Who Do You Follow?

January 26, 2020

Some people claim to be independent thinkers, letting nothing and no one dictate their actions.  But this is actually a complete impossibility.  We all answer to someone.  When we are young we answer to parents - be they natural, adoptive, or foster parents, or some other legal guardian - in addition to teachers, school bus drivers, and a host of other authority figures.  And if we completely ignore all of their rules, then we have the juvenile criminal justice system to deal with.

When we are adults, we have bosses we work for, and the laws of our city, state, and nation to follow.  We might not always agree with them, but If we completely ignore them, we will end up without a job, without money, possessions, and property, and ultimately without our freedom as well. 

In most cases, all of the people who we answer to are there to look out for our well-being.  Parents, teachers, company CEO’s, and government, are called by God to lead those in their charge to live good, peaceful, and productive lives.

But there are also people we follow by choice.  Groupies follow singers, musicians, and bands.  Sports enthusiasts follow teams.  Congregations follow their priest or pastor.  And unfortunately cult members follow their leader, often to disastrous ends.  So what happens when the person or persons we are following goes down the wrong road?  A popular rock star overdoses on heroin.  A key football player refuses to stand for the national anthem, a priest is exposed for sexual abuse of a minor, a cult leader is responsible for a mass suicide… 

While the Bible urges us to pray for our leaders, and to live within the laws of our land, there is an ultimate authority that is above all others.  The very first commandment given to Moses was “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).  If we place any other authority as paramount in our lives, above that of God Himself, we have turned that authority into an idol, and broken God’s law, which He instituted not only for His glory, but for our good as well.  A promise from God was given to those who heed and follow this instruction in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, which says, “Listen closely… and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you…  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.   And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”

So what happens when someone who is supposed to lead us in the way of God, commands that we do something that is in direct violation of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit within us?  While we still have most of our religious freedoms in this country – at least for now – there are countries where Christians are persecuted, and even executed, for their faith.  This is nothing new.  Back in the sixth century BC, King Nebuchadnezzar made a law that three brave men of God refused to obey, as we read in Daniel chapter 3: “King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Then a herald shouted out, ‘People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.’

So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Long live the king! You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.’

Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?’

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.’

Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.

But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”

‘Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,’ they replied.

‘Look!’ Nebuchadnezzar shouted. ‘I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!’ 

Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!’

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were rescued by none other than the pre-incarnate Christ himself, and caused the turning of a nation to God.  But this is not always the case.  Sometimes our rewards will not come until we reach our heavenly home.  Nonetheless, we must remain faithful no matter the circumstance, or consequence, to God and His Word.

Less than a hundred years ago, many brave souls stood against a leader intent on annihilating God’s chosen people, and being himself revered unquestionably.  Were those who defied Hitler wrong?

And the day is coming, possibly quite soon, when yet another such leader will arise.  The Muslims are anxiously awaiting the 12th Imam, or promised Mahdi, who will be accompanied by one they falsely believe is Jesus.  Not coincidentally, there are numerous similarities between their prophecies, and those in the Book of Revelation of the Beast (commonly known as the Antichrist) and the False Prophet, even down to the length of time they will rule.  Make no mistake, the Bible is very clear as to the fate of those who receive the mark of the beast and worship him, even though they will not be allowed to buy or sell unless they have it (Revelation 13:17), and eventually will be beheaded as well (Revelation 20:4).  Revelation 14:6 says, “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”  The fire that Nebuchadnezzar threatened with could only cause physical death, but the fire that our Lord says awaits those who will not stand for Christ will cause eternal spiritual death. 

It is vitally important that we choose now whom we will follow, and that our choice be the Lord Jesus Christ and him alone.  We must pray for the strength and courage necessary to follow him to the end, against whatever forces arise, no matter how threatening. 

While I personally believe God will remove his faithful ones before the days of tribulation described in the Book of Revelation as well as elsewhere in the Bible, there are some who will not come to a saving faith until those days are already underway.  They will be faced with martyrdom for following Christ, just as there are already people around the world faced with that reality today.

And so I ask you, who do you follow?  I pray it is Jesus.  Amen. 


"Sold Out"  (Hawk Nelson)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgEB2_USXyk

"Guilty"  (Newsboys)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHroHbYHtrU