Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Thursday, October 13th. Discover how to walk closely with the Lord as you embrace a new understanding of your call as a follower of Jesus. When you think about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which of these two words come to your mind first?
Now be honest, which one comes to your mind first? If I walked up to you and said to you, ask you the question, tell me about your relationship to Christ in one word, which of these two words would be the first word that comes to your mind? Believer or follower? Believer or follower? And as you said, well, to be a follower, you've got to be a believer.
That's true. But which one of those words comes to your mind first? Now, all of us have that call upon our life, whether we like it or not. He called you to be saved, but He also called you for something else. So I want us to consider a number of things and I want to come down to this last verse, which is oftentimes so totally misunderstood when Jesus said, no one up to putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God. Well, what in the world does that mean? So we come into that.
So but I want to look at two or three things here. First of all, let's look at this whole idea of the nature of God's call upon your life. And that call, according to what Jesus said, is threefold primarily. First of all, He calls us to Himself. He says, come unto me, all you that live in the heaven laden, and I'll give you rest. That He calls us to Him, to receive Him as our personal Savior, to accept His forgiveness and redemption, and to be freed and liberated from trying to work our way into heaven.
That's why He says, take my yoke upon you, because it's easy, it's a matter of trusting Him. And He says, you'll find rest in your soul, not trying to work yourself up into salvation. The second part of His call is He gives us in John chapter fifteen verse four when He says, abide in me. And His word there simply means this. That is, we're to so live as to see Him as the source of all of our needs, certainly the source of our strength. That we have and we're to live our lives dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to live out our life, to be obedient to Him and to walk in His ways and develop a relationship with Him. The third thing He says is, follow me, as we see in our passage and many other passages when Jesus spoke.
So think about this. Jesus said, come unto me. He said, abide in me. He said, follow me.
He did not say, follow or come unto an organization or a cause. God's call upon your life and my life is a personal relationship with a person, not to be religious, not necessarily concerned about denominations, whatever they may be, but concerned about a personal relationship with Him. We're to follow Him, not a cause, not an idea, not an organization, not some principle, but it's a personal, come unto me, abide in me, and He says here, of course, in this particular passage, He says, follow me.
Now, when you think in terms of that, you think in terms of the fact, well, how does that relate to me and what does that mean to me personally? Come unto Him, if you believe it, you already have. Trusted Him as your Savior. Abiding in Him is something most people oftentimes will go through life and miss, that it's not our strength and our wisdom, but resting and living and trusting and abiding, that is, depending upon Him in such a fashion that He becomes the enabling power to live out this holy and godly life that He's provided for us. Now, when you and I follow Him, we choose to follow Him. We choose to follow this call upon our life.
Here's what happens. It affects every single person, every single person in every single part of your personhood. For example, it affects your attitude. It affects your conversation. It affects your actions, your conduct. It affects your character. It affects your relationships.
It affects your decisions. A person cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ without it affecting every single part of your being. When you become a follower of Him, it affects every single part of your being. So naturally, the question that arises is this, what do you mean by following Him? Simply this, to follow, what did it mean, for example, the days in which Jesus walked? Those who followed Him went with Him, guided by Him and did what He said do. When you and I follow Jesus Christ, what do we do? We also are guided by Him and we do what He says do, when He says do it and the way He says do it and where He says do it. So following Him is very simple.
Somebody says, well, but that's when He lived. Jesus Christ is just as real today as He was in those days. He gives just as clear guidance today as He did in those days. We have the right and the privilege and the power to follow Him, clear guidance, going where He says go, doing what He says do, when and how He says do it. So following Him is not an option for a believer. Following Him is a command. Following Him is an expectation. Following Him is His plan and His purpose for our life, not simply to be saved but to follow Jesus. If somebody says to you, tell me about your relationship to Jesus Christ, don't say to them, well, I'm a believer. Say to them, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. You will only follow somebody you believe in and that you trust.
So when you think about the nature of this call, it's a call to salvation, it's a call to abiding, and it is a call to follow Him. Now what are the requirements? The requirements are real simple. I didn't say they were easy.
I said they were simple. What does it require of us to follow the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, first of all, it requires of us to trust Him. You will not follow someone you don't trust. You will not follow someone you don't trust. You won't do it.
You may try, but everything in you will rise up. You won't follow somebody you don't trust. Well, somebody says, well, how do I learn to trust Him?
It's real simple. Here's how you learn to trust Him. You do what He tells you to do and watch the results. You do what He tells you to do and you watch the consequences.
You do what He tells you to do and you watch the fallout of that. And it doesn't take very long to realize when you and I trust Him, He's always faithful to keep His Word in promising that He'll handle the consequences of our obedience to Him. So therefore, we learn to trust Him. And if you and I are going to follow Him, we must trust Him. And so when I think about people who, for example, who don't tie it and you think about being a believer and following Jesus Christ, you mean to tell me that you cannot trust the Lord Jesus Christ with one-tenth of your income when you've trusted Him with your whole salvation. Following Jesus means more than just believing who He is and what He is and what He's promised. Following Him means I trust Him. Not only does it mean I trust Him, but secondly, it means I will obey Him. Following Jesus means I'm going to obey Him. That means I want to do and not just want to, I will choose, I will endeavor to do what He says do when He says do it and I will endeavor to do it in the way in which He says to do it. If I'm going to follow Him, if I'm a true follower of Jesus, I will endeavor to say, yes, I will, when it's difficult. Yes, I will when it's not popular. Yes, I will when it may cause me suffering or heartache or pain.
Yes, I will. The third thing is this, I will serve Him. That is, if you're going to follow Jesus, you're going to serve Him. If anyone serves me, he must follow me. And where I am, there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Now listen to this. If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Now you can serve yourself and you can serve others, but if you and I are going to follow Jesus, we will be servants.
And all through the Scriptures, here's what He says. If anyone serves me, he must follow me, which means that followers are servers. Believers are not necessarily servers. Spectators and observers are not necessarily servers, but followers serve the Lord Jesus Christ. So ask yourself the question, am I really and truly serving the Lord in some fashion, in some way? And as I said, you have to decide what God wants you to do and how He wants you to do it.
Now, what's the price tag of all this? So let's just be honest. It's not easy, listen, it's not easy to follow Jesus. It's not easy. There's a struggle in that. The apostle Paul certainly struggled in his following the Lord. Anybody who genuinely desires to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting Him, obeying Him and serving Him, you're going to have struggles. You're going to have temptations. You're going to have trials. You're going to make mistakes.
You're going to falter at times. We're not talking about it being easy. Now, what's involved may be easy as far as the steps, but when it comes down to living it out, it is not easy to be a follower of Jesus. So let's think about it.
What's the price tag of following Jesus? Number one, and we don't like this at all. None of us like this. Self-denial. That's one of them, self-denial.
Now, we all like what we like and we want what we want and usually we want it rather soon. Listen to what Jesus said in Mark chapter eight. He says in verse thirty-four, And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and He said to them, If anyone wishes to come after Me, that is to follow Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. Now, deny himself. Deny himself, and I don't think personally, I don't think that anybody who really follows Jesus will be able to go through their life without denying themselves. Denying themselves of what?
Now, watch this carefully. This does not mean that everybody denies themself of the same thing, because all of our lives are different. That means maybe denying yourself of some thing, some object, some desire, some relationship, some intimacy, some object that you set your heart on. Sometimes God requires of us to deny ourselves. It doesn't mean to deny yourself of the truth, but to deny ourselves of, listen to this, of whatever God requires us to lay aside in order to do His will for our life. You see, the Christian life is far more precise and exact than we just want to put in some general term. Well, you know, as long as I believe in Him and trust Him for my salvation, try to live a pretty good life.
No, you know what He's talking about, following Him. There's a price. There's self-denial. And oftentimes that's also followed by sacrifice. Sometimes we have to lay some things down. Put them down.
Lay them aside. Doesn't fit God's plan for your life at this moment or whatever is going on in your life. Sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is the ultimate sacrifice.
Why do we have the Word of God written as it is in the covers of this book we call the Word of God? Because multitudes and millions of people sacrificed their life all the way back from Jesus' time to this present time. And there are people today who are still laying down their lives every single moment in this life in today's culture because of their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. It costs some people the ultimate sacrifice. The issue is that following Him does require self-denial and sacrifice. It also sometimes requires suffering. And that does not mean, for example, physical suffering, though that's oftentimes a part of a person's life, but listen to what Jesus said again in this eighth chapter of Mark.
He said, He summoned the crowd with His disciples and said to them, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. Now taking up the cross, the cross is certainly a symbol of suffering. But it is a symbol of suffering for the cause of Christ. It has to do with suffering because of your relationship. You're willing to say to someone else, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, and they say, Well, forget it.
If it means suffering heartbreak or if it means suffering something else in life, why do we do it? Because we're followers and because that's our call upon our life. Listen, Jesus would never require us to lay down anything that is good for us and that the timing is right. He'd never call for any kind of sacrifice unless it was to our benefit and to His glory. He would never call upon us to suffer unless it was for a reason.
They would bring Him glory and honor. And oftentimes we have the idea that if we're really believers and we are being obedient to God, then here's what we can expect. We can expect God to bless us financially. We can expect Him to bless us emotionally, in relationship.
We can have all kind of ways we expect Him to bless us. But sometimes suffering is involved. And people who believe that you can name it and claim it and if you pray enough and have enough faith that there'll be no suffering, no heartache, no pain, no sickness and everything is just going to be absolutely fantastic, have never read the New Testament honestly.
They may have read it, but not honestly. Jesus does not promise me all the prosperity and all the healing and all of this and all that I want. Godly people suffer physically. Godly people suffer in different ways. Listen to what He says and turn to this passage in First Peter, if you will. First Peter is written to people who are suffering in all kinds of persecution and heartache. And listen to what He says, beginning in the second chapter. He says, beginning in verse twenty, what credit is there if when you're, when you sin and are harshly treated you endure it with patience?
He says, well, you don't get no credit for that because you're sinning. But if when you do what is right and you suffer for it, you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. Think about this.
Let me ask you this question. Had you rather find favor with somebody or favor with God? You won't favor, listen, people who favor you today may not even like you tomorrow. But when God favors you, God doesn't favor you today and say, mm-mm-mm-mm, you've had it. God's favor is continuous because He knows our heart. We make our mistakes, we falter at times, you may be fearful at times to say what you really and truly believe, but you know what, deep in your heart He knows that. But if you keep on doing that, you got a problem.
Listen to what He says. Verse twenty-one, for you've been called for this purpose, that is suffering. Listen to this. Since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. Verse thirty-five, now watch this, whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it. Now what does that mean?
Listen to this. Whoever wishes to save his life, guess what that means? That means whoever chooses to walk in a way that satisfies their own self-interest rather than God's interest is going to be a loser. Or you may think you're saving your life, but the truth is you end up losing. When you choose a pathway and a direction in life that's other than God's will for your life, He says you're going to lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, Father, I lay that down to walk you away.
He says that person saves their life. That is, we find ourselves in a position to be blessed by Almighty God. There's going to be suffering. There's going to be self-denial. There's going to be sacrifice.
Now, what are the rewards of doing all that? Well, let's just look at a passage of Scripture because it's very, in Matthew chapter nineteen, look at this for a moment. Matthew chapter nineteen, the twenty-seventh verse. The disciples who were always wanting to be obedient to Jesus and on the other hand they want to be one on the right, one on the left. And also, they were natural and normal enough, and I'm glad this is in the Bible, because every once in a while they got in the flesh. And this is what they said, well now, what's in this for us? You'd say, well, nobody walking with Jesus would say that.
Well, they did. Listen to this. Twenty-seventh verse says, Then Peter said to him, Behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then will there be for us?
Modern day language, what's in this for us? Followers of Jesus who understand that call upon their life, get beyond what's in it for me, what's in it for the praise and the honor and the glory of God. So listen to what Jesus said. And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, that you have followed me. That is, He said, Peter, I agree, you have followed me. In the generation when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Now that's what He said was saying to them. Now listen. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life. You say, well, but I haven't left my brother, my sister, my father, my mother, my children.
I don't own a farm. So what about me? That has nothing to do. What He's talking about is this. Whatever you've denied yourself of, whatever you've sacrificed, and whatever way you've suffered for Him, He said, many times over is God going to reward you and bless you.
Listen. And besides that, you're going to inherit eternal life. Now those blessings and rewards, are they all limited to when you and I die and go to heaven?
No. You know what God gives us? God gives us and blesses us with what?
Now watch this carefully. You listen and you must say amen. Amen? Here's what He blesses us with. He blesses you and me with what He knows. What He knows will satisfy and bring contentment and joy and peace and happiness in our life.
And if you and I could just look beyond what you and I can see and we could see what He sees, here's what we'd say. God, do it your way. Do it your way and your time and don't pay any attention to my impatience.
Forget what I asked for. Let's have it your way. If we could see what He sees, that's what all of us would be saying. And so when we think in terms of our future reward, there is no way you can, there's no way you could ever begin to evaluate from God's viewpoint the reward that is yours, but faithfully, listen, faithfully worshiping, serving Him, giving, being a part of something that reaches people all over the world.
There's no way to ever evaluate that. Thank you for listening to Understanding Your Call. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or InTouch Ministries, stop by InTouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of InTouch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
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