I Will Follow

A few years back, as our church was in the building phase on our current property at 2201 West 19th Street, our recovery ministry was meeting at the Youth for Christ underground on Saturday mornings. On a few occasions during this period, I had the opportunity to hang out with the children and youth of the adults who were attending the meetings. I organized the children/youth into teams, and we did relay races, shot baskets, and played kickball. Once they started getting tired, I arranged them in a large circle, and we had a Bible lesson. On one of the Saturday mornings, I started by asking them who here knows . . . Michael Jordon? Tom Brady? Deon Sanders? LeCrae? Chris Tomlin? Billy Graham?

As I said these names, some of them were recognized more than others, but all of them were recognized by at least a few of these youth.  Then for impact, I walked over to the biggest and oldest youth in the group who was wearing Nike Jordan basketball shoes and a Nike shirt with Jordan’s famous image on it and I asked this youngster, do you know Michael Jordan?  He said, ” Oh yeah man, he is the best that’s ever lived. I responded, so you know him. He said, “For sure man.”  I asked him to stand up, and then I asked him, does Michael Jordan know you? He hung his head and said, “no.”

“Following” someone in the modern era is seen and understood as observing them or checking in on them through media and social media. It’s more about knowing things of interest about them instead of knowing them on a personal level. It just means we are drawn to them or intrigued by them because of their fame or talent. You can say as fans, we follow people. Even “friending” someone on social media doesn’t mean that your friends who know each other; it just means you’re following them with interest or curiosity.

There is the situation of following someone up close and the occurrence of following someone at a distance. At a distance, it is through publications, media, and social media, and up close, it is a matter of being colleagues, associates, teammates, friends, and even family. Up close, we follow leaders such as parents, teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, and even local politicians. At a distance, we are mere fans following athletes, movie stars, musicians, religious leaders, and other celebrities.

With that said, we are confronted with this hard fact. Jesus isn’t looking for fans who follow at a distance, but followers who know Him personally and are known by Him. Our theme for 2024 at Heartland Church is “I Will Follow” which emphasizes that we are sheep belonging to Jesus our Great Shepherd, we listen to the Shepherd, and we follow the Shepherd based on what we learn from John 10:22-30 with an emphasis on 10:27.

JN 10:22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

When Jesus says “My sheep,” He means those sheep belonging to Him as the Good Shepherd. In other words, those who follow Him as Lord. Those who follow Jesus are recognizable because they believe, hear, and follow. How do we know and hear the voice of Jesus? 3 ways, 1) Bible (preaching, teaching, reading, meditating), 2) Holy Spirit, and 3) prayer

The Bible is God’s word, so we hear the voice of Jesus through the Bible.  “all Scripture is inspired or breathed out by God” 2 Timothy 3:16

We hear the voice of Jesus through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. JN 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Also, we hear Jesus’ voice through prayer. Prayer includes listening. It is likely the weakest part of most Christian’s prayer life.

But as sheep or followers, we don’t just hear the voice of Jesus, we follow Him. This requires trust and obedience. Will you follow?

To follow Christ means . . .

we follow Jesus exclusively. God stated in Exodus 20:3, we are to have “no other gods before Him.”

to be selfless and sacrificial. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

He must become everything to us. Everyone follows someone or something: friends, worldly ways, family, selfish desires, money or God. But we can only follow one thing or one person at a time.  MT 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” There is no such thing as a “halfway disciple.” We don’t follow Jesus and something or someone else. We follow Jesus and no one else.

to surrender to Him as Master. That’s what it means to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. You can’t even be saved unless you confess Jesus as Lord. (ref. Romans 10:9) If you’re not saved you surely won’t follow Jesus. 2 CO 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

to focus on bringing Him glory. Every decision and dream is filtered through His Word with the goal of glorifying Him in everything. 1 CO 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

we live as if Jesus walked beside us in person. JN 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. As we experience His grace, we desire to please Him in everything. All this is accomplished as we allow the Holy Spirit to have complete control of every area of our lives.

RO 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

EPH 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

The truth is that following Jesus leads to difficult choices. Sometimes turning back may seem very appealing. It seemed easy to follow Jesus when He taught the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–11) but when he went to the cross, many who followed him turned away (John 6:66).

A shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep recognize His voice. If you say you know Jesus, are you sure Jesus knows you? Of course, Jesus is God and knows all things. The thought of Jesus knowing us is not just about knowledge but about a personal relationship. What is meant here by the word know, is that He knows you personally, through faith and fellowship.

When Jesus who is all-knowing says, “I know them” or “I never knew you” He is referring to relational knowledge. When Jesus said, “I never knew you,” He meant that He never recognized them as His true disciples or His friends.

MT7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

His sheep understand his works (10:25) and his words (10:27), the sign of true knowing. Consequently, Jesus knew them, and they demonstrated their knowledge of Him by “following” (10:27).

Will you commit to following Jesus? Sheep belonging to Jesus, the Great Shepherd, are recognizable because they believe in the Shepherd, they listen to the Shepherd, and they follow the Shepherd.

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene