Not a Fan: Defining the Relationship - are you a Fan or Follower?

Read Luke 14:25-33 - Over the next several weeks, I want all of us to examine our relationships with Jesus. Now I get the fact that for some of you this may be a kind of a first date, and you’re not exactly sure what to make of any of this. Maybe you’re not ready for that talk yet. But I think most of us in this room need to have a DTR talk with Jesus. We need to define the relationship, find out where we stand with Jesus. And to look at Christ’s invitation, we’ll be using a verse throughout the next 6 weeks that clearly lays out what it means to be a follower of Christ. It’s Luke 9:23, and it reads, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

I think many of you welcome this DTR talk, because you are ready to move to a different level of spiritual commitment. You’re ready to move past the casual and past the convenient into something more devoted, something more committed. So you’re ready for this talk. Some of you are not, because you kind of like the set-up you have with Jesus. I mean, He is a nice guy and you like church—it gives you something to do on the weekend—and it’s awfully nice that we can sip some coffee and eat a Danish or two before worship. You kind of like what you have going, and this idea of being more committed, this idea of taking it to a different level? You get a little anxious. Maybe you even go into the “fight or flight” response. But what we want to do is define the relationship. Where do you stand with Jesus Christ?

And here’s how I’d like to ask that question: Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus? Now, some of you are wondering why I’d ask a question like that. We’re all followers of Jesus, right? That’s why we’re here. Don’t jump to your answer too quickly. Hear me out. The word fan is defined as “an enthusiastic admirer.” We’re all fans of different things, right? Many of us are sports fans. We watch the games. We cheer on the team. Some of us own the jerseys of our favorite players. We understand the concept of being a fan of sports.

And my concern is that our church has the potential to very easily become a stadium full of fans of Jesus. And Jesus never cared about having fans. If you define a fan as an enthusiastic admirer, then fans were not important to Him. See, I think we have a tendency to come together once a week and be fans of Jesus. We sit down in our seats and we open up our bulletins. We applaud at certain times and we leave somehow thinking that, as the fans, it was all done for us. We get in the car and we evaluate the sermon, and we kind of give the service, songs and sermon a thumbs up or thumbs down. And we come back and do it again the next week.

And I get the fact that some of you are really big church fans. I mean, you’re really into all of this. You know all the songs and you don’t need the page numbers for the Bible. You know where to turn. You’re big fans of Jesus. And being a fan feels pretty good. We can feel pretty good about ourselves because we’re these great admirers of Christ, but Jesus never cared about having fans. So if we’ll be honest with ourselves, if we’ll really search our hearts and begin to define our relationship with Jesus, there are three questions for you to answer. The first is this:

1) Why Are You Here? If you read through the Gospels, Jesus, at different points in His ministry, would draw a line in the sand and He would separate the fans from the followers. One such instance is in John chapter 6. Jesus is in the height of His ministry and we read that large crowds were following Jesus. He was very popular. He was working miracles. He was providing food from just five loaves of bread and a few fish, and a lot of people were in the crowd following Jesus. But Jesus, in verse 2, realizes why they were coming. In verse 2 it just says they were coming “because of the miracles.” The main reason the crowds were showing up was because of the spectacle. They didn’t care as much about the teaching, about the life changing lesson. They were there for the show.

 So, why are you here? What is your “because”? Is it because you like the free food? Is it because you think the seats are comfortable, or you really like the music? Is it because you like the chit-chat? Seeing your friends? Is church just your meeting place for lunch afterward? Is that why you’re here? I mean, that’s great for awhile, but at some point you have to define the relationship. Why are you here? In that passage Jesus challenges his fans to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him, and in verse 66 here we read: “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

A lot of them went home because what Jesus offered wasn’t what they wanted. And often there are times when people need to leave because they’ve been coming for all the wrong reasons…they came for the show. They came for the choir. They came for the community. But there will come a point where that won’t be enough anymore…and have to define their relationship with Jesus. Why are you here? Because of what? Jesus wants followers who want to have a deeper relationship with him. The second question we need to ask ourselves is:

2)   Are You All In? Being a follower of Jesus requires complete commitment. A follower of Jesus will do whatever it takes to follow him. They’re absolutely loyal, completely committed. On the whole, we don’t do too well with absolute commitment. We prefer selective commitment. And so, we customize Christianity. Often, we look at our relationship with Jesus and say, “I’m going to follow Jesus, but I’m going to kind of pick and choose the areas in which I will follow Him.” So you say, “Well, I’ll follow Jesus, but don’t ask me to forgive the person that hurt me. I’m not going to let go of that resentment.” Or, “I’ll follow Jesus, but don’t talk to me about my money. I work hard for that money.” I’m a follower of Jesus, but that won’t stop me from doing what I want.” So it’s this customized Christianity that says, “Well, I follow Jesus, but only in the areas that are comfortable, only in the areas that I agree with. I’m a Christian but I’m not all in.”

Well, then you’re not a follower of Christ. You’re just a fan. There is not an option of selective commitment. It’s not a possibility. There is no bargaining, no bartering, no finagling. When you decide to become a follower of Christ, you’ve got to go all in. And fans, they don’t like the idea of going all in. They’re not wild about having to make sacrifices, or about having to deny themselves of something they desire or crave. Or give more than they really want to. If you’ve answered why you’re here, then it will be pretty easy to figure out if you’re all in. If you aren’t here for the right reasons, chances are you won’t be willing to go all in.

So, in defining our relationship to Jesus, we’ve asked: 1) Why Are You Here?  2) Are You All In? And thirdly, 3) Have You Made It Your Own? Many of us started going to church because of a parent. Mom made you. Dad said you had to. There wasn’t an option. Or maybe you started coming because of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a spouse. You come because it appeases them. For those of us who grew up in the church, or who attend church in order to appease a significant other or relative, it can be really easy to become a fan. It happens all the time. We keep coming to appease someone else, and pretty soon we get into the flow of things. We know most of the songs, and we even recognize the stories or the teachings, and we’re kind of fans of Jesus. But that can be the most dangerous situation to be in. If your faith isn’t your own, if you aren’t pursuing a relationship with Jesus, and you keep coming week after week and begin to create a “faith” that was someone else’s in the first place, you’re just numbing yourself to the real thing. You’ll become numb to real faith, comfortable with a few songs and a few favorite verses, none of which requires any sacrifice or personal change. And whenever that relationship no longer motivates you to come, then you’ll probably stop altogether.

You have to make your faith your own. Jesus isn’t looking for a relationship between you, your mom, and Him. He’s not looking for a relationship between you, your wife, or husband and Him. He’s looking for a relationship with you. That may be one of the reasons Jesus said these words in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” This is not about your mom or dad. This is about you and Jesus. So begin to search your heart these next few weeks as we ask, “Are you a follower of Jesus, or are you a just a fan?”

Adapted from sermon materials purchased from “City On a Hill” publishing. Copyright © 2010 City on a Hill Studio, LLC. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other - except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without prior written permission of the publisher. Published in Louisville, Kentucky by City on a Hill Studio. City on a Hill Studio and Not a Fan are registered trademarks of City on a Hill Studio, LLC. The publishers are grateful to Kyle Idleman for his collaboration and writing skills in developing the content for these sermons. Additional copies of these sermons along with other not a fan study resources may be purchased online at www.cityonahillstudio.com. Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: New International Version® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.