Posted by: rcottrill | July 14, 2014

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

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Words: (author unknown)
Music: Assam, a folk melody from India

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org

Note: The little I thought we knew about this gospel song’s origin can be found on the Wordwise Hymns link. However, there is a much more detailed and fascinating story on the Hymnary.org link. I have never seen it written elsewhere but, knowing something of the history of the region, it does seem possible.

Though the origin is obscure and the words are simple, this song of commitment and testimony has a powerful message.

Some form of the word “follow” is found dozens of times in the Gospels. It is particularly used by the Lord Jesus to call His disciples. Of course, in the historical context, physical accompaniment was involved. Those who were called to “follow” Christ left family and jobs and traveled with Him from place to place. However, it was more than that. They were committing themselves to a spiritual pilgrimage. In that sense, Christ still has followers today.

A disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is: committed to trust in Him, obey Him, learn from Him, emulate Him, and serve Him.

Here are a few examples of “following” Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel.

“Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (Matt. 4:18-22).

“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him” (Matt. 9:9).

“He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:38-39).

This latter description of discipleship is found a number of times in the Gospels. It has a much deeper meaning than simply, “Bear your aches and pains stoically.” Or to simply deny ourselves something (such as a new pair of shoes, or another piece of cake). That can be a form of asceticism. In the extreme, it would involve living in utter poverty. But that’s not what the Lord is calling His followers to in the above verses. Rather, in essence, it’s the dethronement of Self.

To deny Self is to repudiate self-centredness, and say a decisive “No” to selfishness and self will. To take up the cross is the other side of the same attitude and action. It’s saying “Yes” to the Lord. There is also implied a public identification with Christ, to follow a life of sacrificial service, whatever the cost.

With this background, we can see that the song deals with something more profound than its simple words may suggest. And if, as seems to be the case, the song originated in India, we know that, there, those who turn to Christ have often been shunned by family and friends, and driven from home, and from a place of employment. (This is true in some other countries too.) There is a serious cost to the stand the author takes.

1) I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus–
No turning back, no turning back.

Consider the elements in that opening stanza. There is a specific decision involved. It involves me and the person of Christ. And there’s an expected continuance and continuity to the new direction of life that has been chosen. Implied in the last line is the possibility of a temptation to default on the commitment made, and a determination not to.

2) The world behind me, the cross before me,
The world behind me, the cross before me,
The world behind me, the cross before me–
No turning back, no turning back.

Here are the two sides of the decision mentioned earlier. If there is a determination to say “Yes” to Christ, whatever the cost, there is also the other side of the coin: a determination to say “No” to the allure of this sinful world, and its appeal to the old Self life (cf. Moses, Heb. 11:24-25).

3) Though none go with me, I still will follow,
Though none go with me, I still will follow,
Though none go with me, I still will follow,
No turning back, no turning back.

4) Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?–
No turning back, no turning back.

The path of discipleship at times can be a lonely one. If we make being liked, or being popular, our priority, we will surely falter on the way. Finally, though we cannot turn back, we can encourage others to join us and be companions on the way.

Questions:
1) For you, what is the best thing about being a follower of Christ?

2) What do you find the most difficult thing about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org


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