Crowd Follower or Disciple

Written By Ryan Miller
And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.
John 6 2-3
Jesus is being followed by large crowds.
Because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.
There are crowds following Jesus because they are hopeful; they are hopeful that Jesus might heal them of an ailment, that he might make their lives better in some way.
They want the incredible free gift of physical healing that he has to offer, not understanding their need for his incomparably greater free gift of eternal salvation.
As Jesus sees these crowds following him, he goes up onto a mountain with his disciples.  But the crowds don’t let him alone; they just keep on coming (John 6:5).
They are starved for a miracle.
And then, after Jesus gives them a miracle (John 6:5-14), the people are so excited that they want to forcefully make him king (John 6:15) so that they don’t have to deal with the oppression of the Roman government anymore!
But Jesus didn’t come to be a worldly king.  He came for much more than that.
So he withdraws himself somewhere in the mountains to get away from this worldly starved people.
When I read these verses a couple weeks back, I was kind of struck by the seeming contrast between the crowds following Jesus because of what he could do for them, versus Jesus’ interaction with his disciples.
When I see the crowds following Jesus because of what he’s doing for the sick, I feel this sense of desperation.  There’s this sense of group mentality, of a longing for meaning and purpose, of dissatisfaction.  There’s a lack of real commitment and a desire for immediate gratification.
And then when I see Jesus going up on the mountain and sitting with his disciples, I get the feeling that they are a team, that they are on a mission together, and that discipleship is about to happen in the best of ways.  It feels like a committed group – a group determined to live life with each other as growth takes place.
And I feel the contrast.
I hope you can feel it too.
I want you to be honest with yourself right now.
If you call yourself a Christian…
  • Would you say you are part of the crowd of “Christians” who follow Jesus because your family and friends do and/or because you can get something out of it (i.e. feel good about yourself, feel like you’re doing “the right thing”, etc.)?
  • Are you part of the smaller crowd of Jesus’ disciples who follow him because he is Lord and Savior, because he has asked you to take up your cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24), because you love him with all your heart, and because he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68)?
Before I move on, I want to interject that it’s “okay”, in a manner of speaking, to not currently be in the place where Jesus has become your life treasure.  It’s “okay” to be a part of the crowd who just wants something from Jesus, and that’s it.  It’s “okay”, even, to not care at all about Jesus.  It’s even “okay” to hateJesus, or think he doesn’t exist.
What makes it not “okay” is if you think you are good where you are – if you think that nothing needs to change.  Then you’re not okay.  In fact, if that’s you, you’re probably headed to the wrong side of eternity.
Sanctification (the process of being made more like Jesus) takes time.  A lifetime, in fact.
Meaning: You’re not meant to be perfect in this life.
You can try as hard as you want, but you’ll never achieve it.  It is completely impossible to live a perfect life on this earth, as I think we all know.
And yet, we are called to pursue Jesus – the only perfect human being to ever walk this planet.  We are called to follow him and to increasingly allow him to take us to a place of surrender.
We will always have sins.  We will always have things we are holding onto that are apart from what the Lord desires of us.
But they are never okay.
We are called to constantly put these things to death, through the power of the Spirit, and to become increasingly more like Jesus.
Now, I don’t want you to read all that I just said and think that I don’t struggle with sin and with loving Jesus because I write a blog and I sound convincing.
I struggle.  A lot.  As some of you who might read this will certainly be able to attest.
I can’t genuinely say that I love Jesus with all my heart, and frankly I sometimes question if I can even say I love Jesus.
I struggle with the abstractness of what it means to have a relationship with him.  I struggle with sins that I can name, and sins that I can’t name, on an hourly basis.
Even today, I feel that I’ve already failed – and will continue to fail – in my struggle against my flesh and the powers of this dark world.  In my struggle against Satan.
He wants to kill me.  He wants to kill us.  He wants to take us to Hell.  He wants us to suffer eternally.  He promises us the world, yet leaves us short of eternity.
And we never find fulfillment in what he promises.
All we ever do is want more and more and more of the emptiness he offers that leaves us craving more.
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t leave us in our sin.  He delivers us.  He has delivered those who profess faith in him, and he will continue to deliver us daily from our sins as we lean further and further on him.
In John 10 28, Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
No one will snatch them out of my hand. 
You can’t lose your salvation once you’ve gained it.  Jesus made sure of that.  He just promised it.
However, for those who have not professed faith in Jesus, you are stuck in your depravity and sinfulness – along with everyone else on this planet who hasn’t put their faith in Jesus – until Jesus comes and take you out of it…and then you are washed white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
If you are his child, you are completely righteous before God.  OLord help me to believe that!
How I struggle to believe.
I want to share with you some song lyrics that I wrote a while back.
Perhaps you can resonate with them.
My heart is still so cold,
it’s like it’s still made out of stone,
God, why do I persist in trying to make myself known?
My brain knows what’s up,
but my heart just ain’t down,
to take up both my hands and throw away this worthless crown.
So I keep on fighting,
and I keep on striving,
and I keep on trying,
cause my heart won’t die,
and I need you now as much as ever before,
cause’ it’s a daily war to check myself at the door.
May we not have hearts of stone! But rather hearts that love the Lord with all we are, with hearts that are willing to follow him wherever he leads.
For more from Ryan:
Related Resources:
  • David Platt: The Sinners Prayer
  • Paul Washer: A Biblical Alternative to the Sinner's Prayer

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