Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
It is quite a bold move to ask people to follow you. And yet, in calling the disciples to follow him, Jesus did so again and again. In Matthew 4:18, he says to Simon and Andrew, “Come, follow me, …and I will make you fishers of men.” In Matthew 9:9, Jesus says to the tax collector, “Follow me.” In Luke 5:27, he calls Levi, another tax collector with these same words, “Follow me.” Today we see many modern-day leaders who also say, “Follow me.” But should you? Jesus could say “Follow me,” because he had proven he understood what it means to lead.
Jesus earned the right to say, “Follow me,” because he understood what it meant to follow God. He had modeled the behavior first. Philippians 2:8 says, “Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Jesus emptied himself. Yes, he emptied himself of all the crutches of leadership that we see today, namely; ego, pride, greed, hypocrisy, politics and grandstanding, desire for status, popularity, power, and money among other things. Jesus took on the form of a bond-servant. He served God as a slave serves his master, becoming obedient even unto death. He did not take credit but gave God all the glory. He did not promote himself but promoted God’s purposes. He did not do it for power, but rather out of obedience to God. He did not do it for financial gain, but did it for love of humanity. And only after modeling the way of obedience and devotion to God, did he find the boldness to say, “Follow me.”
Recently, I listened to Chuck Swindoll, a well-known theologian and Bible teacher, talk about his own call to discipleship on the radio. Many years ago, when Jesus said to him “Follow me,” he said he had sold everything he owned, and had added the proceeds to his life savings and then decided to give it all to God’s work. It was $10,000.00. But then he heard the Spirit of God say, “Is that all?” So, he dug deeper, found a few more dollars and surrendered that as well. But he still heard God say, “Is that really all of it?” So, he threw in his family, immediate and extended, saying, “I surrender them to you,” and still God said, “Is that all?” Finally, Swindoll said, “Lord, take all of me, my dreams, my passions, my time, my talent, take all of me and use me as you will.” And at this point of complete surrender God said, “Now all these things belong to me, but I give them to you to use to honor me.”
Swindoll had to die to himself; he had to surrender all his wants, needs and desires to find the abundant life he longed for. Today, God says to you, “Will you follow me?” Before you answer think about this; have you died to all your needs, wants and desires? Have you given up all your connections, possessions and selfish motivations? Have you died to self? Have you surrendered all for his sake or are you holding on to parts of you?
Secondly, consider whether you have earned the right to say to those around you, whether at home, at the office or elsewhere, “Follow me.” Not “Do what I say,” but, “truly and willingly follow me even as I follow Christ.”
Dear God, give me the courage to shun the popular secular notion that we can live compartmentalized lives with one foot in the word and one foot in the world without consequence. Teach me what it means to empty myself of everything that hinders me from following you fully. Help me to mean it, when I say, “I surrender all to you.” Then give me the boldness to extend an invitation to others to follow me, even as I follow you. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.