Opinions on faith and life

How to follow Jesus

2011-03-02

1-- Meet Him

The real Jesus is described in the Bible as: 1. The Jewish Messiah 2. The Son of God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings 3. The agent and sustainer of creation 4. The “spotless lamb”, the sacrifice for the sins of the world 5. The first to rise from the dead in an immortal body 6. The great High Priest of the temple in heaven 7. The mediator between God and humanity

2-- Accept Him

Jesus only requires that we trust Him to reconcile us to God. That means we rest instead of trying to work for that which is offered freely. It also means we want to be reconciled, we want to be on good terms and in a close relationship. If we come to Jesus simply to escape the wrath of God then we treat Jesus as a mere “get out of hell free” card instead of a Person who loves us. Fear of hell may motivate us to listen to the gospel (the “good news” about Jesus), but it is not the same as the gospel. It is Jesus we should want, not only the “life preserver” he threw to us.

An illustration: Suppose a man buys a ring for a woman he hopes to marry. When he offers her the ring, she does not have to accept it. But if she does, it isn’t just the ring she is accepting but the man. In the same way, it should be Jesus we want, not just the salvation He bought for us. But this also means we give up former, conflicting beliefs. At weddings we often hear the phrase “forsaking all others” as a pledge of faithfulness or loyalty by both the man and the woman to never again enter into an intimate relationship with anyone else. In the same way, we can’t just add Jesus to whatever else we want or whatever god we might have worshiped before. Salvation, like marriage, is “narrow” by nature; there is no point in either of those if it isn’t exclusive and uncompromising.

3-- Walk with Him

When two people are estranged they don’t “walk together” but live separate lives, in a state of hostility. When they reconcile, they don’t continue living separate lives but “walk together”, sharing their lives and enjoying each other’s company. So it is with the one who has reconciled to God through faith in Jesus. You don’t just accept the gift of salvation and then put it on a shelf to gather dust or visit it once a week (or twice a year), but instead you talk daily and often with Jesus and learn to please Him-- not because you must, but because you love Him as you would a dear brother. You study the Bible to get to know Him better and apply its teachings to yourself as you grow in understanding.

If you walk closely with Jesus, you cannot help but see other people in a new light. You want them too to experience this reconciliation, this peace, this love and hope and assurance. You lose interest in the world and its ways. You stop asking “who can I control?” and start asking “who can I help?” You don’t look up or down at other believers, but across, neither elevating nor debasing yourself, treating others as neither priests above you nor servants below you. You realize that while you will someday stand alone at the Judgment and give an account of your own life, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other believers in this life.

4-- Live in His house

As in any “family”, the community of believers (or “body of Christ”) sometimes has to face problems that arise from human frailty. A healthy family doesn’t ignore harm done to its members, whether it’s done to oneself or someone else, and especially if it grieves the “parents” (Holy Spirit of God). It faces the problems and seeks a solution, honoring the rules set by the “parents”. For example, if a family has a rule against bringing wild animals into the house, they have to deal with anyone who does so, as gently as possible but as firmly as necessary. Likewise, if a fellow believer is teaching or doing things that clash with what scripture says, other believers must confront the erring one for the sake of the Body’s health and safety. We ask God where the lines are drawn and honor Him by not crossing them. Sometimes a family has to expel a child who is uncontrollable, and sometimes the Christian community has to expel a believer who refuses to admit or give up a sin. If we truly love God and His people, we will not allow anyone to infect, injure, or destroy others; love does not stand idly by while its beloved is harmed, even if the one doing harm is beloved as well. We bend a lot and try to be forgiving, but there can be a point where this very forgiveness becomes an endorsement or enabling of sin.

5-- Keep your eyes on Him

These are the basic principles of what it means to follow Jesus. No individual scripture passage will violate them, and if it appears to, we must be misunderstanding it. Some may argue that “the specific overrules the general”, but that would be like saying the family rule against wild animals in the house doesn’t apply to deadly vipers because they don’t have legs. How could we possibly think that there are times when one believer can rule over another, or that some forms of perversion are okay because they allegedly don’t hurt other people-- which ignores the fact that they grieve God? How can we accept “the Golden Rule” but make excuses for mistreating others?

There was a time when Jesus walked on water, and Peter was able to do the same as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. In the same way, if we focus on Jesus and the basics of this relationship, we won’t “sink” into rationalizing sin or looking for “loopholes”. God is not the kind to confuse us or contradict Himself, or to play favorites; in fact, He has a habit of choosing the weak and lowly over the strong and aggressive. In Him there is no “might makes right” or “first come, first served”, and He gives strong warnings to those who would prey upon the weak or demand “seats of honor”.

Summary

Following Jesus is a relationship and a life, not a religion to perform. And if it is not a religion then we need to resist treating it like one: sacred buildings and furniture, a separate clergy or priestly class, rituals, claiming authority over individual conscience or families, controlling outward behavior by force instead of appealing to the Relationship, and all the other trappings of religious clubs or businesses. We cannot wear the cloak of religion while denying we’re in one; we cannot run a business and say it’s a relationship. If we don’t hire a spouse or child, we shouldn’t hire priests or officers. We must follow Jesus in such a way that no one will mistake us for practicing a religion, and will instead ask us how they too can walk with Him.

What does it mean, then, to “worship” God? It simply means to live in the Relationship, because your actions will follow your heart. To worship is to honor and praise, and that’s something we can do every minute of every day. We don’t need appointments or schedules to arrange meetings with spouses or children, and we don’t need them to meet with God. We are not God but have His Spirit within us as His “seal” or pledge or guarantee that the day will come for the “wedding feast”. And if we truly love and belong to Jesus, we will eagerly await that Day and invite as many others as we can to the “wedding”. Don’t take the attitude we sometimes hear of someone getting “hitched” or a “ball and chain”, because that’s not how people view the one they claim to love.

Does Jesus have your heart, or just your bank account and compliance with rules? The answer you give to that question is the difference between saved and lost. And if He has your heart, then there is no need for the appearance of a club or business or religion. Just live, and live like Jesus matters.


I’m hoping to continue on this positive, proactive path as a constructive phase of my walk with Jesus. I spend so much time trying to expose and oppose what is wrong with Christianity, that I think there needs to be a clear presentation of the ideal and its practical outworking in daily life. Just as a dieter needs replacements for high-calorie foods, ex-“churchians” need something to fill the vacuum. People are more willing to jump if they can see a safe place to land.

If you’d like to help with this reconstruction effort, please post ideas in the comments here. After a while I may make it a separate part of my website as more of a library instead of a blog.


References

  1. Descriptions of Jesus:
    1. John 1:41, 4:25-26, Acts 2:31, 17:3, etc.
    2. Isaiah 9:6-7, 1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 19:16
    3. Col. 1:15-20
    4. John 1:29, 36, 1 John 2:2, 4:10, Rom. 3:25, Rev. 22:3
    5. 1 Cor. 15:20, 42-44, 53, Col. 1:18, Rev. 1:5
    6. Heb. 3:1, 4:14,6:20
    7. 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 8:6, 9:15, 12:24
  2. John 12:44, Acts 16:31, Rom. 5:10, 10:9, 2 Cor. 5:18-20
  3. Mt. 20:20-28, 23:8, Mark 10:13-16, 35-45, John 8:12, 12:35, Acts 15:11, Romans 12, Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Thes. 4:1, 1 John 1:7
  4. 1 Cor. 5, 13, 2 Cor. 2:5-10, 1 Thes. 5:14-21, 1 John 4:1
  5. Mt. 7:12, 14:22-31, 1 Cor. 1:26-29

26 Comments

Tiro Lynn

FYI the article really helped, but keep the man in prayer.  He’s a real problem.  :^) In the meantime, I still love this article and the way it’s put together.  Paula, any chance it could be reposted on the ECA Blog?

SaberTruth

Thanks, and feel free to link or repost. :-)

Lydia

Sonnet, I believe that in my young daughter’s lifetime, she will see Chinese, Indian and other persecuted Christians come to the US as missionaries. And through them, more will see how spiritually bankrupt the institutional church really is. As someone said above: We are the "Body of Christ" whether we have met or not. You are my sisters and brothers.

Truthseeker

Sonnet, that is so telling. And what an economical thing, too!!! Buildings and programs come with a daunting price tag-one that could be put to much more helpful and true use if used to help the poor, the needy, to do justice, etc.

SaberTruth

Thanks for that, Sonnet. I do believe the coming economic crash and political shakedown will be the only way the institutional, legalistic, corrupt church will be purged. I’m sure also that as in China there will be a State Church of some kind, but even that will be a shadow of its former self. The harvest is ripe.

Sonnet

"Not long ago I had a conversation with an elderly missionary who had spent his early career in China. He had been among the six thousand missionaries expelled after the Communists took over. As in Russia, these Communists too strove mightily to destroy the church, which until then had been a showcase of the missionary movement. The government forbade house churches, made it illegal for parents to give religious education to their children, imprisoned and tortured pastors and Bible teachers. Meanwhile, the exiled missionaries sat on the sidelines and wrung their hands. How would the church in China fare without them? Without their seminaries and Bible colleges, their literature and curricula, without even the ability to print Bibles, could the church survive? For forty years these missionaries heard rumors, some discouraging and some encouraging, about what was happening in China, but no one knew for sure until the country began opening up in the 1980s. I asked this elderly missionary, now a renowned China expert, what had happened in the intervening forty years. ’Conservatively, I would estimate there were 750,000 Christians when I left China. And now? You hear all sorts of numbers, but I think a safe figure would be 35 million believers.’ Apparently, the church and the Holy Spirit fared quite well on their own. The church in China now constitutes the second largest evangelical community in the world; only the United States exceeds it. One China expert estimates that the revival in China represents the greatest numerical revival in the history of the church. In an odd way, the government hostility ultimately worked to the church’s advantage. Shut out of the power structures, Chinese Christians devoted themselves to worship and evangelism, the original mission of the church, and did not much concern themselves with politics. They concentrated on changing lives, not changing laws." from Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), pp. 258-259

Truthseeker

Yes, and by ’scum buildup’ I meant the lack of clarity that accompanies the use of jargon. You are right, though, that the negative aspects of bad teaching and practice also need to be dealt with. There is no way around it, even in reconstruction efforts. And, I like your current positive, proactive constructive phase! I have reached a place where I have had to step back from the level of intensity with which I was reading informative yet unavoidably negative material. I don’t know quite how one would avoid that, either. It is likely phase. Maybe some do manage it better than I have. I know you mentioned this aspect, before, also. I suspect it is an important aspect that simply has to be brought into balance somehow so as not to become discouraging or jading.

SaberTruth

Glad to help, TS... thanks! :-) I should probably use footnotes though, so people can jump down to the note and then be able to go right back to that spot in the text. Kind of like my book site. Who knows, maybe instead of a web site/page this should be another online/offline book like the others. Good point about "scum buildup". While I do want to put heavy emphasis on what’s good and positive, I’ll have to also deal with the bad and negative, because every generation has to learn these things all over again, but shouldn’t have to keep "reinventing the wheel" themselves. But they can only learn from history if history is written accurately.

Truthseeker

Paula, this is very good and I needed this today. I am glad you didn’t include the bible references in the main post. I do agree that it is a good idea to have them, at the end as you have done, and perhaps as features of separate topical articles. Here, though, it was nice and helpful to just read without the jargon. Sometimes the jargon gets in the way even for those of us who were raised with it. Like someone said elsewhere, the KJV WAS the Message bible of its time, for good reason. We need to continue to be presenting the truth without the scum buildup that make it tough to see the real message. Scum buildup is just a natural occurrence of time so it will continue to need to be dealt with. New ’Message’ bibles will continue to need to be written to stay ahead of the scum that will always develops over time. I think that even when you address parts of this post individually as subtopics, it will be helpful to write it first without the bible references, and then include them below or as notes as you have done here.

SaberTruth

They sure do. Thing is, they don’t realize how the details they add contradict the overarching principles. If you try to show them the contradictions, they come up with more bypasses, work-arounds, and kludges than Red Green, and say "See? It works just fine!" And then they label the contraption "the plain reading". But seriously, I’m to the point where I have zero tolerance for those that would carve up the Body of Christ to defend some teaching that violates the unity and nature of all that the gospel entails.I don’t fellowship with hierarchy no matter how nicely it’s dressed up. Follow the money, follow the power, and there will be the wide road to hell.

Greg Anderson

And yet more churches and fellowships than KFC has drumsticks all claim to follow Jesus as you’ve outlined above. Each with its own specific spin and emphasis. Half the time they can’t even agree upon the color of dog doo-doo. The Bible says lots of things, that’s why I get wary when somebody starts thumping me upside the head with it and what it allegedly sez. For me it’s as simple as Micah 6:8, thanking the Almighty for the breath I still draw, the food I eat and the roof that’s still over my head. A kind word for the checker at the supermarket may well be the extra strands on the rope that keeps her from the abyss of suicide just as becoming an advocate for those (man & beast) who have none fulfills the law of Christ. The rest is just religion.

SaberTruth

You’re welcome! :-)

SaberTruth

Um... I think -oi is plural, but fem. sing. would involve -η .

Tiro3

thanks for adding the references adelphos. :) really helps me.

Tiro3

Now Paula, give me the correct ending for that. Should it be adelphoi? :)

SaberTruth

Good thoughts. I’m thinking maybe if I go the "library" route, this article would be an intro and then there’d be articles by topic, or maybe/also by sequence from n00b to elder or something. IOW, if a new believer or recent escapee from The Institution wanted a place to call "home" and didn’t have other means of discipleship, what would that site look like?

Mabel

Paula asks for ideas, so I thought of this one: after you accepted Christ, you are a member of Christ’s body, which is made up of other believers, including people you may never meet face to face, but nonetheless they are now your "family" members. You are to help and be helped, to love and be loved, to care and be cared for, etc. This family is called the Church, but many confuse this "Church" with a church building and the organization associated with that building. While that building we normally call church do have many members of the one true Church, Jesus’ Christ’s body, it is by no means the definition of Christ’s Body, The Church, which He established with his blood.

Mabel

Tiro3, I’m sure Paula can come up with a lot > than I can (what else is new?), but here is what I recently read from the comments of TNIV: 3 times in Titus, God the Father is called Savior (Titus 1:3, 2:10 and 3:4) and 3 time Jesus is called Savior: 1:4, 2:13, 3:6. See also 1Tim1:1, 2:3, 4:10. Titus 2:13 would be esp. helpful because it says" while we wait for the blessed hope - the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ". I’m not sure if U find this helpful or not.

SaberTruth

Thanks for those, Mabel. I just added refs. to the bottom of the post as well. :-)

Lydia

Beautiful Paula.

Lydia

He is also described as "Friend". He is one I pour out my heart to, admit my sin and cast all my burdens upon. My Friend and Savior has sent me an advocate and counselor to guide me and dwell within me. I urge everyone to do a study on the Holy Spirit and how He functions within us.

SaberTruth

Tanx. :-D Yes, many names... but one faith, one Lord, one baptism, that being the Holy Spirit. He might as well not exist in most churches now, with a few on the other extreme turning the Spirit into a magical force.

Tiro3

This is excellent. I’d like to use it for some mentoring I’m doing with a man coming out of Bahai beliefs. We’ve been studying references to Christ as God. But..... you have no Scripture references. Any chance you could put in some references. It’s not that I’m being lazy. Although maybe just a tad. I’m just got my hands full these days. :^)

SaberTruth

Tanx T.! I actually didn’t add references purposely, because it’s really just an overview or summary and I wanted to focus on communication and not so much on presenting an apologetic. But I will look those up and post them, either in a comment or a footnote.

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