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