John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Discipleship to Jesus is an intentional process that each individual is called to engage in, to follow Jesus even as his first disciples followed him. This is possible through the personal work of the Holy Spirit.
They left the comfort of their family businesses in hopes of finding the renewal of Israel, now known as “the twelve” – they were following Jesus. In 1813, Adoniram Judson became the first American-sent missionary and the first missionary to Burma – he was following Jesus. In March 1965, Martin Luther King led a five day march from Selma to Montgomery, in hopes of winning Black voting rights – he was following Jesus. Sometime ago, friends from my childhood church decided that they were going to pray every day at 6am, 365 days per year, for their town – they were following Jesus.
“Follow me.” Jesus voice still rings through the pages of Scripture and from behind the pulpit. Once limited to the by-ways of Judea and Galilee, his voice now calls throughout the whole earth, from the largest of cities to the smallest of villages. This is the call to discipleship. To be a follower of Jesus is to be a disciple of Jesus is to be a Christian.
To follow Jesus is to discern the voice of Jesus amidst all the other noise of this world. His voice is a still small voice. His voice still speaks to us through the words of Scripture. Once we here that voice, we need the discipline to obey despite where our heart would rather take us. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
But this call to such self-denial and obedience, to such life-altering change, is only for pastors and missionaries, right? WRONG. To call yourself a Christian is to be a disciple, there is no distinction. You are a follower of Jesus or you are not. You take up your cross or you do not. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Jesus taught of several types of soil that represent several reactions to the gospel (see Matthew 13 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+13&version=ESV). Sadly, there are two types of people who initially receive the word of God and yet in the end do not prove to be disciples of Jesus. With one, trouble and persecution come and they give up following Jesus. With the other, the cares of the world prove to be too attractive and they follow their desires rather than Jesus.
To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus is to follow him. But how do you follow someone who is no longer here? “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” God has now sent us the Holy Spirit to live within us, to be that still small voice and to guide us in the way we should go. To listen to the Spirit of God is to be reminded of all that Jesus taught is to follow Jesus.
Be a disciple of Jesus and respond to his voice, “follow me.”