Why Follow Jesus

Scripture: Numbers 9:17, Luke 9:57-62
Date: 08/13/2005 
Why follow Jesus? Everyone follows someone. If you are not following Christ, you are walking away from Him. As the children of Israel learned to follow God in the wilderness, so we need to follow the Lord and learn important lessons. It means giving up all to follow Him.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

This morning I would like to talk to you about a very simple truth that has profound ramifications. It all revolves around a simple word, follow, following. A Christian is a follower of Christ. Rooted in the Jewish religion Christianity is the ultimate of following the Anointed one, the Messiah. But what does it mean to follow and what is the benefit of following Jesus? Why follow Jesus? First of all, everybody follows somebody. And if you’re not following Jesus and walking towards Him you are walking away. Jesus said, “If you are not with me you are against me.” Some people they’re following doesn’t seem to lead them anywhere. Makes me think about this experiment that a scientist one time did with these processionary caterpillars. Have you heard about this? Processionary caterpillars. Maybe you’ve seen them before. Out in nature you can see them. They walk head to tail and they follow each other. One of them lays down a very thin band of silk and they’re somehow wired instinctively by God, where as they’re going up through the branches of a tree to feed they follow the one ahead of them up and down the twigs and they track the silk or thread. This scientist took a line of them, he saw walking there and he placed them on the rim of a flowerpot. Matter of fact, I think up on the screen there we’ve got someone repeating that experiment with a teacup. And he originally placed them on a flowerpot and he filled it until they were end-to-end processionary caterpillars. He wondered, “How long will they walk in circles?” They went around and around and around and around until about the seventh day they began to drop off one by one from starvation and exhaustion. The interesting thing was, the scientist about the second or third day, he placed their favorite food in the middle of the flowerpot. But they were so programmed by instinct to just follow whichever caterpillar happened to be in front of them that even though food was a couple of inches away they continued to die of salvation while walking in a circle, following someone else who was going nowhere. Following the followers. Now I think you could probably grasp right away how I’d like to apply that. A lot of people in the world today that are following people going in circles. The solution, the nutrition is so close by, but they were so programmed by habit to follow others who were really going in circles that we miss out on life. And many people live their lives going in circles, chasing illusions, until they drop off from exhaustion, and age and fatigue and starvation, never satisfied. How sad. The key to success and happiness is knowing who to follow and when to follow. And you know, probably the best example of that is as the Lord led the children of Israel through the wilderness, you might say they were led by the spirit. So we must follow God’s Sprit. You remember, after He brought them to the Red Sea the Egyptians came to the children of Israel and wanted to destroy them. That was when the Lord first appeared in this pillar. I always sort of think of it as a stationary cyclone. I mean, that probably would have worked. This tornado of light. Because they do sort of go up and then it creates a cloud at the top. And at night it would glow and it protected them from their enemies. And in the day it provided shade. And it was this pillar of cloud and pillar of light. And after they went through the Red Sea, it led them through the sea and when they built the tabernacle it would rest down on top of the holy of holies in the tabernacle. And the bible tells us that that pillar is what they followed. Numbers 9:17, “Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the sanctuary, after that the children of Israel would journey,” they’d follow wherever this cloud led them. And wherever the cloud settled, there they would pitched their tents and they’d stay there, sometimes for weeks, months or even years in one campsite and they would not go until the pillar moved. They followed the Lord. Of course, that is a type of Christ and the spirit that they followed. And as long as they followed, they were fed, they had water, they were protected from their enemies, as long as they followed the Lord. Ultimately, where did it lead them? It seemed like it was a meandering route. It kind of went; it wasn't a straight-line. For 40 years they zigzagged through the wilderness and God took them from place to place in that wilderness why? To teach them different things, to prepare them to trust him and ultimately to bring them into the Promised Land. As you follow the Lord you'll often say, “Why are you leading me here?” You just need to trust God. There's something you need to learn wherever you are if you're following the Lord. He brings us through a broad variety of experiences because he wants you to pick up. I remember when I was younger I used to play in a sandbox. Any of you have a sandbox? Now I guess they’ve determined they’re unhealthy and you can't play in them anymore. They're not safe. I come from the generation where we weren’t healthy unless we ate about half a pound of sand a day. But I used to play in this sandbox and at one point someone gave me a magnet. And I was told that if you drag the magnet to the sandbox it'll pick up little iron particles. Anyone here do that besides me? You ever play with a magnet in the sand? And I discovered; I scooped up a bowl of sand one-time to demonstrate this to my brother and I dragged a magnet around in the sand and I'd pick up iron filings and I collected them and pretty soon I’d get to the place where you couldn't get any more and I'd have to go get some more sand. Well, that sort of how it is with the Lord. You know, He takes us through something until we pick up the particles and then He takes us somewhere else in the sandbox. I guess that's what the wilderness was like, a big sandbox. And that's what life's like. Some of us keep going over the same place because we're not picking up what it is He wants us to learn. And we need to know that if we're following the Lord and He leads us somewhere, there’s something He wants us to learn. You might find yourself taking the same class over and over again because you still have not learned what it is He wanted you to learn through that experience. More than once, I'm going through some trial and I'll say, “Lord, whatever it is you want me to learn, please help me learn it this time around so I don't have to do this again.” Now in the Gospel of Luke chapter 9 there's an example of where the Lord talks about several types of followers and ways that we follow. You can find it in Luke 9 and more specifically verse 57. “Now it happened as he journeyed on the road, that someone said to him Lord, I'll follow you wherever you go.” Now sometimes Jesus would come someone and say, “Follow me.” Evidently, this person is volunteering. In the book Desire of Ages, the author there suggests this was Judas. Who was offering to follow the Lord because he thought Jesus was going to sit on an earthly throne. He saw the power of Christ and the miracles. He said, “Hey this is the Messiah. I'd like to be his treasurer. I want a place in his new Cabinet.” He was thinking ahead. A very ambitious thinker. And he was a scribe. And he said, “Lord, I'm going to follow you wherever you go. I want to be your true follower.” Jesus, knowing that he had ulterior motives, warned him, “If you're following because of earthly benefits, don't follow me.” Jesus goes on and says, “Foxes have their holes, and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of man doesn't even have a place to lay his head.” “If you're following me because you want an earthly kingdom, you're following for the wrong reason.” Then someone else comes to Him and Jesus says to him, “You follow me.” He's picking him as a follower. And he says, “Lord, I want to, but first I've got to bury my father. You know, he's not well and he's going to pass away soon and I probably need to hang around because there will be an inheritance that needs to be divided. And why would I leave before that? And I need to take care of my obligations.” Jesus said something that shocks us at times, “Let the dead bury the dead, but you preach the kingdom of God. I'm calling you to something more important than even that, more important than even earthly relationships. You follow me.” “Seek first the kingdom of God.” And when Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead,” He said, “There will be people that aren't following me. Let them take care of those things. You seek first the kingdom of God.” And yet another said, “Lord I'll follow you, but let me first go and bid farewell to those that are at my house.” And Jesus said to him, “No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom.” It could be drawing upon the story of where Elijah called Elisha. Elisha was plowing and he actually broke the plow up and used it as the wood and he killed the oxen and used them as a sacrifice and basically said, “I am completely turning away from earthly farming, now I'm going to farm for souls. He put his hand to the plow and he would not look back. And Jesus was saying; and by the way, that's how Lot's wife got into trouble, looking back? And any of you who've ever done farming before, you know, I actually have driven a plow. Not with a horse, but some of you remember the old 40 horse Ford tractors? I drove one of those. I plowed fields before. And whenever I'd look over my shoulder to see how straight my furrow was I'd swerve. You ever try to ride a bicycle straight while you're looking backwards? You always turn, unintentionally. And so Jesus is saying, “If you're looking back while you're plowing towards the kingdom, you're going to have crooked rows.” You want to keep your eyes fixed forward. So the Lord in this gives us some very interesting things to consider about the right and the wrong way and the right and the wrong reason to follow. First of all, the follower of Jesus has no earthly security. If you're looking for earthly wealth; everything Jesus had He borrowed. He trusted in the accommodations of others. He had to borrow a coin for an illustration. He had to borrow a donkey to ride in Jerusalem. He said if you're following Him for earthly fringe benefits, that's not where the kingdom is. Secondly, the follower of Jesus has no earthly ties. Let the dead bury the dead. And thirdly, the follower of Jesus is no earthly distractions. You don't want to be looking back. So to follow Jesus is a very intentional, focused life. As it says in Hebrews 12, “laying aside every weight, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” The only way we can run that race is by following, keeping ourselves focused on Jesus. I remember the promise in the Bible that Jesus will heal His true followers. Matthew 12:15 it says, “Great multitudes followed Him and He healed them all.” Now that doesn't mean that everybody who follows Jesus will be healed. But I think that there's a promise there. “Great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all.” I will say, I'm going to go out on a limb and say; Jesus heals all of His followers. You think that sort of an outrageous claim? It may not be physical healing, but I think He physically heals all of His followers, eventually. Compared to eternity, if you follow Jesus during this life and you're healed in the second coming and you live a billion years, well He does heal you doesn't He? But I think He heals all of us as soon as we begin to follow Him spiritually. He heals that follow Him. What's the benefit of following Jesus? He'll heal you. That's good news. You know I thought that it's also practical to remember that when you follow Jesus, to really follow Him it means completely turning away from all the old life and having a new career. Whatever your job might be, it doesn't mean you quit your job, but it becomes secondary. Any job, if you are a Christian, it's to subsidize your mission work. It no longer is your priority. The apostles, when Jesus called them to follow, they walked away from their earthly means of support. That's commitment. To follow Jesus is a total commitment. Mark 1:17 tells us, when He called the apostles, “He said to them, follow me and I will make you fishers of men. And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” By the way, one of the best benefits of following Jesus is instead of catching fish you catch men. What is the greatest value the Lord has in this world? What did He die for? People. You. He died for you. When you think about it, humans are extremely precious to the Lord. “How much better is a man than a sheep,” Jesus said, “or a sparrow?” How much better is a man than a fish? And He says to us, “Why would you catch fish when you can catch men?” There will be no fish saved from this world to the next. I know that's going to break the hearts of some of you that have aquariums and you really love your pets. But I have a hard time believing the Lord's going to resurrect your Nemo's that you have at home. But He is going to save people. This is how we store treasure in heaven. How could I be a soul winner? Jesus said if you follow Him, He will make you a fisher of men. By following Him, He teaches you to fish for men. That's a good reason to follow Jesus. He teaches you to mine for the most valuable treasure in the world, people. You can reach people. It's very rewarding when I know I can say things and I can inspire people to follow Jesus and to turn away from their drugs. There's power in the Word of God to do that. That through the things I say, they can throw away their cigarettes, they can get out of their illicit relationships, they can turn away from the destructive lives and those processionary caterpillar patterns that we fall into and they can focus on Jesus. That lives can change. Now Jesus is saying to you the same thing He said to me, “Follow me and I'll teach you how to influence people for eternity.” That's what it means to fish for men, right? And then the same thing he said to Matthew. He passed by, Matthew 9:9, by the way, this is only in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew tells you about his call. “And Jesus passed by from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office.” There he is with his money, counting his money. “And he said follow me.” And I'll show you how to really make a profit. No, it doesn't really say that, but I think that fits. And he left, he walked away and he followed Him. You know one thing we learn from this? When the Lord calls you, follow. Is there anything in these stories we've just read where it says even faintly, “When you get things in order, when you can make the proper arrangements, when it's convenient, you can schedule the day when you will begin to follow.” Or do you notice that in all of these cases, when the Lord called people to follow Him, He said, “Now! Make a decision now.” Because the invitation to follow Jesus may not always be there. And if you ever lost a job opening because you waited too long to get your application in? Or you missed some great deal because you hesitated? I've got some stories like that. Too slow on the trigger. How sad it would be to miss the invitation to follow Jesus. Today if you hear His voice don't harden your heart. Around the Jordan River when John the Baptist was baptizing he pointed to Jesus and said, “This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Two disciples heard Him speak and they followed Him right then. When they realized who he was, they followed him. And I've got a couple of case studies here that I’d like to look at that should help us understand how to follow Jesus and how not to follow Jesus. I'd like to start with, I'll start with a sad story, so to speak. The rich young ruler, and you can find this in a number of gospels. I'm going to go to Mark 10:21, Jesus had just finished blessing the children and after he blessed the children there was a young man who was a very prosperous, successful, healthy, intelligent young Jewish ruler. And he saw there was something about Jesus that was different from the other religious leaders, that he had the truth. He had the understanding of eternal life. And this young man realized something was missing in his life. He had all the worldly happiness, but he didn't have real satisfaction. And as Jesus was leaving, he thought that his hope was giving away and he ran to Jesus, threw himself down on his knees and he said, “Good Master, what good thing should I do that I might have eternal life?” What can I do? And Jesus said to him, “Why callest thou me good? No one is good but God. But if you would enter into life, keep the commandments.” Well there were hundreds of laws in the Torah, so he said, “Which one's? Is there any ones you wanted to emphasize?” And Jesus began to recite to him the Ten Commandments on the second table of stone. The first table of stone represents the commandments of love for God. Second table of stone represents loving your fellow man. And he said, “honor your father and mother, don't kill, don't commit adultery, don't steal.” And evidently he interrupts Jesus because Jesus doesn't even finish. What Jewish boy didn't know the Ten Commandments? I mean, why be redundant? He didn't even finish. And he said, “Oh master, all these I’ve kept from my youth up. I've never been in jail. I've always tried to honor. I know the Ten Commandments. There must be something missing. He thought he knew them. He knew the letter of the law, but he didn't know the spirit of the law. And you know the Bible says, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” That's a very interesting verse. Doesn't Jesus love everybody? But are there certain people that have certain potential and qualities that the Lord really yearns? And this young man had the potential to be an apostle. Jesus didn't ask everyone to follow him the way he asked Peter, James and John to follow. Many times he'd heal people, he'd say, “Go your way.” But it says, “Jesus, looking at him loved him.” The disciples saw something about the way Jesus looked yearningly at this young man and saw what tremendous potential he had. But something was still wrong. He said, “there's one thing you lack.” One thing. “Go your way, sell whatever you have, give to the poor, you'll have treasure in heaven. And come, take up your cross and follow me.” “I'm inviting you to be a follower, to be an apostle, but you need to liquidate because your heart is not right. You love earthly treasure more than you are interested in heavenly treasure. You are in love with your things. Happiness does not come from the abundance of things a man possesses. The love of money is the root of all evil.” And this man loved his money. There was power and prestige that came with it and it was a big distraction. He said, “Do you really love your fellow man?” That's why Jesus noted those commandments about loving your fellow man. He said, “OK, let's see, if you really do. There's one thing you lack. You love God. You want to be with God, but you don't love your fellow man. Go sell at all and give it to the poor.” He doesn’t say, “give it to me,” as a lot of televangelists say. Their are reinterpretation of the verse is, “go sell everything you have and give it to me.” Jesus said, “Don't give it to me. Give it to the poor. But then take up your cross and follow me.” And you know, the Bible tells us, “He was sad at that word and he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Another gospel says, “He was exceedingly sad at that word.” Now Jesus invited this young man to follow him. He basically said no. He didn’t say anything. He did not follow. And by the way, to postpone following your Lord is the same as saying no. Not to make a decision to follow Jesus is making a decision. Postponing the decision is making a decision. Isn't that right? Because he said, “If you're not with me, you're against me.” “And he went away,” now here's question, when he walked away from Jesus, did he still have his youth? Did he still have his health? Still have his money, position, power, prestige? He still had it all. Was he happy? “He went away grieved.” I think it's interesting. “For he had great possessions.” Solomon said, “Those that have wealth also have many sorrows.” It's an illusion. He did not follow Jesus, and he wasn't happy. Why follow Jesus? It's the only way to really be happy. Next in our case study, I'm going to talk about those who follow Jesus from a distance, distant following. And you know who our example is in this one? Peter. Peter always wanted to be right at Jesus side when anything phenomenal was happening. When Jesus was raising the daughter of Jarius, Peter was right there. He took Peter, James and John. On the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah, Peter was there and he spoke. When Jesus is multiplying the loaves and the bread and performing the miracles, Peter is his chief of staff. He wants to be right by Jesus’ side. If you want Jesus’ autograph, you've got to go through Peter. He wanted that association. There was a certain prestige with that. But when Jesus was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter actually made an effort to save the Lord and Jesus said, “Put your sword away.” And he felt a little rebuked by that. And now Jesus is being tied up, he's doing nothing to save himself. He's being carried off and tried and beaten and spit on, and all of a sudden it is no longer popular to follow Jesus. Things change very quickly. But Peter loved Jesus, but he also looked himself and he was worried about what people would think of him and so the Bible records these very sad words, “But Peter followed him at a distance.” There's a lot of people like Peter out there. They want to follow Jesus and you'll find them in church every week. Because they love the Lord, but she would never know through the week that they are associated with the Lord. And when people accuse them of being a Christian they say, “Oh, me?” They don't stand up for Christ. When their work associates are making fun of Christianity or mocking Christian principles or using God's name in vain, they never say anything. Because, you know, you might be made fun of. It's not popular. It's not socially acceptable, and you don't want to be offensive. So they follow Jesus, but they also keep their distance because they're worried about what others will think of them. Isn't that what Peter did? And he actually tried to mingle with the enemies of Christ, like he was one of them. Warmed himself at the fire, and pretty soon they said, “You're not one of us.” Those who are following Jesus at a distance are among the most miserable creatures, because they love Jesus too much look like the world, but they love the world too much to look like a Christian. So they're really in no man's land. But they're not saved and they're not happy. And in the process of following Jesus from a distance. Christ warned that that was going to happen. Peter said, “Lord, I'm going to follow you wherever you go. When all men forsake you, I'll not forsake you.” And Jesus said, “Peter, before the rooster crows three times you'll deny me twice.” No, “Before, the rooster crows, twice you'll deny me three times.” Sorry. And sure enough, after the rooster crowed the last time the words of Jesus came to his mind and right at that moment he looked inside the judgment hall and the Bible tells us that the Roman soldiers were striking Jesus on the face, the guards. And Jesus looked out from the pillars and saw Peter, and there was eye contact. And it was right after Peter had shouted was swearing in cursing, “I'm telling you, I don't know who he is!” And he punctuated it with cursing that the bible writers would not even include. It would have been bleeped. Right then Jesus looked at him and Peter looks inside. And it wasn't a look of anger; it wasn't a look of disgust. It was a look of heartbreak. And the Bible says; was Peter happy? “He went out,” this is a verse 75, “he remembered the words that Jesus had said to him and he went out and he wept bitterly.” Bottom line, was Peter happy trying to follow Jesus from a distance? Those distant following Christians are not happy. It's only those who are following all away. And by the way, the apostle John went into the judgment hall with Jesus, and he was happy. He wasn't ashamed of following Christ. He had that record of the whole trial that was in there. Finally, you've got the simplest of characters who follow Jesus and he starts with nothing, Bartemeous, the blind man. Now the word Bartemeous means son of Tomeous. Mark 10:52, by the way, these are all in Mark. Mark 10:21, Mark 10:52 and Mark 14:54. Mark 10:52, Jesus is going through Jericho, his last time through the city. There's a blind man sitting on the edge of the road there, wearing his rags, begging. And when you're blind your sense of hearing is accentuated. And he hears the crowd going by and he says, “What's the commotion?” And they say, “This is Jesus of Nazareth. He's coming by.” And he had heard about Jesus. He had even heard that Jesus had healed the blind before. And so he begins to call out for help because that’s all he can do. Nobody will bring him to Jesus. There's already a mob there. And he calls out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And he was making such a ruckus that some of those in the assembly, they said, “Shh. You're sort of distracting the whole procession.” He doesn't care. “This is my only chance.” He calls even louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me. Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Jesus heard him and he stops the procession. He says, “Bring that man to me. It's persistent. I like him.” And the Bible says, “They said be of good cheer, arise; He calleth thee. And casting aside his garment,” that's always something that stood out in my mind. What kind of garment, do you think a beggar wore? I mean, sometimes we come to church and find out there're spots on our clothes we missed. What do you think a beggar’s clothes look like? Can you see the spots on your clothes? Probably wore filthy rags. “Casting aside his garment he came to Jesus.” How do we come to Jesus? All our righteousness is like filthy rags. “Casting aside his garment he came to Jesus.” That's how we come. Just as I am. And the Lord says, “What do you want me to do for you?” To the Lord know what he wanted? Sure He did. Does God know what you want before you pray? Yeah, but he still wants you to ask. He says, “What is it you want? Ask me.” “Lord, I said, son of David, have mercy on me. Now I'll be more specific. That I might receive my sight.” Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has made to whole.” Instantly his eyes were opened, he could see clearly now. And what would you do the first day that you could see? Would you want to join a parade? Or would you want to go see your family? Go see what your house really looks like? There's a lot of things you could think of that you'd want to see for the first time. But instead, what the Bartemeous do? Jesus didn't even say, “Follow me,” but that's what he did. “Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.” And if you think Bartemeous was loud before his healing how loud do you think he was after his healing? He was shouting hallelujah and praising the Lord and singing Jesus’ praises and do you think he was happy? But he wasn't rich. He didn't have the prestige of Peter. But he’s now got his eyes open and he's following Jesus, leaving behind his filthy rags knowing what they are and he's happy. You know, when you follow Christ you've got reason for happiness because what is more important than knowing where you're going? Isn't that important? Now, while we’re talking about following I should probably remind you of the obvious. I wanted to mention this to you. A young boy was talking to his friend. When she talked about following Jesus he said, “My Sunday school teacher says I need to follow Jesus, but my parents won't let me leave the yard.” You can follow him without leaving your house, right? Following means he's in front. We follow from behind. He leads. Some of us want to follow Jesus as consultants. He wants us to follow from behind. The best Christian leaders must first be good followers. There are some people who get into Christian leadership and they're awful. And you can almost guarantee that they were bad followers. The best Christian leaders must also be good followers. We follow from behind. I remember reading one time, Mahatma Gandhi was going down the road and he saw a friend and he pulled over and he began to visit with his friend there on the road. And a big procession went by, and he excused himself from his friend. And he said, “I need to catch up with them. I'm supposed to be their leader.” The procession that had just gone by. And sometimes the procession gets ahead of the leader, right? The children of Israel sometimes ran ahead. One time they wanted to go fight when God said, “Don't fight.” God told them to go fight and they didn't have faith. He said, “OK. You're going to wander.” And they said, “Oh, we changed our minds. We're going to go fight.” He says, “I'm not with you, don't go.” And they went. And they were terribly defeated. There are some people who are running ahead of the Lord. And we get into trouble. We need to go as God leads us. Amen? Christians are also called sheep in the Bible. And a good reason to follow Jesus is because he is a good shepherd. You can trust him. Jesus said, John 10: 27, “My sheep hear my voice. And I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. Neither will any man snatched them out my hand.” We'll that's a good reason to follow Jesus, eternal life, never perish. How do we receive those things? “They hear my voice.” How do we hear his voice? God speaks to us through his Word. We hear his voice, he speaks us, he directs us, he tells us where to go in his Word. An American was in Syria, and he saw a group of shepherds there all congregated with all their various flocks of sheep. They had this one big watering stream and he watched as each one of them got up and they'd give out this distinctive yodel call in their native dialect to the sheep. And the one shepherd would walk off and the sheep that were all sort of commingled at that point would separate themselves and go after their shepherd. And he was watching this and the American said to the Syrian shepherd that was left behind, he said, “I'd like to try this. If I on your turban and your coat and take your staff, and I call your distinctive, all will they follow me?” He said, “They won't follow you.” He said, “Yeah, I think they will.” He says, “It's not your voice they hear. It's your clothes that they recognize and your silhouette and it's the words you're saying.” He said, "Well, try it.” So he put on the shepherd’s turban and his cloak and took his staff and walked off and “meah, meah, meah,” or whatever the guy’s call was in the sheep ignored him. They didn't do anything. He said, “Now you do it.” And he gave it back to the shepherd. And the shepherd walked a little ways, and he said it. He didn't even have to it on his cloak, or his turban. They recognized his voice and got up to follow him. The American ran back up to the shepherd, and he said, “Will they always only follow their shepherd's voice?” And he said, “most of the time. If they're sick. They might follow anybody.” Sick sheep listen to different voices. You know, there are some deviant cults out there in the Christian world, and there are some really strange teachings. And when people are not reading the word and they're not healthy, spiritually and they're spiritually sick, they get all kinds of different voices that they follow. And teachings that confuse and confound them. But Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. They'll follow me.” And what's the benefit? “I give them eternal life, and nobody can take them out of my hand.” You try to take a sheep away from David, what happened? You could be a bear or a lion, if you tried to take a sheep away from David, what happened? You're in big trouble. He killed the bear, he killed a lion. What do you think happens if you try to take a lamb away from the son of David? “No one's going to snatch them out of my hand.” You can be Goliath, it doesn't matter. You're not getting Jesus’ sheep. If you're following your shepherd, you're safe. Whose voice are you listening to? Do you read the word? Spurgeon said, “We should follow our Lord as unhesitatingly as a sheep follows their shepherd. For he has a right to lead us where ever he pleases. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Let us recognized the rights of the redeeming blood. The soldier follows his captain, the servant obeys his master, much more we must follow our Redeemer, to whom we are a purchased possession.” And in keeping with that thought, the good Shepherd feeds his sheep. A man? I like that promise that you find, very simple, Psalm 23:2, “he makes me to lie down in green pastures.” We'll if you're sheep that's good, right? You want to be surrounded with the verdant food. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters.” He'll satiate your thirst. He'll fill you with good pasture. If you follow your shepherd, he'll feed you. With what? His voice. The bread of life, his Word. I mean, even the dog will follow who feeds it. I would hope if Jesus is feeding you you'd follow him. Isn't that why we come to church each week? To be fed, not by Pastor Doug, but it's by the word. These are the words of Christ. I heard about a lady one time, a skunk showed up in her cellar. She wasn't sure exactly how to deal with that so she called the police. And the police had busy schedules. They said, “look, take some bread crumbs, start dropping crumbs in your cellar, lead them outside your door and the skunk will follow the crumbs and you'll take care of your problem.” A couple of hours later, she calls the police station, and she says, “I did what she told me to do and now I’ve got two skunks in my cellar.” Wrong skunk got the bread crumbs, went back down in there. I mean, everybody's attracted to good food, right? Want to follow those; we know if we ever want crowd to have a potluck. Some people follow Jesus for the loaves and fishes. That's not the best reason, but you can count on it. A good Shepherd feeds his sheep. Amen? You want to follow Jesus because he's the light of the world and this is a dark world and he will illuminate your path. Again, John 8:12, why follow Jesus? So you can know where you're going. “Jesus spoke to them saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” I remember one time I was going down the road with some friends and my car began to, it was night, dark country road, but I did have some other friends in another vehicle with me. The car began to miss. And I thought, “This doesn't sound good.” So I stopped and I checked, and my battery was almost dead and the headlights were going dim. And I realized that my alternator had stopped working. Can't fix it right there. But I knew if I turned off my headlights should still be enough power to, and I see you nodding, you've still got enough power to fire your plugs. And so I turned up my headlights, and it would run. Turn on the lights and it would start to miss. So I had to drive down a road in dark with my headlights off. But I had friends with me. So I stayed right behind them. If I got too far away in them, I didn't know what was in the road. As long as they were there or I could kind of tag along behind them. And this is also a good place to remind you that the Lord, if you’re running the race in the Christian life you want to stay behind him because he creates a back draft that makes it easier for you. Any of you ever pulled in behind a truck when you're going down the road and all of a sudden you realize that you can let your foot off the gas a little bit because the truck is breaking the wind for you and he has a back draft. Even those bike racers, if you watch the Tour de France, they create a back draft for each other. Geese fly in a V. Why do you think they do that? Because the lead goose, he's got the burden. He's breaking through the air for all the others and it is a lower percentage of resistance for all those that fall in behind the lead goose. They get extra lift and less windbreak. And if you're following Jesus, he takes the brunt for, you, doesn't he? Does why he says, “my burden is easy and my yoke is light.” It's so much easier, running that race when you're behind Jesus. He'll illuminate your path. You ever walk a dark trail some night with only one flashlight. You're in a group. And if you get too far away from the person who's got the flashlight it's really easy to fall off the trail. You want to stay close to the one who has the light. Christ is the light. Furthermore, we will share the experience of the one we follow. If you're with him you will share in his experience. John 12:26, Jesus said, “If anyone serves me let him follow me. And where I am, there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, my father will honor him.” Is Christ going to be honored? Is he honored now? If you follow him you'll share that experience. You'll go where he is. Where is he now? “In my father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.” And we can follow him in this life and be where he is now. But you know before you can share in that experience, you want to follow him here and that might mean taking up your cross. Luke 9:23, “he said to them all, if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” If you want to save your life, you must walk away from everything in the world that is some distraction and follow Jesus. Following Jesus is a big commitment. It is a total commitment. It's like the man who finds a treasure in the field. He sells everything. The merchant who finds a pearl of great price, he sells everything in order to obtain that which is of greatest value. “Take up your cross and follow me.” You know in our words today, when we think of a cross we always think of these ornate crosses on top of the churches or people wear around their necks. But Jesus wasn't saying, “Take up this beautiful ornament and follow me.” It was the equivalent of him saying, “Take up your noose, your electric chair, or gas chamber and follow me.” That's what it meant when he said it. The cross was an instrument of execution. And when they saw people carrying crosses and the time of Christ, where did they take their cross? Where did Jesus take his cross? To his own execution. So when Jesus invites you to follow him, take up your cross and follow him, he saying, “you're going to share in my experience.” That's why Jesus said, “when you're executed for righteousness’ sake, rejoice, for exceedingly great is your reward.” Taking up the cross and following Christ is actually an incentive that you could share in his sufferings. I know that some of you just, that went, whew. You didn't get that. You think, “Why would I want to suffer?” I remember reading a story about a man who lived near the Himalayan Mountains, who was a Hindu, and he converted to Christianity. And one night he was on his way to a monastery to witness to the Buddhist monks. They were trapped in a blizzard. He was actually traveling with another Buddhist monk. And he tried to witness to this old monk, but he would have none of Christianity. And as they traveled along, it became very cold and the snow began to fall. They encountered on this mountain trail on the way to the monastery man who had fallen. Very rough steep terrain. A man who had fallen and broken his leg and was crying out. And a Christian man said to his Buddhist friend, “Let's help this man back to the monastery.” And the Buddhist man said, “No, it's too far. We can't carry him.” He said, “This is his fate. This is his destiny. He'll come back in the next life. And the Christian said, “No, the thing to do is to help him.” He said, “You help him. That's his destiny. I'm not going to help him.” And the Buddhist monk went on and left the Christian. While the Christian went down to where the injured man was and he made a sling out of his clothes and put it over his back and struggled up through this rocky terrain to get back up to the trail and carried him several miles, falling down just exhausted. Snow and freezing weather, all around him and he'd fall, and he'd get back up and he's perspiring. He actually got a little warmth from the man he was carrying. As he could see the light of the monastery, he tripped over a lump in the snow. It was the Buddhist monk who had left him behind and had frozen to death. When he finally found his way into the monastery and they will relieved and taken care of there, somebody asked him about carrying this man all that way, why he did it. And the Christian said, “I feel sorry for the man who has no burden to carry.” God actually blesses us with burdens. Do you ever look at them that way? Is a privileged to take up your cross and to follow Jesus? You will share in his experience if you do. We become like to we follow. That's a fact. Soldiers that follow their drill instructor, the idea that they could not only learn the skills, but they learn the discipline. They become like their drill instructor. He tries to transmit as much information as he can to them and to make leaders out of them. You know, I think it's interesting, I Timothy 6:11, Paul is writing to this young preacher and he says, “But thou O man of God, flee these things,” speaking of the things of the world, “and follow, follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience meekness. Follow after these virtues.” And then it occurred to me, everything that Paul identified, those are the characteristics of Christ. “Follow after righteousness.” That's Jesus. “Follow after goodness.” He was good. “Follow after faith.” He was faith epitomized. “Follow after love.” God is love.“ Follow after patience and meekness.” Isn't that Jesus? So when you are following after these virtues you're really following Jesus. You follow Jesus; you'll become all those things. You become like the one you follow. Ruth was determined to follow Naomi. A Gentile, alien, Moabitess said, “I'm going to follow this mother in Israel.” “Entreat me not to leave you or turn back and following after you.” And by the way, this prayer of Ruth, you should have this underlined in your Bible, because it's a wonderful prayer for us to all pray. “For wherever you go, I will go.” We should say this to Jesus. Or, “Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people are my people. Your God, my God.” When you get baptized the people of God are your people. “Your God is my God. Where you die, there, will I die.” We are crucified with Christ. “And there I will be buried.” And the good news is that's where we are resurrected. We are resurrected with Christ. “And the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts you and me.” That's where we get the phrase, till death do us part, this prayer of Ruth. Now the interesting thing is, Ruth in following in following Naomi became a Jewess. She was adopted in as a mother in Israel, and she became of course the ancestor of King David and Jesus himself. She became like what she followed. We become like Christ when we follow him. Now, getting back to the basics. What do we get what we follow Jesus? Why do we follow Jesus? Peter got right down to the nitty-gritty one-time, and he says, “Lord, what's in it for us?” You know, a lot of people their thinking all the time is, “I wonder if I do this or go here or do that, what's in it for me?” That's the selfish nature we have. And the Lord, he knows that we are wondering, “What’s in it for us?” And Peter said to him, Mark 10:28, sorry. March 10:28-30, “Peter began to say to him, see Lord, we've left everything to follow you. What shall we receive?” I'm mixing two verses. I'm mixing both Mark and Luke. “And Jesus answered and said, assuredly, I say to you, there is no body who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children for lands for my sake and the Gospels but he'll receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions and in the age to come eternal.” What do you get? In this life to get a hundred times more houses and lands because we get a family. You get more relationships. And with persecution there is a cross and eternal life in the age to come. What do you get if you follow Jesus? You know, this is why Jesus came, to teach us how to follow God. God came to earth in the form of a man to teach us how to follow him. I remember hearing an interesting story one time, about this man. He was married to a Christian wife. He had converted to the Lord after the marriage and tried to raise the children as Christians, but he scoffed at Christianity. He thought it was absurd. And whenever she'd go to church. He'd say, “I don't know how you can believe that stuff.” One Christmas Eve, she had invited her husband. She said, “It's Christmas. Can't you come Christmas? There's a program at the church.” And he said, “No, don't even ask me. I don't understand how you can believe that God would come to earth in the form of a man to save people. It's absurd.” So she left. Well, it was a very cold night in the blizzard came up. There are two blizzards in the sermon. And he was sitting there by the fire, reading the paper, and all of a sudden he heard this tremendous thump. And he looked out the window and then sat back down. He started reading the paper and then he heard another big thump. And he got back, and now he peered out the door, and he saw what it was. In the storm, a flock of geese were flying around and they had become disoriented. And they were cold, and they were hungry. And they were flying around in circles, and some of them, maybe attracted to the light of the window in his living room struck the house a couple of times. Some of them were on the ground walking around. Some of them were running into trees. And the man had a barn there right his house and he thought, “These poor things. And he cared about animals. He said, “You know, I should open the barn. They can go in there. There's warmth, it's dry, there’s food in there for them. I'll just open up a barn doors and they'll hopefully have enough sense to go in there.” So he opened up the barn doors, but the geese just continued to circle and squawk. He walked off into the barn, and he called them. They ignored him. He went back outside and he tried to shoo them into the barn. All they did was scatter worse than ever in every direction. And he thought, “What am I going to do for them?” He thought, “I think probably the only way that I could help them get into the barn is if I was a goose they'd follow me.” Without realizing what he had said, he thought, “I've got some geese in the barn. I'll go get one of my gooses.” He went to the barn and picked up one of his domestic geese and he brought it back out, got behind the flock that was in the yard, and he let it go. And he knew it would go instinctively act to the barn. And sure enough, he let go of his goose and it went back to the barn and all the other geese followed his goose back into the barn. And he closed the door, and they found food. And then all of a sudden, the Lord spoke to him out there in the cold. And he didn't realize what he had said. “The only way that I'm going to be able to help these geese, the only way I'm going to be able to save them, the only way they're going to follow me is if I were a goose.” And he realized right then and there, that's what God did. “The only way they're going to find me and follow me, the only way I can save them is if I become a man and show them how to get back to the safety.” Why follow Jesus? Because he's trying to get us to heaven. He's the only way out of this world. Otherwise were like those poor processionary caterpillars; we're going to starve to death going in circles. Would you like to follow Jesus?


It’d be a mistake not to give you an opportunity to respond to this very simple message. There may be some of you here, who liked a rich young ruler, you're telling the Lord, “I want to follow you, but not now, it costs too much.” You're really telling the Lord you're not going to follow him. You never hear again about that man in the Bible. Or maybe like Peter, I bet there are some here who are wanting to follow Jesus, but you're trying to do it from a distance. You're not completely associating with Christ. There are times you're ashamed of what people might think. You'll never be happy. You want to follow all the way. There maybe some of you who have never heard about Christ and what it means to accept the Son of God. You'd like to make a decision. He's inviting you today, take up your cross and follow him. It's the only way to be saved, friends. It's the only way to be happy. And he says you'll have treasure in heaven. You'll have houses and lands and family much more even in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Would you like to make that decision now? If you found yourself in some of the scenarios that I just shared, and you'd like special prayer to make that commitment today, come.


Dear loving lord, we are so thankful that you sent your son into this world, show us, as our shepherd how to get back to the fold. Lord, I pray that we will trust Jesus, that we'll not follow from a distance, that we'll be right there behind him, walking in the light, capitalizing on the back draft that he creates for us. And knowing that he will feed his sheep. Please bless us that we might trust you, better, even though it means taking up our cross. It's still so much better. Bless each person who's come forward this morning. And I pray that you'll help them seal these commitments to follow. Be with us also through this day and I pray that we will follow closely. In Jesus’ name we ask, amen.



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