This is the combination of a lesson and a sermon on following the Lord. First, we will study passages from the lives of the disciples to see the requirements, costs and benefits of following the Lord. Second, we will preach on how we can follow the Lord today, since Jesus is seated in heaven.
When Jesus called his disciples, he said, “Follow me,” and they followed him immediately [Matt 4:19-20; Matt 9:9]. They didn’t hesitate; they didn’t negotiate; they didn’t question him. They just followed him.
But when they followed Jesus they left some other things behind. Peter and Andrew left their fishing and their nets. John and James left their father and their boats. In Matt 8:19-20 Jesus didn’t even have a home. In Matt 8:21-22 and Matt 10:37-38 we see that those who followed Jesus couldn’t love anything or anyone more than they loved him. They took their cross and followed him, leaving everything else behind.
Sometimes, following Jesus put these men in harm’s way. In Matt 8:23, the disciples followed Jesus right into a storm. They survived the storm intact. Paul, on the other hand, was shipwrecked three times. In addition, he suffered many beatings, whippings, and imprisonments and a stoning. In Matt 16:24-25 those who followed Jesus denied themselves, took up their cross and lost their lives.
The rich young ruler wanted eternal life and Jesus told him to “sell that thou hast… and follow me,” [Matt 19:21]. He wanted that man to get rid of everything he owned. Jesus doesn’t want you to hang on to anything that can come between you and him. Anything, your wealth, your occupation, your house, your family, or your life, that will come between you and him has to be left behind.
When Jesus told the ruler to sell it all and give it to the poor, he also added something that we hadn’t seen before. He said, “and thou shalt have treasure in heaven,” [Matt 19:21]. So, there is a future benefit to following Jesus that rewards you for what you give up to follow him.
Peter was very interested in knowing more about his future reward. In Matt 19:27-28 Peter said, “we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” The Lord said that the disciples would “sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” He added, in Matt 19:29, that in exchange for anything they forsook to follow him, they would receive a hundredfold and they would inherit everlasting life. Paul said, for us, in Rom 8:18, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
When Jesus said, “Follow me,” it is understood that he meant follow me very closely and don’t lag behind, and don’t look back. The one time Peter got into serious trouble was the one time that he let a gap build between him and Jesus. In Matt 26:58 the Bible says, “Peter followed him afar off.” Peter was very zealous for the Lord and he was convinced that there was nothing that would cause him to deny the Lord. He didn’t realize that the rebuke he received in the garden of Gethsemane would put a little distance between them. And this little distance was all it took for Peter to deny the Lord.
Following his resurrection, the Lord charged Peter once again to “Follow me,” [Jn 21:19]. Peter was warned that following the Lord would cost him his life, in time. And when Peter saw John, he wanted to know what would become of him. The Lord said, in essence, mind your own business; what I do with him is none of your business. He said, “Follow thou me,” [Jn 21:20-22]. And so it is with discipleship. It is simply a matter of you following the Lord, no matter what the Lord does with anyone else or what they do with him.
Peter wrote in his epistle that “ye should follow his steps,” [1 Pet 2:21]. How are you and I going to do that since we can’t see him walking before us?
Here’s how we follow Jesus today:
Follow God – Eph 5:1 – God is real, of course, and he is actively involved in your life. He is constantly arranging the circumstances, timing, and events in your life as you walk by faith. You are to follow him through his leading in all these matters through each and every day.
Follow what God said – Ps 119:105 – read plenty of Bible every day. The words of God will come to your remembrance to guide your steps. You will know, from the Bible, exactly what you are supposed to do each step of the way.
Follow the Holy Spirit – Rom 8:14 – the Holy Spirit leads gently through your life. Stay close to the Lord and let nothing between so that you are aware of his gentle leading in everything you do. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit also entails following the manifestations of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. For instance, in 1 Tim 6:11, Paul told Timothy to “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” These are all qualities of the fruit of the Spirit within us. Every step you take will involve choices between righteousness and unrighteousness, between godliness and ungodliness, between faith and sight, between love and selfishness, between patience and rashness, between meekness and stubbornness, etc. Always follow the Spirit.
Follow men who are following Christ – 1 Cor 11:1 – God puts men in your life who are following the Lord so that you have them to follow. You can follow any man down the right road. In Heb 13:7 you are to obey them that have the rule over you and you are to follow their faith. They are good example and good counselors for you. Their preaching will provide the reproof and instruction you need to lead you.
Conclusion: “Follow me,” Jesus said. And that’s exactly what we must do. Let go of anything and everything that is in between you and the Lord. Get right in step with him and stay in step with him.