Who are you following?
After Jesus refocused Peter on the need to feed His sheep, He revealed to Peter what was to come in his future. Jesus gave up His life, and Peter would also face death because of His witness of Christ. Jesus told Peter – “’Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays you?’ Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘if I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’ Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but ‘if I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?’ This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (John 21: 18-25)
What does it mean to ‘follow Jesus’?
What does it mean to ‘follow Jesus’? First of all we must recognize who He is. As a Mormon, I was not taught about the biblical Jesus. I was taught about Joseph Smith’s Jesus. Joseph Smith claimed Jesus and God were two separate physical beings who visited him and told him that all Christian churches were corrupt. Mormonism also teaches that Jesus is our ‘elder spirit brother’ who chose to come to earth and die for the physical redemption of all people. But spiritual redemption was left up to each individual and his or her obedience to the ordinances of the Mormon Church. As a Mormon, I did not understand the New Testament. I did not understand grace. Studying the New Testament is what led me out of Mormonism. I clearly saw that the Mormon ‘gospel’ was ‘another’ gospel; definitely not the gospel found in the Bible.
Where do we get the strength to follow Jesus?
We cannot follow Jesus in our own strength. Only He can give us what we need to follow Him through His word and His Spirit. As a Mormon, I was taught that I had been spiritually born in a pre-existent spiritual world. I was not taught that the fall necessitated a new spiritual birth through faith in Christ. I thought that all I needed to do to live with God someday was to remain faithful to the teachings of the Mormon Church. The Mormon Jesus was more like a ‘helper;’ definitely not God come in flesh to redeem mankind. The Mormon Jesus was more of a ‘way-shower.’ He had left a ‘good example’ for me to follow, but could not empower me with enough grace to really ‘follow’ Him.
We all are asked to take up our cross.
Peter was ultimately indwelt by God’s Spirit, and given spiritual power to fulfill God’s purpose for his life. After we trust that Jesus has done everything necessary for our total and complete salvation (both physical and spiritual), and we put our faith in Him alone, we are born of His Spirit. He then, through the power of His word will transform us into who He wants us to be. He makes us a new creature in Himself. Peter, John, and the other disciples, through the power of God’s Spirit were able to ‘follow Jesus’ and do His work. They all gave up their physical lives to follow Jesus; who alone could give them both physical and spiritual eternal life. There will always be a price to pay to follow Jesus. Mark recorded in his gospel account – “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’” (Mark 8: 34-38)
From a book titled China’s Christian Martyrs by Paul Hattaway I found this Chinese house church song called “Martyrs for the Lord” –
From the time the church was birthed on the day of Pentecost
The followers of the Lord have willingly sacrificed themselves
Tens of thousands have died that the gospel might prosper
As such they have obtained the crown of life
To be a martyr for the Lord, to be a martyr for the Lord
I am willing to die gloriously for the Lord
Those apostles who loved the Lord to the end
Willingly followed the Lord down the path of suffering
John was exiled to the lonely isle of Patmos
Stephen was stoned to death by an angry crowd
Matthew was stabbed to death in Persia by a mob
Mark died as horses pulled his two legs apart
Doctor Luke was cruelly hanged
Peter, Philip, and Simon were crucified on a cross
Bartholomew was skinned alive by the heathen
Thomas died in India as five horses pulled his body apart
The apostle James was beheaded by King Herod
Little James was cut in half by a sharp saw
James the brother of the Lord was stoned to death
Judas was tied to a pillar and shot by arrows
Matthias had his head cut off in Jerusalem
Paul was a martyr under Emperor Nero
I am willing to take up the cross and go forward
To follow the apostles down the road of sacrifice
That tens of thousands of precious souls can be saved
I am willing to leave all and be a martyr for the Lord.
Are we willing to do the same? Do we recognize the great call to follow Him? Who are you following?
Hattaway, Paul. China’s Christian Martyrs. Grand Rapids: Monarch Books, 2007.
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