By Nathele Graham
What does it mean to follow Jesus? Many people who say they are Christians don’t understand that following Him means choosing to conform their life to His. Jesus doesn’t promise that life will be easy if you follow Him, but many people expect an easy ride once they profess Christ as their Saviour. When things get tough they revert to old ways and rejoin the world. “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:22. Were they ever truly saved? That’s for God to sort out, but it’s up to every Christian to follow Jesus away from the vomit and the mire of this world. There’s only one way, one path that will allow us to obtain true life, and that’s by dying to our self and taking up our cross to follow Jesus. Jesus never hid the truth from anyone and told His followers what the price of following Him would be.”And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34. Taking up your cross doesn’t mean putting up with some irritation in life. It means whatever the cost, a Christian will not deny Christ in word or deed.
Jesus wants all of us to follow Him, but we have many excuses. Are you too busy? Are you having too much fun in your sin to be bothered right now? Maybe you’re putting it off for a more convenient time in your life. When Jesus called His disciples they dropped what they were doing and followed Him. “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: and he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-20. Jesus called and they responded. Peter and Andrew weren’t perfect men, but they chose to follow Jesus and He changed them. “And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” Matthew 4:21-22. These men left their father and the fishing business to follow Jesus. “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” Matthew 9:9. First the fishermen were called, now a publican. Matthew wasn’t in a very honorable profession, but it paid well. When Jesus said “follow Me” Matthew left it all behind. “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. ” John 1:43. One by one they were called to follow Him and they obeyed. They were ordinary men called to do extraordinary things, but to accomplish those things they had to follow Jesus.
When you accept Christ for your salvation a process of sanctification begins. That’s when you learn to deny your humanistic desires and completely submit to Jesus’ will. When you deny yourself and surrender to Jesus you resolve to obey Him. Too many people today are of the mindset of “it’s all about me” and miss out on His blessings. Do you want to follow Jesus but still listen to music by Lady Gaga, Beyonce, or any other “artist” who embraces Satan? Do you want to follow Jesus but still have sexual activity outside of a one man/one woman marriage? “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” John 12:26. Instead of living with one foot in the world you should be living as Jesus commanded. Everything you do or say should point to Him and glorify God. How do you know what glorifies God? It’s all in the Bible, yet how many Christians read their Bible? They can tell you all the baseball and football statistics, but cannot name more than two of the Ten Commandments? Here’s one: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3. That means Jesus comes first in everything. Before baseball, football, cars, parties, lifestyles, etc. Anything that is put ahead of God Almighty is an idol. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24.
We can’t gain resurrection life without dying first, that starts with dying to “self”. Many will not give up the riches and pleasures of this life, as fleeting as they are, to even think about following Jesus. The way of the world may look enticing, but eternity is a long time to be in the Lake of Fire knowing that Christ should have been more important to you than worldly pleasures. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36. All who follow Jesus, and I mean truly follow Him, will experience persecution and be tempted by the ways of the world. If you claim to be born again but are sitting on the sidelines just enjoying life without a desire to follow Jesus, then maybe you aren’t really born again. You may gain worldly wealth and human admiration, but if you haven’t followed Jesus then you have eternally lost everything.
Jesus will not force you to follow Him, but He will lead you in the path of righteousness if you allow it. Jesus is called the Good Shepherd and He will never lead you astray. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28. Sheep tend to wander, but when they hear the voice of their own shepherd they follow him. Christians need to learn to follow our Shepherd’s voice. Dig into God’s word. Study your Bible, and examine your life. That’s how you will learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him. If there are things in your way of life that do not conform to Biblical teachings, then you need to change. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” John 10:4-5. Know your Shepherd’s voice and you won’t be tempted to listen to the stranger’s (Satan’s) voice and follow him. If you follow Satan, then you are in eternal trouble.
As Jesus led His little flock of followers, He made it clear that by following Him they would be putting themselves in harm’s way. It was a certainty that they had to resolve in their own minds before stepping out to follow Him, and that is also true today. There is a sacrifice to be made in order to follow Jesus. The sad truth is many people who hear the Gospel will reject it because they value the wrong things. They prefer the “pleasures” of this world and just don’t understand that if they reject Jesus they sign their own eternal death certificate. What if you claim to have accepted Christ for your salvation but don’t follow Him? Only God knows if you truly have accepted Him, but if your life bears no evidence of Christ living in you then there is a problem. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Many people who hear the Gospel turn away and reject it because they cannot stop following Satan’s lies and they won’t give up their sin. Paul wrote this to those in Corinth who professed to be Christians. Corinth was a very pagan city that worshipped false gods, embraced homosexuality, accepted adultery, and many other sins that God abhors. Is that any different than our culture today? Paul went on to say “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11. Paul reminded them that Christ had changed them and they couldn’t return to their sin. When a woman who was caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus for condemnation, Jesus forgave her. That forgiveness was not a license for her to continue in sin. “Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” John 8:11. She was forgiven but had to turn away from her sin.
Those first men who were called by Jesus to follow Him had a lot to learn. John and his brother James must have been a couple of wild guys! Their pride caused them to want to sit on each side of Jesus’ throne, when a Samaritan village rejected Jesus they wanted to call down fire from Heaven, and Jesus nicknamed them the son’s of thunder! Yet, as they continued following Jesus they were changed. The Gospel of John is filled with gentle words and God’s love; that shows a change from the son of thunder he started out as. James was a leader of those early Christians and followed Christ to death. He was killed by Herod. “And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Acts 12:2. Peter was rash and spoke whatever came into his mind, yet he hid on the night of Jesus’ trial. Jesus knew that Peter would become a steadfast leader and urged him to “feed My sheep”. Peter made mistakes, but his life shows that he truly followed Jesus. When he stumbled he learned from his mistakes and changed to conform to Jesus rather than trying to justify his own faults and sin. The letters Peter wrote are filled with wisdom that only comes from the Holy Spirit. Eventually Peter was killed…crucified. Like all true followers of Christ, at death he stepped into eternal life with Jesus. Christians stumble sometimes and fall back into sin, but when our sin is pointed out we change. Another Christian might point out your sin (Paul confronted Peter) or the Holy Spirit might bring your sin to your attention when you study your Bible, but to follow Jesus means to conform to Him. Once you have truly accepted Christ then you cannot lose your salvation if you stumble into sin. If we follow Jesus, though, sin becomes as ugly to us as the dog who returns to his vomit.
You may face persecution because you follow Jesus. This shouldn’t surprise us because Satan is the ruler of this world. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you,” John 15:18. If the world hates you it’s because they hate Jesus Christ and reject Him. If the world loves you then you must be of the world and not of Christ. Christians are being persecuted daily. Some are murdered because of their faith and some are rejected by family and friends. If you face torture and death because you follow Jesus, I pray that you will never deny Him. He suffered torture and an agonizing death on the cross to purchase your salvation. He will see you through. If the persecution you face is rejection by the world, then rejoice. It’s not easy to lose friends because you choose to follow Jesus and reject the lifestyle of sinners, and it hurts to be rejected by family. If you face this type of persecution remember that Christian friends will not reject you for following Christ nor will the family of God reject you. By choosing to follow Christ rather than Satan you just might be the one that brings a loved one to salvation.
Following Christ is a choice, and it has to be your own choice. Nobody can make it for you. The faith of a parent will not purchase your salvation. Reject worldly ways, take up your cross, and follow Him. “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” 3 John 1:11. It’s your choice where you will spend eternity and if you choose to follow Jesus you will have no regrets. If you choose to follow Satan and the ways of the world, eternity will be miserable.
Eternity never ends and there is no second chance. Choose to follow Jesus today.
God bless you all,
Ron & Nathele Graham
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
This commentary was started by Ron Graham before his death on March 14, 2013, and finished by his wife, Nathele Graham.
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