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So I remember when I moved to Blenheim in year 12.  Up to then I’d lived in a little place called Gore where they roll their Rs and where they have small school.  My school was year 7-13 and had 350 kids, total.  My school in Blenheim had 1500 GIRLS.

So in my first week I got lost, a lot.

I remember getting assigned to this peer support leader in my class and she would show me on the map where I was meant to be or escort me to class. I remember distinctly getting lost on my way to math class one day though.  Which was fine, as I didn’t like maths, but the math teacher was the meanest teacher ever and super strict and was the netball coach. Why is that important, because in my first class at math she asked me if I played netball and I was like no way, I hate netball.   Anyway, my peer support person was named Mary.  She was about yay high with brown bobbed hair.  Along with about 628 other girls at my school and she said follow me when it was time to go to math.   We got out into the corridors  where its squishy and busy and lets just say I had a height disadvantage.  One minute I saw mary the next minute all I see is white shirts and backs.  Because I’m short.  So we get outside, take a breath of fresh air, because hello, hair spray, deodorant and coconut oil…. And then I saw mary in the distance and so I followed her.  Round the corner, up the stairs, down the hall, all the way to French class.  Not math class.  Because that was not mary.  It was some other yay high brown haired girl with a bob.

I had been following the wrong girl.  And I ended up in the totally wrong place.

 

At the very start of the year we want to talk about what does it look like to Follow Jesus for real.  Sometimes we can have our good ideas, or no idea, but what does Jesus, the One who is setting the course of our life say what it means to follow him.

You see being a chrsitian isn’t about being a nice person, or being kind, or friendly, or even isn’t about coming to church and reading the bible and knowing stuff about Jesus it is about knowing Jesus as a saviour and a friend and a lord and following Him, letting Him set the path for our life, knowing God and making Him known.

 

In John 14:6 Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life.   John 14:6

I am the way.  Follow me.

I am the way the truth and the life, No one gets to the Father, to God apart from me.

All around us there are lots of things competing for our time, attention and affections.  In a way they’re saying follow me, sometimes literally on social media.   We follow trends, fashion, the news, rumors, sports teams, celebrities, the rules.

“People” say if it feels good do it, follow your heart, do your own thing.

 

But I want to say to you that Jesus is completely and totally radical when He says I am The way, Follow Me.   He says here is the road I want you to walk on, He even gets out there and say there is one road to God, one way to heaven, one way to live.

 

Jesus is so counter cultural that it can be in your face.

One of the most in your face things I think Jesus ever said is this:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it'” (Matthew 16:24-25).

 

Matthew 16:24-25 The Passion Translation (TPT)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you truly want to follow me, you should at once completely reject and disown your own life. And you must be willing to share my cross and experience it as your own, as you continually surrender to my ways.  For if you choose self-sacrifice and lose your lives for my glory, you will continually discover true life. But if you choose to keep your lives for yourselves, you will forfeit what you try to keep.

 

Yikes, that’s no pretty follow your heart if it feels good just do it stuff.  That’s lay down your life and follow me, take up your cross just like I did, a challenge to a radical way of living and thinking.

Anyone freaked out?  My hand is up!

 

Christians talk a lot about following Jesus, but what exactly does that mean?

 

Let’s wind the clock back…

 

Let’s look at how the disciples would have understood Christ’s invitation, and what it means for us today.

When a rabbi asked someone to follow him, it was an incredible honour. This invitation was an offer of unlimited access to the rabbi—a chance to become a perpetual student. It not only gave them complete access to ask the teacher probing questions, but they also lived alongside the rabbi, experiencing firsthand how the Scriptures should be lived out. Becoming a disciple required an unwavering commitment to submit to the rabbi’s authority, but it also meant that everyday was full of opportunities to learn new things about God.

 

Disciples went where their rabbi went. They slept where their rabbis slept. They ate what their rabbi ate. And largely, they shared their rabbi’s passions and beliefs.

 

As a rabbi, this is the kind of relationship Jesus invited the disciples to experience.  He was their rabbai, their teacher.

 

While Christians today can’t physically follow Jesus like the disciples did, we cant go camping with Him, or walk around town with Him, we experience Him in a supernatural spiritual way, the Bible  makes it clear that following him includes following his teachings.

Jesus said it this way: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NIV).

 

 

I became a christian when I was 16.  I went to a youth group and on the first night they had worship, with a guy and his guitar, and he prayed, just a real ordinary prayer but in that moment it was like God opened my eyes and I knew that He was real and that I could know Him, that I must know Him!  Up to then I had thought that He was kinda real, maybe real, and that he was sitting on a cloud far far away, long white beard, who didn’t really care and wasn’t really interested but was off doing I dunno God things…

I didn’t really know what being a Christian was.  But I knew even on that first night that my whole life had changed and that I had met a very real God, with power, with a plan for my life.

 

So what does it look like to follow Jesus?

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it'” (Matthew 16:24-25).

 

  1. Who are your following? It all starts with Jesus.  We’re following Jesus.  Jesus is awesome.

He came and lived the perfect life that we can never live.

He did miracles and changed lives and was revolutionary in the way that He loved people and welcomed people no matter w

ho they were and what they had done. People loved to hang out with Him, not because he was popular in a bad way, but because there was just something about Him and He was the best kind of friend you could imagine.   People wanted to be around Him.

He is better than we can ever imagine and His love is greater than we can dream.

His death on the cross paid for all our sin, which is a bible word for all our wrongdoing, all our mistakes, all our intentional stuff ups, all the selfishness and wrongness we do, and His death was like an amazing exchange – exchanging His perfect rap sheet, for my long long long list of guilty rap sheet, so that I am no innocent, clean, and not guilty.

Jesus didn’t stay dead and speaks to us, and guides us and gives us peace and His presence.

Following Jesus starts with getting to know Him.   We do that as Thomas said earlier, by hanging out with Him, attending youth group and church, reading the bible, investing your life and telling your story.  We get to know Him by getting around other people who know Him, by praying, by spending time with God, which can at first feel weird because God is invisible.  God has given us the Holy Spirit and the Bible says the Holy Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

 

 

 

  1. Let Jesus lead –

Matthew 16:24-26 The Message (MSG)

24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

 

you’re not in the drivers seat.  Man, our gps lady on my phone over the holidays had like some weird throat infection.  I was taking my son out to the whop whops for adventure camp and I needed direction, using my phone yay God for technology.  But seriously, she had issues.  Take the 2nd exit to windy rd.  Turn Right to whatever st.   Pass me a lemsip!    But even though she sounded like she had a 5 pack a day smoking habit I was glad that she was directing me on where to go.   In life I’m glad that God knows where I’m to go.

Jeremiah 29:11 says I know the plans I have for you, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Prov 16:9 says We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

I’m real glad of that, because God sees my life from beginning to end.  He is outside time and eternal which blows my mind, but it means that He holds all the gps coorinates for my life.  He is in the drivers seat and I’m gonna follow Him.

 

 

 

  1. Take up your cross – you know when Jesus said this the disciples were like woah, interesting imagry Jesus. I bet it made more sense after Jesus literally literally picked up a cross and carried it through the streets of Jerusalem to the place He was executed.   But I bet at the same time it made no sense – was Jesus saying we’re all gonna die?  Was Jesus saying we’re all gonna suffer?  In one way, yup.  But in another way He was showing us that when He picked up the cross He laid down His life.  His life was surrendered.  His life was laid down.  In the same way to follow God means we surrender our lives and our wants and our agendas and our selfishness.  God says live a certain way because it’s a way that will bless you and bless your relationships and the world says nah, do whatever feels good, follow your heart.   That demands denying ourself, choosing to believe that what God says is the best way to live is the best way to live.  It means denying ourself, not following our heart, but following God’s ways.  If you love what God loves, hate what He hates, pursue what He desires and walk where He wills, your life is in alignment.  Spotted on Instagram today J

 

You know Jesus took up His cross for one reason.  You.  Insert your name here.  He went to the cross because of His great love for you.  Insert name here.  Because without His death paying for our sins we’re screwed.  He died so we could come close, so we could follow Him, so we could be called children of God, so we could become friends with God and have peace with God.

Being a Christian isn’t a nice idea or an optional extra for life, it is completely and totally necessary for this life and for next.  It opens the door to heaven when we die.   It opens the door for us to know God right here, right now.

God isn’t far far away like I had thought, He is so real and so close and right now He is giving you that invitation to come close and to know Him for real.  We sometimes call it giving your life to God.  He gives you a fresh start.  He takes away our sin and makes us clean on the inside.  He gives us meaning and purpose.