And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.
Levi, we also know him as Matthew, is now enlisted to follow Christ. He is a Jew; a part of the tribe of Levi. The Levites had been set-apart by God to serve in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. However, Matthew turned his back on serving God and instead decided to serve himself. He was a tax collector who worked for the Roman government and grew rich by padding the tax assessments that he collected. The Jews regarded tax collectors as traitors and extortioners. To most - if not all - Levi would not have been the ideal type of individual that Jesus Christ should have invited to follow Him. However, he did, and Levi responded. He followed Christ!
What is the purpose for following Jesus?
Simply...to become fishers of men!
And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
The purpose for following Jesus isn’t just so that He will bless and give us a better life, an easier life; it is so that we will be fishers of men. The purpose for following Jesus is the purpose of South Charlotte Baptist Church - Proclaiming the Gospel; Experiencing the miracle of changed lives!
Christ is still calling individuals to follow Him? That call is still being extended to men and women; boys and girls to follow Him? Now, ask yourself..
Are you a follower, or simply a fan, of Jesus Christ?
The church has responded to the identity pressures of our culture by offering young people a Jesus “brand experience” rather than facilitating a transformational experience to find their identity in the person and work of Jesus.Jesus is just one more brand competing for our loyalty.
(Kinnaman, David. Faith for Exiles, p. 51. Baker Publishing Group.)
Jesus Christ is not looking for more “fans;” He is looking for more followers. And, we must first seriously consider the fact there is a cost in truly following Christ. Unfortunately, very few - if any of us - truly know what it is to follow Christ. It costs us “little to nothing” to follow Christ here in the United States!
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
If you are truly going to follow Christ - and not merely be a “fan” - you must...
The world says, “Look out for ‘Number One’!” Christ says, “Deny yourself.”
True discipleship requires a willingness to not only come to Christ, but to deny self with all its desires and interests. (Dr. David Sorenson)
But why is this so difficult? We are naturally selfish! To deny ourself it requires that we humble ourselves!
Ken Collier, the president of The Wilds, said:
The spirit of a humble heart which realizes...God is all. Self is nothing. Others are more important.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
To deny ourselves, we must surrender to the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives to develop the same spirit and attitude that Christ carried while He was on the earth; the spirit and attitude of humility.
To follow Christ you must deny yourself. Then, you must...
Take up your cross!
Christ’s listeners, when He spoke the words of Mark 8:34, knew and understood what it meant to “take up your cross.” A cross was reserved for the worst in society - for criminals. As will be seen later, an individual was forced to carry their cross to the place of crucifixion. To “take up one’s cross” was more than just a burden; it brought shame and reproach.
He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Jesus Christ knew what it was to take up His cross - literally and figuratively! He was despised. He was rejected. Are we willing to endure that same treatment?
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
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.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross The emblem of suffering and shame And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true It's shame and reproach gladly bear Then he'll call me someday to my home far away Where his glory forever I'll share
Are you willing to suffer to follow Christ? Following Christ is never easy. Are you willing to endure the shame that comes with taking up your cross? Following Christ will never earn you a badge of honor. The Apostle Paul knew what it was to suffer; he knew what it was to endure shame.
2 Timothy 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Dr. Robert Grant, Jr., a pastor in Warrenton, Virginia, was invited by a pro-life lawmaker to deliver the opening prayer [last week] for the Virginia House of Delegates. He did so, but some lawmakers, who did not like his prayer, walked out and the House Speaker, Eileen Corn, eventually gaveled him down and silenced him by leading the house in the pledge of allegiance.Parts of his prayer focused on the Biblical definition of marriage and the sin of abortion.The pastor said, "If they don't like that, then ask a businessman to open up the House, but please don't ask a pastor to open up the House and expect him to say anything other than what God has put inside of his heart to say." When the pastor returned to his church, he found the church’s voicemail filled with messages of hate!
While I may not agree will all of Dr. Grant’s theology, I certainly agree with the stand that he took in the Virginia legislature! He was “despised.” He was “rejected.”
If your goal in life is to win as many popularity contests as you can or to live as comfortable a life as you can then I would suggest that you find something else to do with your life than follow Christ!
If you desire to make your life count for something worthwhile - Follow Christ!
If you desire to make a difference for all eternity - Follow Christ!
If you are tired of “following the crowd” - Follow Christ!
If you hope to hear the words, “Well Done!” - Follow Christ!
Each day we are given many opportunities to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. The question is, “Will we!” We must determine right here and right now to do just that. Don’t expect, in the “heat” of the moment, to make those choices. Determine, right now, to follow Christ!