Summary: Following people on Twitter costs us nothing, but following Jesus Christ costs us everything.
In the digital world, it’s all about being connected. We can be connected with our smart devices and computers to over 900 social media apps. We’re familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Vine. There are others we may not be so familiar with, but in this digital age, the worst thing we can be is disconnected. Here’s the interesting thing, though. The more connected we become digitally, the more disconnected we become literally. Here’s an example: Last Sunday, I’m sitting at my mother’s house watching the Saints (no comments please), and my brother, my brother’s son-in-law and my son are all sitting on the couch---not talking to each other, but all checking their smart phones for the latest update on their “fantasy” football teams. We can’t even watch real football for checking out our fantasy teams! We’re disconnected in a connected world.
This sermon series is about connections, but not the connections we make on social media. There are so many false relationships on social media, or if not false, then superficial. We can post anything—true, false, indifferent—on social media at any time. Social media connections are not really connections at all. Over the next five weeks, Chris and I are going to use the premise of several social media platforms to discover the source of true, lasting, life-changing connections. We start this morning with Twitter.
How many of you have a Twitter account? Wait! How many actually know what Twitter is? Twitter is a free social networking microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets (limited to 140 characters) and “follow” other users' tweets. Twitter is public, and anyone can follow anyone on Twitter. Now, how many have a Twitter account? If you do, you are among 974 million “Twits” (that’s what a person who uses Twitter is called) worldwide, and 52.7 million in the U. S. That’s a pretty hefty number.
Twitter is about followers and following. You “follow” someone, and someone “follows” you. That means every time I post a “tweet” it goes out into the “Twitterverse” for all the world to see, but especially to those who have chosen to “follow” me. And, every time someone I’m following “tweets,” it shows up on my Twitter page. Do you know who has the most Twitter followers? Number three is President Barack Obama with 64 million followers. Number two is Justin Bieber with just under 67 million followers, and number one is Katy Perry with around 76 million followers. Personally, I tweet @revlynnmalone, and I have 123 followers which, the last time I checked, was twice as many as @ChrisWinterman has. Followers and following—it’s what Twitter is all about.
Following on Twitter is easy. Simply click a button on the app. If someone was so inclined we could follow what a person was doing all throughout the day, from getting up in the morning to going to the market or to work, to knowing where and what they were having for dinner. I’m not sure why we would want someone to know all that, but we do. Yes, following is easy, but it has no real impact on our lives. The fact that Katy Perry posts photos of her in the mountains of Machu Picchu makes no difference in the grand scheme of my life. The danger for us is that we too often see following Jesus with the same philosophy. We think it’s great to follow Jesus, but we don’t give much thought to what it means. What difference does it make to say we’re following Jesus? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?
It really wasn’t much different in Jesus’ day. Jesus had many followers who were simply catching the latest fad. We read in John’s Gospel in chapter 6 about a group who, John says, “went back and walked with him no more” (6:66). He offered those followers some challenging words, and they decided it just wasn’t for them. They weren’t willing to go the distance. They left and Jesus looked at Peter and asked, “Will you go away, too?” It was then that Peter said, “To whom would we go…and we’ve come to believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Interestingly, it is here in Luke 9 that Peter makes the same confession about Jesus and when he does, Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.”
Being a disciple is not simply saying we will follow Christ. It is believing something specific about Jesus that changes our lives. We must know who Christ is before we will even consider following him because if we don’t believe who he is, we won’t be willing to do what he asks us to do. Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Our love for Christ is directly related to our understanding of who he is. If we think he is mean and vengeful, then we will not give him a very large place in our heart. If we think he delights in taking our joy away, we will not get very close. If we are not sure we can trust him, we will not open our hearts up very far. If we think he pays more attention to what we do wrong than what we do right, then we will want to stay away from him. But if we understand who Christ really is, we will run to him and leave everything else behind. He is faithful and loving and he cares for us more than we can ever know. But we must never forget that he is our Creator and that we are dependent upon him for our next breath and heartbeat. He is God and we are not, and if we will follow him, he asks only two things: 1) self-denial, and 2) self-sacrifice.