This morning, we continue our message series entitled, “Follow Me”, as we learn what it means to follow Jesus and be His disciple.
So far, we learned more fully in context what it meant to be a disciple and to follow someone. We were challenged to be fishers of men, to reach out to people who don’t know Jesus where they are at and to genuinely have compassion toward them just as Jesus did. We were challenged not to be like Levi’s critics, but to celebrate and encourage people who follow Jesus into God’s plans and purposes for their own lives.
We learned last week about the cost of discipleship and the need to lay everything down to follow Jesus. We were reminded from the LetGo commercials just how silly we probably look to Jesus with some of the things that we cling to instead of letting them go to follow Him.
We remembered just a few days ago of the pain and sorrow that Jesus endured and how choosing to follow Jesus can at times be painful as we endure hardships and trials along our life’s journey.
This morning, however, we celebrate the most exciting part of following Jesus! Jesus not only paid the price for our sin, Jesus defeated sin and death! Jesus rose to life; resurrecting from the dead! He’s alive! He has gone ahead of us and pioneered a way where there was no other way.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter (or author and finisher) of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Following Jesus is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Following Jesus is not a momentary, emotional response, it is a whole-hearted life commitment. There are days that following Jesus looks like a walk in the park and there are days that it looks more like American Ninja Warrior. Through it all, Jesus does not want us to grow weary and to lose heart. He beckons us to follow Him and Jesus always calls us to follow Him from a place of victory and triumph!
We are called to keep our eyes fixed on Him because things may not always look good around us. There are days when we look around us and begin to feel hopeless and as if though we are certain to lose all of our battles. When we lift our eyes up to Jesus, however, we are reminded that there is always hope and that our victory is certain so long as we don’t give up on Him.
We are reminded of the ancient song of ascents found in Psalm 121. It states: We lift our eyes up to the mountains, where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He watches over us and does not sleep nor slumber. He watches over our lives and in Him alone, we find our hope.
It helps us to consider that for three days Jesus suffered, but for eternity, Jesus reigns over all as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in power and strength and glory. His weakness and sorrow was temporary and is literally nothing in comparison to what it earned Him!
Yes, life may be difficult at times, but those times are not the end of our stories. Difficult seasons and chapters of life come to an end and we put them behind us as we continue forward in victory over all things! Why? Simply because we are following Jesus and victory is found where He is.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Remembering this helps to keep our lives in proper perspective. Sorrow may last for the night, but His joy comes in the morning! He will turn our mourning into gladness and wailing into dancing (Psalm 30)! He will bring beauty from ashes and trade us garments of praise for our spirit of despair (Isaiah 61). With Jesus, things always end well.
In Jesus, it is never too late and nothing is ever too far gone. Even a body decomposing for four days like Lazarus and a valley of dry bones seen by Ezekiel is nothing for God! He is able to raise them back to life and restore their strength and do amazing things through them.
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
Yes, choosing to follow Jesus and be His disciple may cost us something from time to time as we lay down everything. However, those things are nothing in comparison to all that Jesus freely offers us!
Jesus calls us to follow Him into life and life abundant.
Jesus calls us to follow Him and receive the same resurrection power that rose Him from the grave.
Jesus calls us to follow Him into victory over sin and temptation.
Jesus calls us to follow Him out of the temporary and into the eternal.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive from His Kingdom of ever-abundance where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive healing for sickness and disease.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive freedom for bondage.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive joy for despair.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive strength for weakness.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive hope for discouragement.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive peace for chaos.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive friendship for loneliness.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive adoption for fatherlessness.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive forgiveness for guilt.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive His Holy Spirit for emptiness.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive grace for guilt.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive wholeness for brokenness.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive refuge in the midst of battle.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive knowledge and wisdom and revelation for ignorance.
Jesus calls us to follow Him to receive guidance and direction for uncertainty and confusion.
Jesus calls us to follow Him into a place where He makes all things new.
The list could go on and on and on. To follow Jesus is to walk into wonderful benefits unending! Because Jesus lives, everything changes for us! Not even death could overcome the power of the Holy Spirit!
Romans 8 reminds us that the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the grave lives in us who chose to follow Him. If the Holy Spirit could raise Jesus from death to life, then think of what that same resurrection power within you and I can do. Nothing is too far gone for our God. Nothing can stop the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit within us! This changes everything for us!
That is, if we choose to accept that little invitation of Jesus, “Follow me.” The choice is ours.
Will we be like Andrew, Peter, James, John, Levi, and countless others who respond to those two little words of Jesus, “Follow Me!”, with joy laying everything down? Will we embark on an adventure with Jesus? They were enabled to see the miraculous take place as if though it was ordinary, met new people and visited new places and cultures. They planted new communities of faith and you and I are sitting here today putting our faith in Jesus as a result of their ministry.
Or, will we be like the rich young man, or the brokenhearted man who just lost his father, or the homesick man who all declined the invitation of Jesus because other things were simply more important to them?
Jesus gave us a parable to help us to understand this choice and His will and desire for us.
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.
Jesus has planned a party for us, literally, and He has invited everyone to join Him. Will we be ones who make excuses or will we be ones who joyfully accept His invitation? Will we be ones too busy about our own lives to give any time to Jesus, or will we be ones who go out to the roads and country lanes compelling people to come on in so that the house of God will be full?
The choice is ours. The rich reward waits for those who choose to follow Jesus. Let us not count the cost of being a disciple, but rather, consider the benefits of His salvation. Let us consider not what we are walking away from, but what we are walking toward when we choose to follow Jesus.
Jesus is alive! He paid the ultimate price and has won the ultimate victory! He now beckons us to follow Him and to share in that which He has been given. Why not follow Him into it that victory? Why not lay down our lives and take up His abundant and eternal life? What do we have to lose? What can even begin to compare to all that Jesus freely offers us?
Let’s take the opportunity right now to follow Jesus. For some of us, we recommit ourselves and for some of us, we’re making this choice for the very first time. In any case, now is the moment that the adventure begins for the rest of our days!