When Jesus recruited His disciples for His earthly ministry, He quite simply called them to follow Him. In response, they immediately stopped what they were doing and started to follow Jesus. They left everything behind to accompany Jesus on His ministry and began an adventure beyond what they could ever have imagined! But what does it mean to follow Jesus for us today?
What Did Jesus Mean by Follow Me?
For a rabbi or teacher to have a close group of followers was nothing new in Jesus’ culture, this was the tradition. It was the way to spread the message, to speak to the crowds, but also to teach intensely a small group, so that they would teach others.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”Matthew 4:19
Jesus called twelve disciples to follow Him, to walk closely with Him during the time of His earthly ministry. They would have exclusive access to Jesus, they would spend all day, and every day, in His company.
But there would be a cost to following Jesus as He demanded wholehearted commitment. The disciples left their, businesses, homes, and families to follow after Jesus, but gained so much more!
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”Matthew 16:24
Jesus is central to our lives, there is no other place for Him to be! When we respond to His call, our priorities change and we are no longer driven by self-interest. Those who choose to follow Jesus must be prepared to submit to His teaching and at times this may require sacrifice. There may be moments when we are challenged to give up what we feel we want in obedience to Christ.
But the eternal rewards that are gifted to those who follow Jesus, far outweigh anything that this world can offer. The fleeting satisfaction of this life cannot match our destiny in God’s kingdom. Sometimes there are choices, that appear to be right and good for us. But, we need to trust in God’s timing and that He will make the way for what is best, His perfect plan for us.
How to Follow Jesus
The simplicity of the gospel message is that we love God because He first loved us. As we come to know and accept the love that God has for us, His love enables us to love one another.
Jesus ties together love with obedience, that when we love Him, we will obey His commands. And His command is simply to love God and keep on loving. When we love the Lord, our desire is to please Him above everything else.
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”John 14:21
Our faith is rooted in God’s sacrificial love for us and our response to that love. Jesus goes on to say that by the love we have for one another the whole world will know that we are His followers, that we are His disciples.
Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all tell the story of this man and his encounter with Jesus. He is described as young, rich, and a ruler – probably a member of an official governing council or court. The young man comes and asks Jesus what he must do to get eternal life.
Jesus replies that to enter life he must keep the law and the commandments. When the man asks which commandments, Jesus lists some of the ten commandments. And the man states that he has kept all of these since he was a boy. What is still lacking?
Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions and to give the money to the poor. Once he has done that, then to follow Jesus. When the young man hears what is required, he goes away sad, because he is wealthy.
Now Jesus is not saying that everyone who chooses to follow him has to sell all that they have and give the money away. When Jesus listed the commandments to the rich young man – he did not list ‘you shall not covet’. Jesus had discerned the problem that was preventing this man from entering life.
The young man’s wealth was not the problem – it was his attitude towards his wealth. There are examples in Scripture of others who chose to follow Jesus and who used their wealth to serve the kingdom of God.
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All good things come from God. But if we allow any good thing to become the main thing in our life we are in danger of idolatry – of giving something else God’s place in our life.
What happens when you follow Jesus
There is forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life for all who choose to believe and follow the teachings of Jesus – when we do that we start out on a journey – far greater than we could ever imagine!
When we choose to follow Jesus and give Him the central place in our lives, we are transformed. We move from darkness, a place without God, into the revelation of His love, and from death to life.
Our status changes and our relationship with God changes. We become a child of God, accepted and adopted into God’s family. We now belong to Him, we are precious to God with an eternal inheritance, and everything changes. As we walk through life, we are no longer alone, Jesus walks with us!
Walk in His Footsteps
As I was out walking today I saw painted footprints on the path. In our town recently three small junior schools closed, and one big new purpose-built school opened. Right now, there are painted footsteps on the pavement at every turning and crossroad. These are to keep the children on the right path from their old schools to the new building. To make sure they don’t get lost they follow the painted footsteps!
It reminded me that Jesus leads, and we are to follow after Him. He leaves footprints, clear signs for us to follow, to make sure that we keep on going on the right path. When we come to a junction, a turning, or a crossroads, a moment of decision, we have the example of Jesus Himself. What would Jesus do in this situation, how would He react?
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”Proverbs 3:5-6
We also have the word of God as a light for our path, to bring guidance and direction.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”Psalm 119:105
And we have the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, who brings conviction and clarity to all who seek Him.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”John 14:26
We simply follow after Jesus and walk in His footsteps. Jesus leads, through the word of God and prayer, we follow and keep our eyes fixed on Him. There are times when Jesus walks by our side and even carries us because He will never leave us!
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand."
Bible Gateway Psalm 37:23-24