Fan or Follower

John the Baptist was standing with two of his disciples. We don’t know what was taking place before this scene begins. Perhaps they were talking about the day’s activities. Perhaps they were talking about the baptism that took place the day before, when Jesus of Nazareth was baptized in the Jordan River and a voice was heard proclaiming him as the Son of God.

Who knows what was taking place when we receive this causal reference that Jesus walked past them as they talked. At first glance, this seems like a very innocent interaction. Perhaps Jesus had stayed with John and his disciples after his baptism and was preparing to head out and start on his journey. What may have been a simple gathering would soon become a time of introspection and decision for John’s two disciples. It starts with how John the Baptist responds to this passing interaction. John looks at his disciples and says, “Look! There is the Lamb of God.” He basically tells them, “You see that guy there? He’s the One we’ve been expecting. He is the Messiah.”

What would these disciples do? So, Andrew and the other disciple, who we believe might have been the Apostle John, ran off to meet Jesus. When they catch up with him, Jesus asks, “What do you want?” It is a question intended to allow them to search their hearts and respond accordingly. They take a moment and respond by saying, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Andrew and the other disciple weren’t interested in Jesus’ lodging arrangements. They were asking if they could become one of Jesus’ disciples and follow him. They wanted to join with him and learn from the Lord.

Jesus responds to their request with an invitation. He says, “Come and see.” He invites these two disciples of John to come with him and see what was about to take place. To see the life changing things Jesus would do and to hear the words he would teach. To see what it truly means for Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of all. Jesus invites them to follow him. They respond by going with him and following him on his itinerant journey.

In some way, each of us have responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see.” Jesus has invited us to come and see what he is doing and, in some way, we have responded. The way we have responded to Jesus’ invitation can be found by taking a deep look within our hearts and examining how we feel about Christ and the Lord’s love. When we do we might see that there are two basic ways we have responded. We have responded either as a “Jesus fan” or as a “Jesus follower.”

Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at these two different responses to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” what he is doing. We are going to see what it means to be known as a “Jesus fan” and as a “Jesus follower.” We will see that Jesus is not interested in having “fans,” but followers who are after the Lord’s own heart. Being a follower of Christ is truly about committing ourselves to Jesus in sacrificial ways that allows us to have an intimate relationship with our Lord.
Many of us, however, would much rather be known as a “Jesus fan” than as a “Jesus follower.” So, what is a “Jesus fan?” When I think of a “Jesus fan” I cannot help but think of a passionate sports fan.

When I was lived in North Carolina, I would sometimes use my vacation time to attend West Virginia’s bowl games, but only when the Mountaineers played in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. I figured what better way to start a new year than near a beach watching football? I have gone to three Gator Bowls, but I only saw WVU win once. I still remember that game. Down by 18 at one point, WVU came back in the second half and pulled out the upset over Georgia Tech. I was excited. I got emotional when the fight song played. I sang “Country Roads” and joined several thousands cheering from the stadium and all the way to the parking lot, which was a few miles away. I was excited. I felt like a champion.

There was something ironic about my excitement. I didn’t do anything in that game. I didn’t play a down. I didn’t call a play. I wasn’t involved in the game in anyway other than drinking a ridiculously overpriced Diet Coke and sitting in the upper deck near the 50-yard line. I was simply a fan in the stands, but I wanted all the benefits and privileges of being known as a “champion.”

That’s what it is like being a “Jesus fan.” A “Jesus fan” wants all the benefits of a faith in Christ without the commitment and intimate relationship that comes along with it. Being a “Jesus fan” is essentially like sitting on the sidelines and wanting everything that is involved in the Christ-like life, but without giving ourselves over to Jesus in a meaningful way. This is a way of life that is more about ourselves than it is about following Christ. It is a way of life that says we want Christ, but without the challenging words or without giving up anything about us. A “Jesus fan” is someone who is only committed to Christ as long as they are personally happy and feel good about the relationship. In all honesty, a “Jesus fan” is someone who wants the relationship with Christ without it impacting their life.

To be honest, each of us have the tendency to be more of a “Jesus fan” than a “Jesus follower.” There are times when we wished that Jesus’ had not commanded us to do some of the things he did or call us to some of the things he does. We would have been perfectly happy if the invitation to “come and see” meant we could be disciples who can pick and choose our own way of following Jesus.

However, this is not the invitation to discipleship that Jesus offers us. The invitation to “come and see” calls us to a radical way of self-sacrificial living that is counter-cultural to our desired “me first” way of life. It is a way of discipleship that calls us to lay down our lives and follow Jesus with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To accept the invitation to “come and see” means to give up everything, so we might experience everything to follow Christ.

When I think of a “Jesus follower” I cannot help but think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tomorrow we will celebrate his great example of what it means to be a “Jesus follower.” Fifty years removed from the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s, we often think of King, first, as a promoter of racial equality than we do as a pastor or a theologian. Yet, it was his identity as a “Jesus follower” that led him to give up everything, even his life, in order to tell the world of Christ’s peace and justice for all people. King’s identity as a “Jesus follower” took him to a jail cell in Birmingham, to a pulpit in Atlanta, and to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a message of hope that had its foundation in the basic truth that God welcomes all and loves all.

Jesus followers are willing to give up everything in order to gain everything. This is the journey Jesus invites us to with the words “come and see.” Jesus invites us to lay down our lives at the foot of his cross, to give up our entire selves, so we may experience the riches of grace by walking with Jesus and growing in his love. Following Jesus means giving up our plans, desires, hopes, and dreams, so that our plans, desires, hopes, and dreams may reflect the One who came to be our Lord and Savior.

Followers of Christ are willing to let Jesus come in and mess up our lives, so that we can experience the life Jesus wants for us. It is about a life that moves us from a focus on ourselves to a focus on the life and grace of Christ working in and through us. This kind of self-sacrificial living is not something we decide to do once and move on with our own life. Every day we must commit ourselves to being followers of Christ, who accept the invitation to “come and see” what Jesus is doing, so that we may reflect more of Christ and less of ourselves. As a “Jesus follower,” we are called to surrender our lives, so we may gain a life that is defined by the presence of Christ, the Lord’s grace, and his everlasting love for all.

It is costly to follow Jesus and to accept his invitation to “come and see.” The reason is that we must be willing to let go of what we want in order to accept what Christ wants for us. Over the next few weeks we’ll examine what this means and what Jesus asks of us when we accept the invitation to follow him.

Currently, I am reading a book by Kyle Idleman. He is the pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, which is one of the largest churches in the nation. In his book, Idleman asks a very poignant question that is appropriate as we begin this journey of trying to see the difference between a “Jesus fan” and a “Jesus follower.” He asks, “If following Jesus cost you everything, would it be worth it?” If following Jesus and accepting the invitation to “come and see” cost us our plans, our desires, our hopes, and our dreams, would the Lord’s grace and salvation be worth it?

That is a question for all of us to answer, and one I hope we will each think and pray about today, this week, and in the weeks ahead. “Jesus fans” might answer the question by saying, “Well, the grace and forgiveness is nice, but I really do not want to give up my plans or my own identity.” A “Jesus follower” might say, “Yes, Lord. Not my will, but your will.”

What is your answer? If being a “Jesus follower,” if accepting this invitation to “come and see” cost you everything, would it be worth it?

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