Follow Me! This is Jesus’ first command to His students. Our Greco western form of study has pre-programmed us to learn without following. We study the works of various thinkers to examine and understand their views. We can decide what aspects of their teaching we agree with and what aspects of their teachings we disagree with. We can follow their teachings without any change in our lifestyle but by simply studying, absorbing and agreeing with their teachings.
It is impossible to be a follower of Jesus in this way. The word disciple means follower, student, and learner. You cannot be His disciple simply by being a student of His teachings or of the Bible
Many people mistakenly believe they are His disciples because they mentally agree with His teachings and study His message.
Each week millions of believers gather together to study the word of God and be inspired and strengthened by the teaching and spirit of Jesus. Unfortunately a great many of these students are not real disciples of Jesus and can never receive a full understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom.
The mysteries of the kingdom cannot be understood simply by academic Bible study or listening to sermons. They can only be understood by those who:
- have decided to follow Jesus with all their hearts,
- pursue His kingdom above every other goal
- put His teachings into practice
- and make themselves available for His direction.
The number one goal in the life of a disciple becomes the pursuit of the knowledge of Him and allowing Him live His life through us. This means that every other goal, including the demands of business and career are subordinated to the call to follow Him. Only those who enter into this absolute surrender to and absolute commitment to follow Him can truly learn His message and His ways. This is one of the most amazing realities of the kingdom of God.
The non-following or partial follower student of the Word of God cannot accept this. They think they can get around this reality and learn Jesus’ teaching in an academic way. They assume that when they intellectually grasp a biblical truth they understand the mystery behind that truth. This is one of the greatest deceptions in Christianity today, as true understanding only comes through obedience.
Jesus said, “To you (his disciples) it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” (Luke 8:10)
Jesus does not deliberately hide the mysteries and realities of the kingdom from anyone. Indeed His mission is to make them known. He is simply warning that His teachings will always remain hidden to those who do not fully embrace the call and demand of the kingdom and put the kingdom of God in second place in their lives. They think they ‘get it’ but they can never get it until they decide to completely follow him.
This is why many cannot understand His message or can only grasp it in a superficial way.
They have not placed the leadership of Jesus and the call of the kingdom of God in first place in their lives. He is in their lives but he is not first in their lives
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33)
The Content Of His message
He Taught His disciples
To understand the mysteries, promises and realities of the Kingdom
To pray from a place of revelation of God’s will
To obey His teachings in the power of the Spirit
To do the works that he did
To go constantly with the message, power and good news of the kingdom
To hear His voice and receive His specific instructions
Some of Jesus’ instructions come only in the situations of our lives. This is not situation ethics but His ethics in responding to every situation. He has left us not only with general instructions and a universal mandate, but has also given us specific guidance for today. “My sheep hear my voce and they know me’ The follower of Jesus not only knows the teachings of Jesus and has committed himself to Jesus mandate but He also receives specific directions and strategies for his daily life.
Jesus’ disciples were considered by the religious authorities of the day to be mere ‘uneducated laymen’. However they had through absolute surrender, intimate acquaintance with Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Spirit received a clear understanding of spiritual mysteries that went far beyond the religious professionals. Too often the message of Jesus has been interpreted by those who never really understood it, because they never lived it, never received the Holy Spirit and never abandoned themselves to the living leadership of Jesus.
Abstract Teaching Not Practiced
Jesus’ teaching can only be understood by those who believe and act on it. In this sense it is secret but not esoteric as it is open and plainly understood by those who live by and obey the scriptures in their daily lives
“If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” (Joh 7:17)
Teaching With Authority
“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority.” (Mt 21:23)
“And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. .. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mk 1:22 & 27)
The authority to teach comes not from seminary, from theological degrees or Bible knowledge. it comes from faithfulness to the Lord and His calling.
Jesus taught with authority, because He had received authority from His father, anointing form the Holy Spirit and because he lived what He said and did nothing of His own.
In addition His teaching had authority because it came in the context of healing and the advancement of the kingdom of God against all oppressive ideas and spirits.
“And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.” (Mt 4:23)
We cannot abstract the teaching ministry from the power of God to heal and deliver. This was unknown in the ministry of Jesus and His disciples
Lastly His teaching had authority because He was not bound by the fear of man or by His own interests but by the will of His father. He had an appointment with the cross and with the resurrection
“For he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” (Mr 9:31)
“He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.” (Lu 13:22)
The Wisdom Of the World & the Wisdom of the Cross
The wisdom of Jesus was not the wisdom, which we receive from the teaching of the world, but it was the wisdom of the cross. Worldly wisdom teaches us how to function and use systems and ideas for our own benefit.
The wisdom of the cross is not only for those who do the right thing but also for those who do God’s thing even when it goes against our own interests. It is for those who are willing to lose their lives to gain it.
The teaching of Jesus can only be understood where the power of God is in operation, the sick are being healed and the oppressed set free. His teaching is only fully understood by those who are dead to sin, dead to self and dead to the world.
The effect of His teaching is to produce not only people who know His ways but who are like Him in character and action. When we allow ourselves to be taught by Him we shall be like Him. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. “ (Luke 6:40)
As followers/students of Jesus lay hold of these truths in a fresh way we shall see new outbreaks of His kingdom
The call of the Lord goes out in a fresh way today to those who can hear Him: “Follow me!” He is looking for those who will learn of Him and follow him and so reflect His glory, love, humility, power and authority.
Teaching without obedience has no authority and will not touch our generation. Only teaching that is rooted in radical discipleship can carry His apostolic authority and adequately convey His message – the good news of the kingdom of God.
“To Him who has will more be given” We can never exhaust or fully understand the depths of His wisdom in the word of God. We taste and see the Lord is good through obedience and putting His word into practice – that our Joy may be full!