I love soccer! And there’s nothing better than going to a live sporting event. Maybe your favorite sport is Football or Basketball and you’ve been to a game and you’ve experienced how exciting it is to cheer on your favorite player and get all decked out in fan gear. We may feel part of the team but you and I aren’t going to suit up, get on the field, and actually play. That’s the difference between a player and a fan. This topic makes me think about Christians sometimes.
In Kyle Idleman’s book “Not A Fan”, he describes two categories of people: fans of Jesus or followers of Jesus. Fans of Jesus know how to do sword drills and get awards for bible memorization. Fans of Jesus love to attend potlucks and have Christian bumper stickers. Fans of Jesus are adamant about Bible translations and rapture timelines. Fans of Jesus love to show up at least once a week and cheer for Him. But, fans of Jesus are too comfortable, cowardly, or compartmentalized to actually follow. A follower of Jesus longs for intimacy with Jesus not just knowledge about Him. A follower of Jesus sticks with Him even during seasons of suffering or sacrifice. A follower of Jesus is willing to go wherever and do whatever their Rabbi does. Are you a fan or a follower?
Before you too quickly answer that question are you willing to pray this prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you…” (Psalm 139:23-24a) Think about the last year and how you spent your time and your money. Think about what motivates you or the things you dream of. Think about your passion in life or your goals. What direction are you actually headed? A fan of Jesus isn’t really headed anywhere, they are just all talk. A follower however, is defined by movement, by action. They are going somewhere and it is the way of truth and life. (John 14:6)
Let me ask you this question: Do you know Jesus? This is another question you might be tempted to answer too quickly. But before you answer be aware that I’m not referring to book knowledge. Too many people think that just knowing information about Jesus is enough. They go to church or bible study dutifully and soak up a lot of great stats on Jesus. Like their favorite athlete or movie star, Jesus is someone they know a lot about but still don’t have a close relationship with. This word “know” takes on a different meaning in regards to a relationship with Jesus. The Hebrew word ‘yada’ at its core imply’s oneness. You can’t actually “know” God without oneness. Would you say that your dreams, desires, time, or money are one with God?
The problem with following Jesus is that it’s exclusive. In today’s culture everyone wants to keep their options open in romantic relationships or even regarding their weekend plans. There is a fickle voice that says, “maybe something better will come along”. Like a Football fan who gives up on his losing team a fan of Jesus will give up when things get rough. The world around you is great at giving directions. Even your friends and family will throw in their two cents, or more, whenever possible. But meditate on this: who do you think is really qualified to give you direction for your life? You can only go in one direction. No matter how hard you try to split yourself by following God and _______ at the same time it will never be possible. The call of Jesus is to forsake and follow. To truly follow Jesus you must “unfollow” everything else.
I realize that following Jesus comes with a cost. In fact, Jesus himself laid it out pretty clearly when He called for His followers to take up a cross and come after Him. Whether He was referring to a literal cross or a figurative one the message still stands as a call to sacrifice for His sake. That’s not all Jesus said though. He also repeated over and over that whatever we give up will pale in comparison to the riches we receive in Him. In our feeble temporary minds it’s easy to think that the creature comforts of this world or our personal dreams are valuable. These things will never match the power, beauty, fulfillment, courage, peace, hope, joy, and life that come with Jesus. “In Him there is fullness of joy forevermore!”, says the psalmist David.
May you give up on following the world and its bad directions and turn your allegiance to God’s direction for your life. And may you stop just being a fan of Jesus who knows about Him, and become a follower of Jesus who pursues oneness with Him. It will be the best decision you’ve ever made!