Following Jesus: It’s Something You DO.

5 min. to read.

Something was different about those first followers of Jesus.

They didn’t have slick advertising campaigns, Christian concerts and famous speakers. They didn’t have brochures or tracts. They didn’t have beautiful buildings with big signs out front. Yet, somehow, they managed to make an unprecedented mark on the world.

Instead of doing marketing, they lived their lives in the marketplace. Instead of creating neighborhood groups, they were neighborly. They lived their lives and because their lives were radically changed, their lives made an impact.

They took Jesus’ invitation seriously. Have you thought about Jesus’ invitation recently?

Jesus didn’t invite us to become religious marketing experts. He didn’t invite us to become theologians and Bible scholars. He didn’t invite us to join a club or a sub-culture or a political action committee. He didn’t even invite us to become more religious.

What was Jesus’ invitation?

Did you know that following involves doing?

Jesus made an invitation. Do you know what it was? Art Credit:  Unknown
Jesus made an invitation. Do you know what it was?
Art Credit: Unknown

Today churches and spiritual leaders of all sorts make a variety of invitations. Give money and your problems will go away. Be more moral and God will bless you. Learn the secret and your life will be prosperous.

Jesus’ invitation was much more direct. “Follow Me.”

The word has gotten mushy these days with social media. Now you can be someone’s follower and never actually follow them. You can read their status updates. You can “like” what they have to say, But you don’t have to live like they live. (I imagine that would slow down the growth of some people’s Twitter accounts pretty quickly!)

Yet, that’s what the word means: To follow after, to go where the leaders goes. To act like the leader acts. To live like the leader lives. That’s why those first Christians didn’t call what they were doing a religion. They called it “the way.” It wasn’t just believing something new. It was doing something different.

Listen to these passages of scripture that talk about following Jesus, and notice their emphasis.

  • In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  So Following Jesus means doing the will of the Father.
  • 1st John tells us how we can know that our relationship with Jesus is growing. This is how we know that we know Jesus. “This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  That’s uncomfortably direct. Following Jesus means obeying his commandments.
  • In 1st Peter 2:21 we’re told: “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.”  Jesus left us an example. We are to follow in his steps. That means we’re supposed to go the kinds of places Jesus went and do the kinds of things Jesus did. We’re supposed to let His guidance structure our lives.
It's a particularly modern problem, really.  Separating believing from doing.  Word Art by Marc Alan Schelske. Photo Credit:  Unknown
It’s a particularly modern problem, really. Separating believing from doing. Word Art by Marc Alan Schelske. Photo Credit: Unknown

The passage also points out one particular thing Jesus did. He suffered for us. That’s the specific example in this text. And Jesus talks about that too.

  • In Matthew 16:24 we hear from Jesus himself:  “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” This isn’t just what Jesus told us to do. This is what Jesus did. He denied himself. He gave up his own life. And he did it for other people. This is the example we’ve been given.

So following Jesus means giving up our lives. That means setting aside our rights, what feels fair, our entitlements, our expectations.

Is Jesus your way?

If we take this invitation seriously, there’s no way our lives can look the same after we decide to follow Jesus. Just no way.

Now you might be asking right about now, “Where’s the Grace, Marc? Doesn’t the Bible say that we don’t have to earn our place with God? What’s all this talk about doing?”  You’re right, and in my next post, we’ll talk more about that.

But today, consider this: Christianity was never meant to be a belief system. It was meant to be a way of living. 

That’s what made the lives of those first followers so different from the world around them. For them, Jesus was the way.

Not just the way to heaven. Not just the way to God. For them Jesus was also the way to live. The way to handle conflict. The way to raise their children. The way to deal with the world around them. Jesus wasn’t just something to believe in. Jesus was the way to live.

17 thoughts on “Following Jesus: It’s Something You DO.

  1. I am very selfish and still have a long way to go in learning to give up my own life.

  2. Yes, yes, yes. This post is one of my favorite. It is my heart’s desire to leave off all the production religion has with it and follow Jesus. God has been stirring this very message in my heart for days. I love the line about following and Twitter and mush. This is so true. Thank you for the challenge…I am laying it all on the line, picking up my cross, and following wholeheartedly.

      1. I will. Funny thing, God laid a skit on my heart about this very thing. A group of friends and I are working on it now. When it is done we will post it as a vid response to the series…hopefully. You know how technically challenged I am…LOL!

  3. Just a few comments. This is a topic I have been contemplating, meditating on and talking to God about lately. So to your scripture points Mark I would respectfully add:

    In Matt 7:22, the verse right after the one you make your point with, the people say essentially, ‘Hey, we did what you were doing!’ And Jesus calls their ‘doing’ lawlessness.
    In 1 John the overriding theme of course is Love. And when John exhorts us to follow Jesus’ command, that means the one Jesus gave us: to Love one another. John 13:34-35. That one I’ll do.
    The section in 1 Peter you are referring to does not call us to go to the places that Jesus went to, its saying that we must follow His example, then verse 22: who committed no sin…which of course we can’t do, thus verse 24: who Himself bore our sins…that we…might live for righteousness. Jesus is doing all the doing.
    I have also been looking closely at those verses like Matt 16:24, and the ones where He called his disciples to follow Him. Those that Jesus chose to follow him and be apostles and disciples, to those are the verses directed about dropping everything and following Him. Yet when He talks to the masses, he teaches them the Kingdom of God and His Grace. That despite their best efforts, only belief in He whom the Father sent can save them.
    In the Gospel of John chapter 6 after Jesus walks across the Sea of Galilee, he is talking to a group of people about not laboring for food that perishes, then they say to Him:
    “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
    Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28-29
    One of the reasons I don’t go to church anymore Mark, is that more often than not, I leave the sermon thinking, “wow, I’m not doing enough. I need to pray more, give more, minister more, serve more, read my bible more, give some more….the list goes on. Rarely ever do you hear pastors tell their flock just how much God loves and delights in just their presence.
    I like your writing Mark, and am looking forward to this series.

    1. Hey Bart, thanks for the critique. I resonate with your feelings. I spent a lot of time getting the message “I’m not doing enough” in church. What has been developing for me lately is something different. This “doing” I’m writing about isn’t about accomplishing anything at all. It’s not about saving us, or being more moral, or being more acceptable. It’s not about guilt or shame.

      I’m well past the place where legalism is a motivation to do anything. I’ve been preaching how much God loves and delights in his kid’s presence for 15 years. What I’ve started seeing (and perhaps this is the difficulty of preaching–it is so very contextual to the community in which it is born) is a whole lot of people who are rock solid in their belief in God’s love and acceptance of them, and who are simply not growing spiritually. No transformation. No partnership in the mission of the Gospel. Just really enjoying the comfortable hammock of God’s grace and love.

      In my own journey and study, what I’ve been hearing is a call to move deeper up and deeper in, and to actually practice doing life with Jesus. This isn’t the old “do more good deeds” message. It certainly has an aspect of doing, of motion. But the motion is the motion of life, of striving (along with Paul in Philippians) but not for accomplishment. This striving is the effort involved in maturing. It has no earning potential, and cannot be done from obligation. Yet it is, I believe, the path to partnering with God in my own process of maturing in the image of Christ.

      Look forward to hearing what you think as I get into the details in the coming posts!

  4. Mark, sometimes I wonder why things work out that I read a post several days after it was posted. God used this to speak to me today and I might have skipped right over it a few days ago.
    I’ve been so involved with getting my name and my book out there I’d forgotten I need to be doing what Jesus calls me to do, not the world. He does want my work to bless others but I need to follow His lead.

    1. Hey Sherry, I know that feeling. There’s so much to do–marketing, social media, blogging, writing, editing–and all of it good and important. Thanks for speaking up!

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