Who or What are We Following?
FOLLOWING THIS "MAN", JESUS
We have to wonder as to how unconventional he was, and with what manner as Jesus approached others, and said, "Come follow me!"
He comes to Peter and some of the other fishermen and bids for their attention, so strongly, that he asks them to change their careers... for the unexpected, and he does this with many others. He uses what they possess in their heart to prove his power in their lives enabling them to follow, do and walk in the Kingdom way. How unconventional was Jesus? He upset the whole demographics of the "Jewish manner" of doing things. He did church differently and with a new approach... by means of power and demonstrations of that power from on high and speaking the truth in love.
Following after him was not going to be easy. It would challenge everything these men, and woman knew and understood. It would challenge a nation of which the majority would reject him; actually rejecting God himself. Many stopped following, because of the strong language he used. He confronts the disciples saying, "Will you also leave me?"
Following: Was it an ideal? Meaning a model, ideology, philosophy, creed, system of belief, attitude, or way of life?
Follow: Pursue, chase, tag along, go after, stick with, ensue
We often get a picture from a religious mindset that Jesus was all business all the time. We have in some ways a shallow representation through the gospels and I suppose from those scholars who were piecing the letters, history of the times and remnants of stories and facts that they in many ways kept this a bit rigid. I think that is why we have such a diverse representation through denominations as to what everyone thought was important after viewing the scriptures. Unfortunately this type of thinking has only caused a rift between churches instead of bringing them together. We are divided by many trivial items and that places us all on a dividing line; right where the enemies of the Kingdom of God want us to be.
Another factor that is here, since the twentieth century, is that Hollywood has given a dim and shoddy worldly view and painted a dreadful picture that resonates upon our minds in big flashing colours. Regrettably when they portrayed clerics as hard, unloving, and by the law, they had it right in some cases.
So; following Jesus. What did it really look like?
We have to remember that Jesus' main mission, besides world redemption, was firstly to the Jews. He had a set design in mind for their religious overhaul, both as a nation and individually, as he followed God's direction. It was quite a feat for God to send Jesus at this specific time, when a huge part of the known world was being dominated by Rome and Rome's political and warfare strategies. But God had a strategy of his own intent in this one man and son, Jesus.
If you consider the power of change through a complete opposite approach to world domination, it looks absolutely foolish. If someone had said to you at that time, that God was going to use you to change the whole of religious history through a one man army, with a simple message of life, hope, love, redemption for all for all of time, and salvation in the shedding of your blood in the form of your sacrifice; you would have laughed yourself silly and told them, "Go and give their head a shake, cause the elevator ain't goin' all the way to the top". "That they were a burger short of a happy meal". But yet all the prophecies spoken some five hundred or more years earlier gave the clear indication of this very thing and now was that specific time. Emanuel, God with us has arrived.
We have the luxury of looking backwards, two thousand years later. But those first hundred years were not going to be easy; and yet it all came together through a mission of words, "Come follow me..."
We have to look in other places beside the Holy Bible to get a glimpse of history and what went on from the time after Jesus death. Paul gives a good account of what took place with the Gentile believers and the spreading of the gospel, which still spelled out, "Come follow me". The followers of the Way as they were called grew and grew and the following after Jesus, with the help and power of Holy Spirit who continued to empower and inspire men, allowed the gospel to grow into nation upon nation. It became so powerful that it was having a dominating effect upon the Roman government so much that control was gained by causing the religious order to come under a governing rule, and in 390 AD, the Emperor creates the first State church, and eventually the Roman Catholic church. There was still a following, even though there was an altering of the original heart of God, and we know a lot about Catholic history. This being one of the dominating world religions of both good and appalling actions for many centuries.
And so on and on the story goes from country to country forming into all the many different denominations with all the various variations, but the heart of the word and the intent of the gospel message was still one of hope, redemption and love. It did not get lost completely. Unfortunately, government and selfish clerical men got their hands into the mix for the explicit means of control. Two thousand years later and we see that not much has changed. The name of Christ is still being used for individual benefit. The great thing that supports and proves the power of Christianity, in most of the French, Spanish and English speaking world was that laws, governing rule, the justice system was all born from the heart of righteous men agreeing on precept and principle derived from the roots of Christianity. Had it not been so, who's to say what chaos we might be living in or more likely dying in. It is plausible to assume that we are possibly only a few generations away from complete demoralization of Christian influence being observed. Following Jesus then becomes totally abnormal.
Following Jesus today, hasn't become any easier for those who are in countries where there is stiff opposition of varying degrees based upon either other religious order or hatred for anything contrary to the mindset of communism or the like.
Today the greater of those who would say that they are church goers are not really "following Jesus", but may simply be making an attempt to appease their conscience or going through a religious gesture not really knowing what, "following Jesus" means at all. That leaves a very small percentage of, "true followers", and even these are divided on many issues. But the beautiful and wonderful thing about God is that he doesn't need numbers on his side to get the job accomplished, all he needs is the heart which he then can empower with Holy Spirit. (Notice I did not say control.) The message of salvation continues in dark corners of the globe delivered by men and women, who like the first disciples love the Lord with all.
So what should, "following Jesus" look like for us, in the 21st century ? Ask ten people and you will get ten different answers... so we have to go back to the beginning, where Jesus handpicked specific men, all with diverse personalities, explicit differences, even opposing mindsets, ideas, style and backgrounds. He simply asked them to do as he did, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbour as you do yourself", and that this would fulfill all of the law and the word of the prophets. That this one crucial command built upon a love power and strength would turn life around in anyone's heart, once it was fully initiated and understood.
Do we want others to follow Jesus? Then what are we leaving as the road signs that would cause them to make the decision to follow? What kind of a pathway are we showing forth with our life? If someone spent a few days with us, in our vocation, our home setting, would they be impressed enough to know that we are the real deal? Do we leave an air of the grace of God in everything we do or is the air filled with other stuff? The disciples weren't perfect, but others recognized and said, "They'd been with Jesus"; it was evident.
In military, government, and the corporate world, great leadership is defined by the evidence left on those being led.
So, what defines us as followers of Jesus, the Christ?
It is not defined by our love for those in the world around us... it is characterized and demonstrated by our, "Love for one another in the body of Christ", and then the world will say, "I want to follow Jesus too!"
The question then arises. Why aren't we as a body of Christ, truly following Jesus?
Why are we seemingly more interested in what goes on within our own particular denomination that we cannot come to a simple consensus of what is important to God and Kingdom fundamentals?
We are right back to the very same place that the apostle Paul had to rebuke the early church when they were saying, "I am of Apolis, I am of Paul, I am of Jesus..."
As long as we are divided the world walks by our doors and just ignores us.
If we were in a business where people were ignoring us and going down the street to shop, we would want to know why? If not, we would be bankrupt. It doesn't surprise me that there are churches today having this very problem.
The bottom line is passion, heart, love, desire, and as someone has said, "Being sold out to Jesus".
Following Jesus requires a leaving of something for the life of trust, because there is an element of the unknown as we grow into the Kingdom and his spirit transforms us.
There is also a walking things out and during this walking we are to walk in our own shoes, we cannot put on something that does not fit. Unfortunately many are trying to walk in the ways of others and not in the Jesus way.
If we are "children", then we are heirs...
Being the child of the Kingdom versus being childish. There is a huge difference. Paul is asking the question or making a statement; "IF we are..." We must firstly know what we are before we can become who we are meant to be.
Following requires a leaving of something. A turning towards the new.
Jesus was firstly the Rabi, teacher and conduit of the power of God. If we haven't experienced this transforming power of the Father in our heart, to a place that we willingly receive a New heart we cannot move forward with the teacher, simply because we will think that there is nothing to learn. A number of the disciples who were seasoned, skilled fishermen were schooled on more than one occasion by their teacher, who was really a carpenter by trade. Did they question him? Yes, but then they began a journey of learning to trust him. He takes us on this self same journey of discovery. We discover what we are not, but then we determine what and who we are to become. Fishermen and others became servants, lovers, empowered speakers, leaders and filled to the full with Holy Spirit power.
Not all continued to follow him as he weeded out the socialites, the attention seekers, the desperate, and carnival riders.
Today the human heart is still the same, full of one's self. Leaving ourselves behind will always be the hardest feat that we all will have to accomplish. The journey only started on the day we said yes to Jesus, but it will never, ever end. If we fail to recognize this and we come to a belief in our mind that we have arrived, then at that moment we will have stopped following and started leading ourselves astray. Holy Spirit will weed us out in order for the best to come out in us. We will be put into test and trial, fire and water and we will discover that we can stop the refining process through our arrogance, selfishness, self lies, disobedience, ignorance, doubt and fear.
Are we prepared for the unconventional; the not "church as usual?"
If we are not then we should question and look very closely to see what it is we are actually following after!
"Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life." Prov. 4:23
If it were "just that easy", we'd all have no problems... ever... "Right!" NOT!