All In: Follow Me

This morning, we’re finishing our message series, “All In.”  So far, we were challenged to be all in for Jesus because Jesus is all in for us. 

We were reminded to apply that small, but huge word: commit.  As we commit to being all in for Jesus this year, we may need to simplify our lives.  We were reminded that another possible way to be all in for Jesus this year is to simply DO IT AGAIN and learn to value perseverance.

Whatever being all in for Jesus may look like for you this year, there is one thing that it will mean for all of us who make this choice.  It will mean that we will be following Jesus. 

To follow Jesus is to live as He lived, serve as He served, seek and save the lost, heal the sick, set the captives free, demolish the work of the enemy and build God’s Kingdom.  To follow Jesus is to actively follow His lead through the Holy Spirit.

Although we are all called to follow Jesus, wheat that looks like for me will look differently for you. God created us as unique individuals for a unique purpose. There are plenty of moral absolutes that will apply to all of us, but there is lots more that will be different for each of us.

To start, we have to understand a bit of historical and religious background. 

Jewish rabbis were held in great honor and esteem.  Only the brightest and best would obtain this great achievement among Jewish boys growing up.  Jesus grew up and became one, Himself.  To have a rabbi approach you with those two simple words, “Follow me.” were incredibly weighty and exciting.  It meant that the rabbi saw great potential in you to be able to learn from them and to grow and become just like them through discipleship and mentoring.  It was the next to last step before potentially becoming a rabbi, yourself.

We read a few weeks ago the account where Jesus gave that invitation, “Follow me.” to fishing partners Peter, James, and John.

Matthew 4:19

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

Many times throughout the ministry of Jesus, He would go against the grain and act in unexpected and surprising ways.  This was one of the reasons behind eventually killing Him.  Those who He chose as His twelve disciples were shocking for sure!  He didn’t choose those whom the other rabbis would typically choose, but rather, those that His Heavenly Father directed Him to  (John 17). 

As undeniable evidence of this, we turn now to a time after the resurrection of Jesus.  Here, the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law met and put Peter and John on trial after they were used to heal a man who sat by the temple gate every day begging.  What was their observation of these two men that Jesus first chose to follow Him?

Acts 4:13-14

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.

You may be able to well relate to the world’s view of Peter and John, common and not the brightest when it comes to book smarts.  However, what really shapes and defines who we are is that we have been with Jesus.  It is Jesus working in and through our lives that really defines who we are.

Not only did Jesus choose unschooled and ordinary fishermen as His disciples, but He also chose a man considered to be among a type of people who were some of the worst of sinners; a tax collector.

Matthew 9:9-13

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

People haven’t changed much have they?  The Pharisees were offended by Jesus, but instead of talking to Him about it, they tried to stir up division by asking His disciples about it.  Jesus responded appropriately, which is directly to the offended and directing them to search out what God’s word says about their offense.  That’s another message for another time, though…

Not only did Jesus hang out with sinners, but He chose one of them to follow Him as His disciple.  Beyond this, He chose a thief who He knew would betray Him as His treasurer!

John 12:4-6

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Not everyone whom Jesus gave this invitation, “Follow me.” accepted it, though.  There was a rich man who valued His wealth more than Jesus.  When Jesus asked Him to give all of his earthly treasure away so that he could follow Jesus and have Heavenly treasure, the man refused and walked away from Jesus sad. 

Do you know the saddest part of this whole story?  The man ended up giving away all of his wealth the day that he died anyways.  Imagine the depth of his regret when he once again stood before Jesus on that judgment day no longer able to choose to follow Him! (pause)

One man wanted to bury his recently deceased father, another man wanted to first go and say good-bye to his family before following Jesus.  Jesus said to let the dead bury their own dead and that no one who puts their hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62).

Was Jesus a jerk?  Did He lack compassion?  How could He say such a thing to someone who just lost their father?  Isn’t it a reasonable request to say good-bye to your family before leaving them behind?  Well, we know Jesus well enough to know that He is full of compassion and mercy.  He is far from a jerk! 

So why does it appear that He acts to uncompassionate and unmerciful?  He knew their hearts behind their words.

Here is our reality when it comes to the difference between being all in for Jesus and rejecting Him. 

Those who give an excuse will always find an excuse. 

Those who give an excuse will always find an excuse.

Now, it will always be a legitimate and understandable excuse, but there will always be an excuse.  That is until the day when we stand alone before Jesus and all those excuses fall away and we give an account for our choices.  The choice to follow Jesus is a choice to be willing to leave all worldly things behind and to be all in committed to following Him!

It is hard to believe that anyone would decline that invitation to follow Jesus face-to-face.  However, we live on the resurrection side of the cross where that invitation has been opened up to everyone.  Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved and is invited to follow Him as His disciple.  Unfortunately, only few accept the invitation and even fewer follow through with this commitment until the end.

Jesus was all in for us, He held absolutely nothing back for us.  He laid it all down for us, even His literal life.  Are we willing to be all in for Him?  Remember the cost of our salvation and therefore the cost of being His disciple!

Matthew 16:21-27

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

There is an open invitation to each one of us to follow Jesus.  The question is whether we are willing to leave everything behind in order to be all in for Him?  A rich and everlasting reward is waiting for those who choose to faithfully follow Jesus no matter the cost. 

We must fix our eyes not on the temporary and fleeting things of this world, but on the eternal kingdom of God where true treasure lies.  We fix our eyes on where we are heading, we set our faces like flint Heaven-bound and not on what we are leaving behind!  Again, David wrote:

Psalm 23:6

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

    all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

    forever.

Why does God’s goodness and love follow us all the days of our lives?  They follow us because we’re following Jesus! 

Goodness and love are the trail markers which we leave behind as we follow Him.  Jesus said:

John 13:35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Is your life marked by your love for others?  Or is your life marked by all of the things that you are against?  Goodness and love should follow us as we follow Jesus.  They should be markers pointing people to Jesus through our lives!  Goodness and love.  If these two things are not following us, then we need to reevaluate whether or not we are truly following Jesus.

Following Jesus, we know where we’re heading, too!  He has gone ahead of us, pioneering the way for us and preparing a place for us!  We may pass through valleys, even past the shadow of death, but our destiny is green pastures and quiet waters where we lack no good thing. 

This morning, if you’ve never chosen to follow Jesus.  If perhaps you’ve grown lukewarm in your pursuit of Him and have allowed excuses to detour you from your Savior…  This morning, there is hope!  None of us are ever too far gone or too far off course for Jesus to save and to restore!

Peter, one of the first to accept the invitation to follow Jesus, the one who Jesus just rebuked as a messenger of Satan for still having worldly concerns and not Heavenly ones.  Well, He fell away from Jesus and denied Him when Jesus needed Him most and after promising to never do so.

Let’s learn from Peter’s bad choices and how Jesus responded to them.

Matthew 26:31-35

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

“‘I will strike the shepherd,

    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Peter was all in!  Even to the death!  In fact, he was there during the trial of Jesus and had the opportunity to die along with Jesus just like he said he would do:

Matthew 26:69-75

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

This could have been the end of Peter’s story.  We all know that this is where Judas chose to end his journey following Jesus by committing suicide.  However, Peter’s grief denying Jesus didn’t end the same way as Judas’s grief betraying Jesus.  Please, please, please!  Follow Peter’s path when you’re at the end of your rope and you’ve hit rock bottom.  In Christ, there is still hope!  It’s not over yet if you choose for it not to be over yet!

Jesus is flogged and hung on a cross, then lay in a grave for three days.  This was not the end of Jesus’ story, though!  After three days of darkness, joy came in the morning!  Jesus rose again from the grave!  Not only was His story not over yet, neither were the stories of His disciples who hung in there through the night!

John 21:1-19

1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

(exactly the same as when Jesus first called Peter to follow Him!)

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Oh those words, “Follow me!” 

Three times Peter denied Jesus, now three times he recommitted his love for Him.  Jesus once again opened the invitation, “Follow me!” now beyond the cross and on to the resurrection to eternal life!

This morning, no matter where you may be at spiritually, Jesus has invited you to follow Him.  Even if you have outright denied Jesus, the opportunity for redemption is here! 

He invites you to leave it all behind and to be all in for Him.  His forgiveness, compassion, and mercy, and soooo much more are all freely available to all who choose to follow Him as a disciple.

We’re going to make this commitment together again this morning by celebrating communion.  Imagine yourself swimming 100 yards and then running on the shore to Jesus just like Peter did to share that meal with Him. 

Jesus loves you so much and simply wants to live life together with you.  He sees great things in you; incredible potential.  So much so that He gave His own life so that you might have everything you need to obtain it! 

Today, we choose to accept His invitation and to follow Him; surrendering all that we are in trust to Him.