Updated: May 2, 2019
Follow Me. These may be two of the most well known words of the Christian vocabulary, but sadly, they are two of the most misunderstood words too. Jesus walked the seashores of Galilee and called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to leave the fishing industry to follow him, and they immediately obeyed. Somehow, the Church today has effectively turned these two words into, “Walk the aisle, say the sinner’s prayer, and get your name on the church roll….”
The gospel accounts actually use two different Greek words to record this one call of Jesus. Between the call of these four fishermen, and then the call of the Levi the tax collector, both accounts occurring in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), 3 of the 6 occurrences of the words “Follow Me” are a Greek word that is an imperative. This means that the words “Follow Me,” 3 of the 6 times, are written as a command. Once, in Luke 5:11, it’s the same word, but written in the aorist, or the past tense as something the men have already done. Twice, in Matthew 4:19 and in Mark 1:17, it’s an entirely different Greek phrase, an adverb, but one that certainly functions like a command.
Here’s the point: When Jesus calls these four men, and then Levi, Jesus is not sending them a polite invitation in the mail with a R.S.V.P. deadline. Rather, Jesus is commanding them to take action. The words “Follow Me” are not an invitation to be accepted, but they are a command to obey.
The church has painted the picture of Jesus, the perfect gentleman, standing at the door of your heart, patiently knocking, waiting for you to open up and invite him to come in. Yes, Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Understand though, that in Revelation, Jesus is not speaking to the individual lost soul, but to a group of redeemed souls. In Revelation, Jesus is addressing the church, a group of believers that need to repent. This is far different. Context makes a world of difference. A more accurate image of evangelism, more accurate than Jesus standing at the door knocking, is Jesus, the Master, walking the seashore and commanding a lost sinner to leave everything to follow him. Instead of a door to be opened and a guest to be accepted, and even invited into your life, there is a command to be obeyed or rejected.
I am not opposed to extending an invitation during personal evangelism, but when Jesus issues a call to a person to follow him, they are either going to obey the command or they are going to disobey. Discipleship is a life of obedience and it begins with simply obeying the command to follow Christ.
Perhaps you have viewed your Christian life as though you did God a favor by accepting his Son into your life, as though you are the hero because you made a little room for Jesus in your busy schedule, and though it might be inconvenient at times, you’re willing to give Jesus a little bit of room in your life as long as he does not disturb your lifestyle and the comforts that you have worked so hard to attain. The application is simple: repent. If you are a believer, then understand it is because Christ has commanded you to follow him. Second, examine your life today to see if you are actually obeying the command, or whether or not you might just be telling people you are. There is a vast difference between getting your name on a membership roll and actually following Christ. Third, know that the command to follow Jesus is a lifelong command resulting in death. Jesus later explained, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mt. 16:24).” Jesus intends for his followers to follow him, not just to the pew, but all the way to the cross. Following Jesus will require great sacrifice. If you have no cross and you are making no sacrifices, then you may not actually be following Jesus.
There’s more to this command. Look for part two of this post later this week.
Watch the sermon Jesus, the Evangelist here: