In the Bible, when Jesus is recruiting His disciples, we often hear Him use the phrase, “Follow me.” In Christian culture today, when we are beckoning people to come to a saving relationship with Christ, we tell them to “Follow Jesus.” We even hear people call themselves Christ Followers, as though this is synonymous with being a Christian. This is an interesting phenomenon. Unfortunately, with the way the English language has changed over the years, I wonder if something has gone missing from what Jesus said 2000 years ago and the way we use the term today.
I can understand why it can be confusing because today there are many uses of the phrase, “follow me.” For instance, I might ask you to follow me on social media, or to follow my blog. What am I asking? I just want you to read the things I have to say. In this light, all we need to do to follow Jesus is read the things He has to say on a regular basis. We could say that since we read the Bible at least once or twice a week, we are following Jesus. We might even “subscribe to His blog” by signing up for a daily Bible verse on our phone. Boy, then we are definitely following Jesus!
Here is another way the phrase, “follow me,” can be misinterpreted. If you are trying to make sure someone understands your train of thought, you might ask them, “Are you following me?” This will give you indication that, yes, they indeed understand what you are saying.
So, if we are asked if we follow Jesus, we might say, “Well, I understand what He is saying, so, yes, I follow Jesus.” In this line of thinking, we understand the Bible enough for it to make logical sense, so we equate that with following Jesus.
In another sense of the phrase, “follow me,” we can picture a leader giving instructions. This will be best understood by thinking of the game, Follow the Leader. You see a string of young people acting out the same things and doing exactly what their leader is doing.
In this way of thinking, we simply act out what we see in Jesus’ life. This might be the closest we come to what Jesus meant; but if we view “following Jesus” in this way, we still fall short of the thrust of what Jesus was asking us to do when he said, “Follow me.” We need to know more about Jesus and what He said, so we need to read His Word. We also need to comprehend the things He said in order to understand it. And we also need to live it, so we need to imitate His life, actions, and love.
Romans 10:14 says that people who have not heard the message of the Gospel cannot believe in it. So we have to hear from God. James 1:22 reads, “…don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” Sometimes we hear God’s words then fool ourselves into thinking we are following Him. In Mark 4, after Jesus tells the parable of the sower, His disciples ask for clarification because they don’t understand it. Jesus takes the time to explain it to them. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, the Apostle Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to follow his example as he follows the example of Christ.
We can see that it takes a combination of all of this. Following Jesus means hearing from Him, understanding what He has to say, and then putting it into practice.
Are you following Jesus?
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