Perhaps the shortest sermon ever preached was given by Jesus to a group of fisherman. It is recorded in Matthew 4:18-22
“And walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea. For they were fishermen.
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
And they immediately left their nets and followed him.
And going on from there, he saw another two brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. And He called them; and they immediately left the boat and their father and followed Him.”
“Follow Me.” That is what Jesus is saying to every man, woman and child in this world, just simply: “Follow Me.”
Jesus is not recorded as being a man of many words. He did not overelaborate, He did not exaggerate, He did not flatter, He did not use unnecessary words at any time. His words were few, apt and to the point. His choice was, and indeed even today is simple – ‘accept me’ – ‘accept my words’. There was and is no negotiation in the life of Jesus. What he offered, was on a simple take it or leave it basis. Jesus offered law to the proud and grace to the weak and broken, a form of evangelism which the Church seems to have generally abandoned. With Jesus, there were, there are, only two sides, His, or none. There was no middle ground with Jesus.
Matthew 16:24-25 gives the longer version of His above sermon, but again in uncompromising simplicity and directness:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever desires to lose his life for My sake shall find it.”
Debate, hesitation, second thoughts are not in the life of Jesus. This is exemplified in His comments to a tentative new believer in Luke 9:59-60.
‘“To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”’
Despite the machinations of present day Church, with its seeker-friendly non-threatening pot-luck dinners and bend-over-backwards attitudes, the teachings in the Bible have never changed, nor has the way Jesus did things, when He offered the Law to the proud and Grace to the weak and broken.
Why offer the Law to the proud and Grace to the weak and broken? Simply because of who He is, a son, carrying out His Father’s will. God, as King has determined that we must do His things His way and at His time. God is sovereign over us and His will is our command. If we are not compliant, we are in rebellion, it is as simple as this. And all who are in rebellion, will one day face the accuser and the results of their sin.
However, if we understand and accept the sovereignty of God, we will obey His commands and follow, as Jesus required. When we do, we enter into a new life and become the recipients of His blessings for us, here and in eternity.
Let us look at four reasons for accepting the Sovereignty of God as Jesus offered. And as for Grace, it is only He who rules, Hew who convicts, who has the authority to provide grace.
Why Follow? First and most simply, we do it because it is our desire to do the will of God, just has it was for Jesus Himself. In John 4:34 Jesus said “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” There can be no more honest and simple desire than that. In the First Epistle of John 2:16-17 we read a comparison of those who are of God and those who are of the world:
“For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
We are offered Eternity on the one hand; Death on the other. The choice is ours to make. God is making it clear, that while on the one hand all flesh and possessions will pass away, with Him by contrast, all can be eternal as we live with Him forever. To achieve this, we only need to do one thing – the will of God.
The second reason could be because we want His perfect guidance. When Jesus left this earth, he told his Disciples to wait, as we read in John 14:26 until:
“the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.”
Having god directly teach us and bring to recollection all that which Jesus has taught, it a great reason to seek eternity. Indeed, in Romans 8:14 one can see that this goes far beyond just teaching, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Yes, we receive sonship (daughter-ship), as we submit ourselves to the teaching and the authority of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to help us. For this is what the “Comforter” means – the paraclete – someone who comes alongside to help.
Regrettably, not all born-again Christians have found out what this means, and they have never discovered or learned the awesome joy of being led by the Holy Spirit. But those who have, have attained a new title in this life, for they are the sons and daughters of God and in this relationship, will surely achieve maturity in Christ. They find God’s purpose in and for, their lives. They put God first, and in that, fulfill His will and His destiny for their lives. They are the ones to whom God will say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” They are the ones who will rule and sit with Jesus on His throne.
The third reason could be that they want to know the full provision of God in their lives. This does not mean wealth counted, necessarily, in our bank accounts – though it is not excluded – but of a condition of provision and no want or lack in our lives. The Galatians 5:22-23 list of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are certainly included. For as Jesus Himself said in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
These are all ideas and realities which worldly and fleshy convention scorn in envy. These are the signs and the measures of the grace of God on his undeserving and sinful people. The world see these provisions which confound their understanding, by being simply too good to be true; then they dismiss them. The worldly cannot comprehend that a simple trust in God, will change lives unimaginably. Mark 10:28-30 puts is clearly for us:
“Then Peter began to say to Him, Lo, we have left all and have followed You. And Jesus answered and said, “Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my sake and the gospel’s sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions, and in the world to come, eternal life.”
Jesus was not talking here about bounty and recommendation in heaven only, but also in this world.
Finally, many of us want to have a life which is unique and especially designed for us. Following in the Will of God, will ensure this. God has not made all people the same; for as Ephesians 4:11 says He “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” Yet many born-again Christian go through life without ever finding out the Will for their lives which God had ordained from the beginning of eternity. The Will of God, their unique destiny which God has planned for them, has lain unrealised. It has borne no fruit. It has gone unclaimed.
God wants us to accept Him and to fulfill His will for us too. But in all things with God, we need to choose and we need to act. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 we first need to “seek;” seek, being a verb, an action word. If we do not claim our inheritance, it will remain untouched; we will not benefit, nor will our families or our sons and daughters. If we do not claim it, it will be wasted.
But we also need to remember that with many of God’s offers to us, there is an expiry date. The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes makes it clear there is a time and season for everything. God is not static and will not wait indefinitely – no matter how we may choose to think otherwise, for His plans will go on, with our without us.
Jesus wants to have a relationship with us, and the ball, as they say, is clearly in our court. He has made His position lucid and clear, “Follow Me.” Jesus is God and King and He wants us to join Him on His throne as these three verses clearly attest:
First Peter 2:5 “You also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
First Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you might speak of the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”
Revelation 1:6 “and made us kings and priests to God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
The questions which you now need to answer are these:
Do you know the job which God has assigned for you?
Do you know the place where God’s destiny for your life will be worked out?
Do you know the relationships which will bring forth God’s destiny in your life?
Do you know the Ministry which God has planned and ordained for you since the beginning of eternity?
Do you want to enter into a special relationship with God?
Do you want to receive the provision of God in your life?
Do you want to fulfill the unique responsibilities and privileges which God wants to give you?
Are you willing to answer His call as he cries out to you: “Follow Me”?