The journey from fan to follower begins by identifying the fan within us. To help us do that we have stepped into the scenes of different encounters Jesus had with people during His time on earth. Inevitably Jesus would put them in a position where they had to define their relationship with Him. Was it casual or committed?
Many of them were exposed to be nothing more than fans, just enthusiastic admirers of Jesus at best. It’s not that fans don’t want a relationship with Jesus; it’s that they want the relationship with him on their terms. The real question we must ask is this:
What kind of relationship does Jesus want to have with us? That’s what matters. What are His terms? What would He say it really means to follow Him?
Chances are, if you have one verse of the Bible memorized it would be John 3:16. It’s a great verse that tells us a beautiful truth. Quick, can you say it without looking? I’ll make it fill-in-the-blank to help you out.
For God so __________________ the __________________ that he gave His only __________________, that whosoever __________________ in Him will not perish but have __________________ life.
There is a reason why that is the most often quoted verse of the Bible. (One survey showed the most memorized verse in the Bible was “God helps those who help themselves.” Umm… that was Benjamin Franklin.)
In that one verse we read that God loves us, Jesus died for us, and that we can have eternal life through Him. It’s not unusual to go to a sporting event of some kind and see someone holding up a sign that says “JOHN 3:16.” (My favorite sign held up at a game read, “The guy behind me can’t see.”) But I’ve never seen someone hold up a sign that says “LUKE 9:23.” Quick, say that one without looking. That may be a little tougher. But Luke 9:23 also records the words of Jesus. In fact, unlike John 3:16, these words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 are recorded in three of the four Gospels. Here they are:
If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Now do you understand why no one paints that on a board and holds it up at a game? It doesn’t seem like a very appealing advertisement for Christianity. Verses like that one can make it difficult to recruit new Christians.
But the truth is that John 3:16 and Luke 9:23 have to go together in order for there to be an accurate understanding of the gospel’s invitation. John 3:16 emphasizes believing. Luke 9:23 focuses on following. Those two things must necessarily go together. There is no believing without following. There is no John 3:16 without Luke 9:23.
In this passage Jesus clearly lays out His expectations of His followers. This verse defines the relationship Jesus wants to have. It spells out His terms so that we can know exactly what we are agreeing to when we make a decision to follow.
Anyone Means Everyone
Jesus begins His call to follow Him with these two words, If anyone…
Anyone is a significant word because it makes it clear whom He is inviting. He is inviting anyone. Anyone is an all-inclusive word. Anyone means everyone. Jesus doesn’t begin with a list of pre-qualifications.
His invitation to follow is addressed to Anyone. Many people don’t realize they’ve been invited to follow. They think, “Not after what I’ve done. He wouldn’t want me to follow him. I would never make the cut.” They assume they aren’t qualified and as a result never take seriously what it means to follow Jesus. After all, what’s the point in filling out an application if you know you won’t get approved?
But the words of Jesus are words full of grace. He says, “Follow Me.” You think, “There must be a mistake. Doesn’t He know who I am? Doesn’t He know what I’ve done?” Yeah, He knows about the stains. In fact, He died on the cross so that our stains could be washed clean, whiter than snow actually. And because of His grace, we find ourselves at the same crossroads as Matthew.
The invitation of Jesus to follow him begins, “If anyone…”
It turns out that Anyone means Anyone.
Anyone means me. Anyone means you.
Excerpted with permission from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman, copyright Zondervan.
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We are born with a sin nature. And we’re born with the fundamental understanding that we don’t deserve a relationship with God because of our sins. Coming to Jesus isn’t about deserving, or denying our stains, or being good enough, trying hard enough. It’s about accepting His invitation to anyone who chooses to accept His unmerited forgiveness and favor. Anyone. Those are His terms. He already paid the price for all of us. The question is whether or not we accept His invitation to come after Him. Have you? Come join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you!