Calvary Road Baptist Church


Philippians 3.17

In Philippians 3.17, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”

For the last few years you have probably heard or seen more and more references to being what is termed a “Jesus follower,” where once you would have seen reference to a believer, or perhaps to a Christian. I know this is likely a sincere effort to focus attention on one’s ongoing commitment to being a disciple of Christ, but at what expense, I wonder?

The Lord Jesus Christ taught His apostles that if they wanted to be His disciples they needed to deny themselves, to take up their crosses daily, and follow Him.[1] I grant that. Keep in mind as well that the Apostle Paul, after the exalted Lord Jesus had ascended to His Father’s right hand, taught men in several of his inspired letters to follow him as he followed Christ.[2] Therefore, be mindful that those taught to be followers in this way were so instructed that those they were following were always genuinely saved men. Thus, the notion of being a Jesus follower who at the same time insists that he follows no man is simply not New Testament Christianity. Which brings us back to our text, where Paul wrote, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”

Consider our present situation. We have much available for consumption these days in the way of Christian discipleship studies, discipleship courses, discipleship ministries, etc. and so forth, with all of this published material supposedly geared to enlisting and engaging people in the process and lifestyle of following Jesus. Even among those not involved in some formal discipleship ministry, there is a greatly increased emphasis on the effort to follow Jesus. However, my own observations and experience from thirty-six years in the gospel ministry persuades me that the real but usually unrecognized spiritual problem of our day is that the vast majority of those engaged in some type of effort to “follow Jesus” are not genuinely saved. Do you doubt what I say? Let me remind you of our Lord’s prophetic utterance in Matthew 7.22-23:

22     Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23     And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

In addition to that verse, please consider the profoundly important Parable of the Sower, taught in Matthew 13.3-9, and then later explained by the Savior:[3]

3      And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4      And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5      Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6      And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7      And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8      But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9      Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

This parable, rightly understood, reveals that even those who seem to respond very favorably to the preaching of the Word of God in embracing the gospel message are not necessarily converted to Christ. I direct your particular attention to Matthew 13.20-21:

20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

The great problem, of course, is that there are many people these days who are not born again, who do not actually and savingly know the Lord Jesus Christ (whom to know is life eternal), yet they have convinced themselves (or have been convinced by others after having prayed some prayer) that they are Christians and they engage in something they refer to as “following Jesus.” My friend, if you are here this evening and you are unsaved, and some of you are no doubt unsaved, you need to understand how very wicked it is to even try to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as a Christian is commanded to do. Why is attempting to follow Jesus Christ so wrong if one is not truly saved?

Eight reasons for your consideration:


How wicked it is to pretend that you can do what God has declared you to be unable to do, and to strive to do what God simply will not give you the grace to do. God gives grace that He might be glorified, yet attempting to follow Jesus Christ while lost brings no glory to God, but is a vain attempt to bring glory to self.

Romans 5.6 reads, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Therefore, how dare anyone pretend to have the strength which God’s Word says he does not have? How dare anyone strive to do what he has not been commanded by God to do, all the while ignoring that which God has commanded him to do, which is to obey the gospel?


What can it be besides hypocrisy to pretend to do that which God’s Word says you will never in fact do? To pretend to follow after is to give the impression that you seek after God, that you seek to know Him better, that you seek intimacy with Christ. Yet, scripture, in several different places, decries the fact that though God is worthy to receive glory and honor and praise, there are none who seek after Him.[4] So understand, you who give the impression that you are following after are giving the wrong impression. And in giving the wrong impression you run the risk of denying the truthfulness of God and His Word.

You find yourself on the horns of a dilemma. You are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to strive to enter in at the strait gate, yet at the very same time you must not pretend to follow after God or Christ if you are lost. The issue for you, as an unsaved person, is which of these two sins is the greater, since as a lost person you cannot avoid committing sin.[5]


The Bible says that you are dead in trespasses and sins.[6] The Bible says that there is no spiritual life in you whatsoever. How, then, can you do that which requires life, which can only occur when someone is quickened by the Spirit? You cannot, you see. You can only pretend. And when you pretend to live a life that requires life, you sin all over again by playing the hypocrite and the liar by your actions.

But do you not realize that so many today who claim to be Christians think they will by following after Jesus Christ attain unto eternal life? This in the face of numerous passages in God’s Word which declare in no uncertain words that without life in Christ no one has the capacity to please God.


People who are not saved are what Paul terms natural men. Natural cannot discern spiritual truth because you have no spiritual perception.[7] The Bible is closed to you, except as the Holy Spirit may begin to open your eyes under gospel preaching. Neither does the Psalm apply to you which says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”[8] Why so? That was an autobiographical statement written by David, who was a child of God. It has no direct application to an unsaved person.

Facts and history you may recall, but spiritual meaning is quite beyond you. I am reminded of the Ethiopian eunuch, who, when asked if he understood that portion of God’s Word he was then reading, said, “How can I except some man should guide me?”[9] Then the man of God ascended to his side in the chariot and preached unto him Christ. Is it not wrong for the blind to pretend he is not blind? Will you not, if you continue, run the risk of becoming someone blind who leads another who is blind, becoming the blind leading the blind, as the Savior said?[10]


John 3.18 indicates that you are condemned already. Is not the attempt to follow after Jesus Christ, therefore, a denial of this pronouncement? How can a condemned sinner follow after Jesus Christ? How does following after Jesus Christ in any way alter the sentence of condemnation than hangs over your head as a sinner?

Is not the primary matter for consideration by a condemned sinner his condemnation? Is that not the great thing that must be attended to? Dare you ignore the pronouncement of condemnation that hangs over your head by trying to follow after the Lord Jesus? This is wickedness, to treat something so important as something to be ignored or disregarded.


All your righteousnesses are as filthy rags, according to Isaiah.[11] You try to do good things that you imagine will somehow pass as merit before God. But Isaiah speaks again, saying “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil,” Isaiah 5.20. You try to do religious deeds and good works, but Isaiah cries out yet again, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you,” Isaiah 59.2. Therefore, far from closing with God by the performance of your good deeds, you by such efforts have only widened the gap between you and God.

Not that you should do nothing, and not that you should intentionally do wrong, for those are worse than your vain attempts to do right. Just understand that whatever you do will be wrong, will be unrighteous, will be written in God’s books, and will held against you come Judgment Day.[12]


The whole world thinks you can follow after as a means of gaining God’s favor. They think you can be saved by good works. To the contrary, the Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” Paul testified that you have to be created in Christ Jesus unto good works.[13] Therefore, contrary to everything man, in his wickedness, would like to believe and has conjured up to salve his conscience, you must be saved before you are capable of anything, before you are equipped for anything, and before you are empowered for anything, that is acceptable to God.

There are hypothetically only two possibilities for salvation. Either you do something or you do nothing. For you to do, or try to do, anything for your salvation calls God a liar and flies in the face of every single thing taught in scripture about salvation. Furthermore, it enrages a holy and transcendent God for you to imagine that you have anything which can appease Him, which can mollify Him, which can placate Him, which can bribe Him, or which can in any way satisfy Him. My sinful friend, you have nothing God wants or will take from you. Nothing.

To think that you can say or do anything in the manner of following after Jesus Christ before you are saved is an outrage and an insult to God. It is presumptuous in the extreme. It is condescending to the One who is high and lifted up. And it is blasphemous.


My friend, the reason that Jesus Christ suffered and bled and died an atonement for sins is precisely because absolutely nothing you could possibly say or do would suffice. That’s why Christ’s death on the cross is rightly understood to be substitutionary. The Apostle Peter says it this way in First Peter 3.18, “the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.” When you try to do good, when you try to do righteous deeds, when you try in any way to commend yourself to God, you deny the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That, of course, is great wickedness.

On occasion, sinners have come into my office, and both they and I have thought them to be saved, only to discover they were trying to follow after before coming to Christ for salvation. The spiritually awakened want to see sin exposed so it may be rectified. But those unawakened are embarrassed and put off by the discovery, showing that they had no real concern for sinning against God or denying the Savior.

Stopping at this point, we ask the question, does it seem quite hopeless? It is quite hopeless. It is entirely vain and empty to strive in any way to save yourself, to strive in any way to live some semblance of a Christian life without being genuinely saved, and to strive to do anything God has not commanded lost people to do. You’ve been commanded to love the Lord your God, yet you do not. Not really. How can you when you are lost and an enemy of God? But you’ve been commanded to just the same. You’ve been commanded to strive to enter in at the strait, the narrow, gate.

All these things that you’ve tried to do to save yourself have come to naught. The one thing you’ve not done, not really, is come to the Savior. All is hopeless, my friend. All is lost. There is only one thing left. The Savior. Stop this nonsense of proclaiming yourself a “Jesus follower” until first you have come to Christ and been justified by faith. Then you can follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Matthew 16.21

[2] 1 Corinthians 4.16; 11.1; Philippians 3.17; 1 Thessalonians 1.6; 2 Thessalonians 3.9

[3] Matthew 13.19.23

[4] Psalm 14.1-3; Romans 3.11

[5] Proverbs 21.4

[6] Ephesians 2.1

[7] 1 Corinthians 2.14

[8] Psalm 119.105

[9] Acts 8.30-31

[10] Matthew 15.14

[11] Isaiah 64.6

[12] Revelation 20.11-12

[13] Ephesians 2.10

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