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FAN VERSUS FOLLOWER - Part 1

FAN VERSUS FOLLOWER

Part 1

 

Today I am going to begin a series of lessons that will help you determine if you are a fan or a follower of Jesus. Now, you might be thinking, "brother Steven, if I wasn't a follower of Jesus, I would not be here today." Before you stop listening and start working on something else because you think this series of lessons will not apply to you, I can promise you that these lessons will challenge you. Though you may be convinced that you are a follower of Jesus, you might find out that you are just a fan.

Let me give you some examples of what a fan is and what a follower is with modern day examples. A fan is defined as: An ardent follower and admirer. For example, some people are great fans of football. They love to pick a team that is doing well and they watch most of their games on TV. They will cheer for them and talk about them. However, if their team is not doing well, they may not watch them at all and might look for a new team to cheer for. A fan might even buy Superbowl tickets to see their team play at the stadium.

However, a follower is fully committed to their team. They are the kind of person that will make it to every possible game where it's being played. They will sit in the stands with their faces painted, and they wear the team colors. If you ask them about the team, they can tell you all about them, their history, their stats, and who is who on the field. Even if their team is not doing well, they will still cheer for them because they are that committed.

This is the basic principle that I am talking about when it comes to being a fan or a follower. I believe there are many fans of Christianity. They go to church, they talk about Jesus, they love thinking about what being a Christian means, but the problem is that they are really not that committed to Jesus. One of the greatest threats we have in the Lord's church world wide is that there are more fans of Christ than followers. These fans like the benefits that come with being a Christian, but they want to do the least they can. However, Jesus says this is not good enough because He does not want fans, He wants followers.

Matthew 7:21 " Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Maybe you have heard or read these verses many times through, but I want you to pay close attention to what Jesus is saying here. He is saying that those who simply call Jesus their Lord and even do things in His name from time to time will not make it into heaven because they are just fans. They do not make the sacrifices that a follower will because they are not that interested in keeping God's commands. Yes, they will do some things that are convenient for them, but they are not fully committed to keeping the will of God. Knowing what Jesus said should cause us to open our eyes wide and begin to examine ourselves closely to see if we are a fan or a follower. As Paul said:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified.

Sometimes when people become Christians, they do not consider what it means to give their life to Christ. Though a person does not need to a know a lot to become a Christian, he must understand that he is to give himself over to God all the way and not part of the way. While there will be much for a new Christian to learn, he must understand that Christianity runs deeper than just becoming a Christian. Jesus talks about this in:

Luke 14:27 "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  28 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it --   29 "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,  30 "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'  31 "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  32 "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.  33 "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

If you read through these verses quickly, maybe it will be like pulling a band-aid off a sore really fast. It will hurt for a few seconds, but then you are over it. I am afraid that we have a habit of reading Scriptures like this with the band-aid mentality. We see what it says, but we do not take it to heart.

Jesus is describing what a follower  is to do. He is to follow Jesus all the way. He is to pick up the cross and bear the load. A fan does not like the idea of bearing a load. Instead, they want to focus on how Jesus bore the load of the cross and what He did for us, instead of what we are to do for Him. A fan does not want to get their hands dirty, so they will just say, "thank you Jesus" and walk on.

Jesus is telling us that when you get ready to take up His cross and follow after Him, you better have your mind set on what it takes to do that. Jesus gives two examples of how foolish it would be to not consider what it will take to finish your goal.

The first example is someone who decided to a build a tower without figuring up how much it will cost. Since they did not consider how much money it would take, they did not know that they would not have enough funds to complete the tower.

The second example is a king that must determine beforehand if he can beat his enemies with the men he has so he can determine if he should go to war or negotiate a peace treaty. If he just blindly went to war without planning it out, then he would be easily defeated.

This is great advice in for every aspect of life. For example, you should not just go out and buy a new car or a new house without sitting down to see if you make enough money to make the payments. 

When you get ready to marry another person, you must consider beforehand where you are going to live and what are you going to do as a couple to keep your marriage strong. Of course, there are many more factors you should consider before getting married, but you get the idea. It is important to plan ahead and think about what kind of commitment it is going to take see your decision to the end.

As Jesus said in:

33 "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

In order to be a follower of Christ, we must be willing to give Him everything. There should be nothing on this earth that we put higher than Him.

The Bible is full of examples for us to study to see the difference between a fan and follower. One of the first examples that comes to mind about what Jesus has been teaching is found in:

Matthew 19:16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"  17 So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."  18 He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,'  19 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "  20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"  21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."  22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Here we have a rich young ruler. He was a man that was willing to do many things for God. He kept the 10 commandments and even had the right attitude of wanting to know what else he needed to do. Sometimes, we are like the rich young ruler. We can say, "I have been going to church, I invite people to church, I give money each week, etc." Like the rich young ruler, we are a big fan of God, and we like to think we are doing great things because we are keeping His commands and asking the right questions. However, like the rich young ruler, there are things in our life that we are not willing to sacrifice for the Lord.

Some people think this example is just about money, but it is not. It is a much a deeper issue than that. For this ruler, money had become more important to him than to follow after Jesus. You might as well of asked him to cut off his leg in order to follow Jesus. While money is one of those common things that people struggle with, the point is that whatever you consider to be of more value than serving God will keep you from being a follower of Christ.

I want to give you some more modern day examples, and I want you to tell me who is a fan and who is a follower. Let's say there is an active nonprofit organization that feeds the poor twice a week. Two times a year they have a special time that they heavily advertise and it always brings out the greatest number of people to feed.

One person loves what this organization is doing. He praises their efforts and is even  willing to come twice a year on those special days to help out. He is also willing to give a little of his money for this organization. However, this person never helps out any other time of the year.

Another person also loves the organization and its efforts to feed the poor. She also praises the work they do, but throughout the year she calls up people and does what she can to raise money for the organization. She is there those two special days out of the year, but she is also there just about every week when she can make it.

So, with these two people described, who is a fan and who is a follower? I don't know what answer you came up with, but here is my answer. The first person loves the organization and is willing to give of his time twice a year, but he is not that committed to them. He is more of a fan than a follower. However, the second person is clearly committed to the organization. She is heavily involved in helping them raise money and she is helping serve every opportunity that she can. So, she is a follower.

Let me give you another example. When I was 16, my dad took me out fishing. Now, I love to fish as long as the fish are biting. For the first hour, nobody was getting any bites and I was ready to go home, but not my dad. Two more hours passed by and we had only caught one puny fish. I was more than ready to go and begged and pleaded with my dad to head back in so we could go home, but he said he wanted to fish for a couple more hours. I had all I could stand, so I asked him to pull the boat over to the bank and I got out of the boat and walked about a mile through the woods to get back to my truck.

In this example, who was a fan and who was a follower of fishing? Again, I do not know what your answer is, but for me the answer is easy. I am a fan of fishing. If the fish are not biting, then I am ready to leave. I am not willing to sit in a boat hour after hour with no fish being caught because I am not that committed. However, my dad is definitely a follower of fishing. He will fish all day and all night even if he only catches a few small fish.

Let's this move this idea to the realm of Christianity and talk about attendance. I believe one good way to judge yourself on whether you are a fan or follower of Christ is what your attendance of the church is like. Let's say today is Easter, which is like the Superbowl of Christianity. Since tradition says that today is the yearly anniversary that Christ was raised from the grave, many fans will come and cheer on Jesus this morning, but they will not come back on Sunday night because that would be overkill for them. In fact, it will probably be next Easter or possible Christmas before they attend again.

If this describes you, I want you to ask yourself how committed are you to Christ if you only come to worship God once or twice a year? What is keeping you from being here every other Sunday?

We need to remind ourselves that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and by the shedding of His blood, He purchased the church (Acts 20:28). The church is not this building. This building is simply a convenient place for us meet. We the people are the church. If we are more than just a fan, we take the following verses to heart.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Jesus did not give up His life, so we could just become a Christian and then stay far away from His body as we can. Paul compares the church to a physical body in 1 Cor. 12. Imagine only being able to have your arm for a few hours once or twice a year. Think about what you would do with that arm for the few hours each year you had with it. You would not be able to do much with it in that short time would you?

Well, there is not much we can do in just a few short hours for the body of Christ if we are only part of it a few times a year. How much are we considering others and stirring them up when we are rarely there? Can you honestly say that you are a follower of Christ when you only assembly with the saints once or twice a year?

Some Christians will say that they are followers of Christ because they attend every Sunday morning. While it is possible for Christians to be a follower of Christ and only attend on Sunday mornings, I am afraid there are more fans that do this than followers. Some Christians can only come on Sunday mornings because they cannot drive at night. Some have to limit their attendance because of physical limitations and some have to work. There are many valid reasons a follower of Christ cannot make it to every service.

However, there are some Christians who have no valid reason for missing Sunday night or for missing Bible class. They have simply grown used to attending on Sunday morning only, and they use the other times they could be at worship or Bible study to take care of their own needs. They view this as their time. This is the behavior of a fan and not a follower. Now, if you fit into this category you might feel justified in what you do by saying it is better to come on Sunday morning than not coming at all. I would have to agree with you that is better to come once a week than not at all, but is that giving God your all?

I would like for you to test yourself by asking yourself, why do I only attend on Sunday morning? Why do I not come to Bible class? I want you to really think about your answer and consider if it is a valid reason not to assemble with the saints Sunday night or attending Bible class on Wednesday night. If you see that it is for selfish reasons, then that should tell you whether or not you are a fan or follower of Christ.

Now you might think I am being mean this morning, but I assure you I am not. I am just trying to get you to look at yourself and why you attend and why you don't attend. I warned you at the beginning of this lesson that I would be challenging you and I wasn't kidding. I can promise you I have just begun. There are more things I will be talking about in these lessons that are pointed at me as much as they are pointed at you.

When we sell a product to someone, we tell them all the great features it has and how it will make their lives so much easier. For example, if someone wants to sell you a vacuum cleaner, they will bring it to your house and go over all the gadgets it has and give you a demonstration of how well it works. But, what they do not tell you is how you are still going to have to lug that vacuum around and still do the work. They do not tell you how you will still have to clean hairs and other things that wrap around the brush. They do not tell you how certain parts have a tendency to break or what kind of accidents people have had over the years while using their vacuum. Focusing on these things would ruin your chances of making a sale, so they will not talk about such things.

Sometimes preachers become very desperate if there is not enough people to make the contribution big enough to support him any longer. This can be a big temptation for a preacher to simply sell Jesus to increase the attendance and contribution instead of telling people that being a follower of Christ takes sacrifice, and there is much work to be done for the Lord. One of the main messages that Paul taught everywhere he went was:

Acts 26:20  that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.

A fan will tell you that cheering for Jesus is enough, but a follower understands that there is much more to do for the Lord in His kingdom. When it comes to attendance or any other aspect of serving God, a follower of Christ will have the mentality that he will do whatever it takes to give his whole heart, mind, and soul to God. He will do whatever he can to be a good example to those around him and will do what he can to encourage others to be a follower of Christ instead of just a fan.

I wish every Christian would adopt the mentality that Jesus speaks of in:

Luke 17:7 "And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?  8 "But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'?  9 "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.  10 "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "

None of the works we do or how faithfully we attend services will earn us salvation. The works and things we do simply to say God, I am your servant and I love you and will continue to glorify your name by the things I do. As Jesus said in:

John 14:15 " If you love Me, keep My commandments.

Matthew 5:16  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We have just barely scratched the surface of what the Bible teaches about being a fan or a follower of Christ. I hope will you come back tonight to hear part 2 of this lesson. In tonight's lesson, you will hear some more examples of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

 I hope something in this lesson has caused you to think about your dedication to God. If you see that you are more of a fan than a follower, I hope you will allow today's message to cause you to seek out how to be a follower instead of just a fan. I know it is not easy to make changes to our lives especially if we feel comfortable where we are, but we must challenge ourselves every day to be more dedicated to our Savior and following after Him. I want to close with the following words from Paul:

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.




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