Sermon Transcript/Article: What Does it Mean to Be a Committed Follower of Jesus?
Well, I’m going to answer that question, but first I want to tell you about a time when I was committed to something else. Back in 1982, I joined 4H. Our group wasn’t an agricultural club though. We did cooking and sewing. We were called the Needles and Noodles 4H Club of Clackamas, Oregon. And I was a really active member of this organization. I even entered the 4H February food contests and participated in the local county fair and state fair. So, you could say that I was committed to my 4H membership.
Now what do you think would happen if I contacted the 4H headquarters and told them that I wanted to be publicly honored and recognized as an outstanding committed member of 4H? They would probably ask: Are you actively involved in 4H now? And I’d have to say “No” but back in the 80s, I was a very committed member. My mom was even the club leader. I even took the official 4H pledge. But just because I took that pledge back in the 80s and was committed to 4H - doesn’t mean that I am still considered a committed 4H club member.
In the Bible, Romans 11 tells us a similar story. The Israelites had a heritage that centered around God. But throughout the Old Testament, we see that many of them got to the point where they really didn’t take their faith seriously anymore. And after Jesus came to the Earth, many of them rejected Jesus as being the actual Son of God. Since their involvement with God ended, they were no longer considered followers of God. Like my involvement with 4H ended, I am no longer considered a 4H member. Since the unbelieving Jews were no longer serious about their faith – the offer to follow Jesus was now made available to everyone else too.
This offer for everyone to follow Jesus is recorded in Romans. Paul used the example of an olive tree to represent God’s covenant of salvation that was made with the Jewish people through Abraham. He explained that some of the branches of the olive tree, which represented the unbelieving Jews, were broken off because they no longer followed God. But the branches from a wild olive tree, which represented Gentiles or everyone else, were grafted into the original tree because of their faith in God. I’ll start reading at verse 17 of Romans 11.
17 It is as if some of the branches from an olive tree have been broken off, and the branch of a wild olive tree has been joined to that first tree. If you are not a Jew, you are the same as that wild branch, and you now share the strength and life of the first tree.
18 But don’t act as if you are better than those branches that were broken off (meaning the unbelieving Jews). You have no reason to be proud of yourself, because you don’t give life to the root. The root gives life to you.
19 You might say, “Branches were broken off so that I could be joined to their tree.”
20 That is true. But those branches (the Jews) were broken off because they did not believe. And you (Gentiles or everyone else) continue to be part of the tree only because you believe. Don’t be proud, but be afraid.
21 If God did not let the natural branches of that tree stay, He will not let you stay if you stop believing.
22 So you see that God is kind, but he can also be very strict. He punishes those who stop following him. But he is kind to you, if you continue trusting in His kindness. If you don’t continue depending on Him, you will be cut off from the tree.
That’s straight from the Bible.
I grew up thinking that the special prayer I said when I was 4 years old was what I really needed to keep myself from going to Hell. But there is so much more to salvation than just saying a prayer. It was what followed after that prayer that really proved whether or not I was a follower of Christ. I don’t think that Jesus is really impressed when we join the group walking toward the altar to accept His salvation if there is nothing spiritual that follows later. I don’t think He is impressed with our past church involvement if we’re taking a break from Him and the spiritual stuff now. He wants us committed to Him now, every day, forever and ever. He wants us continually moving forward in our faith, and in our commitment to serve Him, and in our relationship with Him. It is this sold out serious faith that impresses Jesus.
Acts 5 tells the story of how some of the apostles were persecuted for obeying God rather than the Jewish officials. They continued to preach about Jesus and heal people in His name because they were committed to following Jesus no matter what it cost them. At the end of the story we’re told that the apostles were flogged with whips. But they rejoiced because they had been given the honor for suffering for the name of
Jesus. And then, even though they had just been physically persecuted, they went back to the temple and went house to house teaching about Jesus.
Stephen, another dedicated follower of Jesus, spoke out against the Jewish people accusing them of rejecting God and killing His son Jesus. This boldness resulted in his death. But He is an example of someone who was truly committed to Jesus.
I’ll read part of Stephen’s speech that that he spoke to the legalistic Jews called the Sanhedrin to that you can hear his passion for following Jesus and for speaking the truth. I’ll read near the end of his speech when he gets really fired up in Acts chapter 7 starting in verse 47. (NLT version)
46 “(King) David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob.47 But it was Solomon who actually built it. 48 However, the Most High (God) doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet (Isaiah) says, (about God)
49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord. ‘Could you build me such a resting place? 50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth?’
51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”
54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at (Stephen) 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, (Stephen) died.
Stephen was a really good example of what it means to be a committed follower of Jesus. It’s not something that we can do half-heartedly or do just a few months out of the year. Jesus wants followers that are appreciative of Him, that are committed to Him, and are willing to be a little radical for Him. He’s not going to ask all of us to go through physical persecution like the apostles did. But, He may ask us to do more than we are doing now and to be willing to sacrifice. But it will look different for each one of us.
We need to ask ourselves. Am I passionate about growing closer to Jesus? Am I sold out for Him? Am I in this 100%, 365 days a year for the rest of my life? Am I so dedicated to Jesus that I am willing to sacrifice whatever He asks of me? Or am I doing just the minimum and hoping that it’s good enough to get me into heaven.
Let’s remember what Paul said in Romans 11, verse 22. So you see that God is kind, but He can also be very strict. He punishes those who stop following him. But he is kind to you, if you continue trusting in His kindness. If you don’t continue depending on Him, you will be cut off from the tree.