What It Means To Follow The Leader
WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW THE LEADER
To begin this morning I want to play a little game with you…for just a minute or so we are going to play, “Follow the Leader.”
- And you know how the game is played…I am going to be the leader and you are supposed to do everything I do. Let’s try this.
- (Rub nose, raise hand, nod head, flop arms)
- Now, some of you didn’t do that…and according to the rules if you don’t do what the leader does what happens? You’re out or you lose.
- Now, I know this was a silly little demonstration…but as silly as it was it illustrates what Jesus teaches us here in this passage about what it means to be a disciple…and what you will find is, just like in the game, if you don’t follow the leader, you are out.
Let’s look at the passage and let’s learn what it really means to be a disciple or “follower of Christ.”
- This is an important text. It is a convicting text. It is a hard text to preach because people often do not want to hear what this text says.
Up to this point in the gospel of Matthew a lot of people have been trying to figure out who this Jesus is?
- And if you look back in verse 16, Peter finally gives the right answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Now Peter had the right answer…but he had the wrong definition.
- Due to his own misconceptions and misunderstandings he was blind to who Jesus really was.
- His idea of the Messiah was that the Messiah was the one who was going to restore Israel’s national honor….the one who was going to drive out the Romans…and raise Israel up again to national prominence.
- So in verse 21 when Jesus tells the disciples that “He must suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests and the scribes and be killed.”
- This doesn’t fit at all with Peter’s idea of the “Messiah”, so he takes Jesus aside in verse 32 and rebukes Him.
And Jesus in verse 23 turns around…and rebukes Peter…and He says, “Get behind Me, Satan.”
- That must have stunned Peter!
- What a devastating thing for someone to call you!
- Especially one that you have just confessed to be the Messiah!
- And especially when you consider yourself to be a faithful Jew.
- To be a Jew and be called “Satan” was a real blow.
- And it was even more of a blow when you considered yourself to be a “disciple!”
- This must have caused Peter’s mouth to drop open.
- How could Jesus say this?
But you see, what we need to realize is “we may sometimes consider ourselves to be true disciples…”
- We may consider ourselves to be “following the leader.”
- When in actuality we may not be doing what the leader wants at all.
So, what are the marks of a disciple? Look at what Jesus says again in vs. 23, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
- Do you see the first real marks of a disciple or a “follower of Christ”?
- A disciple isn’t out front telling the Messiah who He should be and what He should be doing.
- A disciple follows.
And a disciple “sets his mind” on God’s interests and not man’s or his own.
- And we do that don’t we?
- “This is what I want!””I want to do this….I want to do that.”
- “God, I want You to do this…and that!”
- “Oh I know I should be in church…but I want to sleep in…or go fishing…or play baseball…or golf.”
- “Oh I know I should give…but I want to buy a new car…or a stereo.”
- “Oh I know I should visit the sick…but I want to watch TV.”
- “I know I should be teaching…or I should serve as an elder…or I should take care of my marriage….but I want….”
- I am afraid that far too often we “set our minds” on our interests and not God’s.
And notice the phrase there in 33 where Jesus says, “setting your mind on God’s interest.”
- “Setting your mind” there is a present tense verb.
- That means continuous action.
- That indicates that a disciple should “continuously have God’s interests in mind.”
- It is something you think about ““
- God’s interests are always in your mind…and never out of your mind.
What is God’s greatest interest?
- John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the people of the world that He gave His only begotten Son for them.”
- I Timothy 2:4 tells me that “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
- 2 Peter 3: 9 tells me that “God doesn’t wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
- It doesn’t take long to realize that God’s greatest interest is people and their salvation.
When Jesus speaks of “setting your mind on God’s interests”, as disciples, we should be constantly interested in people…and their salvation.
- When you go to play golf or go fishing…don’t leave God’s interests behind.
- Use your golf to get to know people…and let them get to know you…so that you can perhaps draw them to God.
- When you are playing football or cheerleading, or playing in the band, don’t leave God’s interests behind.
- Use it as an opportunity to influence your teammates…and be an example so that they too might come to know God.
- When you go on vacation…don’t leave God’s interests behind…treat the people you meet with kindness and compassion…share the word with them…and let them see Jesus in you.
- And if you are on vacation go to church with your brothers in Christ…and pray with them…and encourage them.
Even if you are sick…not feeling well…don’t leave God’s interests behind.
- The apostle Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” and yet, he still had his mind set on God’s interests.
- Use your illness as a time to manifest a godly spirit…and to reach out to those taking care of you.
- Don’t let Satan use you in a time of illness…or old age.
Whatever you do…if it is eating out…or going to ball games…or working…or visiting…or traveling…or going to the grocery store…or walking down the street…or driving…have your mind “set on God’s interests and not so much on your own.”
- A few years ago I met the preacher at Logan, NM., and he loved to fish.
- In fact, he spent a lot of time in his boat fishing.
- And as we talked about it he told me that he did a lot of his personal work in his boat.
- He would invite people to go fishing with him…and when he got them out in the middle of the lake where they couldn’t leave…he would talk to them about Christ.
- He constantly used his boat with God’s interests in mind.
That’s what a disciple does.
- His mind is “set on the interests of God.”
- Constantly looking for how he can serve Him.
But Jesus doesn’t quit there. Look at verse 24.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
- This might be the most important verse in the gospel of Matthew.
When Jesus says, “Let him deny Himself…take up his cross…and follow Me”…every one of these phrases is an imperative…or a command.
- This isn’t an option.
- If you are going to be a disciple of Jesus…this is something you must
- You must “deny yourself…take up your cross…and follow Him.”
And this isn’t something you do once; it is not something you do occasionally.
- This is something you do daily….from now on…this is a lifestyle.
And let me make something clear here.
- Please understand the compassion that I have for you when I tell you this.
- Some of us want to make this a one time action.
- We want to say, “One time a long time ago, I did this…I denied myself…I took up my cross…and I followed Him.”
- “I haven’t followed Him in several years…but because I did a long time ago, I am still a disciple.”
- We think that just because we were disciples one time…or that we were baptized at some point in time….that we are still disciples and subject to all the benefits that Christ promises to His disciples…regardless of the fact that we haven’t followed Christ in the last 10 or 15 years.
- Regardless of the fact that we have lived a rebellious life and done what we wanted the last 5 years.
- Regardless of the fact that God’s interests have not even crossed our minds the last 2 years.
Well, it doesn’t work that way. Turn with me to John 6:66.
- In this passage Jesus teaches some very “hard” sayings and some of the disciples didn’t like it.
- So look at what they did: “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.”
- So look at what Jesus asks the 12 in verse 67:
“You do not want to go away also, do you?”
- And look at Peter’s response: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
- When these “disciples” “withdrew from Him…when they quit walking with Him”…they were no longer disciples.
- And not only that, they walked away from the “words of eternal life.”
What we need to understand is, “deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Me”, means every day!
- It is a lifestyle and if you “walk away from it“, you lose the promises that belong to those who follow Him.
Go back to Matthew 16 and notice something else in verse 24.
- In verse 24, Jesus calls His disciples and He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me.”
- We are not talking about rules here for a certain select group of “super Christians” that we are going to call “disciples.”
- It is not, “Well, I am just a normal Christian, and I am one of this group that is going to come to church and sit around a little bit…and we have always had in every church a select group that we call Super disciples who are going to live this way.”
- Jesus doesn’t say that.
He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow ME”, PERIOD!
- That “anyone” includes everyone.
- There are no exceptions to that rule.
- There are no different levels or classes.
- You do this or you are not a disciple.
- There are no “go your own way” disciples.
Now look at the phrase, “deny yourself.”
- Notice that Jesus did not say, “Deny yourself things.”; He said, “Deny yourself.”
- We usually think that “denying yourself” means to deny yourself
- “Well, I am a Christian now and I wanted a new stereo but I won’t it get this week, I will get it next week.”
- That is not what he said.
- What He said was, “You deny self.”
- In other words, you renounce your will…your desires…your wants…your ways…your rights.
- What you think, what you will, what you want are not important anymore.
- Self is no longer the center of your universe.
Instead, Jesus says that you “take up your cross.”
- Now we talk about crosses today like they were burdens.
- “Well, my mother has come to live with us and she is very sick. But that is just my cross to bear.”
- “I have got this real bad back and I have to put up with it, that is my cross to bear.”
- I do not mean to belittle those things…but that is not what Jesus is talking about here.
- When He talks about “taking up a cross” He is not talking about just dealing with burdens in life.
Do you know what the cross was?
- There are a lot of things the cross was.
- It was where Jesus died; It was a tool for dying.
- It was a place of sacrifice.
- There are a lot of things that the cross was.
- But, simply put, the cross was the “will of God.”
So Jesus says, “You deny yourself…and you “take up your cross”…you take up the “will of God” and you follow after Him.”
- Your world no longer revolves around self…but around Him.
- He is the Lord and Master of your universe.
- “To live is Christ.”
- To “deny self and take up your cross” means that “Christ and not self is now the center of life and life is lived now for Him and not for self.”
A number of years ago, Queen Elizabeth was a child, and her nanny refused her a toy. And the 5 year old princess stomped her feet and said, “I am a princess and I can do whatever I like.”
- And wise old King George V picked her up and said, “You are a princess and that is exactly why you never get to do what you like.”
- And he told her, that her life belonged to the kingdom and not to herself.
“To deny self and take up your cross” means that your life belongs to the kingdom and not to yourself.
Now this is hard preaching. It is even harder living.
- And you have to ask yourself, “Why would anyone choose that?”
- Why would anyone choose to live this way?
Well, Christ tells us. Look at the next 2 verses and notice that each verse begins with the word “Because” or “For.”
26 “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.
The reason for living your life as a disciple of Christ is the reality of eternity and because of the finality of judgment.
- You have got one life time to make a decision to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
- And once you have spent your life you can’t buy it back.
Beloved, Jesus never promised us comfort.
- He promised us glory and that is why we follow our leader.
And let me say this, your view of discipleship is directly related to your view of Jesus.
- You are not going to live the way we have talked today.
- You are not going to do very much more than just come to church occasionally unless you are absolutely convinced that they put to death the Son of God on the cross 2000 years ago.
- Now if you really believe that then you might live this way. The heart of real discipleship is to live like Jesus…the crucified God.
And discipleship demands that you “deny self, take up your cross, and follow Him.”
- Ever since Jesus spoke these words man has looked for some other route into heaven.
- But there is no short cut; This is the way.
Let’s be the disciples that Christ wants us to be. Let’s follow the Leader.
If you haven’t been repent.
If you haven’t even started won’t you deny yourself today…take up your cross…take up His will and be baptized…and follow Him.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023