A fanatic is defined as a “person who is extremely enthusiastic about some interest or activity” (Webster). We’re all fans of something or someone: sports teams; movie franchises; musicians; authors; etc. We express our loyalty to them by investing time and money in what they offer in the form of entertainment. But at the end of the day, we’re just fans—nothing more, nothing less. We have our normal day-to-day lives; we’re not part of the team. We don’t have any role in the success, or lack thereof, of that team.
When it comes to Jesus Christ, are you a fan or a follower? Jesus dealt with this issue in John 6 when He miraculously fed the 5,000. There’s a clear distinction in this story that there were those who were traveling with Jesus and those who were following Jesus—those who were in it for the free food, and those who were saying that Jesus is enough. Fans want to be close enough to Jesus to get the benefits, but not so close, where it requires sacrifice and commitment. Jesus isn’t looking for fans. He’s looking for whole-hearted followers.
Followers train, not try: Paul tells Timothy in I Tim. 4:7-8 to “train yourself for godliness.” You don’t become godly by accident. You train for it. How do I train myself to be godly? Notice the sense of urgency in v. 12-16 of that same chapter. Certain disciplines lead to certain results. A fan knows about someone. A follower knows someone. A follower has an authentic relationship with God. So, when I get to know the Lord, the first thing that changes is me. My character changes. I become a new, different person. God is at work in my life.
Followers attend services consistently: A follower’s motto is the same as Joshua’s in Josh. 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” To the follower, when it’s time to be at Bible class or worship service, then I’m going to be there. When it’s time to sing, I’m going to sing. When it’s time for the Lord’s Supper, I’m going to focus on the Lord’s Supper. When it's time for the exhortation, I'm going to listen and take good notes. The follower says, “This is an opportunity to feed my soul and serve God, and I’m not going to miss it.” Fans are fickle. They come and go. But followers are faithful.
Followers deny themselves: Fans are in it for them. Followers are in it for Jesus (Matt. 16:24). Followers live as He wants them to live. A follower says the Bible is the authority for my life (Matt. 28:18-20). I do what God's word tells me to do, and I stay away from what God's word tells me to stay away from. That's how a follower lives their life. Remember what the four fishermen in Matthew 4 did when Jesus called them? In v. 22, it’s recorded they “immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” They were all in (Matt. 22:37).
Jesus doesn’t need another fan in the cheap seats telling Him how great He is. He needs followers. He needs disciples who will take this seriously and be all in, all the time.