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Following Afar Off

by Bernie Parsons

Following Afar Off

 Bernie Parsons

 Presented to the Westwood church of Christ on 08/18/02 

Today I want to talk to you about following Jesus from afar. In opening our thinking upon this lesson, I want to read and comment from Luke chapter 22.

 Luke 22:39: “And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40: And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41: And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42: Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43: And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45: And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46: And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”

From these remarks of Jesus we see that He was concerned about the weakness of the disciples’ flesh. Sure, they followed Him out to the garden of Gethsemane. Before long, though, they were fast asleep. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Jesus admonished them to pray, lest they succumb to temptation. Yet, they prayed not, but slept. In this I see a caution to us today not to sleep, but to be ever prayerful.

Luke 22:47: “And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
48: But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”

Again, if we are not careful, we take the wrong course of action. Shall we, like Judas, betray the Lord? While we say that we love the Lord, do we ignore His teachings and instructions? While we give praise with the lips, do we deny Him with our actions? Jesus had this criticism for some of the most religious of His time on the earth.

Matthew 15:1: “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2: Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3: But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
4: For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5: But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6: And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
7: Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8: This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9: But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10: And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12: Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13: But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”

If we are not watchful, and prayerful, we may find ourselves professing faith in Christ, yet ignoring His ways for the traditions that have been handed down to us. It is easy to do. After all, this is always the way that we have seen it done, so it must be right! The problem with this approach is that it takes honor and glory away from God. It shows disrespect for His will, replacing it with the will of man. Getting back to Luke 22: 

Luke 22:49: “When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
50: And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
51: And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
52: Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
53: When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
54: Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.” 

“And Peter followed afar off.” You might say, so what? Peter was just trying to save himself. Yet, Peter had promised to go with Jesus to the end, even if it meant that Peter would lose his life. See how Mark recorded this same story that we are studying.

 Mark 14: 29: “But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.
30: And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.
31: But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.”
 Luke 22:55: “And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
56: But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.
57: And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
58: And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
59: And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.
60: And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
61: And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
62: And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.”

This same Peter who had proclaimed his undying loyalty to Jesus, even if it meant his own death, denied him three times in a row to save his own skin. That’s why he followed afar off—he was trying to distance himself from the Lord, lest he fall into the same consequences as his Lord. 

We should ask ourselves how closely we follow the Lord. Do we hang back far enough that perhaps others won’t know that we are associated with Jesus? Sometimes, when someone says to me, “I am behind you all the way!” I tend to ask them rather skeptically, “Just how far back will you be?” When we say that we follow Jesus, we should examine just how closely we follow Him.

Matthew 21:28: “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
29: He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30: And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31: Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
32: For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” 

If we say that we are going to follow the Lord, then we must see to it that we do. To say that we will, and yet do not, does not sit well with God.  

Revelation 3:15: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16: So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17: Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” 

If we are going to stand with the Lord, let us stand. If we are not, let us say so, and not try merely to tag along, following afar off. We cannot afford to be lukewarm. 

John 4:23: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” 

Let us walk close to the Lord, and let us worship God in our hearts and in our spirits.  

James 4:8: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” 

When we walk with God, we need to walk as closely to Him as we can get.  

Romans 8: 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3: For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5: For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6: For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9: But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10: And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” 

Galatians 5:16: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” 

Galatians 5:25: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” 

Ephesians 5:8: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10: Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
12: For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
13: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14: Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” 

We must walk close to God, and not follow Him from afar off. We must walk the path that the Lord has provided. 

 Psalms 119:101: “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.
102: I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
103: How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104: Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
105: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Psalms 25:4: “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
5: Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” 

If we seek the pathway of righteousness, we will find it. God will lead us in the path of right and truth--thereby we walk close to the Lord, not following afar off. Let’s all make sure that we are committed in our service to God, that it is true service from the heart, and not merely lip service. 

If you are a Christian, I ask you to examine yourself to make sure that you are not following God afar off. If you are here, and are not a Christian, you are not walking with God—and you should be. Why don’t you come, believing that Jesus is the son of God, repent of your rebellious and disobedient life, confess that faith in Jesus, and be baptized into the Lord. 


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