Matthew 10:38, Matthew 19:21, John 10:27, 1 Corinthians 5:6, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Matthew 5:20, Matthew 7:12-16
I’m a different kind of preacher. I may not have had all the years of formal study that is traditional, but it’s also what makes my path solely directed by what I read and study of my own with only the Word of the Lord as the guide. So, if you ask me to quote “Chapter and Verse” verbatim from memory, it’s probably not going to happen often. I’m not here to impress you with my memory skills. But, in the 29 years I’ve been a Christian, I’ve studied and absorbed the Lord’s Word from the view of many teachers, and I often remember short significant phrases of Scripture, relevant to a situation at-hand. Which makes the modern day of having digital, searchable Bibles and online search engines such a blessing. You could say that, rather than having whole swaths of Scripture verbatim stored in my head, I have a wide selection of indexes remembered.
In order to find today’s verse that I had in mind, I had to boil my search down to “follow me” (the KJV vernacular is especially hard to remember in actual context, when you’re going by ‘indexes’ of memory). The results of that search alone really just added weight to today’s message. Did you know that “follow me” (or variations thereof) appears 35 times in the New Testament, and that Jesus said the phrase over 20 times, usually as a direct instruction to someone? And yes, while Matthew, Luke, Mark and John often tell corroborating stories of the same events, I think it’s significant that this phrase appears so many times. And it’s generally not in the context of, ‘if you have some time, why don’t you check me out’. No, in Matthew 10:38, the Lord says things like, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” and in Matthew 19:21, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” and in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
It’s that last one that sticks with me most. His sheep KNOW His voice. And we also know when we don’t hear His voice. Or when it is wrongly applied. You could even say that the entirety of the Acts of the Apostles is less about gaining new converts, but giving instruction and correction to existing converts on the proper use of the Lord’s Word. There are far too many examples to go into detail in a 5 minute sermon, but in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul chastised the church for fornication and in verse 6, even that, “Your glorying is not good.” In 2 Corinthians 3:6, Paul says that Christ is “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The churches, in even so little time, had fallen into almost the Pharisaical ways: Perhaps efficiently quoting the Word, but not fulfilling its depth and meaning; not taking it to heart.
Let us not also forget that the Lord himself spent much of His time on earth correcting others, and rebuking the Pharisees, who should have known better. In a backhanded way, He actually complimented their knowledge and pretense of supporting the Scripture when in Matthew 5:20, He said, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And in that, He was also giving instruction and correction in that one needs to hold the intent of the Word in their heart, not just what it says in words and letters.
Perhaps, this sentiment is best revealed when Jesus said this in Matthew 7:12-16: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.”
We may not all be perfect masters of the Gospel. We may not all be able to quote long passages of Scripture, or quote Chapter and Verse from thin air. But when the Word was first revealed, there were no “Chapters or Verses”; there were no annotations. Often there were not even buildings or pews. But yet, throughout thousands of years of HisStory, the faithful have always been able to identify His true Word and His true intent. Be well-versed in Scripture, and as often as possible, be exacting when you quote it, that your own fallibility doesn’t cloud your recollection, and you inadvertantly pass on an untruth. But in as much time as you spend in research and memorization, spend more in understanding the intent of the entirety of the Lord’s gospel. And when you are somewhere consistently hearing something that doesn’t sound like the Lord’s intent…when it contradicts His actual meaning… Have the courage to FOLLOW JESUS.
Follow Jesus, not me, not some other pastor or expert. Follow the One who saves you and knows you. May you be blessed in all that you do, and may love, truth and protection increase in every day of your life. God bless you all. In Jesus’ name, amen.