501) Don’t Be a Follower!? (part two)

   We all need someone bigger than ourselves to follow.
     (…continued)  Life is too short and too complicated for everyone to figure everything out from scratch on their own, so it is inevitable that we will have to do a great deal of learning from others; that is to say, learn by following their example.  God gives us parents for the first several years of our lives for us to follow and learn from.  Then the time comes that young folks start to go out and make their own way, but again, they are not about to figure it all out from scratch; and so they are out looking around and choosing to follow what looks good.  Jesus says, follow me, and the Bible describes in great detail what that might all mean.  There are many other things out in the world that are not consistent with following Jesus, but may, at the time, look more appealing.  But as one decides whoever or whatever they choose to follow, they should at least put some thought into where that path will lead them.  In John 10, Jesus tells us where following him will lead us.  First he says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  And then in the very next verse, he said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; and no one can take them out of my hand.”  No other choice will get you that far– all the way into eternity.  And no other choice is that secure; “no one can take you out of my hand,” says Jesus.  Pleasure, success, wealth, prestige– all those things can be a part of life and used by the Christian.  But if any are made the primary goal of life, the pursuit of which is followed above all else, that path will lead only to disappointment.  Any path that does not include Jesus becomes, in the end, a very short path.
     Jesus says “Follow me,” and in many places he fills out what that will mean as it touches every area of life.  You cannot say “I will follow Jesus and no longer have anything to do with money.”  Money is a part of life, and this is not to say ‘it is either Jesus or money.’  But Jesus does say that you cannot serve both God and money.  One or the other will be most important.  And Jesus and the rest of the Bible has a great deal to say about how we should make and use our money.  Following Jesus in our making and handling of money, will have us be not greedy or conniving or jealous or desperate, but following Jesus will mean that we will be honest and fair and charitable and generous.  In all of these things, we do know the difference, but we do need to remember to keep in mind first of all obedience to Jesus.  That is what it means to follow him.
     And, following Jesus in our relationships means to be kind and forgiving and patient and humble.  Again, we all know that, but I would guess that we could all think of ways in just this past week that we did not follow Jesus in the way we handled our relationships.  
     And it goes without saying that following Jesus would mean at the very least paying some attention to Jesus– in worship and in prayer.  One cannot simply say, “Oh yeah, I guess believe in Jesus,” and then just leave it at that, without paying some attention to that relationship.  That would be as crazy as my first date.  When I was in the eighth grade, I asked a girl to the Annual Junior High Halloween Roller Skating Party; and she said yes, she would go with me.  I was excited about having a date, but it turned out to be a very puzzling evening.  I had told her that I bought her ticket, but when I went to the school to meet the buses, she was nowhere to be found.  Finally I saw her– on the other bus.  Then, she went into the roller rink ahead of me and did not use the ticket I bought her.  And she did not skate with me all night, nor did she talk to me.  She rode the other bus home, and I did not see her again until school the next Monday.  When I reached in my pocket and found her unused ticket, I threw it away and I said to myself, “This dating is not all that it is cracked up to be.”
      That is a crazy story, isn’t it?  But is it any crazier than to say, “Yes, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of the whole universe and all that is in it, who has given me life and breath and all that I have, including anything I hope for in the future; yes, I believe all that; but does that mean I have to pay any attention to God?”  That too is a crazy and puzzling and irresponsible approach to a relationship.
     What does it mean to follow Jesus?  Jesus was asked one time what the greatest commandments were, and Jesus replied there were two.  The first, he said, was to love the Lord your God, with all your mind and with all your heart and with all your strength.  And the second, Jesus said, was to love your neighbor as yourself.  And how do you do that?  Simple, Jesus said; apply one simple rule to all your dealings with everyone.  You’ve all heard it: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Treat others as you yourself would want to be treated.  Try to understand them as you understand yourself; try to explain their actions in the best possible light, as you would do for yourself.  And if you wonder whether or not you should help them, ask if you yourself would appreciate help in the same situation… and so forth.  That is how you follow Jesus.
     And the more you do follow Jesus, the more you will find that he is a friend who can be trusted, and that his way is the best way.  After all, people have been following him for almost 2,000 years.  Following him is the best way to live now, and as he said, he is the way and the truth and the life; that is to say, the way to eternal life.  There is no one else that you can follow that will get you that far.  No one else, not even any of the founders of any other religion.  No one else who has defeated death by dying and rising again from the dead.  Believe in Jesus, now and your whole life through; believe in Jesus and you will be saved.
John 10:27-28  —  (Jesus said), “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Matthew 22:35-39  —  …An expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 4:19a  —  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said…

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ

For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

–St. Richard of Chichester  (1197-1253)