Thesis:"Following" Jesus means deliberately setting aside everything, good or bad, that keeps one from the pursuit of His agenda by His means and embracing the exercise of one's gift(s) for the good of the brotherhood.
Introduction:In our studies of Jesus' explanation of what it takes to "come after" Him, we have seen that there must be a definitive separation of oneself from what was once "oneself" and that there must be a daily acceptance of "suffering" as something not to be shunned. Both of these requirements are both necessary and individually complex. Every one of us must bear our own burden of discipleship.
This morning we come to the third, and most complex, of the "musts": actually "following" Jesus. What does this mean for you and me?
I. The Issues of Complexity.
A. Arise because of the shift of historical reality.
1. In the day when Jesus uttered these words, there was a physical reality that is no more.
a. Jesus was physically on the scene.
b. "Following" Jesus was not terribly difficult in the sense of meaning.
1) I differentiate between "difficulty of meaning" and "difficulty of doing" because of Luke 9's focus upon "following" and the focus in 9:57-62 upon the self-denial/daily cross issues involved.
2) Luke 5:11 is the initial example and it stands as the "standard".
a. There is no disputing the fact that it is the initial example.
b. Luke 18:22 and 28 make a case for the fact that it is the "standard".
c. In that day, "following", at the least, meant being where He was and doing what He said.
2. In the present day we have a significantly different physical reality.
a. Not only is Jesus not physically present, but His doctrine of His "Replacement" has had two thousand years to be corrupted.
1) Jesus told His disciples that He would send a more-than-sufficiently-adequate Replacement (John 16:7) when He left.
2) But the adversary has not been silently inactive regarding the "faith" that permits the Replacement to be effective.
a) The adversary's method has always been to "push the envelope" in two directions at the same time.
b) The "directions" tend to be opposites so that what does not snare by its appeal on one hand can be a means to snare by the opposite.
c) The snares involve either a Spirit-less confidence in intellectual study of biblical revelation or a Revelation-less confidence in "Spiritual" impulses.
b. The degrading of God's program over time is a biblically, historically validated, fact of life that makes the initial requirements more crucial as time goes by.
1) God's programs have always started with a significant level of grace that overwhelms every opposition.
2) But God has always gradually lowered the level of overwhelming grace so that real growth can occur.
a) There is no need for growth when all of the opposition is overwhelmed.
b) But the need for growth creates its own danger because it demands growth of people who tend to be committed to being coddled.
3) Over time, the foot-dragging reluctance of the majority generates a gradually developing malaise that requires of any who will overcome that they be more diligent.
B. Arise because of the complexity that has existed since Genesis 3 and was illustrated even in the more simplistic setting of that day.
1. "Following" has never only been "being where He was and doing what He said."
a. No one will be able to mount a reasonable argument to claim that Judas was "following" Jesus because no one makes as sharp a turn from the path as did he without some serious "following" failures.
b. "Following" has always involved the inner realities of heart/mind and soul/spirit as well as the outer physical realities of the body.
1) Loving and believing are issues that have always been on the scene and have never been suspended.
2) Judaism had corrupted this reality with its external legalism, but had not effectively set it aside.
2. It would be pretty much impossible to argue that the delivered man of Gadara was not a "Jesus follower" even though he was denied the privilege of "being where Jesus was" (8:38-39).
C. Arise because of a greater content of revelation/explanation.
1. In the age of the Replacement, the instruction took on a significant complexity.
a. 1 Corinthians 7:20 is a definitive, but non-inclusive, command.
b. 1 Peter 4:10-11 is also a definitive, but completely inclusive, command.
2. In the age of the Replacement, the lethargic foot-dragging has been allowed to progressively develop so that people can be pretty much cheering, or griping, spectators and feel no discomfort at all.
II. The Unchanging Bottom Lines.
A. "Following Jesus" has always, and will always, be rooted in a love for Him that is sufficient to move us to a legitimate pursuit of what is important to Him.
B. "Following Jesus" has always, and will always, be guided by the Spirit-enlightened mind that is actively engaged in the pursuit of what He has revealed as true (study and prayer).
C. "Following Jesus" has always, and will always, only be possible on the foundations of "denial" and "embracing" as the prior statements make clear.