When you say you “follow” Jesus, are you hanging onto his coattails or straining to see his tail lights? It’s really easy, isn’t it, to say “I am a Christian!” Do you know why? It’s because each of us has a different definition of what a “Christian” is. Just take the question to 100 people on the streets and you’ll get 100+ varying responses. Even within the gospel community, our notions of what a Christian is varies and runs the gamut from a very legalistic, follow specific rules characterization to a fairly loosey goosey universalist perspective.
As a side note, the term “Christian” which has the sense of “a little Christ,” was initially not meant as a complimentary term describing the first believers at the church of Antioch 2000 years ago when the movement began. Come to think of it, there are a growing number of folks today who don’t think too highly of those who think highly of Jesus. If you’ve been around Christianity very long, you’ve likely met some of these folks from both sides of the equation. To be fair, some of the criticism regarding Jesus’ people is legitimate. We can appear to be somewhat high and mighty sometimes as well as unforgiving and often the measuring stick the world has for us has a higher expectation level for excellence than we can consistently achieve. The fact is, we are imperfect and much in need of transformation if we are to resemble Christ at all.
Two factors which are key to our lives being transformed to the likeness of Christ are our proximity to Christ and our obedience to what we know he calls us to. Nothing could be closer in proximity than living in, living with Jesus as described in John 15. Pay attention to this agricultural analogy. “I (Jesus) am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will even be more fruitful.”(v1-2). “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains (lives) in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (v.5)
Jesus emphasizes the need for obedience in many passages. Haunting words leave Jesus’ lips in saying “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will (obeys) of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) What does this entail, you ask? Knowing Jesus through the scriptures and emulating his life through the power of the Spirit. One principal familiar to many is from the childhood song about the wise and foolish builders which says “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice (obeys them) is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24+)
When you say you “follow” Jesus, is it noticeable? Do you mimic his stride? Do you use his words? Are you close enough to begin to smell like him? Do your words and actions bring similar results? Are you confident because of him, not of yourself? Does your passion for knowing him and pleasing him grow? Think About It.