As I read the early chapters of the Gospels, I see Jesus speaking the same command to almost everyone he meets: follow me! For decades Christians have understood this to mean “say a prayer of repentance and commitment to Jesus, attend church regularly, and live a generally good life”. There is a problem with this. Jesus never led someone through a ‘sinners prayer’ followed by a command to attend church services. No, he said, "follow me."
What he meant was "forsake all that you have put above and before me; devote yourself to living life my way, according to my teachings, and my example. Become my disciple. Let me show you a better way to live – free from the trappings of hypocritical living and dead religion. Follow me into a life of service and love of God and others.”
We see this through all four Gospels – Jesus sought to bring transformation into people’s lives. He wanted them to live a life that was all about him – a life that says “It’s not me that’s living my life now – it’s Jesus." To follow Jesus is to put him at the center and to make him the supreme ruler of all that you are and all that you do. It is to allow him to lead you, by his Spirit, out into the world as an agent of transformation in the lives of others.
Jesus gave the keys to following him to his disciples. They are found in Matthew 28:18-20:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Being a follower of Jesus means:
We recognise his authority in and over our lives
We allow him to be Lord. We acknowledge his complete control and relinquish our dilution of control. We let him lead us. We follow him – he does not follow us!
We make disciples
Notice that disciples are commanded to go and make disciples. Following Jesus means calling others to follow Jesus. We are his witnesses given the mission of sharing the gospel and showing the world what he is like. Disciples mature and multiply.
We get baptized
We align ourselves to Jesus publicly through the act of baptism. He asked his followers to baptize new followers. This was the ritual for new believers in the early Church when they put their faith in Jesus and became his disciples. As we look at the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistle writings we cannot help but conclude that baptism was not an option – it was an expectation Jesus had upon those who would follow him. Followers of Jesus are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We obey Jesus’ Commands
The disciples were told to both teach and obey Jesus’ commands. Followers of Jesus will take joy and great delight in obeying Jesus teachings. It is essential that to teach others to obey Jesus, we must first be doing obeying him. Every follower of Jesus is by nature a leader – we are to lead others into obeying Jesus and surrendering to his way of life – which is the best and most fabulous way to live life! To lead others we must first be doing.
Jesus expects his followers to obey what he taught – it is not an add-on to our faith or for the over zealous. We need to apply the Bible to our lives in a way that honors Jesus and places him at the centre of our lives. Simply put, followers of Jesus obey him!
We go to the world
We share Jesus with a lost, broken, and hurting world. Throughout his life, Jesus took the gospel into public spaces. Today, we seem dedicated to keeping the gospel inside church buildings, but Jesus did the opposite. He shared God’s good and practical love in markets, next to bathing pools, in town centers, on mountain tops, on beaches, at a watering hole, on a road; at meals, at parties, sitting in the temple courts, and more.
Jesus expects us to take the Gospel practically and verbally to all the nations of the world. Are you seeking Jesus in order to hear where he wants you to serve him: Is it in your own community longterm? Is it abroad? Is it to move to another town that has little or no Gospel influence and voice? We are to take the Gospel where it is needed.
Jesus’ disciples sought his wisdom, insight, and direction. They went where Jesus took them and went where he told them to go. They trusted him enough to submit to his discipline. They didn’t always understand him. They messed up. They learned. They grew. They walked and talked with him. They preached the gospel after his ascension. They took him out to the world.
We are only two weeks into 2013, why not start the New Year by re-reading the Gospels to see what Jesus taught and how he lived. Then, continue on in the New Testament by reading Acts to see how the first disciples followed Jesus and stayed devoted to him and his teachings.
Perhaps there is a need to get back to the basics and consider our own commitment to Christ. Jesus is looking for disciples who will follow him and make him the most important part of their lives so that he is in control of every part. It’s not always easy – you could say it’s a discipline at times – but it’s also the adventure of your lifetime.