Many people have some concept of God, a system of beliefs about the force governing the cosmos, but very few understand what it means to experience Him personally. Christianity has a very deep and engaging theology; it addresses questions of meaning and destiny, where we come from and where we are going. Billions of people hold these beliefs around the world today.
On the other hand, the true Believer understands that following Jesus isn’t mental assent to a set of beliefs. That’s not Christianity at all. It’s only about having the correct beliefs inasmuch as they are accompanied by a spiritual work of The Creator. Following Jesus is about personally experiencing God: speaking to Him and hearing from Him; His Spirit leading us and working through our lives. The Pursuit of Christ is spiritual (John 4:23), and without it Christianity and all of its tenets are meaningless.
Following Jesus has transformation as its goal. Its purpose is to conform the person into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). This Following is a inexhaustible spring, and the depths of this relationship have never been fully measured by any man or woman. It involves all of the person, consuming mind, body and will. It can be as simple as spending time in prayer or giving a meal to a hungry man, but it goes as deep as to transform one’s very soul.
Following Jesus is simple, but it isn’t easy. It is accessible to a believing child, but challenges the oldest saints. This adventure can be distilled down into a few basic concepts to be practiced but never fully mastered. For the sake of brevity and clarity, we’ll discuss just a couple of foundational concepts to Christ-following.
At the core of all of this is personal experience of the Son of God. Jesus makes the invisible God visible (Col 1:15) and it is through Him that we have access to the Father (Eph 2:18). To experience Him is to experience God (John 14:9). He is the focus of our discipleship, the process by which we become an apprentice of the God in human form.
All of this begins with prayer, the conversation between our lives and His. Prayer, first and foremost, is communication between man and God. In prayer we admit our dependence on God to be the solution to our problems. We offer thanks and seek forgiveness. In it, also, He changes us, moulding us into the image of Christ as we seek His desires for our lives.
This prayer isn’t merely a listing of desires or grievances addressed to the God of the universe. Prayer is an exchange, a conversation of listening and response between a person and God. It’s a time of worship and meditation in which he does spiritual surgery on our hearts, binding our will with His. It’s a time of listening and resolving to follow Jesus’ lead in our lives through obedience.
Beyond prayer, we see God work and hear God’s voice in the Bible, allowing His words to permeate our minds and hearts through study, meditation and memorization. It’s important to note here that there is mental exercise involved in this discipleship. I’ve found that studying Scripture engages the mind, creating a cerebral dimension, once again, involving all of the self in the process.
Following Jesus may be wonderful, but incomplete, if only engaged in solitary times of prayer and worship and study. True Christianity isn’t complete until it is expressed through love. Obedience may be tested in intra-personal matters, but it is sharpened and honed through our relationships with others. The real experience of following Jesus comes in everyday life, on the street and in the marketplace.
“…whoever says [Jesus] abides in him hought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
–1 Jn 2:6
If the goal of following Jesus is to become like him, we must look at how he lived: his passions and his actions. What does Jesus prioritize? What is important to Him?
As a brief example, the primary mode in which Jesus walked during his time on earth was one of humility and service (Mat 23:11-12). These two attributes run counter to everything this world values. Followers of Jesus seek not their own fame or desires, and they live their lives for the good of others.
Following Jesus involves looking to Him as an example of how we should live, then letting Him apply those attributes to our own life. This is the point where we begin to change, as we look at Jesus’ desires for us and see what is lacking in our lives.
From here, we must trust Him to transform us from the inside out. We must be careful that we don’t try to do the work on our own. We’re transformed by Grace just as much as we are saved by it.
Following Jesus isn’t just about holding a set of beliefs. It’s about living life with the Son of God forming us and changing us into his likeness.
There are two main relationships that we must work on if we are going to follow Jesus: our relationship with Him, and our relationship(s) with people. The important concepts within each relationship are common; they’re all things we’ve heard of, but they’re not always easy to practice. The challenge for us is to live them out every day.
What about you?
Thousands of books have been written on this topic. To write a simple blog post on this topics is to certainly leave out some great details on following Jesus. What would you add to this list?
Where are you at on your journey with Jesus? Have you walked with him for years, or have you even begun? What lessons have you learned that you could share with us?