Many of us will have played the game, ‘Follow My Leader’, where one is the elected leader and what he or she says or does the others must say or do. Some people are comfortable being followers. It takes away the strain of decision-making.
If the leader is responsible for your choices, then you can just follow suit and keep your hands, as they say, proverbially clean. Others do not like being followers. They want to be responsible for their own actions and make their own choices.
There is nothing inherently wrong with either role, follower or leader, but there is something wrong if you accept either role for the wrong reasons.
If you are a follower for cowardly reasons – wanting to be part of the majority, following trends, submitting to a bully and so on – then this following is a sign of your weakness.
If you are leading because you want to control and manipulate those who trust in you, or are too weak to make their own path, and you lead to serve your own selfish ends, or because you get a thrill out of power, then you are a tyrant and could be a psychopath.
Intention is everything. What is your intention when you follow or lead?
Jesus As Leader On A Spiritual Path
When Jesus said, ‘Follow Me’, he was placing himself in the role of leader to his disciples. Jesus commanded His disciples to follow Him immediately and completely.
His intentions are selfless, but he has expectations of commitment, loyalty and faith. The following lists some of the behavior and attitude expectations Jesus expects of his followers:
To have the Spirit and be responsive to it.
Persevering in faith.
Experiencing rejection by the world for having faith.
An ability to discern truth from error.
Courage in rejecting the world system that rebels against God.
A desire to obey God’s Word,
Believing in answered prayers.
Doing good works.
To be a worthy follower of a worthy leader you must seek to be following the path the leader is on. The disciples accepted Jesus’s right to lead and were content to be His followers. His disciples were certainly not cowardly followers.
To follow Jesus in those times was highly risky. The disciples followed Jesus because they knew he was leading them on a spiritual path they sought. They knew that Jesus was infinitely more knowledgeable about a spiritual path than they were.
Jesus, if you are a Christian, is the Son of God, he came directly from the source of All, the Creator. No human has the amount of spiritual being Jesus had.
You cannot call yourself a footstep follower of Christ unless you actually walk His way. If you are afraid to fight the good fight, then you cannot be a footstep follower of Christ.
Jesus is about courage and conviction, moral judgement and willingness to fight evil for good.
If you kowtow to public opinion, then you are not worthy of following Jesus. Jesus was an individual and He knew that you have to stand up and be counted.
Jesus was not afraid, so if you are a fearful person you are going to find Jesus’s path hard. Jesus was honest and direct. His actions were revolutionary and radical for His times. Always, he was kind and loving, but he did not suffer fools lightly.
He was not averse to cutting through the flotsam to get to the truth of a matter. Do you have those characteristics?
Many people who call themselves Christians are far too worried about what the established church would say, what their fellow Christians would say, what their neighbours would say.
Remember that Jesus did not join a congregation in an established religion. He walked his own path. Hiding behind a congregation or, even worse, wallowing in the power that membership of a huge institution offers, is craven and it is not Jesus you are following.
The Path is Spiritual but the Costs Material
In terms of earthly, or material, cost/benefit analysis, following Jesus is a risky venture.
The costs will be enormous in terms of priorities, giving up of material possessions, social commitments, possibly of career, rank, status and so on. The demands of loyalty and commitment are high. The rewards are intangible.
Count the Cost
Those who follow Christ were told by Christ to count the cost before following. He knows his chosen ones may suffer loss of possessions, reputation, comfort of their families, friends, possibly even loss of life.
Luke 14:28: Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Matthew 19:29: Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
It is a hard calling and the rewards are spiritual, not material. The calling requires faith not proof.
Give Up the Material
If you go to https://www.openbible.info/topics/follow_me you can find pages of quotes from the Bible where Jesus is telling people to ‘Follow me’. He doesn’t say follow me when the time is convenient for you. It is a command to lay down everything and follow him.
You need to give up everything and everyone and focus entirely on following His way. Jesus asks his followers to carry his cross. There are connotations of burden. Yet there are also connotations of Divine purpose.
Taking up the cross involves the choice to surrender material possessions, relationships and much else in following in the steps of the Savior.
Luke 14:33: So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:26: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Matthew 10:37: Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 16:24: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Placing Jesus above your own family is the biggest ask of all. How can anyone place anyone above their own children? Jesus is not saying love your children less.
He is saying that He, and what He represents, has to be your priority. By all means, take your loved ones with you on your spiritual path, but the spiritual path must be your number one priority.
Jesus makes it clear that he is the only way to God: John 14:6 I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Place Earthly Life in a Spiritual Context
Jesus makes it clear that if you are craven, and cling on to material life at the cost of spiritual enlightenment, then you are not worthy of Him.
Matthew 16:24-25: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Romans 12:1-2: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Change Your Perception Of Reality
In following Jesus, he wants you to question your perception of reality and be prepared to acknowledge that true reality is spiritual, not material. Material reality is flawed. Only those who see this too can know Him:
John 12:25: Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
Jesus acknowledges evil and encourages his followers to be aware of it.
Matthew 6:13: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
1 Thessalonians 3:5: For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Galatians 5:25: If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
John 5:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Face Trials and Tribulations
There will be trials and tribulations but they will belong to this world. There is something beyond. Suffering is inevitable and there may be persecution. Jesus was persecuted for his teachings, not coddled and protected by an establishment:
John 16:33: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
1 Peter 2:21: For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
Matthew 10:22: And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
It is about love. It involves the heart and all that that evokes:
Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Denying self means denying ego and that means denying your sense of self-esteem or self-importance. It also means re-thinking your connection between the conscious and the unconscious.
To follow Jesus, you have to alter your sense of self, your sense of personal identity. You need to test your reality. This is profound stuff. It is a whole lot more than going to church and listening to a sermon on a Sunday, then doing as your ego dictates for the rest of the week.
Matthew 9:9: Jesus, in passing Matthew, who was sitting at the tax booth, said to Matthew, “Follow me.” Matthew immediately rose up and followed Jesus. He gave up his job, his family, everything that had been his life to follow Jesus.
Matthew 19:21: If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
Fearlessly Follow The Spiritual Path To Light
2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
You need to be certain in your path and able to control your earthly desires. Humans are sensual creatures and they like to gratify their earthly desires. On a spiritual path, it is your spiritual desires and needs that lead you.
Your will is of no consequence other than to serve His will: Hebrews 13:20-21: Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
John 8:31-32: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:12: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 27:1: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Knowing that following Him is not easy, Jesus reassures his followers that they need not fear:
Isaiah 41:10: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
1 Chronicles 16:11: Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Be Prepared To Buck The System
Being prepared to buck the system is not something everyone can do. Jesus does not want conformists who conform for the sake of conforming.
Jesus defied public opinion when defying was the right thing to do: Mark 3:1-35: Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”
And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. …
Jesus wants people who question, seek answers and are not afraid of the quest to do so. He knows that it is a fearful task to question everything you stand for, or have been taught, everything that has socialized and moulded you into a way of life.
Following Jesus was a radical choice for the disciples. Jesus was a radical in the places and times in which he was teaching and his teaching was revolutionary.
And Finally… Remember That Jesus Knows His Followers
Jesus has to know you to call you. You have to hear that calling in the very core of your being. You have to be truly seeking the Light.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can do the bare minimum, proclaim yourself a Christian, unthinkingly follow the edicts of a human preacher or priest and expect to pass through this way. Jesus makes it very clear that he knows. He knows the true being of a person:
Matthew 7:21-23: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.
Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
John 10:27: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.