WORTHY OF THE KINGDOM

by Thomas W. Finley


Chapter Nine

"... AND COME, FOLLOW ME"

We have seen a preview of the next age and the possibilities it holds for the believer. But how can we attain the positive things God would bless us with in the coming Kingdom? And how can we avoid the negative possibilities? For a fresh answer, let us return again to the narrative of the rich young ruler.

We have already learned much from Christ’s dealing with the rich young ruler. Jesus confirmed that in the Kingdom age the reward of eternal life and the sharing of authority will be given to those who have left all to follow Him. We have also learned that the rich ruler needed to lose his soul by selling all of his possessions and giving them to the poor. Likewise, we also need to lose our souls, denying them satisfaction in this age, in order to gain our souls in the coming Kingdom age. Beyond this requirement, however, the Lord also said something very simple, yet very profound, to the young ruler: "... and come, follow Me." (Matt. 19:21)."

The way to the Kingdom is to follow Christ. Previously, the matter of obedience was stressed as the key to entering the Kingdom (i.e., Matt. 7:21). Obedience is just another perspective on the matter of following Christ. I want to underscore the term "follow Me", however, for significant reasons.

Firstly, this term "follow" tells us that Christ is leading every disciple in a particular way. Christ’s leadership, experienced through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, is leading us every day, onward toward the Kingdom. In typology, the Old Testament saints of Israel were led out of Egypt and through the wilderness by Moses (typifying Christ) and the pillar of cloud (typifying the Holy Spirit) (1 Cor. 10:2). This leading of God was to take them onward to enter the good land (Ex. 3:8), which typifies the believer’s entry into the coming Kingdom (Heb. 3:1-4:11).[1]

Of the entire generation that left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua entered the good land, because only they followed the Lord fully (Num. 32:8-13). The rest of that generation died in the wilderness (Heb. 3:16-19). To "follow Me", then, means to respond to His daily working in our lives. As we cooperate with that which the Holy Spirit is seeking to do in us, we are progressing toward an entrance into the coming Kingdom (2 Pet. 1:10-11).

So far, the matter of "follow" has been stressed. The second significance of the phrase "follow Me" lies in the word "Me". The development of the Christian life, which is the way to the Kingdom, must be a matter exclusively between the believer and the living, indwelling Christ Himself. We Christians are so prone to substitute and rely on many things other than Christ Himself for our spiritual progress! Please hear me carefully: we may receive some help and guidance from servants of God, churches, programs, conferences, ministries, and the like, BUT THESE CAN NOT MATURE US, nor can they bring us ultimately to the Kingdom. It is Christ alone whom we must learn to know most intimately, for it is Christ alone who sanctifies (Heb. 2:11).

In order to follow Him, we must get to know Him. We must be able to recognize His leading. It is the Lord’s voice we must learn to know and heed, not the preacher’s. It is the Holy Spirit’s conviction we must recognize, not the demand of the law or "principles", however well taught. It is the Holy Spirit’s intuitive leading we must know and follow, not just a Scriptural formula, or the advice or counsel of a trusted elder, preacher, or Christian brother. It is Christ alone we must follow, not an apostle, a godly pastor, or a gifted teacher. It is Christ we must trust, not a leader or ministry. It is the living Christ alone we must obey and serve. "It is the Lord Christ whom you serve" (Col. 3:24).

Of course, it should also be obvious that all leading of God’s Spirit must be compatible with His word. It is for this reason that in order to know Christ we must also get to know Him through His word. The Bible is the "language" the Holy Spirit uses to speak to us.

Our God is a jealous God. We may labor within a church or ministry, but we must be very careful not to let that entity, or persons within it, usurp the headship and leadership of the living Christ Himself. Moses went up on the mountain to receive instructions and the two tablets of stone from God (Ex. 24:15-18). While he was on the mountain, the people made a golden calf to go before them, thus replacing Moses’ leadership, because they did not know what had become of Moses (Ex. 32). This incident provides a picture of Christ’s ascension and His time of absence between the two advents.

Moses went up to meet God on the mountain for forty days (Ex. 24:18), which is a Biblical period of testing (Matt. 4:1-2). Likewise, Christ ascended to God’s presence, and during His absence there is a time of testing for the disciples. Will we make something like a golden calf to go before us as our leader while He is away? The calf was worshipped in Egyptian religion, and the calf the Israelites made was proclaimed to be their deliverer (Ex. 32:4). Will we substitute something religious for the living Christ? Will a religious routine, or church attendance and activity, or good things done "for the Lord" (instead of from the Lord), or a specific doctrinal position, or a certain ministry or church become a "golden calf" for us?

It is also interesting to note that the worship of the calf was associated with feasting and dancing (Ex. 32:6, 17-19; 1 Cor. 10:7). This signifies that the people’s worship activity was designed to satisfy their lust for fleshly enjoyment; it was not purely for the glory of God. Further, the calf was made from the people’s earrings, ornaments for self-glory (Ex. 32:2). What warning and instruction there is for us in this example. When Jesus says, "and come, follow Me", the summation of it is this: we must seek to really know Him quite intimately in order to recognize His leading, and then we must follow Him alone. We have a living Christ. "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord" (Hos. 6:3).

A SEEKING HEART

There are many things to help us know the Lord. We can learn from others who have more experience and for this reason I urge you to read some of the books which pertain to Christian growth that are listed in the recommended reading section at the back of this book. They will help you to learn more concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. But there is one indispensable, fundamental thing we need above all else in order to know Him: we need a seeking heart. If we stir up our hearts to seek the Lord, He will bring all the right helps along in their proper time for us. On the other hand, we may have much Bible knowledge, read many spiritual books, and attend many conferences and meetings, but if we do not have a seeking heart to know and follow Him alone, we will miss Him. We will end up with religion, maybe even proper (Christian) religion, but we will not know Christ intimately.

The Christian life is not a round of activities: Bible study, prayer, church attendance, witnessing. It is not doing good or standing up for righteousness. The Christian life is Christ Himself. And the development of this life, His life in us, is the way to the coming Kingdom. How can we follow Christ? How can we gain the coming Kingdom? The key to being a follower of Christ is to be a seeker of Christ. To follow Christ, we must know Him. To know Christ, we must seek Him. The key does not lie in being a busy doer. The secret is found in being a diligent seeker, a seeker of Him. "He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6, NKJV).

In Philipians 3:7-14 we can really sense Paul’s seeking to know Christ:

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

In verses eight and ten, Paul speaks with great fervency of his desire to know Christ. Paul’s experiential knowledge of Christ’s resurrection power, and his fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, conforming him to his Lord’s death, all lead on to Paul’s hope that ". . . if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection [out-resurrection] from the dead" (v. 11, NKJV).

This special word for resurrection (exanastasis) appears only here in the Greek New Testament. It is best translated "out-resurrection", and it pertains to the special state of resurrection in the coming age for all overcoming believers who attain to that state. It is related to the "prize" Paul pressed on for in verse fourteen. Since the prize is obtained only by "pressing on", and since the out-resurrection must be attained by believers, these things point to reward in the coming Kingdom.[2] So we see that in this passage the reward is a result of earnestly seeking Christ.

Many principles could be presented on the Christian life, but if we miss the most crucial spring from which all else flows, we will get nowhere. All progress begins and continues through our earnestly "seeking the Lord". Admittedly, there are times when we may drift from such seeking, and the Lord, in His mercy, seeks us in order to draw us after Him again. His intention, as it was with Peter after he returned to fishing in John 21, is to stir our love for Him that we might again seek Him.

It would be very encouraging and enlightening for you to research all of the passages concerning "seeking" the Lord in an exhaustive concordance. It is so interesting that in these passages God does not give much detail on how to seek the Lord. Rather, He simply unveils the picture of earnest seeking. If we earnestly seek, we shall find. How we will find will vary. As an encouragement for you to seek Him, some of the Bible passages on "seeking the Lord" are detailed below.

"But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul" (Deut. 4:29).

The above verse is so encouraging. It follows several verses wherein God promised to judge Israel for unfaithfulness by taking them from the good land and scattering them among the nations, where they would end up worshipping idols. But, it is "from there", from that pitiful situation, that the Israelites could wholeheartedly seek the Lord and find Him. In application, we Christians could take encouragement from this verse in that no matter how far we have drifted from the living God, "from there" we can seek Him and find Him.

"And after the Levites left, those from all the tribes of Israel, such as set their heart to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers" (2 Chron. 11:16, NKJV).

This is another encouraging verse. Jeroboam took the ten tribes of Israel in the northern kingdom away from the worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem. He rejected the chosen Levites as priests, and instead, appointed others as priests for his "high places, for the demons, and the calf idols which he had made" (2 Chron. 11:15, NKJV). The Levites left this idolatrous situation and returned to Judah and Jerusalem. Then, as verse sixteen above tells us, others who "set their heart to seek the Lord God", followed the Levites in returning from idolatry in the northern kingdom to worship at God’s true altar. Even if we have found ourselves in a situation far away from God, we can set our hearts to seek the Lord.

On my bed night after night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him. "I must arise now and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves." I sought him but did not find him. The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, and I said, "Have you seen him whom my soul loves?" Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves; I held onto him and would not let him go (S. of S. 3:1-4a).

The seeker here in the Song of Songs typifies the believer, and the one who is sought is Christ as the bridegroom (2 Cor. 11:2).

"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).

"Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger" (Zeph. 2:3).

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6, NKJV).

"And come, follow Me" speaks of our simple and pure devotion to Christ Himself (2 Cor. 11:2-3). Above all, we need to be zealous concerning this. The best way to preserve the purity of our relationship to Jesus Christ is to be an earnest seeker of Him. Let us not be satisfied with religion, or any religious substitute for Him, but "let us go out to Him outside the camp" (Heb. 13:13).

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)

[1] Hebrews is a book altogether dominated by the theme of the coming Kingdom. The great warning passages of Hebrews (Heb. 2:1-3; 4:1,9,11; 6:4-8; 10:26-31, 35-39; 12:16-17, 28-29) all have to do with the potential loss of the Kingdom for the believer and attendant chastisement from God. For the sake of making this book as brief as possible, I have not gone into the details of Hebrews, which is the foremost book on the Kingdom in the Epistles. For an introduction to the Kingdom theme in Hebrews, it is suggested that the reader review: R. E. Neighbor, If By Any Means (Miami Springs: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1985), pp. 84-127. Other works listed under the recommended reading section on Kingdom matters would also address passages in Hebrews (particularly works by Govett, Lang and Chitwood).

[2] For reading on the "out-resurrection", please consult the following works: (1) R. E. Neighbor, If By Any Means , (Miami Springs: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1985), pp. 40-62, and (2) D. M. Panton, The Judgment Seat of Christ (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc.), pp. 48-53.