Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Explain the two words spoken by Jesus—“Follow me”—in 1000 words or less? Hmmm. Maybe I should just stop right there and let you think this through on your own.
My understanding of what it means to follow Him has changed over the years. Perhaps our understanding of “following” is supposed to change over time as our maturity in the Lord grows in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the ways we experience Him with others. Because I can’t claim to know everything about following Jesus, the best I can offer is to share some of the things I’ve learned about following Jesus—beginning with what “following Jesus” is not.
Following Jesus is not the same thing as:
- Following the teachings of Jesus, or following doctrines, creeds, or denominational statements of faith.
- Following a Bible Reading Plan, memorizing scripture, or claiming a “life verse”.
- Following “religious convictions”, or acting upon those convictions, alone or as a group, purely for the sake of acting upon convictions.
- Attending a weekly worship service, and maybe a midweek prayer meeting or Bible study, or meeting with a small group or accountability partner.
There isn’t anything wrong with doing these things. In fact, I follow Jesus today because others encouraged me to do these things over the course of my spiritual journey. “Christian practices” are not the same thing as following Jesus. I know a lot about Jesus by studying, talking about or meditating on these things—but knowing a lot about Jesus isn’t the same as knowing Jesus. It helps to know Who you’re following.
“Follow me.” Two words caused Simon and Andrew to drop their fishing nets. James and John “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and went off after Him.” (Mark 1:20 Amplified). Levi, son of Alphaeus, left his tax booth: “he arose and joined Him and His disciples and sided with His party and accompanied Him.” (Mark 2:14 Amp). Philip ran to find his friend Nathanael and they too followed Him. Twelve men, in all, apparently left their life’s work to follow Jesus.
I find it interesting that the Amplified Version conveys that the words “follow me” carry the connotation, “side with my party”. Against the backdrop of first century Hebrew culture—oppressed by the conquering Romans, looking for Messiah to deliver the Children of Israel and fulfill all the promises of the Old Testament—we read Nathanael’s confession, “Teacher, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49) and the reason the twelve “followed” begins to come into focus. Over the course of the next three and a half years, these men—and later Saul of Tarsus, among others—would come to understand that following Jesus isn’t about following teachings, doctrines, scriptures, convictions or attending religious meetings. Men and women down through centuries found, in the Gospels and other writings of the New Testament, not something to believe in and follow, but rather Someone to believe in and follow.
To follow Jesus is to follow a living Person!
“And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.”__John 1:14 (Amp)
“For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently.”__ Colossians 1:19 (Amp)
Following a living Person, who is the Christ, comes with a cost, which He explained Himself to His disciples:
“And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].” __Luke 9:23 (Amp)
What do we have to gain by following this all-wonderful, all-glorious, all-divine Person? What is the outcome we look forward to? For starters, eternal life! Make that eternal, abundant life, sustained by Christ who is our life! Many more “rewards” are promised to faithful followers who overcome the trials and temptations of this world—check out the letters to the seven churches in John’s last book!
There’s another important thing I’ve learned about following Jesus: it’s something we do together.
Following Jesus is following a living Person…together!
“When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory. __Colossians 3:4 (Amp)