Thursday, October 15, 2009

Follow me.

I have followers! Believe it or not it is true. No I have not started my own church or cult, I have a Twitter account and every time I log in it tells me how many followers I have. I am currently up to 21 followers, some I know and some I don't. For those of you who have no idea what a Twitter account is, it is a site that lets you keep your "followers" up to date on your goings on. If I update my status I am Tweeting to fellow Tweeps. What brought this to mind was that, as I mentioned, I finished reading through the Bible a little earlier than I expected so I am going back and spot reading. Just picking different books or passages that I want to look at again. This week I was looking through Matthew and I came across the following passage:

Matthew 4: 18 -22 - 18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20At once they left their nets and followed him. 21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Now being a follower of me on Twitter is a lot different than being a follower of Christ. I do not require anything of my followers. If they choose to read my updates that is cool if they don't, no harm, no foul for me or them. Christ however, had a different take on being a follower of Him:

Matthew 10: 37-39 - 37"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Luke 9: 57-62 - 57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 59He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." 62Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

It seems as though Christ is not looking for half-hearted followers. He is saying that if you choose to follow Him, it will cost you. It may cost you your family, it may cost you your line of work, it may cost you your hopes and dreams. When Christ called these guys in Matthew 4, they left their jobs, they left their family, they left their security, they left their season football tickets, they left their kids travel ball team, they left everything and obeyed the call of Christ. Their decision was not without cost. There was the obvious cost of leaving their livelihood behind but there was also the cost of suffering.

Acts 4: 1-3 - 1The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.

These two guys decided to follow Christ and they suffered for it. Were they bitter? Absolutely not, later in Acts 5 Peter is arrested again:

Acts 5: 40, 41 - 40His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

Paul decided to follow Christ after his Damascus Road experience and left everything behind. Take a look at his life before he decided to follow Christ:

Philippians 3: 4-6 If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

He gave up a very comfortable, popular lifestyle in exchange for the following:

II Corinthians 11: 23b-28 I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

Was it worth it? Take a look at what Paul says about his decision to follow Christ:

Philippians 4: 7-9 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ...

The life Christ calls us to live is not a life of comfort and easy living. Contrary to what the prosperity preachers are teaching, the life He has called us to is one of suffering and discomfort. Our attitude towards suffering should be one of thanksgiving, as strange as that sounds. Peter, John, Paul and the other Apostles had an attitude of thanksgiving and rejoicing in their suffering. Paul captured the essence of this in his second letter to the Corinthians:

II Corinthians 4: 16-18 - 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Pray that our attitude towards suffering would be that of the early church, although they may not have enjoyed it, they understood the purpose and the results.

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