Charles Stanley - Following Jesus
If I should ask you, simple question, are you a follower of Jesus? How would you answer that? Are you a follower of Jesus? Well, if I ask that to some people they would say, do you mean do I believe in God? No, I just said are you a follower of Jesus? Or they might respond, well I know about Him. That's not the question. And oftentimes they would say, well, I do attend church. That's not the question, either. Or they might say, when I go to church every once in a while, they observe communion and I participate in that. No, I asked you if you were a follower of Jesus. Well, I give to good causes. That's not the question. Well, I think I'm a pretty good person. I didn't ask you that. I try to live a good life. I don't drink or run around on my wife. I didn't ask you that. I pray when I feel like I have a need of it. Didn't ask you, I asked you if you were a follower of Jesus?
It's amazing how many people have different answers and then, I do consider myself a religious person. I didn't ask you that either. Well, my parents were very religious. And I didn't ask you that either. And the truth is, all of those answers, any one of them or all of them together, would not equal whether you're a follower of Jesus or not. And many people think if certain activities are true in their life, certain experiences, then they must be a follower of Jesus. They must be a Christian. Not necessarily so. And so, I want you to turn if you will to Matthew chapter four and look at this eighteenth verse. Are you a follower of Jesus?
Listen to what the Scripture says. The eighteenth verse of Matthew four, "Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He," that is Jesus, "said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' And they immediately left their nets and began to follow Jesus". Where does Jesus Christ fit into your life? And so, when I think about that, that's going to be the title of this message "Following Jesus". So, what I'd like to do in this message, I'd like to give you the activities, the experiences of a true follower of Jesus so that you can decide whether you are or not. Because there are certain things that are absolutely essential to a follower of Jesus.
Many people think they are, many people are not sure, many people know they're not. And many people truly are followers of Jesus. So, the purpose of this message is simply to clarify that. So, I hope you have a pen and a pencil or a piece of paper and I want you to write this down because when somebody says, Are you a follower of Jesus? You can say, Yes, specifically if you know how to say yes. And I want you to examine your heart and ask yourself the question, Not that do you go to church, not if you've been baptized, not if you've taken communion, not if you've done all these things but am I a true follower of Jesus. So, what does a true follower of Jesus look like? What does it sound like? What are the evidences? What are the experiences of a true follower of Jesus? So, I trust that you'll write them down.
Now, to be a follower of Jesus, step number one, you must be born again. John three, three says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God". Or enter the kingdom of God. So, the first basic step of being a follower of Jesus is being born again. So forget the church baptism and all that stuff, it's being born again. Which is a matter of confessing your sins, surrendering your life to Christ, accepting His forgiveness of your life, and beginning to walk in His ways. First of all, being born again. Have you ever been born again? Jesus could not have made it more clear when He said being born again. Not just being better, not just improving, being born again as a result of your confession, repentance, and surrender of your life to Christ as Savior and Lord. Step number one, did you get that? Say amen.
Step number two, and that is if you're a follower of Jesus, you're going to be a person who prays. Listen, to what He says an example of Jesus in Luke six verse twelve, "It was at that time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God". Well, somebody says, well, I pray. Well, how often do you pray? Well, once in a while. No, if you're really a follower of Jesus, prayer is a major part of your life. In fact, how do you start the day off living in this world without talking to God? And how do you go to sleep at night with perfect security without talking to God? How do you face the issues in life without prayer? That is, prayer should be a habit and not only a habit but a very important part of our life. Prayer about what? Pray about everything. And Jesus prayed about many things. But what I want you to notice is, this is the Son of God. He began His day alone with God. How many times have I mentioned that to you about starting the day with prayer, and getting alone, and having your quiet time? If you're going to be a follower of Jesus, a follower does what the leader does, right?
So, first of all you're born again, and secondly, you're going to make prayer a very, very, vital habit in your life. So, I would ask you this question. Most of you consider yourselves followers of Jesus where does prayer fit in your daily life? Is it something you do when you get in trouble? When you have a need? When you get sick? If you think about it? Or you almost had an accident and you thank God? But prayer, "Pray without ceasing," the Scripture says. Jesus began His day, not just in this verse but other verses began His day alone talking to the Lord and of course the disciples they couldn't stand it. They had to find Him and interrupt Him. But prayer is a second very vital part. Thirdly, if you really and truly are a follower of Jesus, you're going to listen to Him. In Matthew chapter seventeen verse five, listen to what the Scripture says, "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!'" That's the Scripture, and I believe one of the greatest weaknesses among believers, is failing to listen to God.
God is the Sovereign God of this universe, Lord, Master over all things, who requires our obedience, surrender, and our acknowledgment of His rule as God in this society and in this world. How many of us are listening to Him? When is the last time you got on your knees or you got by yourself in your particular place to pray and just said, Lord, today I'm not going tell You anything. I just want to listen to You. Well, you say, well, I've listened to God and He didn't say a thing. You know why? Your attitude wasn't right. The sovereign God of the universe who loved you enough to send Jesus to die for your sins is always available to hear the prayers of His children who come to Him in sincerity. It doesn't mean we have to come to Him all confessed up, because sometimes we come to Him in order to confess and repent of our sin whatever it might be. But a follower of Jesus is a person who prays and a person who listens to God as well as talk to God.
So, I would ask you the question. Have you been born again? What place does prayer have in your life, and how often do you take time to listen to Him, or do you do all the talking? And many people pray like this. Lord, I'm coming to you today for my needs. You know all my need and I'm trusting You to protect me, watch over me, and care for me, and You know what I'd like to have. You know the things in life on my prayer list, and I'm going to trust You to take care of me today in Jesus' name. Amen. That is all about me, myself, and I. Or any of all about worshipping Holy God who deserves our allegiance and obedience to walk faithfully before Him.
Number four, if I'm going to be a follower of Jesus I must believe Him. This simple verse, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life". Trusting Him, faith in Him, John three sixteen, for example, that verse is absolutely essential in order for us to follow Him. If I don't believe Him I'm not going to do what He says. If I don't believe Him, I'm not going to obey Him. If I don't believe Him I'm not going to walk in His ways. If I don't believe Him, I'm going to live my life centered around what I want, when I want it, whatever that might be. Can you honestly and truly say, I live by faith? I trust God for my needs. I trust God for my difficulties, hardship, pain. I trust God when I'm in a sense of facing temptation. What part does faith have in my daily life in a practical kind of life?
So, number five, if I'm a follower of Jesus I'm going to obey Him. I'm going to obey Him. John eight twelve says, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life". That is who follows Me. Who obeys Me. If I'm really and truly a follower of Jesus, obedience is absolutely essential and besides that, it's a desire of my heart. If I understand who Jesus is, I would be absolutely foolish not to obey Him. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is," what? That's pretty weak. "The wages of sin is, what? Death, right. Why do I want to sin against God, if I know that ultimately there's going to be death? Not just physical death. It could be death to my true ability to love somebody. It could be death to my opportunity from God to be blessed financially because I'm disobeying Him financially. And we could go right down the line. Obedience is absolutely essential to being a follower of Jesus. And you say, well why do you spend all that time with that?
Let me ask you a question. Why did you spend most of those early hours and days of your children's lives saying, now, here's what you must do. I want you to grow up to be and you were teaching your children to do what? To obey you. Because you wanted them to grow up and be the best they could be. If you follow Jesus, you obey Him. If you don't obey Him, you thank Him for sending you enough heartache, and troubles, and trials to correct your sense of misdirection in life. Obedience to Him is absolutely essential. And people don't like to talk about obeying God. They want to talk about how good God is. Well, sure God's good and you know one of the reasons He's so good? It's because He teaches us to obey Him who is the source of every good thing that comes our way. Now I hope you're writing these down, and I'm trusting you, before you go to bed tonight to check yourself out. In fact, it'd be a good idea if you had this list right by your bed, so you would say, okay Lord, I know I'm a follower of You, so I know I'm born again, I'm praying and listening. In other words, check yourself out.
A true follower of Jesus Christ is going to do every single one of these. So far, we're right, correct? Amen. That's pretty weak, but you'll wake up in a minute. You're going to obey Him. And then you're going to love Him. If you're going to follow Him you're going to love Him. Listen to Mark twelve, thirty. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength". Look at that. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart". Not a divided heart, half in the world and half with God. All your heart with all your soul. That is, all your very being, your whole personality, and He says with all your mind. That is if I love, watch this, if I love God with all of my mind, I'm going to be careful what I place in my mind, what I think about, who I think about, and the kind of thoughts I have.
If I'm a true follower of Jesus and love Him with all my heart, soul, and my mind, I'm going to be very careful what I place in my mind. Listen, you cannot love the Lord your God with all your heart and sit and watch something on television that absolutely messes up your mind, challenges your sense of obedience, challenges your sense of purity in your heart. No, if you really and truly love Him and we come to this whole issue of loving Him, that love is going to affect what I think, the way I think, where I go, what I say, what I do. Loving is going to affect every aspect of our life. So, when I think about people saying, oh yes, I'm a believer. I'm a follower of Jesus. And yet they've not even thought about how their activities indicate whether they're a follower or not. Then share Him. That is, tell somebody else about Him.
Listen to what He said in Matthew twenty-eight, nineteen, you know these verses. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations". That is, spread the Word, get the truth of the Word of God to all the nations. The people who love us, the people who hate us. And I think about how that verse is taking place today all over the world. There're people who risk their lives twenty-four hours a day to get the simple truth of the gospel to the people around them. Jesus sent His disciples into a world of hatred, bitterness, animosity, and death. But it is our responsibility to get the Word out. So, that means I'm to tell somebody, but let me ask you a question. When is the last time you deliberately, willfully, singled out somebody that you knew really and truly needed to know about the Lord, Jesus, needed to be saved; when's the last time you said something to them? Maybe just a little something. Inviting them to... anything in order to get them to the place that they're saved and begin to follow Jesus.
He said that to His disciples, but He meant for us all to do that. Go into all the world and preach the gospel? Yes. But we're to tell them how, one-on-one. They didn't have television, radio, or microphones, or anything, but they transformed the world of their day. And today we have the privilege of penetrating every single piece of earth upon which you and I live. We have the ability and the capacity to get it there. But here's the truth. I'm not too sure how authentic I would be if I were not interested in somebody. It's one thing to say everybody, what about somebody? Everybody knows somebody that you say something to, at least spark their attention about their relationship to God. That's what a true follower of Jesus, in other words, we follow Jesus not blind, but we follow Jesus sensitive to people around us who are not following Him. Who desperately need Him, every single one of us knows somebody today who needs Christ in their life. A true, watch this, a true follower doesn't shut their ears or their eyes, or shut down their feelings. We're sensitive to somebody else around us, who so desperately needs Him. Then of course, number eight, serve Him. If I'm a true follower of Jesus, I'm going to serve Him in some fashion.
Listen to what the Scripture says in John twelve, twenty-six. "If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him". That is crystal clear. "If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him". You want to be blessed by God? That's the one of the shortest promises in the Word, listen, "If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him". All of us have the capacity to serve the Lord in some fashion. Well, how do you serve the Lord? By serving somebody else in some way. There're many, many ways to serve the Lord. But the issue here, I think, is that He wants us to give ourselves away to others. Think about this, is that not what He did? He came into the world, thirty years He lived, those working years as a carpenter. And then those last years He spent preaching the gospel, sharing the truth, and dying on a cross for you and me. What was He doing? He was serving the Father. And every time you and I do something that is godly, that's wise, that's helpful. Even what we say or what we do. What do we do? We're serving Him. So, that's what true believers do.
Followers of Jesus are not self-centered. Followers of Jesus look around them, followers of Jesus are able to hurt where the people are hurting; followers of Jesus are able to discern when someone around them is hurting, and nobody else seems to care or understand. Followers of Jesus are willing to serve others by giving to them, by encouraging them in some fashion, by presenting them with the truth of the gospel, or presenting them with the truth of the gospel when they don't want to hear it. Followers of Jesus make a difference. And then of course, this is one we don't like. Followers of Jesus suffer for Him, are willing to suffer for Him. Philippians one, twenty-nine's a great verse. "For you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake".
Now, you say, Well, I don't know why I have to suffer to be a Christian. You may not ever have to suffer to be a Christian, but if I'm going to follow Jesus, I'm probably going to suffer in some way. You say, well pastors don't suffer. You haven't lived in our shoes, and other people... well, yeah, if you follow Jesus, you're going to suffer, watch, you're going to suffer rejection by some, you may suffer financially, you may suffer job wise, you may suffer in relationships. If you're a true follower of Jesus, some people don't want you in their circle. You know why they don't want you? You make them feel uncomfortable. Because there's something about your personality that doesn't fit who they are. They love the world, you don't. You don't drink what they drink, go where they go, dress like they dress. And so, there's something about you that you don't fit. But the Scripture says we're to suffer for Him. That is, we're to be where we need to be whether we're accepted or not. We're to do what we need to do whether they like it or not. We're to share the truth of the gospel when it's acceptable, or when it's rejected. True followers of Jesus.
Now, if you've written those down, which I trust that you have, put 'um by the bedside at your house, and but tonight 'fore you go to bed, just look over them. You don't have to say everything I've said, just born again, pray, listen, believe, obey, love Him. Watch this, right before sleep, go over something like this, and you go to sleep with that in your mind, that's the last thing you're thinking about, all night long your mind is working that truth into your thought processes. When you wake up in the morning, if you simply went over all those today and you simply said, Lord, I want to be a follower of Jesus today, thank You that I'm born again, and pray and so forth, go right down the list. It will not take you very long, you'll know them all by heart. Because your mind has been programmed to think the way God wants you to think. And what happens? God transforms our life without even realizing what's happening. And that's my prayer for you.
Now you're here this morning and maybe you just dropped in as a visitor, or maybe you've been coming several Sundays, but you've never been born again. You've never trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and surrendered your life to Him. That's step number one, and I would encourage you, because you see, the rest of this doesn't count. Waa-mmm-mmm-mmm, forget the rest of them until you deal with the first one. Because everything else is a step upon the first one. And if you are willing to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins, and you're surrendering your life to Him today, and you want to build upon this foundation of your faith in Christ, He's willing to forgive you of your sins. And He's willing to start with you today, living the most awesome life you could ever imagine. Amen? Amen. Let's stand if you will.
Father, how grateful we are that in all of Your infinite wisdom, You've made truth simple enough for all of us to understand in order that we could walk in obedience to Your will. Etch these truths into all of our minds and our hearts. Father, I've prayed that You'll bring to every single person's memory tonight, before they turn off the last light, to read these over, and to ask You to work them into their heart. And after they turn on the light tomorrow morning, to read them again. And Lord, that You would bring them to their mind one of them, or all of them during the day as they meet other people. Listening to their heartaches, and problems, and burdens. We're followers, Lord. We want to be true, genuine, life-changing followers of Jesus. And we thank You for that in Christ's name, amen.