Perhaps you remember the game you played in childhood, “Follow the Leader”? It needed a group, and the larger the group, the more exciting the game. The point was, you had to keep your eye on the “leader,” because all of a sudden the leader would do the unexpected, and you were to follow and do the same. If the leader fell down, you had to fall down. If the leader jumped five times, you had to jump five times. And so on.
Where do we “follow the leader”? first we seek out the right “leader.” We don’t want to be the blind who follow the blind. But God definitely sent One to lead the right way, to show us the way to life; One who could say,
John 14:6 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Jesus said it a number of times, “Follow Me.”
How do we follow? It means, first of all, an honest heart and a humble spirit that can admit “I need leading,” that we are not able to lead ourselves. Like Jeremiah said,
Jer. 10:23 23O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
Naturally we feel quite capable of leading ourselves! The problem is, where will OUR leading take us? Proverbs pictures it as the way of the false woman:
Prov. 5:3–5 (KJV 1900) 3For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, And her mouth is smoother than oil: 4But her end is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two edged sword. 5Her feet go down to death; Her steps take hold on hell [sheol, the grave, death].
Not the one we want to follow!
But when we choose the RIGHT leader and are willing to give up our way and follow, what next?
As with most topics, there is more than we see at first glance.
To follow means to CONFORM. And that means to change in shape, to take on the likeness or form of another.
There is a key verse in Romans that makes this very point referring to Christ. Following Christ is all about conforming to His likeness, taking on His image.
This is the center of Paul’s point in
Rom. 8:29 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Paul makes three key points here. Before we can get into Christ’s family as His “brethren,” His own brothers and sisters, we must take on the family likeness—character likeness. What is the process?
1) First, God “foreknows” who will accept His knowledge. He doesn’t fling it out worldwide to everyone, because He knows only a few will accept it. So His foreknowledge is key: it promises to make it available wherever it will be used. “If any man will do his will, he shall know…” John 7:17.
He makes it known, but foreknowing is only KNOWING in advance, it is not determining or influencing the outcome.
2) Then, those whom God “foreknows” He also predestines. To predestine means to “set a boundary,” and that boundary here is to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” In other words, God says, they must take on [conform to] the likeness of His Son.
Does this even suggest that God overrules their will and MAKES them conform? Not at all. Paul only says that God sets the standard they must come to.
3) Then, it is the responsibility of those foreknown to CONFORM to the character of Christ.
God doesn’t MAKE us like Christ; but He shows us Christ’s character image, and says, This is what I want to see. This is what you must become.
So often the point is made that Jesus changes us, that He makes us like Himself. But is that the tone of Jesus’ teachings, or Paul’s, or Peter’s, or any Scripture writer? CONFORM means WE change, WE take on Christ’s likeness, not that He takes on OURS!! And not that He covers ours up with His own.
John states the process clearly:
1 John 3:3 Every man who has this hope in Him [the hope of becoming LIKE Christ] purifies Himself even as [Christ] is pure.
John says, you need to follow the Leader, change your will and your way to be LIKE Christ.
And John makes a KEY point here: What makes us WANT to change? It is the hope of being made physically like Christ. Think about having Christ’s glorious, heavenly, immortal, incorruptible body!
Jesus knew the purpose of His coming. He said it numerous times.
John 10:10 (KJV 1900) 10…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Jesus was all about the way to LIFE! Immortal, eternal life! The KINGDOM of God! There was real purpose in following Him, because He was showing the way. Yes, Follow the leader!
John 8:12 12 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.”
“He who follows Me”—follow the Leader! And you will not be walking in darkness. Again,
John 10:27 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
They “follow Me”—follow the Leader.
John 12:26 26 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.
Again, follow the Leader. Our duty: to serve and follow.
John 13:34 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Again, it’s follow the Leader. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
This thought of following Christ’s example is dominant through the New Testament. Christ came to SHOW the way, to demonstrate the life God will honor.
The apostle John was very definite about our following Christ’s example. He even says our actions must line up with our words, or we are—liars!
4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
We must walk “just as He walked.” Follow the leader. He leads, we follow.
John brings up another key point of likeness.
1 John 3:16 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.
If Jesus laid down His life “for us”—this is how we know “love”? Here is a profound statement, because John says we are under obligation to copy that example:
And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Think: how can we lay down our lives for the brethren? Just as Christ did, by giving up our will, our way, by showing Christ’s character image in our own lives.
Jesus said it one final time in Revelation:
Rev. 3:21 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Jesus will share His throne with those who follow him!
And there is another statement in Revelation about following. Those seen with Christ on Mount Zion are those who followed the leader.
4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.
5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Think about that standard. It is the ultimate in “Follow the Leader” – to be “without fault” when standing in the most penetrating of lights: “before the throne of God.”
Let’s be diligent about following NOW!