We’ve looked at the first two commands that Jesus gave to us if we want to be considered one of His disciples. First, we are to “deny ourselves” (read part one here) and secondly we are to “take up our cross,” (read part two here) but now we have reached the final command, and while it may sound simplistic, it is quite a task. Lastly, Jesus tells us that if we want to be called one of His followers, we must:
“…follow me…” Luke 9:23
It seems Jesus is being redundant. Maybe we wouldn’t have fully understood the level to which we would have to deny ourselves in order to follow Jesus, or understood that we would be forced to be content in our weakness, willing to die in order to follow Jesus, but surely we would understand that to be a follower of Jesus, we would actually have to FOLLOW Him, right? Often it is the things that are implied the most that go completely over our heads, we live in a culture where it has become the norm to call one’s self a Christian, to listen to Christian music, have a Jesus fish logo on our car, or even sport a cross necklace or tattoo while actually doing zero amount of actual following of Jesus.
We live in a world that is obsessed both with being followed and following others, to a fault. We want people to follow our social media accounts as we also want to follow celebrities on their social media accounts. We like to attract followers to whatever business or causes we are working towards as we follow the businesses or causes that inspire us. Even in the Church world, we all are hoping to lead other followers in the Christian way of life, while we are following religious leaders (for better and for worse) who are shaping the way we look at the Christian life. While God created us with gifts to lead in many different ways, it is undeniable that He designed us all to be followers; it is embedded in our DNA. It is not a question of “if we follow,” but “who are we following.”
I read a lot of different authors and pastors; I have a theological camp that I tend to lead towards. This can be all well and Good, but it has also had disastrous effects on me at times. There have been Christian leaders who veered off the path of what I would call “orthodoxy,” and many people follow right along with them if they aren’t ultimately seeking God above what a man is saying. I hope you can understand that God never intended for us to be lone wolves, even Paul told the Philippians to “join in imitating me,” (Philippians 3:17) but it is our duty to make sure that the people we are following aren’t leading us astray, and even when they are on the straight path themselves, that we never follow after them in a way that is above how we follow or worship God.
So what did Jesus mean when He told us to follow Him? He meant just what He said. Jesus had lived a very peculiar life, He called us to live in the same peculiar way. He laid out His Kingdom Ethics in His Sermon on the Mount, He meant for us to strive to live that out in our real world. Jesus suffered; He called us to follow Him through our own suffering. He took up His cross for us; He called us to follow Him in dying to our selves. Jesus was resurrected, and He has now called us to live a new life through resurrection like He did. To follow Jesus means to live, talk, act, and love just like He did. This is easier said than done.
Lastly, Jesus commands us to follow Him for a very specific reason. Jesus said:
“I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (ESV)
Here Jesus’ command is also a warning. He is saying, there are a lot of people you can follow, but you better understand that you will not get to God through any other means, other than through me. Even the most Biblical leaders can become idols to their followers. This doesn’t mean these leaders have done anything wrong, the problem lies in the hearts of the followers who are seeking to get to God through someone’s books, sermons, or church services. Jesus also warns here that there are many paths that we can follow that will lead us to disaster. Here, the warning is also Jesus extending a loving hope to all of us. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Hey, look to me! There are a lot of people, who are going to come in your lives, but none of them can get you to God, none of them are going to do what I have done for you, so come to me!”
Some of us make great progress in following Jesus for a period of time; things seem to go well until life gets a little sticky. This is where most of us have great difficulty, sometimes it’s because we thought when we committed our lives to God that everything was going to be a walk in the park, this isn’t true, but it also gets difficult because all of us can admit that life is just brutal at times. When things get tough it’s easy to want to abandon the way of Jesus, to turn and go back to doing things our own way. We are not alone when we feel this way, even those closest to Jesus felt this way. Many of the masses who followed Him abandoned Him when life got sketchy, but we can learn much from Peter and the other disciples in that same moment.
“So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well? Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” John 6:67 (ESV)
So there we have it, if we wish to be one of Jesus’ disciples, lastly we have to actually walk out life as He did. We have to do things His way, not our own, and if we wish to know God and to spend eternity with Him, like Peter, we must realize there is no other way to walk that will get us where we want to go, other than following after Jesus Christ with all that we are. May we all set aside our own selfishness and embrace the way of weakness in order to follow well.
Grace and Peace to You.