John 8:12-20; John 10:22-30

Writing the Follow Me Section of Living Body, Part I really affected me.  I can’t seem to shake thinking about what Follow Me means in my life – not a bad thing, I assure you.  So, I want to spend a little more time exploring the commitment to Follow Him.

Who do we follow?  The first step is to determine who it is one chooses to follow, “follow” having taken on several dimensions in our modern culture.  In the world of social media, it has a very definite meaning – sites for which we punch the Follow button.  (This is the perfect opportunity to say how grateful I am to each of you that have elected to follow this blog!  And to those of you that haven’t done so yet – Go ahead! Click on that little button.  Do it now!! It really is painless.)  We also follow those things/people in which we have an interest. By way of example, I am a football fan, both college and the NFL, I follow my favorite teams and players.  This is my choice.  Alternatively, we are more or less forced to follow some things, like politics.  (It is election time right now and I can’t wait for the mudslinging ads to end.)  Maybe you follow a TV series or certain celebrity.  There are people and events we follow, and these are choices, our choices.

Why do we follow?  On what basis do we follow?  Generally, this “following” is sourced in some affinity.  I follow Texas A&M sports because I am an alumnus and “caught the disease” as a student.  I follow the Cleveland Browns because my son works for them.  I follow Casting Crowns because my daughter took me to see them and she is infectious . . . and their music packs a wallop and sets my feet to dancing.  I follow N. T. Wright, because his writing and teaching pushes me to newer, profound depths in my faith (and not incidentally because his theology aligns with mine).

What does following entail?  Well, you have to be drawn to the subject or person somehow.  Then, you take an interest and begin to study their movements and actions.  You can’t follow someone if you know nothing about them or what they stand for, or at least what it is they bring to the party.  When you truly follow, you want to know everything you can, take any action that will enhance your knowledge of them (short of stalking, of course).  The best, the absolute best, is to spend time in their presence.  When I got to hear N. T. Wright’s lecture a month or so ago, I was “in his presence” and it was enough for me, but when it comes to friends and family, I want even more intimacy.  Hearing them in a public setting is not near enough – I want to sit, look them in the eye and have a conversation.

How do we maintain our focus when engaged in following?  We keep our eyes set on the object we are following and ensure that we don’t get distracted.  I will lean on a great sermon illustration from my dear friend and spiritual director Tom Pace.  Tom tells of going to the mall with his wife.  Tom’s primary intent in making the journey is to spend time with his wife, to follow her as she roves the mall.  Things start well, he walks and talks with her, entering stores she chooses, waiting while she goes through the racks and nodding when she asks his opinion.  Sooner or later, however, he’ll spot something on a rack or display that interests him and he slows as he passes by.  She asks, “Is that something you want?” or “Do you want to try it on?” to which he responds, “Not really, I was just looking.”  And so the journey continues.

Eventually, however, he gets captivated by something in a store window and trails behind her to take it in, all the while managing to keep an eye on her up ahead so he can catch up. One thing leads to another and he pauses too long the next time and gets immersed in checking something out.  When he reenters the reality, he looks around and his wife is nowhere in sight.

What’s the point here?  If you are indeed following someone/something, you have to keep your eyes on it.  Once you lose sight of it, getting back in step is incredibly difficult – all as a result of your inability to stay focused on the mission.

By now, there is surely no doubt as to where I am headed here, but follow me anyway (yes, that was intentional).

I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  As I put forth in Living Body, Part I, I believe the whole calling of Christians, the very essence of our faith, our whole raison d’etre is summed up in those two words Follow Me, where the Me is Jesus Christ.

Why do we follow?  On what basis do we follow?  I follow because I know He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Before Creation, He was, and to the ends of eternity He is.

What does following entail?  I was introduced to Jesus as a small child and have been attracted to Him ever since.  I read and listen and study seeking to learn more each and every day.  The more I learn, the more I want to learn. My eagerness just grows and grows.  And yes, I want to be in His presence in any form and as often as I am presented the invitation.  This takes many, many forms – study, prayer, meditation, worship, Christian concerts, lectures and sermons, fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters. I want my relationship to grow constantly in intimacy, from being a passing acquaintance to Him being someone I know and love and trust, and who knows and loves and trusts me.

How do we maintain our focus when engaged in following?  We keep our eyes on Him and ensure that we don’t lose sight of Him.  This is not to say that we abandon all non-secular endeavors.  I admitted above that I am a football fan.  Maintaining my focus on Jesus doesn’t mean I stop going to games or that when I do I have to preach the gospel to those seated around me. It does mean that I am respectful of them, greet them warmly (even if they are wearing the other team’s colors).  It means that I don’t swear or criticize the players, coaches or referees (well . . . okay . . . not criticizing the officials is beyond my ability to maintain restraint sometimes, but I’m working at it).  Casting Crowns and Third Day dominate my playlist, but there is still room for ZZ Top and a bit of Willie Nelson.

Fix your gaze on Him. Learn all you can about Him.  Love Him.  Spend time with Him. And above all else, carry Him into your world.

Seeking to follow where He leads,