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Follow Me

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Follow Me

Have you ever felt like you needed to change in order to fit into a group? I remember one morning recently when I went golfing with my brother, who was a member of a country club. When I got to the venue, my brother took one look at what I was wearing and immediately said, “That won’t work.” I looked down at what I had on, a golf polo and some shorts that were made to look like cutoff pants. While I have definitely made some bad fashion choices before, getting rejected because of them was a new experience for me. My brother made it clear that to play golf at this country club, like most country clubs, you had to meet their standards.
 
The church often falls into this trap. When we do not fight the temptation, we judge people who are not like us. We expect people to be like us before they can follow Jesus. That’s religion. Religion says, “Change, then you can follow God,” but Jesus said, “Follow me, then I will change you.” It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you follow Jesus, He will change you through a gradual process.
 
Many of us get frustrated when we don’t feel like we’re making progress. Everyone who’s ever been on a diet can relate to that feeling. However, the reason we don’t feel like we’re making progress is because it’s happening gradually. Unfortunately, when we think in religious motivations, we see people who come as they are, and we feel frustrated when they change too slowly.
 
Jesus never put mile markers on our goodness, and in this life there is not a finish line. When it comes to spiritual maturity, we are always on a journey toward glorification. Glorification is the moment at which we are brought into Heaven; until then, we continue to grow. Our goal is to be like Jesus, which is an impossible goal in this life. Therefore, the mandate is not “be good enough.” The mandate is “follow me.”
 
God doesn’t give Christians a map. He gives them a driver’s license. We do not have a step by step description of where we are going. Instead, we have an invitation to go.
 
Do you remember MapQuest? When I was in college, we used to print out a turn-by-turn description of our vacations. If we took even one wrong turn, we were lost. That is the problem with that kind of instruction: one wrong turn sabotages the plan. Driving without a map requires us to learn the roads. Through trial and error, and by asking for guidance, we learn.
 
I just Googled the instructions for Follow the Leader:

Follow the Leader Instructions

First a leader or “head of the line” is chosen, then the children all line up behind the leader. The leader then moves around and all the children have to mimic the leader’s actions. Any player who fails to follow or do what the leader does is out of the game.
The only way to lose a game of Follow the Leader is to stop following. That’s what Christians do. We follow. We listen and obey.
 
The Bible contains four books that are biographies of Jesus’ life: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four books are called the Gospels. Two of the books, Matthew and Luke, tell the story of Simon Peter’s salvation.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Peter’s decision to follow a stranger and abandon the family business would be seen by most people as irresponsible. As a child, I was always terrified by this story. I didn’t want to have to leave my family to follow Jesus, but I was comforted when I read Luke’s version of this story. Matthew tells the story, but he doesn’t tell the whole story. That is likely because Matthew was writing to Jews, to people who had already decided to give their lives to religion. For them, it wasn’t surprising to hear a story of people who dropped everything to follow a Rabbi, but Luke was telling the story to Gentiles. A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew, and that is likely why Luke gave more information about the decision process.
 
Here’s Luke’s version of the story:
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
 
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
 
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
 
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
 
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.‬
Matthew left out the detail that Jesus was preaching. In fact, He preached so well the crowd pressed in on Him, pushing Him back into the water. That’s important because Jesus’ ministry was centered on His teaching, not on blind faith. Following Jesus begins with information. If anyone ever asks you to stop asking questions and just believe, don’t follow them! They’re trying to pull a fast one on you.
 
Peter was taking the beer cans and milk jugs out of his fishing nets. He was tired after fishing all night when this stranger asked Peter if He could use his boat as a stage. Apparently, something Jesus said sparked some curiosity in Peter because he said yes, but the story didn’t end with information. Jesus then performed a miracle, and Peter was humbled. He fell to his knees and confessed his sinfulness. When Peter followed Jesus, he became aware of things about himself that needed to change. However, rather than rebuke Peter, Jesus comforted him. Peter was changed because he followed Jesus.
 
Think about what hung in the balance when Jesus invited Peter to “Follow me.” Imagine what hangs in the balance in your life as Jesus calls out, “Follow me!” Choosing to follow Jesus is the most important decision you will never make.
When you face your devils, you’ve been given every weapon you need to turn the battlefield into a mission field. Jesus turned His wilderness experience into a testimony of the power of God’s Word. Let God use your story for His glory.
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