Friday, December 3, 2010

Admirer or Follower

Did you see the Olympics this summer? Michael Phelps was amazing, wasn’t he? Eight gold medals. Question—How many would say you are an admirer of Michael Phelps? (hands raise) Me too. Here’s the deal. Somewhere out there, there’s a kid that when he watched Michael Phelps his heart started pounding, his mind started racing. He said to himself, “What Michael Phelps did, I could do. The way he swam, I could swim. Where he stood on the podium, I could stand.”

Right now, that kid is going to the pool every day. He’s reading articles. He’s watching videos. He’s looking for a coach. He actually wants to become like Michael Phelps. He wants to do want Michael Phelps did. He’s not just an admirer, he’s a follower. Now, I applaud what Michael Phelps did but it will not change my life. I have not been in a pool since the Olympics. I’m an admirer, not a follower. There’s a big difference. An admirer is impressed. A follower is devoted. An admirer applauds. A follower surrenders. An admirer approves. A follower obeys. (John Ortberg, 2008)

I’ve noticed that a new word has popped up that has replaced the word “Christian.” It’s “Jesus-follower.” I like that word. It says a lot about the intentions of someone’s faith in Jesus. What they are saying is that they desire to follow Jesus. That’s great. What’s interesting is that I don’t think I ever heard anyone describe themselves as a Jesus-admirer. But, I wonder if that’s a better description for some people who claim to be a follower of Jesus.

When Jesus walked the earth, three types of people surrounded him: detractors, admirers, and followers. The detractors were typified by the Pharisees. They rejected Jesus’ claims that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. Others became followers. The Twelve gave up everything to follow him. Peter and Andrew dropped their fishing careers to follow Jesus. Levi left his tax collecting business to become a follower. They were devoted, they surrendered, and they obeyed. However, there’s was a middle group that I think Ortberg would call “admirers.” They came to hear his talks, and gathered to see if he would heal the sick. They surrounded Jesus to see if he’d become a military messiah to free them from Roman oppression. But when Jesus asked them to be like him and do what he taught, many turned back and returned home. They seemed impressed, they even applauded Jesus, and some even approved; but admiring Jesus didn’t really change their life.

I wonder… what is the biggest category of people that fills our churches today? As I read Ephesians, I’m sure Paul saw the same issues in the churches he ministered to. I think he was passionate about seeing people move from being a religious admirer to a passionate follower. As we close our time in Ephesians, let’s look at a few phrases from Ephesians 4 and 5 that tell us what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus.

• I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
• …put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
• …speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
• Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
• (You) must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
• (Speak) only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
• Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So, what does your life say about you? Are you an admirer or a follower? Read the entire book of Ephesians again this week and see it through the lens of being a follower of God.

This week's author- Phil Niekerk, senior small groups pastor

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