Question: What was the message Jesus preached? Answer: The Kingdom of God is here.
Question: What did Jesus consistently ask potential disciples to do? Answer: Follow Me.
The language i grew up with was “I became a Christian in 1979 when I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and now I’m saved.” While I believe each of the words in that sentence, it’s an extremely unhelpful way of thinking about our relationship to God. Here’s a more biblical, more relevant and more powerful paradigm. To follow…
It’s true that Jesus also asked the would-be followers to “believe” and “rethink” (“repent” would be the old English word). But his most consistent words, from Matthew chapter 4 to John chapter 21, were – “follow me.”
Yet somehow I get accused of watering down the “real gospel” by talking about “following Jesus” – both as a title and as a theology. So what did Jesus mean my “follow me” and how might we interpret those words today?
1. I’ve been asking the question on Facebook – what does it take to “follow” someone. I think we’ve agree that it requires many things. Among them would be believing and trusting. It would require knowing where the person is going that you might follow. It might require a childlike (humble) faith. It would require commitment and dedication. it would require you leaving whatever you were doing and wherever you were going, to turn and follow the new direction this person was going. It requires everything.
2. Jesus never asked his would-be followers to “sign up” or pray a prayer to begin following him. And Paul never asked for that either. So why do we?
3. Simply praying a prayer and “getting saved” is the easy way – not the watered down way. It’s static rather than dynamic. It says “Such and such happened to me back then.” Whereas “following” is alive, current and active.
4. Following rejects the clear lines of in or out thinking which is so harmful to our witness of who Jesus is. It’s easy to invite people along on a journey of following rather than invite them into a concrete belief system which requires doctrinal adherence as its entry point. Not that good doctrine is unimportant – it’s vital. But it’s not the requirement for beginning a journey.
The language of “following Jesus” has more not less Biblical integrity. It has more power. More current dynamic. It has an “ing” at the end of the word, suggesting movement forward. And it’s what Jesus asked the first followers to do – and he asks us today as well….
Will we follow?