"WHO WILL FOLLOW JESUS?"
"Who is on the Lord’s side?" (Exo. 32.26)
INTRO.: A song which asks about whether we are on the Lord’s side or not is "Who Will Follow Jesus?" (#347 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #185 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (1851-1920). A schoolteacher in Philadelphia, PA, she received a severe spinal injury when an incorrigible student hit her on the back with a heavy slate, and she began writing poems while recovering. Many of these poems caught the attention of various hymn tune composers and publishers. One of her earliest, which she wrote on the first nice day when her doctor allowed her to go outside, was "There’s Sunshine In My Soul." Though a semi-invalid for much of her life, she did improve and was able to be active at times. The tune for "Who Will Follow Jesus?" was composed by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921).
The song was copyrighted in 1891, but its first appearance may not have been until 1912 when it was published by the John C. Church Co. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson (but omitted in the 1925 edition and in Great Songs No. 2); the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by R. C. Welch. Today it is found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st. C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by J. P. Wiegand, in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song suggests several specific situations in which we must make sure that we are following Jesus.
I. Stanza 1 says that we should follow Jesus in the fight for right
"Who will follow Jesus, Standing for the right,
Holding up His banner In the thickest fight?
Listening for His orders, Ready to obey,
Who will follow Jesus, serving Him today?"
A. Jesus wants us to stand: 1 Cor. 16.13
B. The reason that we need to stand for the right is that we are fighting the good fight of the faith: 1 Tim. 6.12
C. Because He is our commander who has the right to give us our orders, we must be ready to obey Him: Heb. 5.8-9
II. Stanza 2 says that we should follow Jesus even when we are busy in life’s ways
"Who will follow Jesus In life’s busy ways,
Working for the Master, Giving Him the praise;
Earnest in His vineyard, Honoring His laws,
Faithful to His counsel, Watchful for His cause?"
A. We all have various responsibilities in life towards our families, jobs, communities, and other relationships, but we should never use these as excuses not to follow Jesus by being earnest workers in His vineyard: Matt. 20.1-16
B. Those who are earnest workers in His vineyard are those who are being faithful to His cause: Rev. 2.10
C. In order to accomplish this purpose, we must be watchful for His cause: Matt. 26.41
III. Stanza 3 says that we should follow Jesus when we are tempted by the devil
"Who will follow Jesus When the tempter charms,
Fleeing then for safety to the Savior’s arms;
Trusting in His mercy, Trusting in His power,
Seeking fresh renewals Of His grace each hour."
A. The tempter, of course, is the devil who entices us to do evil: Matt. 4.3, 2 Cor. 11.3
B. When we face temptations, we can flee to the Savior’s arms because He promises that He will provide a way of escape: 1 Cor. 10.13
C. To do this, we must trust in His mercy and His power to aid us: Heb. 2.16-18
IV. Stanza 4 says that we should follow Jesus in His work of love
"Who will follow Jesus In His work of love,
Leading others to Him, Lifting prayers above?
Courage, faithful servant! In His word we see,
On our side forever Will this Savior be."
A. Jesus has a work for His people to do, and we need to follow Him in it: Eph. 2.10
B. This work involves leading others to Him even as we lift our prayers above: 2 Tim. 2.2
C. It will take courage, but as long as we do His work the Lord has promised to be with us: Matt. 18.18-20
CONCL.: The chorus continues to ask the question that forms the theme of the song:
"Who will follow Jesus? Who will make reply,
‘I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I’?
Who will follow Jesus? Who will make reply,
‘I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I’?"
There are two ways, spiritually, for us to follow. We can either follow the ways of Satan and travel that broad way that leads to everlasting punishment, or we can follow the ways of Christ and travel the narrow way that leads to eternal life. It would seem as if it were a "no brainer," but so many choose to follow the ways of Satan that the Lord must ask, "Who Will Follow Jesus?"