Title: “What is that to thee?”
Text: John 21:18-22
Subject: Following Christ
Date: Thursday Evening –
This congregation, you and your pastor, is very special to me. I have sought and I believe the Lord has given me a message for you tonight. I have a message for every one of us, myself included. I promise you, if God the Holy Spirit will enable me to deliver what I have prepared for this hour, you will hear something you need.
I often reflect upon the past, remembering with fondness the people who have been influential in my life, the many turns of divine providence (the ones I can see) that have brought me where I am, and the countless blessings of God upon my life. I sometimes think of less pleasant things as well: mistakes I’ve made, people I’ve hurt, and opportunities I’ve missed.
After 31 years of pastoring (or trying to), I have more questions than I do answers about most things. Here are some things I wish I had learned earlier, things wise and experienced men and women tried to teach me.
I wish I had learned when I was twenty that A Pastor is a leader, not a controller. A pastor is a shepherd, one who feeds, protects, and leads sheep. It is not his business to control the lives of men, but to feed them with the gospel. Sadly, young men (husbands and pastors) often feel that they must flex their muscles and show themselves men, not intending to do so, but often hurting deeply those who love them most. I’ve been guilty.
I wish I had learned as a young man that forced compliance is only hidden rebellion. Men and women can be manipulated into doing many things they prefer not to do. A pastor can embarrass, humiliate, and brow beat people into attending services, giving, and doing things they ought to do. But, unless the love of Christ constrains people, all their outward compliance is but the hiding of rebellion. If the preaching of Christ crucified does not inspire and motivate godliness and faithfulness, there is nothing within to be inspired and motivated.
I wish I had learned long before now that counsel without experience is dangerous, very dangerous. It is always empty, meaningless and reveals great folly in the one who gives it. And it often causes great harm in those who try to heed it. It is rare, very rare, for an unmarried man to have a faint clue about how to counsel a married couple. An unmarried man addresses such matters from ignorance, total ignorance. The same is true regarding a man who has no children instructing those who have children. The fact is, men who have been married for a long time are very reluctant to counsel anyone about marriage. We know the blessedness of our homes are altogether the result of God's goodness, not our own. Those who have raised a family, have little advice for those who are raising families. We've made too many mistakes.
I try to avoid as much as possible the private affairs of other people, especially our church family. The less I know about your private affairs the less those things affect my preaching. Please understand, I am anxious to carry their burdens, anxious for them to come to me with any need, or any concern. It is my privilege to weep with you when you weep and rejoice with you when you rejoice. But I’m not a priest. I’m here to point you to Christ and urge you to use him as your Priest. I want to be a friend. I want you to use me as such. I will try to listen well and say little by way of counsel. I wish I had learned when I was a young man that a friend with a listening ear, a sympathizing heart, a hand ready to help, and tight lips is a real friend and a rare one. That brings me to my message. Let’s look at John 21 for a few minutes.
Did you ever notice this?—In the New Testament, every time anyone came to our Lord and complained to him about what someone else was doing, was not doing, what someone else might do, or might not do, he rebuked them sharply.
· The Disciples and Those Who Followed Not with Them (Luke -50)
· Martha and Mary (Luke -42)
· Peter and John (John -22)
(John 21:18-21) "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?"
Let’s stop here for just a minute; and let me remind you of the events leading up to this. The Lord Jesus gave his last message to his disciples. You can read the Savior’s final instructions to his church in chapters 13-16. In chapter 17 he made that great high priestly prayer to God the Father as our Mediator. Then, in chapter 18, he is in the garden, praying with Peter, James, and John, anticipating all that he must suffer as our Substitute, when a band of soldiers, led by Judas, came to arrest him.
1. When these soldiers came to arrest him, Peter arose immediately to defend his Master, without regard for his own life (v. 10).
2. Our Savior voluntarily gave himself up to be crucified by wicked men upon the condition that his own elect would be spared (vv. 8-12). “Whom seek ye?”
3. The Savior was led away to the judgment hall, where Peter denied him three times ().
4. Our blessed Substitute accomplished our redemption by the sacrifice of himself upon the cursed tree (-30).
5. On the third day, early in the morning, the Lord Jesus Christ arose from the grave, triumphing over it for us (20:1-17).
· He appeared to Mary Magadalene and the other Mary. (Mark 16—“Go, tell my disciples…and Peter.”
· He appeared to the disciples, Thomas being absent.
· Then he appeared to them one week later when Thomas was present.
6. Now, in chapter 21, he appears a third time to his disciples, specifically to restore Peter, to confirm his love to Peter and to confirm (in Peter’s own mind) Peter’s love to him.
You know the story. When Peter had publicly confessed, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee,” the Lord gave him this charge—“Feed my sheep.” Peter had denied his Master three times. Here he confesses his heartfelt love for Christ three times and is commissioned by the Lord three times to feed his people. Now, read verse 22.
(John 21:22) "Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me."
“What is that to thee?” That is the question I want to address.
Proposition: We must learn to leave God’s servants and God’s people to God’s care.
(Romans 14:4) "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand."
God’s people are God’s people. They’re not yours; and they’re not mine. They’re his!—God’s servants are God’s servants. They’re not yours; and they’re not mine. They’re his!—I sure wish we could learn that!—They are not to be judged by us. They are not to be controlled by us. Their lives are not to be run by us.—Religion binds people. Christ sets them free. “Loose him, and let him go!”
It is absolutely none of your business or mine how someone else serves Christ.—It is none of your business or mine what someone else does for his Master, or doesn’t do.—It is none of your business or mine what someone else gives, or doesn’t give.—The Lord God almighty is perfectly capable of taking care of his own.—Besides, most of us have a full time job, with plenty of overtime, taking care of ourselves!
(1 Thessalonians 4:11) "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you."
Again, it is absolutely none of your business or mine how someone else serves Christ.—“To his own Master he stands or falls!”
The Lord Jesus told Peter how that he would be required
to suffer and die for the glory of God. Impetuous and sometimes fickle in his
youth, Peter was assured that in the end he would be faithful unto death. And
he was. He was crucified at
(John 21:18-19) "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. (19) This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me."
An Evil Question
Then, as they walked along the beach, Peter saw John following. That is what a disciple is supposed to do. But when Peter saw John, he said, “Lord, you have told me what I must do, but what about John, what is he to do?” (vv. 20-21).
John 21:20-21 "Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? (21) Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?"
That may appear to be a perfectly innocent question; but it was horribly evil. It was a question that arose from Peter’s proud heart. It ought never to have been asked. It was a question, if entertained, would be sure to cause a division among the Lord’s disciples and lead to other evils. At that point, the Lord must have stopped, turned to Peter, and looking squarely into his eyes, he gave this stern admonition and reproof—“If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me” (v. 22).
Here is a message directly from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ to you and me. He says, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me!”
If the Spirit of God will enable me, I want to talk to your heart and my own about following Christ. It is our responsibility in all things ever to follow Christ; but it is never our responsibility to determine what another disciple is doing, or even concern ourselves about what another is doing or not doing.
Bro. Todd Nibert and I were talking about this
recently. He said, “What an important message! If we could learn that, it would
put an end to every problem there is in the church and
Divisions: Now, let me show you three things, and I will wrap this message up.
1. Our primary responsibility in life is to follow Christ.
2. If we would follow Christ, we must subject everything to his sovereign will.
3. It is most reasonable that we should confine ourselves to this one life-long occupation - Following Christ.!
I. OUR PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY IN LIFE IS TO FOLLOW CHRIST.
I know the consequences, ramifications, and implications of what I am saying. I know what it will cost us if we dare to do what the Lord commands. But, oh how I pray that God will give us grace to hear and obey his Word. I am talking to my own heart as well as yours.
The main business of your life, the primary, all-consuming business of your life and mine, is to follow Christ. We live in vain if we do not live for God! Indeed, it were better for you and me had we never been born, than that we should live and die without Christ. The Lord Jesus says to you and me, “Follow me…Follow thou me!”
A. This is the command of the gospel.
Many today try to separate salvation from discipleship. They suggest that there may be faith in Christ without a following of Christ. But that is not so. In Bible terms, to believe on Christ is to follow Christ (Matt. -22; -26; -22).
(Matthew 4:18-22) "And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. (19) And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (20) And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. (21) And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. (22) And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him."
(Matthew 16:24-26) "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (26) For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
(Matthew 19:20-22) "The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? (21) Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (22) But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions."
If you are yet without Christ, I want you to hear me. May God help you to hear me. You would be wise to make the salvation of your immortal soul the primary concern of your life. Make your soul your first care, if necessary, to the neglect of all other things. What shall it profit you, if you should gain the whole world and lose your own soul?
1. If you are without Christ, you are under the wrath of God, cursed and condemned because of your sin.
2. If you die without Christ, you shall forever suffer the wrath of God in hell.
3. Will you follow Christ and be forever saved; or will you follow your own devices and be forever damned? (Deut. 30:15, 19).
(Deuteronomy 30:15) "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil."
(Deuteronomy 30:19) "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:"
· To follow Christ is to seek Him.
· To follow Christ is to trust Him.
· To follow Christ is to submit to his dominion.
· To follow Christ is to be saved by Him. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” This is the Lord’s commandment to you - “Follow thou me!”
B. This is also the character of faith.
Faith follows Christ. My brothers and sisters in the grace of God, having been saved by Christ, having been washed in his precious blood, robed in his perfect righteousness and born again by his Holy Spirit, our Master’s word to us is “Follow thou me!”
The main, primary, all-encompassing business of our lives is to follow Christ. When sin is pardoned and salvation is secure, the one thing we must do is follow Christ. Peter was a believer, a preacher and an apostle. And this was our Lord’s command to him—“Follow me…Follow thou me!”
C. H. Spurgeon said, “The one thing we are to aim at is, to tread in Christ’s footsteps, to do what he did; and, as far as he is imitable by us, to do it as he did it, and to be as he was in the midst of the sons and daughters of men.” (See Titus 2:11-14).
(Titus 2:11-14) "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
A disciple is one who learns to live the life his teacher lives. Discipleship is more than getting to know what the teacher teaches. It is getting to be what the teacher is. And Christianity is more than believing the doctrine of Christ. Christianity is following Christ. It is seeking to mold my life after Christ. If I am a child of God, I am not a follower of Calvin, Gill, or Spurgeon, or any other mere man. I am a follower of Christ, I seek to mold my doctrine, my thoughts, my words, my character, and my deeds after the example of Christ. Christ himself is the rule and pattern of my life (John ; 1 Pet. ).
(John 13:15) "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
(1 Peter 2:21) "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps."
We are trees of God’s planting, set in his vineyard to bring forth fruit for God’s praise. If we would do what we were created to do, we must follow Christ. This is the life, the character, and the business of faith (Phil. 3).
1. God has given every believer a place, position, and gifts, in which to serve him, which nobody else can occupy.
Illustration: “Maybe the Lord yet has something for me to do.” –(Larry Brown)
This is the vocation to which we are called. No matter what your earthly occupation is, if you are in Christ, you are first and foremost his servant. That is your occupation. God has put you where you are, with the gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities you have to influence and minister to other people, whom no one else can reach, for the glory of his name.
· All saved sinners are missionaries.
· All saved sinners are his witnesses.
· All saved sinners are martyrs!
I do not believe that any child of God was created just to run a business, keep records, build houses, connect water pipes, sell insurance, or teach school There is something greater for you and me to do. We were created to serve the cause of God our Savior in the place of our calling, for the glory of his name (1 Cor. -24).
(1 Corinthians 7:20-24) "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. (21) Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. (22) For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. (23) Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. (24) Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."
Illustration: My conversation with Jamel Wright
God has put you and me where we are, with the gifts, talents, and means we have to seek the salvation of those people who are under our influence for the glory of his name. This is you life’s business, occupation, and calling - “Follow thou me!” (See John 20:21; Heb. 12:1-2).
(John 20:21) "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
(Hebrews 12:1-2) "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
II. Second, I want you to see that IF WE WOULD FOLLOW CHRIST, WE MUST SUBJECT EVERYTHING TO HIS SOVEREIGN WILL.
When Peter learned what he must suffer and endure for Christ, he looked at John and said, “And what shall this man do?” And the Lord’s answer to him was, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me!”
A. If we would follow Christ, we must not concern ourselves with the responsibilities of others.
It is true that we are all members of the body of Christ. And we work and labor together for one cause—the glory of God. All God’s people together preach his Word, feed his sheep, and promote his glory.
But each individual believer is the Lord’s servant. And we must recognize that every man stands or falls before his own Master. We must each be occupied with our own responsibilities, our own ministries, our own calling, and our own faithfulness. We must not concern ourselves with how, when, or where God is pleased to use others.
1. We gladly help others as they serve Christ - Missionaries, churches, pastors, etc.
2. But we must not seek to govern others in their service for Christ. We leave them in the hands of God.
3. And we must not allow ourselves to be turned aside by others from our own responsibilities.
I am not responsible for what God has called you to do. But I am responsible for what he has called me to do.
· What God does with you is his business.
· What you do for God is your business and his, not mine.
· What I do for God is my business and his, not yours.
(Romans 14:4) "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand."
May God give us grace to cease being busybodies about other people’s business.
(1 Thessalonians 4:11) "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;"
(1 Peter 4:14-16) "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. (16) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf."
B. If we would follow Christ, we must not concern ourselves with foolish and unlearned questions (2 Tim. -24).
(2 Timothy 2:22-24) "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (23) But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (24) And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient."
1. The origin of evil.
2. The relation between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
3. The mysteries of prophecy.
4. The secret counsels of God (Deut. 29:29).
C. And if we would follow Christ, we must not concern ourselves with our own personal interests, needs, or relations. We must lose our life if we would save it!
1. I must follow Christ whether my family follows him or not.
2. I must follow Christ, regardless of personal preference.
3. I must follow Christ, regardless of personal costs.
4. And I must do so willingly (2 Tim. 2:8-10.
(2 Timothy 2:8-10) "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: (9) Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. (10) Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
III. Third, IT IS MOST REASONABLE THAT WE SHOULD CONFINE OURSELVES TO THIS ONE LIFE LONG OCCUPATION – “FOLLOW THOU ME!”
I know that I am calling for costly commitment, that will require of us many things which are contrary to the flesh, things that will be often misunderstood and misrepresented by people around us. I am calling for you and me to give ourselves in unreserved commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of his grace. Our Master says, to you and me, “Follow thou me.” But his command is most reasonable.
A. He bought us (1 Cor. -20).
Shall we take that which belongs to Christ and waste it upon vanity?
B. Our powers are so limited.
I know some of my own limitations. I would like to use what little ability God has given me in the work of following Christ, preaching the gospel, and seeking to bring others to follow him.
C. Our time is so limited!
“The time is short” (1 Cor. ). Let us therefore redeem the time we have (Eph. ) and use it wisely, following Christ!
My brother, my sister, do not allow anyone to divert you from the straight path of obedience to Christ. To that, above everything else, we have been called! How I pray that we might, each of us, live to glorify God, that we might each be like an arrow shot from Christ’s bow, by his own pierced hand, to the target of God’s glory. Let nothing turn us aside from the path of obedience.
I wonder what God would have us to do, individually
and collectively, as members of this church, members of the church in
You are all free men and women, free born children of God, I will not prescribe for you what to do. I simply call upon you to obey the direction of God the Holy Spirit and follow Christ. Perhaps you are thinking, “But, pastor, what can I do?”
1. You are Christ’s witness; so tell sinners about him.
2. Use your money to support the gospel.
· Here at home!
3. Distribute tapes, tracts, and books.
4. Take care of the church property.
5. Minister to one another.
Preacher and the Business
Application: Do everything you can to help one another along the way; but do not set in judgment over or try to manipulate one another. What another does or does not do is absolutely none of your business or mine. Regarding all such matters, the Lord Jesus says to us, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me!”
1. Follow Christ - This is the command of the gospel.
2. Follow Christ - This is the life of faith.
3. If we do follow Christ now by faith, soon we will follow him home to heaven (John ).
(John 13:36) "Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards."
 There seems to be a difficulty here. It is obvious that our Lord, being crucified on Friday afternoon and resurrected on Sunday morning was in the grave (to our way of thinking) only one full day (Saturday), the Friday evening preceding it and Sunday morning following it. But that is no problem at all. The Jews calculated any part of a night or day as a whole. Calculating as they did, our Lord was in the tomb the day and night of Friday, the day and night of Saturday, and the night (the time preceding dawn) and day of Sunday.
1 See also Sermon #919 preached at Danville, Sunday morning 7/1/1990, at Lexington, KY 7/4/90—#1336 preached at Danville (Tuesday – 03/02/99)—Wichita Falls, TX - 5-18-99, San Leandro, CA - 4-17-99 Covenant of Grace (N. Wilkesboro, NC) 6-6-99—#1492 preached at Danville (Tuesday – 02/19/02)—San Jose, CA (Thursday 4/25/02)—
2 Tape #W-85b