Imagine that the US was invaded by ISIS. ISIS wins and makes the US a subjected territory. They send troops and occupy our cities and towns. In order to collect money for their ongoing terrorist activities, they send wage collectors to each town. Soon, this massive undertaking is franchised out. Local citizens are offered the opportunity to collect taxes from the citizenry thus buying a tax collection franchise. They are now allowed to collect whatever they want over and above what they owe to the ISIS and keep for themselves the surplus.
These pathetic turncoats in your own town are known to be among the wealthiest few because, if ISIS says you own $6000, they tell you you own 7 or 8000. They drive the Cadillac’s, they live in the nicest homes, they have all they want to eat and drink. And they are hated, but protected by the ISIS governors.
You know the money they collect goes directly to ISIS efforts to kill Christians and spread Islam. They are traitors to their homeland, directly helping ISIS AND they steal from their own countrymen.
This, was Matthew. But in the time of Christ, Matthew was a jew and he collected taxes for the Romans.
Imagine his surprise when this happened:
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Matthew became a disciple of Jesus and followed him for 3 years. He became close friends with the other apostles and had untold personal encounters with Jesus. After Jesus’s death he preached the Gospel and some say he traveled to other countries. He wrote the first book in the New Testament, a telling of his personal experiences with Christ in most believe 60AD.
Imagine how he felt as he wrote those words. “He saw me sitting at the tax collector’s booth and invited me to follow him."
He saw me.
That’s our story. He saw us drunk with wine and said “follow me.” He saw us surfing porn and said “follow me.” He saw us committing adultery and said “follow me.” He saw me, and he want’s ME to follow him. He saw us in despair and fear and doubt and said “follow me.”
That’s the invitation to each of us here right now. He still asks us to follow him every day, every hour. That invitation and command is found in Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. It’s central to His message and mission, to make followers of himself.
So what does that mean? Practically, on an hour by hour basis?
I) Matthew 10:34-39 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
“Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild?” There were times when that was true:
Woman caught in adultery, with children running to him, with Thomas who asked the risen Christ if he could put his hand into his wounds!
But what of weaving a whip of cords and causing a riot as he cleared the temple, His father’s house? What of calling the religious leaders snakes, hypocrites, blind guides, fools murderers? What of His ongoing battle with demonic spirits?
Jesus lived his life with brutal honesty and courageous boldness in the face of certain danger. Everything he did was perfect love in action, but it probably didn’t always feel loving.
So, to follow Jesus is to understand that I am an ambassador, a representative of the risen Christ on earth. My purpose is to do everything in love, even when it will create discomfort, when it will be inconvenient, when it will possibly result in a personal loss of money, respect from the world, position…and yes, as it did for nearly all the apostles, death.
John 15:20 “Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
In both cases he was talking to his disciples, his inner circle, the ones who would continue to carry on in teaching about him after he was gone from the earth. If I’m NOT being persecuted, If things in my life are going along just peachy, I’m a little worried…the life of a Christ follower is not supposed to be easy and safe.
In C.S. Lewis’ the Lion, Witch, Wardrobe which is an allegory or story about Jesus there is this wonderful conversation: Between a talking beaver and the human child Susan:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” C. S. Lewis in The LWW
Doesn’t that call up something in you? Would it not fill your warrior heart to described that way? That’s following Jesus into peacemaking when called for, but also into making difficult choices.
What are you running from that you know Christ is calling you to? What are you reluctant to say or do in his Kingdom? A preacher in Florida named Joby says it this way:
“Christian, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail because the God of the Universe lives in you?”
2 II) To truly follow Christ, HE has to become everything to us. Our guide-stone, our Lord and Master.
We all follow something men. Some would say we all worship something: Friends, women, our children, sex, alcohol, food, fun, job/career, money…
The problem is as Jesus says in Matthew 6:24
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
None of us can follow/love/worship more than one thing at a time.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
With a cross on my back, following Jesus, I don’t have room in my life for sex, drugs, or even some rock and roll. I don’t have room for arguments with my wife, fights with my kids, or relationships that don’t build up the Kingdom of God. I have room for what Christ made room for: His Father’s Kingdom, His Father’s business.
“I’ve been crucified with Christ and I NO LONGER LIVE but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Let’s get this out of the way. You are a DEAD man. By expectation and command of the Father we are to be dead to ourselves to make room for the life of Jesus in us.
In the first season of the Walking Dead, a show about a zombie apocalypse and a handful of human survivors there is a segment where, in order to sneak past a large group of zombies, they hack up a dead zombie and cover themselves in the guts.
I do that. I do that every time I lust after a woman in person or on the internet. I do that every time I take that one or two or three more drinks. Whenever I curse someone in anger. Whenever I cheat or lie or steal…I’m coating myself in dead mans skin trying to sneak back into the world in which I don’t belong.
And the Father says: “Son, my beloved Son whom I gave everything to save from that stench and that guilt, come here and take a bath then look in the mirror and remember WHO I say you are.”
It’s about Authority. The Universe runs on Authority. The angels have ranks (Archangel). The demons have rank (Principalities, powers, forces of evil). Adam and Eve gave it up. Christ won it back at the Cross by dying for my sin and in his burial room defeating death. Recognizing the authority of Christ over my life is crucial, especially as a man. If I am a truly a follower of Christ He shares His authority with me to accomplish awesome and wonderful things in His name. So frankly, He does get to chose how I spend my time and money. He does get to say what things I focus on, think on, and work toward. I don’t have the authority on earth or in Heaven to slum around here like I do sometimes.
“Did I SAY you could do that?” No Sir, No Lord. “Then don’t.”
Honestly, that’s a healthy weapon against the enemy’s temptations.
Turn on your computer and begin to think about checking out what SHE looks like nude? “I don’t have the authority to do that.” “I must be about my father’s business.”
Guy cuts you off and you want to tailgate him to show him how it feels? “I don’t have the authority to do that.” “I must be about my father’s business.”
Wife says something you don’t like and you start to feel offended and get ready to tell her off and put her down hard. “I don’t have the authority to do that.”
Insert your own personal temptations….. I’m sorry, but we don’t have the authority to do that. (Actually, I'm not sorry. I'm grateful that He loves me enough to keep me from the consequences of that lifestyle.)
We do have the authority to tell Satan and his angels where they can go. We do have the authority to spread the kingdom of the Perfect, everlasting, all powerful God wherever we can take it. We do have the authority to walk up to His throne, bow, and make any requests our hearts can imagine.
3 III) How do we consistently live like that.
One, we are maturing in this role as Christ follower. Some of us have been living this way a long time and much has been revealed to us. Some are just starting out on the road.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
No matter where we are in our journey toward dependency, we all have one thing in common.
John 14: 16-17 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
When we become Christian’s we are baptized, immersed in, the Holy Spirit. Ephesians says he take up residence in our body, the new temple of God where he remains forever as a deposit guaranteeing our entry into heaven. We are marked by Him and we are fueled, empowered, reminded, counseled, and represented by him.
He is the secret of the means to follow Jesus. He is the “infrared goggles” which allow us to see the footsteps of Christ along the path He has chosen for us. He is the eternal nuclear power plant allowing us to never give up in our efforts to serve, and fight. The power and love of the Living God lives in US and empowers us every moment of every day.
Pray that God will reveal His purposes, His calling and prompting in your life. Boldly walk in peace, even when it's dangerous and to restore peace you have to be honest. Immerse yourself in His word and accept His ultimate authority over your life, and His unfailing love for you His son.
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.”
Men, Jesus is asking us to follow him. What is the response written in your heart?
Even a tax collector knows a good thing when he hears it.