If you are going to follow someone, you need to know where they’re going. Think about this long and hard because the rest of your life depends upon how deeply you agree. Walk away from your computer for a moment. Put down your tablet or your smart phone and let this really sink in before you keep reading.
“The moment you accept Christ as your Savior and Lord (Master), three new friends enter the story of your life.”
You can’t follow someone if you don’t know where they’re going. Nowhere is this more imperative than in your walk with Jesus Christ, because to be a Christian is to be a Christ follower. If you don’t know where Jesus wants to take you, and you don’t delight in genuinely following Him, you might as well have never given your life to Him as Savior.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The first thing Jesus saves us from is the path we were on – and the path we will each pursue without Him. It is the path of following anything and anybody but Him. If your life is not characterized by the all-consuming priority of following Jesus Christ, you either veered off the path or never got on it in the first place. You may be a dabbler, but a disciple you are not.
Consider Jesus’ definition of what it looks like to follow Him, and what it means to be a disciple:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)
“Go therefore and make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded . . .” – Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
A DEVILISH DISCREPANCY
Jesus didn’t water down what it means to be a God-follower. We do that masterfully all by ourselves. When we look at the words of Jesus and what He says must characterize the life of a disciple, and we look at what we’ve made it in the church, there is a devilish discrepancy. This discrepancy has sapped us and the church of His power. We’ve presented an unbiblical Jesus to the masses who, at their core, desperately need Him to not only save their souls but to also transform their lives. And, this transformation is not about just our circumstances. It is about God transforming us – the very core of who we are, what we think and how we live. The more you follow Christ the less you care about your circumstances and the more you care about who you are and how you live in the midst of your circumstances.
“Maybe you’re one of the victims. Cast that half-story Gospel aside, kill and bury it – because if you allow it to live, it will definitely take you down a path, but Jesus will be nowhere to be found at its end.”
What we’ve done with Christianity is we’ve changed the message and the focus – without God’s permission. It’s subtle, and that’s what makes it especially serious. Build a home with a foundation that is off just a bit, and there will be dramatic consequences for the rest of the structure. The same is true with the change we’ve made to the foundation of the Gospel. We’ve implied to people and we’ve told them outright – by leaving out the most important part – that it’s possible to come to Jesus and be forgiven but not to absolutely depend upon Him, to cry out to Him daily, to seek Him for supernatural transformation. As a result, we don’t expect change, and we don’t expect to do the hard work of dying to ourselves that is necessary for that change. We have told people that Jesus can change their circumstances and neglected the kernel of truth that is the Gospel: Jesus can change them, and must change them, regardless of their circumstances.
If we remove the transforming power of Jesus Christ for the individual, apart from their circumstances, we are not offering them the “good news” of the Gospel. We’re robbing people of what they really need – a change from the inside-out courtesy of a surrendered life to God. Maybe you’re one of the victims. Cast that half-story Gospel aside, kill and bury it – because if you allow it to live, it will definitely take you down a path, but Jesus will be nowhere to be found at its end.
YOUR FIRST STEPS AND YOUR 3 NEW FRIENDS
Nowhere in the Bible – nowhere – is it presented that a person who truly surrenders to God doesn’t change. In some instances the change is sudden, like the conversion of Saul into the Apostle Paul (Acts 9). But in every single case, throughout the entire Bible, whenever someone truly surrenders to God the change is always dramatic. If your life is not over the course of time changing dramatically, becoming more Christ-like, you can be assured that you have not been following Christ. Christ-likeness, over time, is the clearest indicator that you have been actually following Jesus.
Coming to Christ in salvation is the first step in a new series of steps, an obvious and fundamental new direction for the rest of your life. The moment you accept Christ as your Savior and Lord (Master), three new friends enter the story of your life. They are should, must and will. If you have truly given your life to Christ you’ll extend to them the kindness they deserve. If you have truly received Christ as your Savior and Lord (Master), you should, you must and you will come to Christ perpetually, because in order to really follow Jesus, you will have to first know where Jesus is taking you. God doesn’t want you to simply say you are a Christian, a Christ-follower. We already have a multitude of such people. God wants you to be what you say you are.
A LIFE-TIME OF ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS
Right now, your life is happening. Many people have had an encounter with Jesus. But if you are a Christ-follower, God has not called you to a one-time encounter with Him, but a lifetime series of encounters, each of which will be revolutionary.
A Christian is someone who isn’t merely aware of the teachings of Jesus Christ. A Christian is someone who observes His teachings. The teachings of Jesus are found in the Bible. This is the simple grandeur of John’s words about the Word:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – The Gospel of John 1:1-14 (ESV)
Consider Jesus’ words about the Bible and how they apply to Himself:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:27 (ESV)
The whole Bible is about Jesus Christ. When you read, study and apply the Bible, God’s Word, you are literally following Jesus Christ. You are heading down the right path, the path of being a disciple, a Christ-follower. The calling of a disciple, distinct from a dabbler, is to follow Jesus, to observing His commands. It is not a call to simply familiarize oneself with His teachings. The only sure way to be a disciple is to familiarize yourself with what Jesus actually taught, what He still teaches, and what He wants you to do with your life by reading and applying His Word, the Bible. Your personal transformation hinges on your knowledge – and application – of Jesus’ teachings from Genesis to Revelation.
It makes no difference if the Bible is God’s Word if you’re not reading and studying it and putting it into action. Take up your cross, daily, and follow Jesus. Observe His commands, don’t be satisfied with simply knowing them. Many dabblers do. A disciple is a Christ follower. Will you be that follower today, by reading, studying and applying His Words?
Take time over the next 30 days to prioritize you secret closet. Don’t worry about the next six months. Just do it for 30 days, and when 30 days are through simply recommit yourself to the same endeavor. Your personal transformation, from the inside-out, will take a quantum leap forward. You have God’s Word on it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.