All scripture contained in this podcast is from the King James Bible (Authorized Version)
Sept. 15, 2022

How Are You Following?


How are you following Jesus? Find out in this episode as Pastor Strobel examines from the Bible the ways that you can follow the Lord, some of them good and some of them not so good (that's putting it kindly). It could be eye opening to discover that you may not be following in the most productive way, or it could reaffirm your walk,  Highly recommended!

Transcript

I Ki. 18:17-21

How Are You Following?

In the passage we read, Elijah is about to go up against the prophets of Baal in the contest on Mount Carmel. 
A bit later in the chapter he’ll call to God to send fire from heaven after the prophets of Baal failed to do so with their false God Baal.
Elijah then, after mocking the false prophets & their false god Baal, successfully called to the Lord God of heaven & earth, and in vs. 38-39 the Lord sent fire from heaven and the people fell on their faces and said➔  The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
But it was leading up to this battle between a little “g” god and his followers, and the big “G” true God and his prophet Elijah...
It was leading up to this battle that we read in v. 21➔
I Ki. 18:21
In II Thess. 3:7, the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians➔ 
For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us...

I would like to say that just as the Thessalonians knew how they ought to follow Paul & Silvanus & Timothy, you know how you ought to follow Jesus...
And the question I want to ask you today is  How are you following Him? 
How Are You Following?
It could be that you are like the children of Israel at the beginning of the contest at Mt. Carmel... 
It may be that you are following the Lord, #1...

1. Indecisively
The song says  I have decided to follow Jesus...
But here, before the fire fell at Mt. Carmel, the Israelites hadn’t really decided anything.
They were wavering back & forth between Baal & the Lord. 
And finally Elijah confronts them about it, and says➔  How long halt ye between two opinions?
Elijah tells them, it’s time to choose sides here...  He says➔
How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.
Elijah says this to the Israelites in the same Spirit that Joshua spoke to them in Josh. 24:15, saying➔
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua tells them, today is the day that you need to make your choice.
Elijah tells them, enough messing around, it’s time to choose a God and follow him.  It’s time to make a decision!
Elijah’s words implied that the Israelites were indecisive about the matter...  And the Israelite’s response confirmed it.➔
I Ki. 18:21 (Esp.➔ ...And the people answered him not a word.)
Elijah presses them about making a decision, but they will not commit one way or the other...  They were still hedging their bets...
They followed the Lord indecisively.
Is not this reminiscent of the church of Laodicea, that last church that Jesus addresses in Rev. ch. 3?
That church was right smack dab in the middle 
*They weren’t hot...   *They weren’t cold... 
*They were lukewarm...
Jesus said➔ I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
*Jesus had had enough of their indecisiveness.
*Joshua had had had enough of the children of Israel’s indecisiveness.
*Elijah had had had enough of the children of Israel’s indecisiveness.
And each one pressed the people for a decision...
Joshua➔  ...choose you this day whom ye will serve...
Elijah➔  How long halt ye between two opinions?
Jesus➔  I would thou wert cold or hot.  And➔  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
And He said He would spue the lukewarm ones out of His mouth...
There are two general groups of people who might halt between two such opinions...   The saved & the lost.
When the lost waver between the two opinions of whether or not to believe on Jesus as their Saviour, they have effectively already made a decision to choose not to accept Him...
Because when it comes to salvation you’re either saved or you’re lost.
There is no middle ground.  You either have Jesus or you don’t.➔
I John 5:12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
When it comes to salvation, anything short of accepting Him is for all practical purposes, rejecting Him.
If you are saved and halting between two opinions...  Not quite choosing to serve the Lord, and not quite choosing not to...
Not hot, not cold, but lukewarm...  Unless you want to make the Lord vomit... because that’s what “spue” means...
Unless you want to make the Lord vomit➔  be zealous... and repent!
Let your spiritual temperature arise with a fervor & zeal, and get on fire for Jesus!
How are you following?  Is it indecisively?
Or maybe you are following like Peter did, after Jesus rebuked him in the garden and Judas delivered Jesus to the chief priests.➔
Lk. 22:54 says of that time➔ Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.
When it comes to how you follow Jesus...  maybe you are, like Peter was, are following Him...

2. Afar Off
Three times the Bible records that Peter followed Jesus afar off after the incident in the garden of Gethsemane.  Matthew, Mark & Luke all tell of it...
I read you from Luke, let’s look at Matthew➔
Matt. 26:58 
Now that pretty much describes a lot of Christians I meet today...
*They are following Jesus afar off...
*They sit in church along with other people...
*And they are doing nothing but just sitting around and waiting to see
  the end of the age...
Their attitude is The world is a mess, Jesus is coming, nobody wants to get saved, I guess I’ll just coast to the finish line.
Let me tell you this morning, if that’s your attitude  It is a bad attitude!
*Now is not the time to quit fighting...
*Now is not the time to coast...
*Now is not the time to lay down your sword & shield...
*Now is the time to fight the good fight of faith!

Ohhh listen...  We who are saved, born again, blood washed believers in Jesus Christ  We’ll all get to heaven soon enough! 
This here, is our only opportunity to serve the Lord by faith...  To earnestly contend for that faith...  And to reach some people before it is too late!
If there ever was a time to fight it’s now!
And let me say also, that following afar off is a dangerous place to be.

Mk. 14:54 

Now he is hanging around with the crowd that serves the person that orchestrated the betrayal of Jesus, and is about to have Him executed.
And there he warms at the devils fire...
It will be a short step from warming at that fire to denying Christ himself.
As a matter of fact, we learn from Luke’s gospel that it was really no step at all from there to denying Christ.➔

Lk. 22:54-57

Peter would deny Jesus three times...  And three times the Bible would record that Peter followed Jesus afar off...   Let that be a warning to you.
The distance is short between following Jesus afar off & full blown denial of Him before the sons & daughters of men.
How are you following?  Peter was following Jesus afar off.
What was up with Peter anyway?
This doesn’t seem like him.  Well, let’s take a quick look at what was up with him.  A little bit earlier in Lk. 22 look what happened.➔
Lk. 22:31-33 
That’s the Peter that we know!  But Jesus warns➔
v. 34
And to understand what happened to Peter, the following verses are key.➔

Lk. 22:35-38

A little bit later in the chapter Judas betrays Jesus.  Of that time, John tells us➔
{10} Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.
{11} Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

We find out in Matthew’s account that the rebuke goes on for even longer than that... and included, among other things, Jesus saying to Peter➔ ...all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
And here Peter...  trying to defend His Lord...
Here Peter, after Jesus had just told them to get a sword...
Here Peter, not understanding the big picture... 
Confused & upset, leaves the garden in a bad state of mind & emotion...
Some think Peter denied Jesus because he was afraid to stand up for Him...  The truth is, Peter denied Jesus because he was angry & upset, not understanding the whole scene.
He would understand it later... But for now, he followed afar off.
And in a few moments, Peter would deny Jesus for the third time and then the cock would crow... 
Jesus would look upon him... 
Their eyes would meet...
And Peter would go out and weep bitterly...
How are you following?  I hope it’s not afar off...  But if it is, you’d better do something about it...
And that will lead us to our next point.  We will find it in Ps. 68➔
Ps. 63:8 
This is what you should be doing instead of following afar off...

3. Following Hard After the Lord
David said➔  My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, “hard” sometimes can mean closely
In such cases, to say hard instead of closely, also implies that the pursuit is being done with great effort & urgency...
You don’t need to turn there, but here are a few other cases where following hard show up in the Bible➔
I Sam. 31:2  And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons...
I Chron. 10:2  And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons...
I Sam. 14:22  Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle.
This is how we ought to follow after the Lord...

Not afar off, but closely...

Not lazily, but hardly... with great effort!

Hear ye the Master’s call, Give Me thy best!
For, be it great or small, that is His test.
Do then the best you can, not for reward,
Not for the praise of man, but for the Lord.

The place of greatest solace...  The place of greatest surety...
The safest, sweetest, stress free place to be
Is close to Thee, yes close to Thee!

Fanny Crosby wrote a hymn about that. 

Said she  Toward the close of a day in the year 1874 I was sitting in my room thinking of the nearness of God through Christ as the constant companion of my pilgrim journey, when my heart burst out with the words...

Thou my everlasting portion,
More than friend or life to me,
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.

Close to Thee, close to Thee,
Close to Thee, close to Thee,
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.

Why would you linger afar from His presence?
Why you not desire to draw as close to Him as you could?
Sometimes people lament & say that the Lord is not close to them...
Well, if you want Him closer to you, get closer to Him!➔
Jas. 4:8  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
The Lord has already taken great steps to get close to you, coming down to this earth, living & dying for your sins...
He came to us, now He bids us come to Him!
Hear His invitation➔  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Ahh, rest!!!  He would continue and say to those who would answer the invitation➔ ye shall find rest unto your souls.
That’s what the people of earth need...  Rest to their souls. 
That rest is found in Jesus & Him alone...  Any other rest is but a cheap & temporary imitation.
How are you following Jesus?  Are you following hard after Him?
Or are you hardly following Him at all?
Please look with me in Num. ch. 14...
After the children of Israel refused to go into the promised land for fear of the giants, and Moses intercedes for them, the Lord responds➔
Num. 14:20-24
The Lord’s testimony of how Caleb followed Him here, is an example that we should pay close attention to, and follow ourselves...
And that is, that we should follow the Lord...

4. Fully
Other passages in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Judges that speak of this incident say that Caleb wholly followed the Lord w-h-o-l-l-y.
Num. 32:11 acknowledges that Joshua, along with Caleb also wholly followed the Lord in this matter.
How are you following the Lord?
*Are you following Him fully or partly?
*Have you laid your all on the altar, or only part?
*Does the Lord have all of you or only part of you?
He’s paid for all of you...  Are you letting Him have His way with thee, or are you fighting Him on it?
Would you have Him make you free and follow at His call?
Would you know the peace that comes by giving all?
Let Him have His way with thee!
If you can trust Him with your soul, surely you can trust Him with your life!
The great & mighty God, deserves no less, than for us to fully follow Him.
The Lord Jesus Christ, who followed hard after the Father, following all the way to the cross for our sins...  deserves no less than us following Him fully.
This is not the norm in Christianity today...
People partly follow Jesus, and partly follow their own path.  That’s the spirit of this age...
But notice that in Num. 14:24, Caleb had another spirit, with him.
Caleb followed not the spirit of this world, He followed the Spirit of God, and fully followed the Lord... 
Go thou and do likewise!
And because Caleb followed the Lord fully, he got to go into the promised land, while his peers who followed the Lord partly perished in the wilderness.
Caleb certainly exemplified 
Though no one join me, still I will follow,
No turning back, no turning back!
All right next...  Come with me to I Thess. Ch. 1➔
I Thess. 1:5-6➔  2:14-15
Here we see the Thessalonians continued to follow the Lord...

5. In Spite of Persecution
How ‘bout you?
Some folks flee when persecution comes...  Some folks soldier on...

Mark 4:5  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
Mark 4:16-17  And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
{17} And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.

These who are offended because of the persecution over the word of God lacked depth & root...
Their personal relationship with the Lord & His word is shallow & superficial.
You can gain depth by drawing closer to the Lord....
You can do this by spending time with Him in fellowship...
Going down deeper in prayer...
Getting more & more into the Bible...  Reading it more, studying it more, meditating in it more, memorizing more Scripture...
Some Christians seem to do just fine until they face some persecu-tion...    Then they turn tail and run.
The Lord gave us fair warning that persecutions would come.➔

II Tim. 3:12  Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

John 15:18-21  If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
{19} If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
{20} Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
{21} But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.

In times of persecution, you will get to know the Lord better if you endure the persecution.  It is at such times that you get to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings...

John 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

You need to determine like the hymn says
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back!  No turning back!

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) - Missionary to India for 55 years.

She wrote this little poem, called...

No Scar?
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?


Matt. 4:22 
Here is the call of James & John...  And we see in this verse that they followed Jesus...

6. Immediately
According to Mark 3:17, Jesus surnamed (James & John) Boaner-ges, which is, The sons of thunder:
Perhaps that was because of the lightning quickness with which they immediately followed Jesus when He called them.
How do you follow when the Master comes and calls for thee?
Do you hem & haw?  Do you dawdle & delay?
Would to God we would get to the place where we would follow immediately!
Whether it is the call to do a one time task, or the call to serve Him full time?  When we know He’s calling, we should come immediately...
One of the more frustrating things that parents have to deal with is their children’s failure to come immediately when they are called.
Even in recent times, I’ve heard parents out in public doing the countdown thing!  One... two... three...
I wonder, has the Lord been counting you down because you have not followed at His call immediately?
What number do you think He’s on?  And how much farther do you think He will count?
Jesus passes by James & John and sees them mending their nets and calls them➔  And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
Then He would call them  The sons of thunder!
Wonder what He’d call us?
Maybe, The sons of the wet noodle...
How are you following?

Are you following...
1. Indecisively?
2. Afar Off?
Are you...
3. Following Hard After the Lord?
4. Are you following Him Fully?
5. In Spite of Persecution?
6. Immediately?

Answer the questions, and then determine if adjustments need to be made, to get you from where you are to where you ought to be.
And if you identify any adjustments that do need to be made...  Would you follow Him immediately to make those adjustments even now..