Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does, John 5:19.
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me, John 5:30.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me, John 6:38.
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it, John 12:29.
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me, John 12:26.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me, Matthew 16:24.
There are quite a few verses above. Tonight, I wanted to talk about following Jesus. We are co-heirs with Christ, which means we are linked to Him. Not only are we linked to Him, considered family, we are called to follow Him. We live in a world that is obsessed with independence and doing things our own way. The world says, “Get yours. Do your thing. Think about yourself. It’s your world.” God has a completely different plan and purpose for our lives. Jesus modeled for us what our lives could be if we abide in Him. He said, “Follow Me.”
What does it mean to follow Jesus? It seems like a simple question. It’s more than doing what we are told. Obedience to God is important, but God is looking for more than our checking the box. God is looking at the heart. God knows why we do what we do. God doesn’t say, “Try harder.” He does repeatedly say, “Come to Me. Abide in Me. Rely on Me.” If we could do it on our own, we wouldn’t need a Savior.
I believe following Jesus starts with relationship. Jesus died for us to be in relationship with Him. It’s not easy to follow a stranger. Following God begins with getting to know Him. Think about it. If a stranger showed up and said, “Do what I say or do as I do,” your response would most likely be, “No way. I don’t know you.” Many times we struggle because we don’t know Jesus. We know of Him. We’ve read the His Word. We go to church. However, we don’t know Jesus personally. He’s a figure, someone we hear about and read about. We obey out of obligation not love. Now think about the person you know loves you the most, would do anything for you, the one you trust the most. If they said, “Follow me,” you’d be more inclined to go.
We can spend years going to church and miss Jesus. Why? Because relationship with God is supposed to be a personal thing. Corporate worship equips us, points us to Him, and enable us to engage in fellowship with other believers. It does not replace or substitute a relationship with God.
The Building of a Relationship
It starts with Jesus. In order to have a relationship with the Father, we start by a relationship with Son. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him,” John 14:6-7.
Submission to the Holy Spirit. God is with us everywhere. We are the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity. He works in us to teach us, lead us, guide us, and enable us to become more like Jesus. If we yield our lives to Him, we will see tremendous fruit and a flourishing relationship. He is often that still small voice that says, “This is not a good idea.” Or the nudge in your spirit to apologize, make something right, to flee from sin, to confess your sins, or to spend time with God.
We are blessed to listen to the Holy Spirit. We are told not to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, 1 Thess 5:19. Everything He leads us to do is right.
Time. We have heard the words “quiet time with God” and it makes some people cringe. It seems like an obligation. “I must spend time with God today for X amount of time.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like spending time with people who feel forced to. It’s awkward and not fun. I would much rather spend time with those who want to know me, be with me, and enjoy my company. They don’t come to study me, they come to simply be with me.
What does it look like to be with God? Well, there are endless possibilities. I’ve found sweet encounters with God while gardening, painting, walking in the park, listening to the Bible, resting, worshiping, journaling, etc…I believe we need to read the word of God and study it. However, if we limit our only time with God as reading the word for a certain amount of time we will grow bored. Some people come alive and can read the word for hours and they are satisfied. Others can not. God knows how to interact with each and every child.
Spending time with God, getting to know Him, enables us to trust Him. The more we get to know Him, the easier it is to follow Him. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” John 10:27. When we know Him, following Him is not a burden but a privilege. It’s an honor to follow someone who was willing to die for you. Jesus died for us while we were guilty. I don’t know of anyone who would give their life for the guilty. Not only did He die for us, He cannot lie. God is completely trustworthy, kind, generous, compassionate, and good. We can rest assured that God will not hurt or harm us. So, when He says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me,” we can trust that where He is going, we want to go. We want to follow Jesus. We want the path that leads to life.