Followers

My son has recently grasped what it means to be a sports fan. He basically had no choice but to be a follower of Wake Forest sports (although, it has been extremely difficult of late) and he has also learned the finer nuances of despising everything Duke. I'm finding that I have to reign him in from time to time, especially when I hear him telling the neighborhood kids that "Duke is puke!" As a committed sports fan myself, I've often mused of the loyalty that a game invokes in those who follow their teams.

If you take just a few moments to do a self analysis, you will discover that you, too, are a follower of somebody or even something. We all are. Whether it's following a politician in hopes of the delivery of life-changing promises, scooting around the country to attend dozens of shows performed by your favorite band, or scheduling your life around college football games, we are all followers in various degrees.

If you are a Christian, then you will most likely claim to be a follower of Christ, and that is a great statement to stand upon. However, even within the realm of the Christian faith, there is a strong tendency to follow other people and institutions more than to follow Jesus Christ Himself. We are certainly blessed with many gifted and spirit-led men and women who clearly articulate biblical teachings and have a way of inspiring others to boldly trail blaze into difficult areas of life. I have a list of my favorite authors and speakers who challenge me, causing me to more faithfully batten down my own spiritual hatches.

But sometimes we go too far.

Sometimes we follow what that man or woman says and hold to it more than we cling to the teaching of Jesus or the gospel message itself. And that's quite fool-hardy and dangerous.

"Did you hear what _______________ said the other day in his radio broadcast?"

"Have you read ____________'s new book? It's amazing how right she is on so many areas!"

"I just love listening to ______________ preach. He just connects with my soul!"

"I've decided to undergo some pretty serious life changes based upon the advice I read in ________________'s book."

Getting advice from others who have more knowledge than we do is a good thing. Taking what they say as gospel law is another. This isn't a current trend, either. Paul was compelled to address this in the opening lines of his first letter to the Corinthian church:
What I am saying is this: each of you says, "I'm with Paul," or "I'm with Apollos," or "I'm with Cephas," or "I'm with Christ." Is Christ divided? Was is Paul who was crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul's name?...For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.
In Paul's day, he wasn't afraid to call out names-- even his own -- and so I won't fear it either. I find it troubling that so many rely on leaders like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and T.D. Jakes that they become so squarely focused on their teachings alone at the exclusion of the testimony of Scripture. Before you think that I am being unfair in only mentioning these few names, there are many more that can be added to this list. And this does not mean that what they are teaching is wrong -- although I would be amiss if I did not point out that many of their well known teachings run contrary to the truth of Scripture -- it is just so especially problematic when their word is taken without comparing it to basic biblical truths.

Let me put this bluntly. If you are a Christian, you are a follower of Christ, not some preacher on television whose primary aim is to make you feel good about yourself. The Bible alone is God's inspired word. Reading books and listening to sermons is all well and good, but if that turns you into a parrot for the opinions of someone else then you have already begun to slide into the morass of false following. It's cute and even a bit annoying when followers of different teams bicker with one another. It's sad and even heretical when believers do so all in the name of their favorite teacher.

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