THE JESUS FOLLOWERS
Eph.5: Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
Over the years those that profess Jesus embrace many labels. Believers, Christians, and even denominational labels like Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and others. But those that believed on Jesus in the early days were recognized by their life and not their statenmens5t of faith or church membership.
Acts 9: And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
How was Paul to know who were “of this way”? He wasn’t going to sift through their theology or doctrinal statements, and most could not even read or write. It was evident that those who were believers had a lifestyle which openly revealed their faith. And it was not being pro-life or against gay marriage. It wasn’t even their stance on other moral issues, although some of that was evident. But the fruits of the Spirit and the word of their testimony was a sure sign that they were “of this way”. That speaks of the way of Jesus, which although is based upon the truths of Scripture, is overwhelmingly manifested in a person’s life.
But what does it mean to follow Jesus? I mean does having the right doctrine, the right Bible version, the right theology, or the right truth, or the approved set of moral tenants, do those things mean you are following Jesus even if some of those things may be important? Is truth something that can be captured on paper and framed in a doctrinal museum, or must it have expression and life through a believer? Since Jesus is not presently in bodily form upon this earth, then just what does it mean to follow Him? Obviously it means that we know and obey His teachings. But do we actually know what He taught anymore?
In this modern age of convenience and self pleasure we have constricted the Christian faith in order to live comfortable and without much notice, to say nothing of sacrifice, in this hedonistic culture. As long as we say “uh-uh” to a certain set of doctrinal suppositions we are not only considered born again, but we are considered followers of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Following Jesus comes with a high price as men measure cost. But how can our lives be so common and so filled with personal frills and still be following Jesus? Read the narrative of His life and teachings and see if you can squeeze your life into all their fullness.
The Sunday morning church “services” are a scandal which comforts the flesh but has little if any affect upon the spirit. Paul speaks of “reaching forth” and "pressing toward” and yet who really vigorously and passionately brings their lives daily into conformity to the ways of Jesus? The redundancy of our scheduled lives indicts us and reveals how very little we sacrifice to say nothing of suffering. Just what kind of sham have we constructed and applied a definition to that cannot be anything less than a lie?
Just what does it mean spiritually and practically to follow Jesus? Can we buy bigger and better houses, bigger and better cars, more and more clothing, bigger and better televisions, and still be following Jesus? Can we gorge ourselves every day and spend much unnecessary money on restaurant meals when we could eat at home, and still be following Jesus? Fanatical, you say? Extremism, you suggest? Legalism, you protest? Yes, it surely must seem that way. But if we take Jesus at His Word then we cannot hide behind our protests. You see, our expectations of how to follow Jesus have become so diluted and so unremarkable that any suggestion that is more than just more Bible study and that requires a lifestyle revolution is almost cultish.
But why were the first century believers so persecuted? Why also were they so easily recognized? I mean they had no church pamphlets. They had no statements of faith. They had no organized theology. They had no church membership rolls. So again, how were the singled out for persecution? It was their lives that gave them away. And it wasn’t their stand against things that made them peculiar. It was their love and grace and humility and the way they respectfully refused to get entangled with the affairs of this world. It was also their humble refusal to give their allegiance to the Roman government because Jesus alone was their Lord. It cost many their lives.
People are not drawn to Jesus because we believe in the Trinity or the virgin birth or the inspiration of Scripture. Paul himself taught that we are the epistles sinners read. But somehow we stand upon our set of doctrinal truths and with that our consciences are soothed. That kind of thinking grows churches and denominations but it does not reach the world for Christ. People are looking for a demonstration of faith, not a definition. It is the fanaticism and complete surrender which draws people to false cults. But Christianity is an easy religious fellowship which ministers to the earthly life and calls no one to forsake anything.
Lk.14: 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
Well He cannot mean all. But that is what Jesus said. And we know we need food and clothing, so instead of discarding the essence of that teaching, let us assume he means everything and work our way back. But we have assumed God wants us to have and enjoy everything unless it is blatant immorality. But there are many, many sins that have to do with material things and luxuries splurged upon our flesh. And in the context of material ownership and usage, what does it mean to follow Jesus? I know, no one likes to even hear such things.
The question then arises, “Do we really want to follow Jesus?” Some desired to follow Jesus and He told them He had no place to lay His head. He asked them to count the cost first. What cost? Did he mean giving to the building fund? Did he mean providing for staff salaries? Did He mean giving up smoking? Or was He speaking of a sacrifice and self denial that was foreign to this world but which would be a source of great glory? Was Jesus saying that if we would extricate ourselves from the allurement of the things of this world we could enter into a spiritual contentment and glory that transcends human understanding?
And if that is what He was saying, is that what we are living? Do we walk daily with a keen and consuming sense of the eternal? Do we walk daily with a moment by moment experience of His matchless presence? Do we see the needs of sinners above their sin? Are we almost immobilized by the grace God has shown to us? And are we energized to reach out sacrificially and show that grace to others? This is the life that follows Jesus, and somehow we have lost it completely.
Are we ready to forsake all until Jesus tells us what we should keep? Wow, you talk about a dangerous proposition. If believers would stop for a week and take a serious inventory of their lives according to the teachings of jesus, unvarnished and unfiltered by the culture, they might be completely broken before Him.
Oh to serve and follow Him with abandon and without taking thought of our own needs and wants! Isn’t anyone tired of this mundane and predictable life that follows in the footsteps of the well travelled culture and avoids the nail scarred footprints of the Savior? Can you honestly say you are well satisfied with your definition of being a follower of Jesus? Somewhere deep within your soul do you not thirst to see and experience something miraculous and life changing? If there was a life that followed Jesus in such a way that people were unexplainably drawn to the salt and light that was being spread, would you be willing to seek it with all your heart. Do not look around, is the Spirit speaking to you?
But if you are willing to offer yourself a living sacrifice, and if you are unwilling to make a spectacle of yourself, and if you are unwilling to enter into a self denial on that scale, well you may stay just where you are. Go ahead and read a few more chapters a week. Go ahead and give a little more to the church. Go ahead and get up early for Sunday School. Go ahead and place a tract on a car. Go ahead and do more of those things. But do not be self deceived. To follow Jesus will require not only a significant inconvenience in the things you now do and enjoy, and it will require more than just a little outward tweaking.
In fact if you actually wish to follow Jesus it will require your life. All of it. Every single part of it.
You will be ridiculed. You will lose friends. You will suffer great inconveniences. You will be asked to clear up some things that are unexpected. You will be asked to love people who you now despise. You will have to relinquish the entire direction of your life. And there may be more to it as well. So if those things sound distasteful and so unappealing and difficult that you will not even begin, then at least you have been honest.
But if you desire to follow Jesus you must forsake all. There is no other way.
Those are the Jesus Followers.