Follow

Follow

Follow

Read – John 10:1-33

Key Verse – My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

Key Thought – Following Christ does not make one a Christian, but following Christ demonstrates one IS a Christian.

Introduction

This passage is a wonderful summation of what it means to belong to Christ. Or, put another way, what it means to be a Christian. There are various terms used in the Bible to describe a Christian – words like “saved”, “born again”, “converted”… words like “believer”, “follower”, “disciple”, “child of God”, etc. But here in this passage, as well as in other places, the Christian is described as one of Christ’s sheep. He is the shepherd, and those who are His are His sheep.

So this passage gives us some insight into what it means to be sheep in the Good Shepherd’s flock… what it means to be a Christian… what it means to be His.

And nowhere do we see that more clearly than in vs. 27. There we see a simple, thirteen word explanation of the faith. Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at some Little Big Words that we need a lot more of. We’ve examined words like “kindness”, “forgiveness”, and “joy” – all of which we need more of. Vs. 27 contains three important words, hear, know, and follow. We’ll look at all three, but the one I most want to focus our attention on is the last – follow.

His sheep HEAR.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

This word appears several times in the chapter. Jesus repeatedly mentioned the fact that those who are His, hear Him. For example:

To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3 NKJV)

And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10:4 NKJV)

And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16 NKJV)

If you are one of His sheep, it is because you heard His voice.

– Maybe it was in a sermon like this one that you heard the gospel preached.
– Maybe it was in a conversation you had with another believer, who shared with you what Jesus had done in their life.
– Maybe you heard His voice in the pages of Scripture when one day you picked up a copy of the Bible and began reading it.
– Maybe somebody handed you a pamphlet and you read it and heard His voice. Maybe it was in the words of a gospel song.

Regardless of how you heard it, if you are one of His this morning, it’s because you heard His voice. In other words, you heard the gospel.

This is not the only Scripture that indicates hearing is prerequisite to believing. Paul made it very clear in his letter to the Romans – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17 NKJV).

So, the only way to be one of the sheep is to hear the voice of the Shepherd. The way that we hear that voice today is to hear the gospel – or stated more simply, to hear the Bible. And once we hear it, believe it.

Hear me now – the ONLY way to be one of His sheep is to hear His voice… to hear the gospel… to listen to the truth of the Bible and believe it. Have you heard the voice of the Shepherd?

Paul commended the Colossian Christians – since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; (Colossians 1:4-6 NKJV). They had first HEARD the truth of the gospel.

Have you heard the truth of the gospel?

Paul told the Thessalonian Christians, For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NKJV). They HEARD it, and they believed it, and they were saved.

Have you heard the truth of the word of God?

His sheep are KNOWN.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

Again, Jesus mentioned this word more than once in the passage. Notice, for example, vs. 14 – I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

Jesus KNOWS His sheep. Does Jesus know you?

Of course, in one sense, He knows everybody for He is the sovereign God of the universe who created you in the first place. But the “knowing” described here is different. It speaks of relationship… intimacy… friendship, even. (I love what He said to His disciples – No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends… (John 15:15 NKJV).) It is a reminder to us that the amazing transformation that occurs when a man, woman, boy or girl trusts Christ and becomes one of His sheep is more than just a business arrangement. It is more than just a mental agreement with a set of principals. It is adoption into a family. It is a relationship. He KNOWS you in a wonderfully close way.

Jesus KNOWS His sheep. Verse 3 says He knows them by name. Think of that! If you are one of His, then He knows you by name. One day you will meet Him. What will that be like? Yesterday, Kathy and I were returning home from vacation and as we drove and listened to some Christian music, the ever popular “I Can Only Imagine” blasted out of the stereo. “Will I stand in His presence or at His feet will I fall? Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine!” But one thing I know from this text is that He will call you by name.

In the final book of the “Left Behind” series (“The Glorious Appearing”), there is a beautiful scene depicting the moment when the hero of the story meets Jesus face to face. And one of the most powerful parts of that scene for me was when Jesus called him by his name.

Joel Cochran is pastor of the Chapel in Marlboro. When we lived out of the area, we would attend the chapel when in town visiting the family. I met Pastor Cochran during the first of those visits and introduced myself. Some many months later we visited that church again, and Pastor Cochran met me at the door. “Bill!” he said, “How nice to see you.” He remembered my name.

Jesus knows His sheep by name. They are not a number to Him. It’s personal. It is intimate. It is a relationship.

I heard the Savior’s voice… I heard the gospel… when I was twelve years old. And I believed it and received Christ as my Savior. From that moment on, I’ve had a personal relationship with Christ. He knows me, and I know Him.

Do you have such a relationship with the good Shepherd? Does He know you in that way?

His sheep FOLLOW.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

We come finally to the word I wanted to concentrate on this morning – follow. And before I get into a definition of it, or it’s implications to us as believers, I want you to look carefully atverse 27 and ask a question of the text. “Is it possible to be a Christian and these things not be present in my life?”

For example – can one be a Christian without hearing? We’ve already suggested the answer to that is “no.” Can one be a Christian without Christ knowing him or her? Of course we know that is impossible. He knows me… He knows you… He knows His sheep. What then of that third word? Is it possible to be a Christian and not be following Him?

I suggest that it is not possible. All three of these words describe a reality of the Christian – The Christian hears, the Christian is known… has a relationship with Christ, and the Christian FOLLOWS. There is nothing in Jesus’ statement that would allow for wishful thinking here. There is nothing that would admit a non-follower to the fold. If one of these three words are descriptive, then all of them are.

So here then is the obvious and pregnant question that develops from this – are you FOLLOWING?

Let’s look at some definitions, and see if they help us answer that.

There are several Greek words that are translated into our English word, “follow”. The word used here is the most common, AKOLUTHEO, which means to be a follower, or a companion. It is a combination of two words, one expressing “union or likeness” and the other expressing “a way,” and so it might be translated as “going in the same way.” It is used 77 times in the Gospels, of “following” Christ… going in the same way with Christ… being a disciple of Christ.

Are you following Him? Are you going in the same way with Him?

I looked up the English word in Websters, and was pretty amazed at how many definitions there are for this little word. Considering just a few of Webster’s definitions is helpful, for according to that resource, follow means:

  1. To go, proceed, or come after, as in “they followed the guide.”
    2. To engage in as a calling or way of life… to PURSUE, as in “wheat-growing is generally followed here.”
    3. To walk or proceed along, as in “to follow a path.”
    4. To be or act in accordance with, as in “to follow directions.”
    5. To accept as authority… to OBEY, as in “he followed his conscience.”
    6. To seek to attain, as in “follow knowledge.”
    7. To copy after, to IMITATE, as in “the new building follows the facades and roof lines of the original buildings.”
    8. To watch steadily, as in “he followed the flight of the ball.” (An aside – I’m always amazed when I see professional golf on TV and how the camera operator can so perfectly follow the flight of a golf ball through the air.)
    9. To keep the mind on, for example to “follow a speech.”
    10. To attend closely to… to keep abreast of, such as “he followed his career with interest.”
    11. To understand the sense or logic of something, such as a line of thought. For example, “I don’t quite follow your thinking.”

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they FOLLOW Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

– They come after Him in His path…
– they pursue a way of life that is His…
– they act in accordance with Him….
– they accept Him as authority and obey Him…
– they seek to gain Him…
– they copy and imitate Him…
– they watch Him steadily…
– they keep their mind on Him…
– they stick close to Him…
– and they increasingly grasp Who He is and what He wants from them.

Wow… My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they FOLLOW Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬). Are you following Him?

Matthew Henry wrote, “They follow him; they submit to his guidance by a willing obedience to all his commands, and a cheerful conformity to his spirit and pattern. The word of command has always been, Follow me. We must eye him as our leader and captain, and tread in his steps, and walk as he walked—follow the prescriptions of his word, the intimations of his providence, and the directions of his Spirit—follow the Lamb (the dux gregis—the leader of the flock) whithersoever he goes. In vain do we hear his voice if we do not follow him.”^[Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume”]

Over and over we read that “following Jesus” is what it’s all about.

When Jesus first called the disciples, He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Matthew 4:19-22 NKJV).

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him (Matthew 9:9 NKJV).

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they FOLLOW Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

And Jesus never indicated that following Him would be easy. He said it required genuine commitment. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him (Matthew 8:19-23 NKJV).

He told the disciples that the commitment required in following Him was a life or death choice. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:38 NKJV). 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 (Matthew 16:24 NKJV). Luke’s gospel quotes Him as making this commitment an everyday affair. Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY, and follow Me (Luke 9:23 NKJV).

So He never said following would easy… actually just the opposite. But He also promised great reward for those who followed Him. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor (John 12:26 NKJV). Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12 NKJV).

Are you following Jesus, my friend? What is your level of commitment to Him? I recently received a prayer letter from our missionary partners in Africa, John and Alysse Stavropoulos. Every time I think of John I remember the first time he preached from this pulpit and shared his vision for reaching Africa for Christ. After he spoke, he asked if there were any questions, and one of you spoke up and asked, “How long is your commitment in Africa?” He answered without hesitation, “My commitment is for life.”

That’s what following Jesus means! It means following in His path… pursuing His way of life… acting in accordance with Him…. accepting Him as authority and obeying Him… seeking to gain Him… copying and imitating Him… watching Him steadily… keeping the mind on Him… sticking close to Him… increasingly grasping Who He is and what He wants. And it is a commitment to all of that DAILY… NO MATTER WHAT… FOR LIFE.

Jesus made that last point quite clear to Peter. After Peter had denied Christ three times, Jesus had a little one on one time with him on the sea shore. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Three times Peter responded, “Yes”. And then Jesus told Peter that there would come a day when he would have to seal that commitment with his blood. He would indeed follow Jesus right up to the point where he would give his life for his Lord. The last bit of that account is important – This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:19-22 NKJV)

It matters not what others do. You follow Me! It matters not what price others pay. You follow Me! Follow me DAILY… NO MATTER WHAT… for LIFE.

Conclusion

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

Now I want to be very clear, and I hope you can see it in the text for yourself. Jesus was NOT saying that following is a prerequisite to being one of His. He was NOT saying that IF we follow, we will be saved… IF we follow, He will know us in a personal way… IF we follow, we will be sheep in His flock.

What He WAS saying is that following is a RESULT of being a member of that flock. We don’t follow in order to be saved… we follow because we ARE saved. It is a natural result of being His. It is, we might even say, EVIDENCE that we are His.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬). Who are His sheep? My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they FOLLOW Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬). How do I know if I’m one of His sheep? My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they FOLLOW Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

I dont’ know about you, but this verse leads me to want to examine myself. I know I’ve heard the gospel and believed it with all my heart. I rejoice in the relationship I now have with Christ. He knows me. He knows my name! Praise God. But that third word… am I following? I think back over all the nuances of that word and what it means. Is it true of me?

Are you following?

Churches in our age, just as in every age, have some who will answer “yes” to that, and some who, if honest, must answer “no.” Their life hasn’t changed… they live no different than the world… they don’t order their days after Him… they ignore what He says about sin in their life… they listen to the culture… to social media… to worldly sources of information, rather than to what Christ says… they live like the world, rather than like one following the Savior.

The solution, if you find yourself in that group, is simple. You need to hear the gospel and believe it. You need to enter into a personal relationship with Christ. You need to be born again. You can’t work yourself up into following Christ. If you are one of His you will do it naturally… it will flow out of the relationship you have with Him. So the solution is not to follow more. The solution is to examine yourself, whether you actually be in the faith! Because if the evidence of following is not there, then you most likely are not one of His sheep.

Years ago, when my first wife and I were living in Michigan, an evangelist held a revival back here at our home church. We received reports of many being saved and a glorious time had during those meetings. Beth wanted to listen to the evangelist’s messages, and so we got hold of tapes and listened to them. We were listening to one of them while driving our car, and I could hear Beth starting to get choked up. He was preaching about the need to examine yourself… that many who sit in churches have never really trusted Christ… that if you are not following Jesus, it’s almost certainly because you were never saved. Beth was convicted by this so much that she had me pull the car over and we prayed right there by the side of the road, and she recommitted her life to Christ there and then. I ever after appreciated her willingness to examine her faith.

It was around that same time that I was attending Bible College there in Michigan. Every student was required to attend chapel services daily. One day after a particularly stirring sermon, one of the other students, a young man studying for the ministry, stepped forward and knelt at the altar after service, for he had examined himself and found that he had never been saved.

No one is immune from this need for self-examination. In the 19th century there was a preacher named William Haslam who preached a sermon on Matthew 22:42 – What think ye of Christ? As he preached, he became convicted that he, himself, had never been saved. He was converted by his own sermon!

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬). Are you following Him?

Following Christ does not MAKE one a Christian, but following Christ demonstrates one IS a Christian. It is evidence. Is it there? Are you following?

Richard of Chichester prayed, “Day by day, dear Lord, of thee three things I pray: To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, Day by day.”

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