"Come, follow me..."
Are you a dabbler? You know, flitting from one thing to another, trying something until you’re bored or it gets too hard or the next most interesting thing comes along?
I’ve been a dabbler in my life—couldn’t decide on a major in college, had a variety of unfinished projects laying around from hobbies that I didn’t stick with, and let’s not even discuss the number of half-read or just-started-but-never-finished books on my shelf. Focusing on one thing only worked for a little while, then I was on to something new.
I was the same way spiritually. After Jesus invited me to follow Him, I started out okay, but then I got distracted. I bounced back and forth for several decades, actually. What sounded fairly simple, “Follow me,” wasn’t that simple in my life. It seemed like I could follow everything else but Jesus, going first one way, then another, chasing every spiritual teacher or path that I stumbled upon. After wandering for a while, I would realize I was at a dead end (or on a path that I really didn’t want to be on) and find my way back to Jesus.
If you do a word search on www.biblegateway.com, you’ll find the word follow used in various ways in the New Testament. Matthew 4:19 is the first time we hear Jesus’ invitation to specific people to follow Him—
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."
It’s followed immediately in verse 20 by the disciples’ response—
At once they left their nets and followed him.
What is your response to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him?
What does following Jesus look like today? Here are a few suggestions:
Following Jesus is a personal matter—
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."-- John 21:22
It really isn’t about anyone else in your family or circle of friends, it is up to you to accept the invitation to follow. Jesus was aware that some people would chose to follow and some would refuse the invitation. Other people’s decisions are not an excuse to keep us from following Jesus.
What have you used as an excuse not to follow Jesus?
Get to know Jesus while you are following Him
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”—John 14:5-7
Walking together is a great way to get to know another person. As you travel together, there is time to talk, to speak of everyday things and things that really matter, to laugh and even to cry, to make new discoveries and to create memories.
What are you learning about Jesus as you follow Him?
How is your understanding of Jesus deeper today than it was a day, a week, a month, or a year ago?
To follow Jesus, you have to move
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."—Matthew 8:18-20
Following is a verb. As a verb, it implies motion, action, and movement. Following Jesus isn’t a static concept. Following Jesus involves participation and personal effort. You can’t follow someone who is standing still and you can’t follow someone if you remain standing still. Jesus is always on the move, and following Him means that you can’t stay in the same place where He first called you. He is moving on and you’ll have to keep moving to keep up with Him.
Where are you in your journey of faith compared to where you started?
Where is Jesus taking you now?
To follow Jesus, you have to keep pace with Him and let Him lead the way
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished…—Mark 10:32
I walk with some friends each week. The funny thing about that is that my friends have longer legs than me, so I’m always moving to keep up with them. I think of Jesus like that, actually. In Mark 10, Jesus is traveling on a mission, traveling to Jerusalem, where He will go to the cross. His followers are hurrying behind Him on the road, because He is walking with purpose. On the way, He ends up stopping in Jericho before heading out again.
Where is Jesus leading you, perhaps to a place you don’t understand? Are you letting Him lead the way or are you trying to get Him to follow you instead?
To follow Jesus, you have to stay close enough to see or hear Him
I sometimes think it must have been easier to follow God in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God made Himself visible to the Israelites by a cloud by day and fire by night. Pretty simple stuff, move when the cloud moves, stop with it stops. You can always see God visibly, regardless of the time of day or night.
In the New Testament, Jesus was physically present, able to be spoken to, seen, and heard. You knew if He was in town or on the road. Well, except for the times He would leave town without the crowds, and they went looking for Him. Still and all, He was physically visible.
As Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross and then to return to heaven, He prepared His followers for what the next stage of following Him was going to look like: the presence of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding them.
“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”—John 16:7-15
Here are some practical tips for staying close to Jesus and letting His Spirit guide you:
1. Listen for His voice —
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.—John 10:4
2. Get to know what truth sounds like—
Read truth in the Bible. Listen to truth from Bible teachers—Bible studies, sermons, podcasts, CDs. Let God’s truth reshape your mind and heart, and renew your thinking.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.—Colossians 3:1
3. Keep an open relationship with the Spirit—
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God—Ephesians 4:30
You keep an open relationship with someone by being honest about who you are, asking forgiveness when you hurt them, and staying in relationship with them. Confess your failures to God, receive His forgiveness, and don’t let your failures be an excuse to quit following Him!
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.—1 John 1:5-10
How is your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Following Jesus sometimes means you head into storms
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"—Matthew 8:23-27
The thing about following Jesus into storms is that you’re following JESUS into those storms. He is with you. He is in control, even if you don’t realize it. He will bring you through it, and you will know Him more truly, and be amazed at the One you follow!
What are you learning about Jesus because of the storms He is taking you through?
Following Jesus will shape your purpose, passion, persistence, and partnership with Him. It will infuse your life with His purpose, passion, and persistence, and it will result in an increasingly deep partnership with Him.
What about you? Are you a spiritual dabbler? On again, off again, when it comes to following Jesus? Choosing to follow Him, alone if necessary? Out of shape? Hard of hearing? Or are you learning to hear His voice; learning to follow Him in your life, learning to follow Him to those who need His touch?
Who are you encouraging to follow Jesus? What lessons can you share with them about how to keep following when you’re tempted to dabble?