower it’s easy to say “I will follow” but I think
that many of us are not fully prepared for what that means. “I will follow Jesus” is a weighty statement.
For the past five weeks we’ve looked through scripture and
tried to discern what being a follower of Jesus was all about. We’ve looked at what it means to be truly
intimate in our relationship with Jesus and what it means to be filled with the
Spirit. We’ve talked about surrendering
all we have and being a slave of Christ.
We’ve even practically written down what it costs us to follow Jesus,
because it will cost something. Today,
though, I’d like to take a more practical approach to following Jesus. If we never make it practical, we’ll never do
it. I said a couple of weeks ago that
it’s easy to talk about following Jesus when it’s all theory. When we can sit around in coffee shops and
discuss theology it’s easy, even fun sometimes.
But when our faith has to be put into action, it takes a little more.
The whole premise behind this series is that Jesus never
called any of us to simply believe in him.
He never asked us to agree with him.
He asked us to follow him. It’s
easy to be a fan. It doesn’t cost very
much to be a fan. Being a follower is
something different. Being a follower
implies motion. It means that we follow.
Today we’re going to look at three separate parts of
following Jesus and the sacrifice that each requires.
I Will Follow Jesus
Wherever He Leads
There are three people listed in this passage with whom
Jesus has an encounter. The first of
these is a man who makes the statement “I will follow you wherever you
go.” These seem to be the words of a
true follower, of one who really does want to follow Jesus. Jesus, however, reveals the man’s true heart. In response, Jesus says “Foxes have holes,
and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his
head.” Essentially what Jesus said was
I have no doubt that this man really did find Jesus
intriguing and really did think that he wanted to follow, but Jesus turned the
commitment level up a bit. The man came
to him saying “I want to follow you.”
But Jesus knew what would get him.
We have to be careful when we say that we will follow Jesus
wherever. We have to be cautious because
“wherever” means a lot of places. It
means that we might go places that aren’t comfortable or even safe. Jesus told the man “I don’t know where I’m
going to sleep from one night to the other.”
From what we know, the man wasn’t fully prepared for that.
I think that when we sign up to follow Jesus most of us are
prepared for the incredible fuzzy feeling we get from being saturated by the
Spirit of God while surrounded by people who love God. I think we’re prepared to see the miraculous
happen, even if that’s a little bit overwhelming to us. We long for things to feel good and for times
to be exciting. J.R. Vassar calls this
looking for the sensational and not the significant. He argues that following the leading of the
Holy Spirit inside of us will lead to incredibly significant moments where we
embrace the power of God. But we often
miss that because we don’t want to go where Jesus leads.
When we say “I will follow you wherever” Jesus says “What
Will you really follow Jesus wherever he leads you? Will you really go that far? Will you really go to that place? I mentioned earlier about the sacrifices
required when we follow Jesus. When we
say “wherever” we make the sacrifice of safety.
Following Jesus “wherever” means that we don’t get to choose any longer
where we go. This man in Luke 9 thought
he was making a big gesture to Jesus.
Jesus revealed that the man wasn’t ready to leave everything behind and
Are you willing to follow Jesus “wherever?” It is much easier to speak about following
Jesus when you are making a general statement without any specific
commitments. What if Jesus asked you to
follow him in your home? I know what
you’re thinking. “I thought he was going
to say I had to Uganda or something.”
Perhaps where Jesus wants you to follow him first is in your home. Men, are you good spiritual leaders of your
home? Does your family respect and love
you? Do they follow your lead? Wives, do you follow Jesus at home? Do you let your husband lead you? Do you help him and comfort him? Are you supportive of him? Children, what about you? Do you honor your parents? Do you follow the rules or see how much you
can get away with?
What if Jesus asked you to follow him at work? Could you do it there? Could you be a witness for him at work? Could you set aside your fears of what people
would think? What if he asked you to
follow him to your neighbor’s house? How
about a food pantry or perhaps a homeless shelter in your home town? Sometimes I think it may be easier for us to
follow Jesus out of the country because that’s where “missions” happens. When you say “wherever,” though, Jesus might
call you upstairs to comfort a hurting spouse or child. He might call you down the hall to speak to a
co-worker. These are not “safe” places
because they move us into an area where we might be rejected or mocked.
Will you sacrifice your safety? Will you follow Jesus “wherever?”
I Will Follow Jesus
Whenever He Chooses To Send Me
The next man Jesus encounters is actually beckoned by
Jesus. The first man came to him; the
second is called by him. Jesus said to
the man “Follow me.” But the man
responded, “Lord let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus’ response is rather frustrating, if you
ask me. Jesus replied “Leave the dead to
bury their own dead. But as for you, go
and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
This man seemed to have a reasonable request, “my dad has
died, let me go have his funeral.” Why
did Jesus respond the way he did?
Idleman gives us a clue to a possibility. It is possible that this man’s parents were
still very much alive. In a close-knit
family culture the oldest son was expected to take care of his parents as they
aged. It is possible that this man is
saying, “After my parents die I will follow you because then I won’t have any
other obligations.” Again, this seems
fairly reasonable, but Jesus often calls us to sacrifice our convenience for
his sake. Why did this man want to wait
until his parents were dead? Maybe the
thought of him running off to follow some lunatic Nazarene didn’t sit well with
them. Maybe he was embarrassed. We don’t know much about this man. We don’t even know his name. I would guess, though, that if he had
followed Jesus, we might have a bit more information about him.
Do we have responsibilities on
earth? Absolutely. Should we be faithful in following through
with our commitments? Yes. But there comes a point where Jesus’ call
supersedes all others. This man wanted
to follow Jesus, now just wasn’t a good time.
Most fans have every intention of
following Jesus “someday.” They’re not
telling Jesus “no,” but “not now.” We
treat following Jesus like that diet we’re going to start “tomorrow” or that
workout program we’re intent on beginning “next week.” The sad truth is that there is no tomorrow. Time is a funny thing. When you think about it, the past and the
future are completely arbitrary concepts.
They aren’t real. We’re lulled to
sleep by the memory of the past and the promise of the future. We remember the good things and hope for what
we think will be great. In reality,
though, all we have is right now.
So when we say we’ll follow Jesus
“whenever,” he asks “what about now?”
What about now? Will you follow
Jesus now? The only response we can have
is “yes” because the only time we really have is now anyway.
Now is inconvenient. There are so many other things to do. When I was a student pastor it was always
incredibly difficult to get students to commit to anything. We would plan events nine months out so that
we could avoid as many conflicts as possible and invariably there would be 15
students that would come up the week before and say they couldn’t come because
they had other things to do. It’s always
Perhaps Jesus is calling you to
follow him. There are only two responses
we can give “yes” or “no.” There is no
“later.” Why? Because there is no later. There is only now. Will you follow Jesus? Will you go whenever he tells you to go? What if he asked you to go right now?
Amanda and I used to be small
group leaders for a Disciple Now in Shreveport every year. My mentor Paul Mints was the student pastor
at Summergrove Baptist Church and he organized these incredible Disciple Now
weekends that would see 400+ students come.
All of the leaders would gather on Friday morning for a time of worship
and study and one of the first things he said to us every year was that we
needed to spend time in prayer and worship and make sure that we were
spiritually ready to lead that weekend.
In a time before everyone had cell phones he would have two or three
phones placed on the stage and he would invite us to come and make things right
with someone who had wronged us or who we had wronged. He told us he would pay us to go home if we
weren’t prepared for the weekend. He
would invite us to come right then, that moment, and pick up a phone to call
the person. There was no “later.” The call was to get prepared now.
What if Jesus asked you to step
out in faith right now? This probably
isn’t new material. You may have been
dealing with an impression on your spirit for several years now. It was two years after I first felt called to
plant a church that I actually stepped out and did it. Why? I
was afraid. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t feel like I could lead very
well. I didn’t know if anyone would
follow me. I still deal with these
fears. But there came a time when my
fears didn’t matter and I just had to step out and do it. I remember the conversation I had with Paul
over the counter at their office building.
I had been talking about a church plant for almost two years at that
point. I believe Tim was there along
with another friend who had just left his church and didn’t know where he was
going to go. Paul said to me “when?” I don’t know what I responded or even if I
did, but I knew that the moment was right then.
Often I think we wait on “God’s
timing.” I know I do. I get paralyzed with fear when God asks me to
do something. What if he’s asking you to
do it right now? So what if you’re not
prepared. Amanda and I got married when
we were 21. Were we “prepared” to get
married? Of course not. That didn’t stop us, though. No one is “prepared.” I don’t care how many times you’ve been
married, either. You’re not prepared to
get married. You just do it. Has anyone in the history of the world been “prepared”
to have children? Even if it’s your
second, third, or fifth child, no one is “prepared.” That’s because every child is different. If God is calling you to do something, don’t
waste time getting “prepared.” Do it.
There’s a small caveat to this
whole thing. There are times when we
know that God is leading us to do something, but it takes us some time to get
there. For instance, I knew when I was
17 that I was supposed to pastor a church.
I didn’t become a pastor until I was 31.
Was I being disobedient? I don’t
think so. But the journey to becoming a
pastor helped define how I will pastor.
Just because God is calling you to something today isn’t a guarantee
that it will happen today. Our plans
don’t often happen the way we think they will.
But we must be faithful to step out and trust that God will work things
out the way he plans.
I Will Do Whatever Jesus Has For Me To Do
The final encounter in our
passage has to do with a man who, again, is struggling with leaving home. He tells Jesus that he would love to follow
him, but he first wants to go home and say goodbye to his family. He is much like the second gentleman. It’s certainly not convenient for him to
follow Jesus, but he just wants a few moments to say goodbye to his
family. That’s not such an unreasonable
request is it? How does Jesus
respond? “No one who puts his hand to
the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Again, Idleman gives us a clue as
to what might have been this man’s request.
It is possible that this young man wanted to have a celebration, a
good-bye party if you will, for his going away.
This could have been a lengthy celebration lasting perhaps several
weeks, giving the man time to visit everyone he knew and tell them what he was
doing. There are two things I think
Jesus is trying to teach the young man.
First of all, humility. It’s
possible that this man desired accolade for what he was doing. “I’m going to follow Jesus, everyone. Look how selfless I am!” I believe the other thing is more important,
A couple of weeks ago I had you
finish this statement: “saying ‘yes’ to
following Jesus means saying ‘no’ to…
Your responses are on the wall behind me. These are things you felt that you had left
or would have to leave behind in order to say “yes” to Jesus. What was more important, that thing, or
Jesus? I think that we could all come to
the conclusion that Jesus is infinitely more important than any other thing
ever. So the sacrifice here is
comfort. Following Jesus means that I am
sacrificing my comfort.
This young man wanted one last
fling with what was comfortable to him.
He wanted to say goodbye to his family.
Jesus said that if you follow him you can’t look back. You can’t hold on to what makes you
comfortable if you follow him. When you
accept the invitation to follow Jesus, you aren’t just making him your top priority; you are making him your only priority.
This is a tough thing to
take. We say to Jesus, “I will do
whatever you want.” Jesus says “What
about that?” Will you give up your
comfort in order to live among the diseased and dying? That’s what Mother Theresa did. Will you sacrifice that thing you love and
those relationships you keep to get clean water to people all over the world
who are dying of diarrhea? Will you give
up fancy coffee to sponsor a Compassion child who needs food and medicine?
When we hang on to those things
that give us comfort we are really committing the sin of idolatry. We are substituting something or someone else
for Jesus. We are finding our comfort in
a thing or another person, not Jesus. In
the Old Testament, when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments
from God, what were the rest of the Israelites doing? They were melting down their jewelry so they
could make a golden calf. I’ve always
thought that was an odd choice, myself.
The Psalmist thought so, too.
“They made a calf in Horeb and
worshiped a metal image. They exchanged
the glory of God for the image of an ok that eats grass.” The terrifying phrase is verse 20. They exchanged the glory of God for something
else. Is there something in your life
that you are unwilling to let go of?
What if when you told Jesus you would do whatever he required he asked
you to give up that thing or that person you want so desperately to hold on to?
We sang a song earlier called
“How He Loves.” Amanda and I got to go
to camp on Monday night and attend the worship service. This was the first year in the last 7 that we
weren’t able to go for the whole week.
That night Luminate also sang “How He Loves.” I’ve heard this song many times and I’ve sung
it several times in worship, but for some reason that night the words of the
first line struck me. The first line of
that song says “He is jealous for me.” I
had known for a while what I was going to preach on this Sunday and that night
the word jealous jumped out at me. You
see, the Father is jealous for us. He
desperately wants us and he won’t share us with anything or anyone. He loves us fiercely and that’s why he wants
us to follow him. He wants us to go
wherever, whenever, and do whatever because he is jealous. He made no compromises when he sent his son
to die for us and he will accept no compromises when he asks us to follow him.
He loves us; oh, how he loves
us. He longs for us to follow him. He longs for us to know him. He calls for us to give everything we have to
We say, “I will follow you
wherever you lead.” He responds, “What
We say, “I will follow you
whenever you tell me to go.” He says back
to us, “How about now?”
We say, “I will do whatever you
ask me to do.” His reply is, “What about
Following Jesus wherever means
that we sacrifice our safety. Following
Jesus whenever means that we sacrifice our convenience. Doing whatever Jesus asks of us means that we
sacrifice our comfort.
Idleman ends his book with the
story of William Borden, heir to the Borden dairy empire. Borden received an undergraduate degree from
Yale and a graduate degree from Princeton.
He had the opportunity to stay in relative comfort and live out his life
as a wealthy dairy owner. Instead, he
felt the call of Jesus to reach the Muslim people. It should be said that Borden lived in the
late 19th century. During
college he began to preach the gospel and was a catalyst for a massive revival
on Yale campus. By the time he was a
senior, 1,000+ students were involved in Bible study and prayer groups. He also worked with the homeless who were
living on the streets of New Haven. He
founded and funded the Yale Hope Mission in an effort to rehabilitate
alcoholics and addicts.
After he finished his college
career, he left home to take the gospel to the Kansu people in China, a heavily
Muslim culture. Before going to China,
though, he went to Egypt to study Arabic.
While in Egypt he caught Spinal Meningitis and died at the age of
25. After his death there were three
phrases found written inside the cover of his Bible.
No reserves: are you holding anything back for yourself,
afraid to give everything to Christ?
No retreats: are you looking back, over your shoulder at
the life you’re leaving behind?
No regrets: is there anything you know you should do,
even wish you could do, that you haven’t yet done?
Am I a follower of Jesus, or just
a fan? I pray that you’ll look hard at
yourself and ask this question. I pray
that as we’ve gone through this series there has been some tension in your
life. I hope you’ve had to confront some
inconsistencies. I hope that you have
become more committed in your walk with Jesus.
I pray that soon I can look others in the eye and tell them
am not a fan.