Following Jesus Beyond the Bandwagon

(A chapel message in a Christian school.)

There are a few things you should know about me:

  • I am a student at a Christian seminary.
  • Before that, I went to a Christian college.
  • Before that, I went to a Christian high school, and a Christian middle school.
  • Before that, I was home-schooled, and I grew up in a Christian home.

Oh, also: I’m the world’s worst sports fan.

I’m serious. The students in my youth group give me a hard time about it. Every week, they’re like, “Josh, did you see the game?!” “Josh, are you going to watch the game?”

And I’m like, “Game? What game? I don’t even know which sport’s season it is!”

World’s. worst. sports fan. I’m telling you.

The one redeeming quality about my sports fandom is that I’ve stuck with one team through thick and thin: the University of Michigan Wolverines. Go Blue!

Now, I know that the rivalry between the Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes is but a pale imitation of the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn down here. But up North, this rivalry was and is a big deal.

And it was really interesting, back when I was in middle school and high school, to observe what would happen each year in November when the Wolverines and the Buckeyes went at it.

I’m from Toledo, OH, which is on the border with Michigan, so the fan split was about 50/50 – Wolverines on one side, Buckeyes on the other.

And each year, on the day after the big game, you could tell who the true fans were…

It was the people still cheering for the team that lost.

Why not the winning fans? Weren’t they just as legit?

Well, maybe. Perhaps they were legitimate, lifelong fans. But, on the other hand, they could just be cheering for the winning team because they won, right?

They could, in other words, just be bandwagon fans.

Bandwagon fans are the worst. Right?

I mean, you can’t trust them. Sure, they look like a die-hard fan now, when the team is doing well. But, when things get rough, when those wins stop coming, they disappear! On to the next team, at least as long as they keep on winning…

Bandwagon fans. Those people are the worst.

But, you know, if we’re honest with ourselves, we tend to ride a lot of bandwagons in life, and not just in sports.

We ride the bandwagon when it comes to:

  • How we speak
  • What we wear
  • What we read
  • What we listen to
  • What we watch
  • What we eat and drink

We ride bandwagons when it comes to our friends. Our hobbies.

And, if we’re really honest with ourselves, our faith.

We are Bandwagon Christians

Hear me out. Hear me out. I’m not saying that there are no genuine followers of Jesus Christ here.

What I am saying is that, to some extent, being a Christian is built into the very fabric of our lives. I am, after all, speaking here at a Christian school, which meets in a church!

And me? I’m no better. I’m a student at a Christian school, and always have been! I’ve been around Christians my entire life!

Now, is being around Christians a bad thing? Should we all stop going to church?

No! That’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is that, if we’re not careful, following Jesus Christ will be just another thing we do to go with the flow, to follow the crowd.

Following Jesus will become just a matter of convenience, instead of devotion.

And, just like any bandwagon fan, the danger for us bandwagon Christians is that, when things get tough, we’ll be exposed for who we really are – followers of ourselves, instead of followers of Jesus.

Friends, we’re all, to some extent, bandwagon Christians.

And here’s the bad news:

Jesus Doesn’t Want Bandwagon Followers!

Turn with me, if you’ve got your Bible, to Luke, chapter 14. Verse 25.

Now, for a bit of context, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. You know, where he’s about to be tortured and killed. And he’s got this big ol’ crowd of people with him.

I want you to imagine that we – all of us – are in that group of people, following Jesus.

And Jesus is about to drop a truth-bomb on all of us, that he is not interested in bandwagon followers. He doesn’t want them.

What does he want? Let’s read to find out. Verse 25 begins:

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Jesus doesn’t want bandwagon followers. Instead, he wants your ultimate loyalty.

See, he’s not urging us to get really angry at our family. And he’s not telling you to hate yourself or beat yourself up.

No, instead the word “hate” here emphasizes a decision to be made: who are you going to be loyal to, above all else?

In that culture, your family was your source of identity. You were supposed to be loyal to them, no matter what.

Is Jesus saying that families are bad? No. Not at all.

But he is saying that, for his followers, he needs to be even more important to them than whatever else they give their loyalty to.

So, what is that for you and I, today? Is it your family? Or is it your friends? Is it your popularity, or the way you look? Is it your athletic or musical ability?

Where do you find your identity? What gets your ultimate loyalty?

Is it Jesus? Or is it ______?

Jesus doesn’t want bandwagon followers; he wants your ultimate loyalty.

He also wants your life.

Let’s read verse 27:

27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is saying that his followers are to live as if they’re condemned to die. Pick up your electric chair and follow Jesus!

Yes, it sounds gruesome. But think about it. If you were really condemned to be executed soon, how would you live differently?

You see, death has a weird way of revealing what’s really important to us. If you knew you were going to die soon, would you spend your time chasing after status, money, or fame?

I hope not.

Jesus wants us to live differently than the world around us. He wants us to live in a way that screams to the world “There is more to life than being powerful! There is more to life than being popular! There is more to life than being pretty!”

And, if we live that way, we might suffer for it. We might lose friends, money, and influence. We might even get ourselves killed.

But Jesus wants our loyalty, and he wants our lives.

OK, how do we get there?

The first step is to count the cost.

Let’s read verses 28-32:

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

If Jesus wants our loyalty and our lives, then it’s a good idea to stop and consider what we’re getting ourselves into before we claim to be his followers!

We need to count the cost, just like the tower-builder or the king going to war.

But, did you catch something else? We’re not just supposed to count the cost for no good reason. No! It’s supposed to teach us something.

We’re supposed to count the cost, and to realize that we don’t have what it takes!

Otherwise, Jesus says, we’re going to get embarrassed if we try and rush into things on our own. We don’t have what it takes.

What a motivational chapel message this is turning out to be! Hate your family and hate yourself, because you don’t have what it takes! Amen?!

Let’s read one more verse, verse 33:

33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Friends, it might not feel like it, but we’ve actually arrived at the good news. Remember, the bad news is that we’re all riding the bandwagon, and that Jesus doesn’t want bandwagon followers.

The good news is that Jesus died for bandwagon followers, like you and me.

Jesus rose again from the dead for bandwagon followers, like you and me.

And Jesus offers a new life to bandwagon followers, like you and me.

When our loyalty runs out, he remains faithful to us. When we fail, over and over again, to give our own lives meaning, he gives us the love, the purpose, and the meaning in life that we’re searching for.

When we come up short, Jesus carries us through.

Because no, we don’t have what it takes. But he does.

And he delights to give us what it takes to follow him into new, eternal life.

So, even though it’s incredibly hard to get off the bandwagon and pick up our cross, even though it’s really hard to give Jesus complete control over our lives, and to give him ultimate loyalty, above everything and everyone else, even though it’s the hardest, most difficult thing we will ever do,

Following Jesus is also the easiest, most joyful thing we will ever do.

It’s easier than living life on the bandwagon. Why?

Because you don’t have to lie anymore, pretending you’re a follower of Jesus when really you’re the one calling the shots.

You don’t have to exhaust yourself trying to give your own life meaning. It doesn’t all depend on you and your effort and your strength and your skills…

NO, it depends on your Heavenly Father, who created you.

It depends on Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for you.

It depends on the Holy Spirit, who strengthens and empowers you to live life God’s way.

So, what does jumping off the bandwagon to follow Jesus really look like?

Does it have to be this super-emotional, tear-filled conversion experience?

Well, maybe. But I think that, for most of us, it’s going to look a lot more boring.

Here’s why: we’re never going to become the people who pick up their crosses and renounce all they have, if we’re not becoming that kind of a person today.

That is, we need to pick up the little crosses each day. We need to say the small goodbyes to all we have each day.

What’s this look like? I think it looks like taking more risks for Jesus.

You know, it’s crazy. I think I’m more afraid of standing up to peer pressure than standing up to martyrdom!

It’s like, sure, I’ll take a bullet for you, Jesus. But please don’t make me call out my friend for that inappropriate joke,

Sure, I’ll go on that missions trip. But please don’t make me skip the game to go to church.

Sure, I’ll risk my life to spread the gospel. But please don’t make me risk my reputation by reaching out to that weirdo.

Are we willing to risk our popularity?

Are we willing to risk our athletic accomplishments?

Are we willing to risk our everyday comfort?

What risk is Jesus asking you to take for him right now, today?

Maybe it’s a conversation you need to have.

Maybe it’s an addiction or habit you need to break.

Maybe it’s a fear you need to let go of.

Maybe it’s admitting that, although you really are a Christian, you’ve been riding the bandwagon, and you need to get off.

Maybe it’s admitting that, although you look like a Christian, you’ve only been riding the bandwagon, and you really aren’t following Jesus at all.

That’s a very difficult thing to admit.

But I promise you, you’re better off admitting it now than hiding it for years.

Jesus knows who you really are. Jesus knows who we really are, all of us.

He doesn’t want bandwagon followers. He doesn’t want people who think they have what it takes to give their lives meaning.

But Jesus is waiting with open arms to catch us, if we’re willing to jump off the bandwagon and follow him.

Are we willing to take the leap? To take the risk?

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