If you haven’t read the book, “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman yet, you need to do so. It is not a feel good, pat you on your back, everything is glorious kind of book. It is a contemplative one. One of conviction and location. One that causes you to examine and re-examine your relationship with God. I’ve read it and am reading it again. Pretty much the premise of the book is to determine if you are a fan of Christ or a follower. It defines each. I would venture to guess that if most of us are honest, we would find out that we’ve been in the “fan” category; not really wanting to “go all in” with Jesus. We like our comforts and our routines and really don’t like it when Jesus interferes with that. But what does it take to become a follower? To “go all in”? Read the book to find out!
There is a huge difference in being a fan and being a follower. Fans look to Jesus for what He can give them. In John 6, it says that after Jesus had fed the five thousand that He left and went to Capernaum. When the people saw that He had left, they followed him there. Jesus said to them in verse 26, “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs but because you ate of the loaves and were filled”. In other words, they were looking for “what’s in it for me?” They were looking for Jesus to feed them again. Jesus goes on to tell them not to seek food which perishes but seek the food which endures forever. He then goes on to say in verse 35, I “am the bread of life” – meaning I am what you should be seeking, it’s “Me or nothing”. Stop looking for what’s in it for you. It must be an All or None decision. When He put it to them this way, verse 66 says that ”Many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more’. Many were not willing to give up their will, what they want, for a life of following Jesus. When confronted with giving up their “me first” attitude and making Jesus their #1, many turned away. They were mere fans! They enjoyed the “dinner show”. Watching Jesus perform miracles was cool, and they got a meal to boot. They had heard about Him, they could even recite some stories themselves, they had watched Him perform miracles, raise someone from the dead – they were great fans of the man called Jesus but when He said give it all up and follow Me – they weren’t willing to go for it. They went back to their comfortable lives. They went back to the known. They weren’t willing to go all in.
A fan is an enthusiastic admirer. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re a fan of some athlete or actor. A fan knows all about the person, cheers them on, has the t-shirt and bumper sticker. They know their stats, movies, follows every detail of their life, buy the People magazine to keep up with them yet don’t KNOW them. If you walked up to your favorite athlete, it certainly wouldn’t be acceptable to put your hands on them simply because you’ve watched them on TV. There is no relationship there. They don’t know you and you only know about them. When they aren’t playing up to par or there is no new movie for a while – the enthusiasm starts to wane. Because there is no relationship, you begin to look for the next big star to follow. A fan knows about Jesus but doesn’t KNOW Him. Many churches have become stadiums filled with fans every week where they cheer for Jesus, get all hyped up but have no interest in truly following Him. It’s like going to a pep rally. They want the benefits but don’t want it to require anything of them. The church as a whole must be willing to explain the cost of following Jesus. We can’t cheapen the gospel to make it more attractive to more people but fail to explain that there is a cost to being a follower.
If we just know about Jesus, even if we go out and preach and teach about Him, but fail to have a relationship with Him, He will say “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” Being a follower means having relationship with Him. really KNOWING Him. You can’t KNOW someone that you haven’t spent time with.
Becoming a follower comes with a high price tag. It means giving up your future plans and submitting to God’s will. It means being willing to forego going to the same places you’ve always gone, doing the same things you’ve always done. It could possibly cost you your job, or your relationships with friends and family. There is a cost to being a follower. Fans are happy to follow as long as it doesn’t require any significant changes or have negative implications. Fans believe in Jesus but followers commit to following Jesus, wherever he goes, whatever He requires. God isn’t interested in mere words of belief, He is looking to see how those words are lived out in your life.When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Him, we are nothing more than a fan. God wants to interfere with your life. He wants to turn it upside down. A fan doesn’t allow that but a follower says – whatever and whenever Lord!
In the Bible, the word believe is more than an intellectual acceptance, it is a commitment to follow. Following calls for movement. We must stop separating the words believe and follow. Following is part of believing. To truly believe is to follow. We are going to discuss at length in this class what following truly is.
Many people are willing to show up on Sunday morning, pray before meals, they will even put a fish bumper sticker on their car but really don’t want Jesus to interfere with their lives. They’ve given Him all the time they are willing to. The rest of the time, they make the decisions on what to do, where to go, where to work, how to act, with no thought of Jesus. They are the king of their own life. They are Fans!
Following – laying down my plans and desires for God’s will. Choosing God over family, friends, job, home. Saying not my will but yours Jesus. Saying “I’m all in, Lord”.
God gave me a picture of an individual carrying a cross. I sketched it down, lay it down on my desk. Days later, God leads me to Luke 14:27, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” So I began looking at what a disciple is. A disciple is one who follows after a teacher, in order to, learn from him; one who follows a teacher and learns by watching his/her actions and thus gains the characteristics of and wisdom of that teacher.
In Jesus’ day, individuals would apply to be a disciple of a well-known Rabbi. The Rabbi would choose the most prominent, most promising, and those that would improve the Rabbis reputation. But Jesus did things a little differently. He pursued the disciples. He asked those who ordinary Rabbis wouldn’t consider. He asked tax collectors, fishermen, and other outcasts. He did the asking. The difference in Jesus and other Rabbis is that the other Rabbis only accepted applications from the elite but Jesus not only accepts but pursues everyone. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Jesus invites anyone and everyone to follow Him. He doesn’t have pre-requisites and qualifications. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, who your parents are, how much money you have, your education level, or your current situation. In Matthew 9:9, Jesus says two words to Matthew “Follow Me” and it says that Matthew rose and followed Him. Again, the Word says that Jesus called four fishermen and simply said follow Me, and they Immediately left their nets, their boats, and their families and followed Him. They gave up everything to follow Jesus. Being a follower is an “All or None” lifestyle. You must “go all in”. These disciples immediately gave up everything – their families, their careers, their financial provision, their homes…everything! When you say “Yes”, the journey just begins. That isn’t the one declaration, end all, be all of Christianity. Following means you “follow”. Following is an ongoing relationship where you spend time with God, talk and listen, read His Word, learn from Jesus’ actions, His characteristics, His desires. You grow and mature daily. It is a lifelong journey where you never arrive at the destination. You never get to the place where you’ve learned it all, or you’ve achieved the holiest of holy banner. We are continuing to move and to grow and to pursue. God’s purposes for us are new everyday. He wants relationship. That is what following is all about – relationship!
Where are you in you pursuit of Christ? Have you forgotten what it’s like to seek Him continually? Or are you so in love with Him, that it’s all you think about? Or are you somewhere in between? Let’s locate ourselves – where we are in our Christian walk. Let’s honestly look inward, not comparing ourselves to anyone else, but comparing ourselves to God’s standards. Are we truly followers or mere fans? Are we “All in” or are we reserving some things for ourselves? Are we willing to give it all up to follow Him?
Whether you’ve made the decision to Go All In, or whether you are contemplating the cost, or whether you just aren’t completely sure about this Christianity stuff, I want you to join me and let’s pray together, asking for strength, courage, and a hunger like we’ve never had. Let’s begin our pursuit of God.
Dear Lord, we come to you this morning as a community yet individuals. Each of us in a different place spiritually than our neighbor. Some us are willing to go all in, we are ready to say, not our will but yours, Lord. We are willing to go the extreme to follow you Lord and we are asking you for strength to stand against the world’s opinions and finger pointing. When they point us out and say we are crazy for following you. And Lord for those of us who aren’t sure we’re there yet but we want to. Give us strength to make the decision, to care more about what you think than what our families or friends or coworkers think, We proclaim you as our Father! And we begin to do some things differently, pursuing You rather than what’s in it for me. Help us to stand up to the ridicule and the nay-sayers, believing that we are pursuing the only thing worth it. And Lord for those of us who just aren’t sure about this Christian walk, open our hearts to feel the love extended to us by your Son, Jesus Christ, and recognize His grace and His mercy, and help us to know that by you, we are cherished and with You, we are strong.
Holy Spirit stir up within us a hunger and a thirst like we’ve never experienced. A hunger that can’t be filled and a thirst that can’t be quenched. That we seek relationship with our Heavenly Father and are not satisfied being a casual acquaintance. I’m ready to Go All In, Lord. Lead me!