Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
"Follow Me ... "
-- Matthew 4:19
A young woman became a nun and pledged herself to a convent that required vows of chastity, poverty, and silence. The nuns were allowed just two words per year. These could be spoken in an annual interview with the mother superior, who could then offer advice.
At the end of her first year, the novice said, "Food cold." At the end of the second, "Bed hard." Then, after three years she said, "I quit." The mother superior replied, "It's just as well, you've done nothing but complain since you got here."
The Lord Jesus Christ could say a lot in just two words. These two words are, of course, "Follow Me." No one should consider himself or herself a Christian unless they have heard and heeded the two words of Jesus, which spell out a few other words as well:
Love is what the first disciples heard when Jesus said, "Follow Me." You don't invite someone to come and live with you, forever, unless you love them. I hope the first word you hear when you hear Jesus' two words, "Follow Me," is "love." You know John 3:16 by heart. You can substitute your name for "the world." Jesus is God, and God is love, and the main reason Jesus commands us to follow Him is so we can have a loving, intimate, personal, and corporate relationship with God. Indeed, Jesus loves you just the way you are. But, He loves you too much to leave you that way, which is why you need to hear a second word when Jesus speaks these two words.
"Follow Me," also means "repent," and it is not a harsh word. With Jesus it is a loving word, an exciting word, inviting word to a new and infinitely better way of life. The first followers were flawed men. Peter showed the capacity for both arrogance and cowardice. Andrew was a small thinker, sometimes plagued with doubt. James and John once wanted to kill an entire village of Samaritans, revealing more than a little racial and religious prejudice. All of us are flawed, all of us are sinners, and most of us are happy to ignore most of our sins as we sustain a run-of-the-mill, average, everyday life. Jesus wants more for us, and from us.
Love is easy, change is hard. What makes both possible is faith. Faith is active belief in a person for who they are, what they stand for, and what they bring to life. To "Follow Me," according to Jesus, you must believe in Jesus. You must believe He is God and man, Lord and Savior, Master and Messiah. It can be exhilarating at first, as many "born again" experiences can be, but it gets difficult. You can fail, but you cannot quit. If you hang in there, and you begin to realize it is God who chose you, saved you, and is hanging on to you, you begin to excel in confidence and joy.
When looking for a companion word for love, the world often offers freedom. "If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it is yours, if it does not it never was." If is funny such words are never used in a wedding ceremony. In a proper covenant ceremony the two words that go together are love and obey. "Follow Me" means obey Me. Jesus even said, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
In my office at home there is a beautiful painting by an artist commissioned by my daughters, given to me as a present. It depicts the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum, and two first-century fishing boats. The boats are empty. The men are gone. They have left after hearing Jesus call, "Follow Me."
Today I invite you to hear these words afresh and anew, "Follow Me." You do not necessarily have to leave your job or home to become a missionary or a pastor. But you must leave whatever is in the way of fully following the Lord. Love Jesus more than life. Repent and believe in Jesus, in the gospel, in abundant and eternal life. Obey the Lord, in family matters and business matters and church matters and in all that matters, for all that does matter is living a loving, repentant, faithful, and obedient life for the Lord Jesus Christ who bids, "Follow Me."
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. You can call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]