This lesson should be fruitful in a deep searching of hearts. There were many who went out of Egypt under a true token, the shed blood, but there were very few who never failed God in the days of wilderness journeyings. It is said of Caleb that he followed the Lord fully.
What we should wish above all things else is to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Our highest aim should be to know the will of God and to do it.
Others may seek and may choose God's second best, we want His very best. We want to go all the way with God. We want to go with Him through the garden; we want to go with Him outside the camp; we want to go with Him, bearing His reproach.
"And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, * * and He saith unto him, Follow Me" (Matt. 9:9).
Matthew was a Jew, but a despised Jew. He was a collector of the taxes imposed upon the Jewish people by the Roman government.
It would seem that a man of Matthew's character and position, would have been one of the last men that Christ would have chosen as a follower. Our Lord, however, knew what was in men. Christ saw Matthew not as he was, in his sin, but as he would become in grace.
What Christ did for Matthew He has done for many another sinner who was even deeper dyed in sin.
1. The Lord Jesus coming along the way saw Isaac Newton. Newton was a man who had gone to the deepest depths in sinning. He had traveled from shore to shore, and, finally, had landed in Africa and lived in the most abominable and heinous way with the natives. But, the grace of God found Newton, and he was saved.
2. The Lord Jesus, coming along the way, saw Sam Hadley. Hadley was one of those men wholly given to drink. He was a drunkard, and a wharf thief. He had spent years in prison, and seemed an absolutely hopeless case.
Jesus Christ said unto Sam Hadley, "Follow thou Me," and he arose and followed Him. We heard him once at Northfield as he stood on Round-top, near Mr. Moody's grave, and sang the pulsings of his very heart.
"Oh, it is wonderful
Very, very wonderful.
All of His love,
So rich and free.
"Oh, it is wonderful,
Very, very wonderful.
All of His love,
And His grace to me."
3. The Lord Jesus, passed by, and saw Thomas Needham. Needham had gone so far from God that no one would have dreamed that he could be saved. Yet, Christ saw him, and said, "Follow thou Me," and he arose and followed Him.
We heard Thomas Needham tell his story, as he stood in our own pulpit. He pulled up his sleeve and showed the audience where a sea-captain had once tattooed upon his arm a picture of Christ hanging upon the Cross. Later on the captain put Needham off the boat, on the shores of Brazil. Some cannibal tribes were about to kill him, when they saw the tattooed form upon his arm. They became afraid and released him. Needham said, "That was the first time I was saved by the Cross."
After years of sinful life Thomas Needham dropped into a church in Boston where his brother George was preaching Christ crucified. That night Thomas said, "I was saved, the second time, by the Cross."
The first time he had been physically saved, the second time he was saved for Glory.
"A certain man said unto Him, Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" (Luke 9:57, 58).
It is quite certain that this "certain young man" had an idea that Christ Jesus was soon to take the Davidic throne, and he wanted to have a place with Him in His glory.
The Lord disabused his mind. He did not deny the fact that He would some day reign on David's throne, but He emphasized the fact that He was without any present prospect of such a glory. He promised the young man no flowery bed of ease, no earthly glory in following Him.
Those who today would follow Christ fully, may assure their hearts that it will mean suffering. "All that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution". "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake".
Who then is ready to go outside the camp with Christ and bear His reproach? Who is willing to bear the Cross? Can we sing that precious verse:
"Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee,
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken;
Thou, from hence, my all shall be:
Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Saviour, too,
Earthly looks and friends deceive me,
Thou art not like them untrue."
There are many who seek to follow Christ solely for the loaves and fishes; they want to join the big church, the popular church, the worldly church. With them it is not a question of "What wilt Thou have me to do"? but of "What advantage wilt Thou be unto me?"
It sounds wonderfully well to say, "I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest"; but, to say it, is not enough. We must be ready to pay the price, and go all the way with God. We must be ready to say:
"I'll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain or plain or sea,
I'll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I'll be what You want me to be."
"And He said unto another, Follow thou Me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
"And another also said, Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house" (Luke 9:59-62).
If we are going to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, we must place Him above father, and above mother, and above husband, and above wife. In all things Christ must be first (Col. 1:18).
We should remember the words of Christ: "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me". If we are going to follow Christ Jesus, we must not say, "Suffer me first" to do anything. It is all right for us to love the ones at home. The fact is, that if we love Christ truly, we will love them all the better; but we cannot even obey father or mother, if it means disobedience to Jesus Christ.
Many a missionary has been called upon to leave his home, and all of his loved ones in order to follow his Lord. When Christ says, "Follow thou Me" we must not turn so much as one wistful glance backward, toward those human environments, which might woo us from the will of God. Jesus said, "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God".
"Remember Lot's wife"! When she started out with Lot, and her two daughters, to flee from Sodom, she left behind her two other daughters, and two sons-in-law, many friends, and all of her earthly possessions. Therefore she turned and looked back. Her heart was still in Sodom. Because of this infidelity to God, she became a pillar of salt; a warning to all who turn and look back.
We should always be able to say with the poet:
"Fade, fade, each earthly joy,
Jesus is mine;
Break ev'ry earthly tie,
Jesus is mine."
Young people, particularly, must guard their love life. They must allow no love to creep into their hearts that would cripple their love for Him. "It is permitted unto a woman to marry only in the Lord." A divided home is sure to spell spiritual disaster. How can two walk together except they be agreed? 'What part hath he that believeth with an infidel, (or with an unbeliever)"?
We must put Christ above all earthly ties.
"Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come and follow Me" (Matt. 19:21).
The story before us is that of the rich young ruler. He possessed many things which were praiseworthy. He was earnest and he was moral, and he was interested, but, he lacked one thing—he was unwilling to give up his riches.
Jesus Christ does not always demand that we should place our possessions on the market, and sell them, giving the proceeds to the poor; but He does demand of every one, who would follow Him, that all possessions shall be made subservient to Him, subject to His call.
If we would follow Christ fully, we must recognize His Lordship over our possessions.
There are a great many people, who would like to "serve God and mammon"; Christ, and riches. They want Christ, but they want riches also; in fact, they want riches more than they want Christ. They want to drag Christ in somewhere; they would be willing to put Him in the rear of their procession, but they will not let Him lead the way. The Bible warns: "And they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil".
A follower of the Lord Jesus Christ should flee such things, and "follow after righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness".
It is not wrong to labor, that we may have to give to him that needeth; but it is wrong to labor that we may have to lay up treasures for ourselves. Our money is ourself turned into coin, and when we bring our money and yield it to Christ and to His service we are yielding ourselves to Him.
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).
Jesus Christ had been telling the disciples how He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders, and of the chief priests, and of the scribes, and be killed. Peter had taken Him and said unto Him, "Be it far from Thee, Lord (pity Thyself, Lord): this shall not be unto Thee". Christ, in turn, had rebuked Peter and said, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men".
Among men there is a notable saying: "This first of all to thine own self be true." Another saying, much more vulgar, is this one: "Look out for number one." In either case, such words place "self" in the wrong place, positionally. We must, first of all, be true to God; and then be true to ourselves and true to our fellow-men.
There is much taught these days about self-denial, that does not go far enough. We have, in many churches, a self-denial week. We are asked to deny to ourselves certain luxuries, or even certain necessities. This may be commendatory, but. it is not what Christ meant, when He said, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me". To deny something to ourself, is not denying ourselves.
Take, by way of example, the life of the Apostle Paul. How wonderfully was he fore-spent for God. He threw himself and all that he was into the service of God. He counted no sacrifice too great, no journey too hazardous, and no service too sacrificial for Christ.
Under the statue of Nathan Allen in New York city, are inscribed the words, "Would that I had two lives to give to my country." Nathan Allen had the spirit for his country that we need toward our Christ. We should be willing to give our lives for Him.
"I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whithersoever thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" (John 21:18).
Christ spoke these words signifying by what death Peter should glorify God, and when he had so spoken, He said unto him: "Follow Me".
Peter had once, as we have just seen in the preceding theme, told Christ to "pity Himself." Now the months have gone by, and Jesus Christ has died and been raised from the dead. He is standing before Peter, and He tells him that he will be called upon to die as a martyr to the faith, then He said: "Follow thou Me".
Although Peter had hesitated when Christ spoke of His own death, there seems to be absolutely no hesitancy now. Peter is ready to go all the way with Christ. Years later Peter said: "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me". Thus during all the years of his ministry, Peter knew that he would be called upon, finally, to suffer martyrdom.
"I saw the martyr it the stake,
The flames could lot his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appall:
I asked him whence his strength was given;
He looked triumphantly to Heaven,
And told me 'Christ was all.'"
The Word of God speaks of some who "loved not their lives unto the death". The Word of God admonishes us: "Be thou faithful unto death".
We are living in the twentieth century of the Church of Christ; we are living in a land where there is religious freedom. It hardly seems that there is any immediate danger of our being called upon to die for our faith, but we should always hold ourselves in readiness for that very thing.
If we are called upon to give our lives for Jesus Christ, we must remember that we will have a martyr's crown, a crown of life.
"Must Jesus bear the Cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for every one,
And there's a cross for me."
"A beautiful crown in Heaven to wear,
For those who here the cross will bear,
Then bear it, my brother, and when you get there
A beautiful crown you'll wear."
"These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:4).
There is no more beautiful verse in the Bible than this. The Lord seems to draw back the curtain in order to give us a glimpse of coming scenes.
There are those who were undefiled; those who have kept their garments white; those who, 'mid earth scenes and tribulation scenes, followed Christ fully. These will follow Him by and by.
It is worth while for us to look in and behold, through the drawn back curtain, the bliss of those who walk with Him in white.
Moses had followed Christ down here, and so had Elijah. They had experienced many a trying time. They had suffered much for their Lord. They had never counted any earth task too great an undertaking for the glory of Jehovah. God has drawn back the curtain, and allows us to see them in their glory on the transfiguration mount, as they talk with the Lord.
What will it be when we stand with Him in the glory, among the raptured ones, beholding His face? What abundance of joy will be ours, should Christ say unto us, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant". Surely our present sufferings will be nothing comparable to the glory that shall then be revealed.
"Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?
"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:27, 28).
There came a day in the life of Peter, the fisherman, when Christ said unto him, "Follow Me". Immediately, he left his net; he left his father; he left his all, and followed Him. There were times after this, when Peter failed the Lord. Once he went so far as to say, "I know not the Man". Such times, however, were but little "eddies" in his life. The great current of his discipleship, was one of absolute fidelity to Christ.
Others of the Twelve left their nets, or some other occupation. They followed Jesus in the way. They were with Him in His sufferings and deprivations.
Jesus Christ promised these disciples a part in His early reign. They were to sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
What was promised the disciples is likewise promised, in substance, to all of those who follow fully in His sufferings. The Bible says: "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him".
Our abundant entrance into the Millennial reign of Christ upon the earth; our position in the earth-service of that reign, is dependent upon our following Christ here and now. The one who had gained ten talents was given authority over ten cities.
We need not doubt the propriety of daily serving Christ, with Millennial rewards in view. Such rewards are a true incentive to fidelity. Our Lord endured the Cross, despising the shame, because of the joy that was set before Him.
Abraham looked for a city whose Builder and Maker was God. Moses had respect unto the recompense of reward. Paul said, "There is laid by for me a crown of righteousness". So let us keep before us also, the wonderful rewards that Christ will bring with Him, when He comes again.
"And what shall this man do?
"Jesus saith unto him, * * What is that to thee? follow thou Me" (John 21:21, 22).
When Peter was told by the Lord by what death he should glorify Christ, he did not hesitate to follow on; but Peter did ask concerning one of the other disciples, "And, what shall this man do"? The Lord said unto Peter: "What is that to thee? follow thou Me".
There are many among us, who are too much concerned with what others may do, or say, or think.
Illustration: A lady once stopped us, on the street, and said, "I'm thinking of uniting with your church, but, fᦙ�