Following Jesus has become this ridiculously elusive issue. Yes, ridiculous—not the following part, but what we think and say and do about it. How is it that so many “Bible-believing” people are so mis-guided? How come we set up rules and boundaries and doctrines to draw lines between us that have no basis in the Bible?
There are churches and groups in the world today preaching a gospel different from the one in the Bible. It was the same throughout biblical times as well. Paul and Timothy both warned against those preaching “a different gospel”, false teachers, and those who would seek to lead people astray for their own personal benefit.
So what does following Jesus actually mean? This week’s lesson will seek to help uncover some of the truth revealed in the Bible on that very subject. Forget what you have been told. Forget even what your pastor has said. Seek Him through the pages of scripture and find out Who it is you are really following.
What does Jesus say about following Him?
Jesus came to earth for a purpose. He set aside His glory so that He could offer Himself as a sacrifice—that we might be reconciled to the Lord. The gospel of Jesus is specific.
Read Matthew 10:34-39. What stands out to you?
What does Jesus say about His way?
How does this sit with you? Are there areas of this that create struggle in your heart or mind? Bring those before God right now. Remember, He seeks to reason with us, to connect with us—to share His perspective.
Admit to Him your struggle and learn from Him.
What is He trying to share with you about this?
When Jesus called his disciples, He was purposeful in that too.
Read the following passages and write out what you learn about His call.
- Matthew 4:18-22
- Matthew 9:9
- Matthew 10:24-26
Review each of those passages again. Note how the one(s) called responded.
- Matthew 4:18-22
- Matthew 9:9
- Matthew 10:24-26
In what ways has Jesus called you in your own life?
For each calling, how have you responded?
In what ways do you need a change of perspective, or circumstance, or way of life in order to accomplish those callings?
Commit today to be one who responds to Christ in the immediate affirmative. Do whatever you need to do in order to be that kind of follower.
How do people respond to the call of Christ?
Review what you learned about the disciples’ response to the call of Christ. Some responded in the same way. Others did not. The call of Christ on a life is as individual as the person called.
Read Matthew 8:18-22. How did Jesus describe a life lived with Him?
Multitudes followed Jesus. Throughout the gospels there are multiple accounts of Jesus being followed by crowds, Jesus retreating from crowds, and people seeking Jesus out through a crowd.
How do you see this playing out in your own life? In what ways are you simply hanging out listening to Hiim rather than following Him?
I know in my own life, there are areas where I am a face in the crowd following Jesus. Even writing this study, there are questions I ask you and I cringe as I have to review that part of my own life. In some circles, Jesus is just the next cool thing. We say we follow Him and are automatically accepted and assumed to be “good.” We get a nice pat on the head, a smile, and a plate at the church potluck—and yet inside, we have not changed. We seek the comfort of a community without truly understanding that sometimes the truth comes just as Jesus said—without a place to lay our head.
Being merely a fan of Jesus will never, ever bring you the fulfillment your soul seeks. Hanging out on the fringe of the faithful, even in just one aspect of you life, will create a hole of need where temptation can strike in a way that will take you by surprise. Soon, you will be giving in to things you never dreamed—because you tried to keep some of your life back for yourself. Saying “not now” to Jesus is blowing Him off in a way that critically damages your very soul.
Read Matthew 9:9-13. What was Matthew’s response to Jesus’ command?
Do you respond this way? Or is there a rash of questions and schedule-changes? Jesus is not averse to questions—what He is averse to is question motivated by resistance. Matthew, shunned by his people for being a tax collector, very wealthy in his role, stood up and followed. He walked away from everything he knew to follow Jesus.
In what ways do you need to be more like Matthew?
Review the passage in Matthew 9. Jesus called a tax collector to be His follower. Soon after, He is found reclining at the table with other tax collectors and sinners. They were not necessarily believers—but they did want to hang out with Jesus. Is this how you respond to the “tax collectors” in our own lives? How do you respond when a sinner seeks to hang out with Jesus? How do you act toward someone you have deemed an outcast? How does your reaction compare with how Jesus would have responded to those who have not yet decided to follow Jesus?
We demand so much of others, and so little of ourselves. In that passage, how did the spiritual leaders respond to Jesus’ choice of dinner company?
How can you, as an individual, be more like Jesus toward unbelievers and less like the Pharisees?
Ask God to show you every day how you can show the mercy that Christ proclaims to the unbelievers in your life.
What was the result…for those who followed?
We have looked a little bit at how people responded to Jesus. Those who chose to follow did so quickly it seemed. But what were the results of that choice?
Read Matthew chapter 10. What stands out to you?
In verses 1-10, Jesus commands the disciples to do certain things. List those things here:
Jesus’ commands to the disciples were specific. He had a certain vision for their lives, and definite direction as to what they should do. One thing we are sure of Jesus is that he is steady, consistent. If he has a specific direction for the disciples, why wouldn’t he have a specific direction for you?
Prayerfully explore what He might be asking of you for your life right now. Write out what you learn.
In verses 11-15, Jesus describes two possible ways that the disciples could be received in their travels. One is that they would be welcomed—in which case they were told to let their peace be on that place. The other response was that the place would not welcome the Word—in which case, the disciples were to leave that place, and leave the dust of them behind.
Does this bother you, that you might not be well-received when following where Jesus is asking you to go? In what ways does this stand in the way of you following Jesus?
The grace inherent in this section is that of leaving the dust behind. It may not be mercy for that place, but it is certainly grace for our souls. It is difficult for us to not be welcomed. It is more difficult when we have been asked to go there, and believe with the support of scripture that we are doing the right thing. Shaking the dust off is a way for us to release the burden of hurt feelings, betrayal, and even persecution. Shaking the dust off allows us to move on with life without carrying that burden with us as we try to continue in the path we have been called. Shaking the dust off allows the peace Jesus described to continue to reign in our hearts that we may leave that peace with the next place.
Shaking the dust off can be very difficult. It means, essentially, forgiving those who did not welcome the truth.
What dust of past events, people, places, or happenings do you need to shake off? Ask Him for help—the release of burden will be worth the pain of the exploration.
Embracing the practice of shaking off the dust is incredibly important. Continuing in Matthew 10, read verses 16-26.
How does Jesus describe the environment into which the disciples are being sent?
In that same passage, what promises does Jesus make to His disciples?
In Matthew 10:27-33, how does Jesus prepare his disciples for the emotional burden to come?
And in Matthew 10:34-42, what does Jesus say about the overall purpose of the calling?
Matthew 10 shows us a broad overview of the life of following Christ. He empowers us for the calling, promises His peace, His words, and His strength, and also foretells of the persecution and rejection to come. Any expectation of a glossy-smooth road without bumps, turns, and unexpected betrayal is a lie from the pit of hell. Jesus never promised a smooth path of earthly riches. Jesus promised that as He was received, so would we be. Some will reject us, but some will accept the very words of life to salvation.
To expect anything different is to set yourself up for significant disappointment. Are there areas in your faith where you feel continually disappointed by God? Explore them now. Ask for His wisdom, and be willing to give up your own expectations.
What was the result…for those who turned away?
Those who choose to not believe have a wide variety of reactions to the truth. Keep in mind that these reactions are not limited to unbelievers alone. We, too, experience these same reactions every time we choose a way other than the way of Jesus.
Read Luke 18:18-23. What was the rich young ruler’s reaction to Jesus’ response to his question?
Read Acts 7:51-57. What were the rulers’ reactions to Stephen’s proclamations of God and the Christ?
Read Luke 9:18-20. Who did the crowds say Jesus was?
Sorrow, anger, murderous rage, and completely missing the point—the crowds’ reactions are not always certain. As we go forward spreading the love of Christ, we will not always know how the listener will respond.
We are very similar to the crowds. We respond in a variety of ways to Jesus’ leading. Every time we choose a way other than His, our reactions can throw us into an even more desparately wrong direction.
What areas of your life are you choosing a way other than the one Jesus laid out for His followers? What has been your reaction to those choices?
Commit now to choose a different path. What aspects of your life may need to change in order to choose the better way?
Who might you need to ask for help in these changes?
What might you experience as you go through the process of change?
Putting in the work will result in life-changing realities. Your life will look much more like those who choose to believe than those who choose another path.