What platform building taught me about following Jesus

8 min. to read.

I’ve been re-organizing my life so I can spend more time using my best gifts. I’m a teacher, a creator and a writer at heart. It is incredibly life giving to me to create things that help people grow.

To that end, I’ve been learning from people online who are thinking about writing, blogging, and platform building[note Platform is the name given to this new thing of having an online following. Blogging, social media, email lists. A Platform is your cumulative influence and voice.]. In this community I’ve seen some folks who are really making it happen. I’ve also seen a whole bunch that aren’t. I’ve started seeing the difference between them, too.

What I’ve learned is not only shaping my writing and work, but is also impacting the way I follow Jesus.

So what’s the difference between the people who are reaching their goals and those who aren’t?

Wanting And Doing Are Different

The secret has to do with what you do once you get up.
The secret has to do with what you do once you get up.
Photo Credit: Unknown

It’s not skill or resources or connections. It’s not education. It’s not “who wants it most,” or even, quite honestly, who has the best message. The people who are moving forward are doing one thing differently from the people who aren’t.

They have organized their lives around this goal.

They don’t write as a hobby. They don’t wait for inspiration to strike them. They don’t wait for more money or better connections or the perfect idea, or someone to give them permission. They get up every day and they write. Most of them have other full-time jobs. They still do it every day anyway.

They don’t have to tell you that they are writers. You know it because of how they spend their time.

So, How Am I Living?

This intentionality has inspired and motivated me. Not just about my own writing! It’s challenged me to think about the way I live my whole life. Even the way I follow Jesus.

Here’s what I mean. Some of us want to follow Jesus; it’s an ideal for us. But that’s not what the Bible talks about. It’s not what Jesus invited us to. And you know what? Living that way is not life-giving or transformational.

What was Jesus’ invitation?  “Follow me.”

Jesus didn’t invite us primarily to become theologians or Bible scholars. He didn’t call us to become more religious. He certainly didn’t ask us to join a club or a sub-culture or a political action committee. He asked us to follow Him.

So what does that mean? We all used to play “Follow the Leader,” right? The leader did something, and we did it. They jumped, we jumped. They turned left, so did we. That’s what the word means. To go where the leaders goes. To act like the leader acts. To live like the leader lives.

Listen to these passages from the Bible talking about what this kind of life looks like.

Doing the Will of the Father

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.”

Obeying Jesus’ Commands

1st John tells us how we can know our relationship with Jesus is growing. “This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands.” Following Jesus means obeying his commandments.

Be clear about what this means. That’s not obeying the commandments of the church or your favorite theologians. It’s not obeying the list of dos and don’ts handed down to you. Following Jesus means obeying what Jesus has commanded you.

Following? It means to go where the leader goes, do what the leader would do, be like the leader in any way we can. Photo Credit: Unknown
Following? It means to go where the leader goes, do what the leader would do,
be like the leader in any way we can. Photo Credit: Unknown

Emulating Jesus

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.”

Following Jesus means emulating His example. We are to follow in his steps. 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.

Giving Ourselves Away

That passage also points out one particular thing Jesus did. He suffered for us. Jesus talks about that too. In Matthew 16:24 we hear from Jesus himself: “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. It is what Jesus himself 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.

In some places and times, that means literally dying. But for most of us, on most days, it means setting aside our rights, what feels fair, and our sense of entitlement. Why? To bless and serve other people, to help them experience God’s love.

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

Wait? What about grace?

Now, someone is thinking, “Wait a minute, Marc. Where’s the grace? We don’t have to DO anything to be accepted by God!”

You’re right. Our identity is secure because of what Jesus did. We are forgiven and restored by God’s grace. We live every day by grace. Absolutely.

But here’s the problem. Some of us grew up in legalistic religious homes and churches. They were oppressive, some even abusive. The message of grace refreshed us. It restored our hope in God. It brought us healing. We’re gotten so afraid of falling into that old legalism that we’ve gotten confused about the difference between Earning and Effort.

Earning vs. Effort.

Grace says we can’t earn anything with God. We can’t build our own value or justification or self-salvation project by doing good, or being religious, or avoiding sex, drugs and rock and roll. There is absolutely no earning with God. Everything we get from God is a gift.

But that doesn’t mean there is no effort involved in following Jesus. Just the opposite. We’re called to emulate Jesus. That’s not easy. Think about one of Jesus’ most famous invitations, found in Matthew 11:28-30.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.”

Jesus is promising rest and peace. But he doesn’t say, “get in my hammock and learn from me.” He says, “take my yoke.”  The yoke links two cows or horses together so they can work side-by-side. You only wear a yoke when you’re working. The yoke gives direction. It gives unity. It gives focus. But it also means you’re up to something.

While Jesus promises us rest, it comes in the context of doing something together with him. That’s what it means to follow. We work together with Jesus. We organize our lives around Jesus.

  • We practice His teachings.
  • We invest time in learning about Him.
  • We seek his counsel when we make life decisions.

Those are all real things. They show up on our calendars and in our wallets. They impact the way we spend our time.

I’ve learned this year that there are people who want to be writers and people who write. The difference is that people who write get up in the morning and do it. They take intentional steps to keep writing front and center. They don’t have to tell you that they are writers. You know by how they spend their time.

That’s the kind of follower of Jesus I want to be. I want to get up in the morning and organize my day in a way that honors Jesus. That means doing actual things.  Things that help me know Him more. Things that express my love for Him. Things that emulate His actions toward the people around me, toward people in need, toward people who are different from me, even toward my enemies.

It’s easier to let my faith be a matter of beliefs and weekend activities. But that’s not what Jesus invited me into.  You either!

23 thoughts on “What platform building taught me about following Jesus

  1. Great post. I’ll probably refer back to the idea of earning vs effort. We are saved by grace alone for/to good works. We don’t earn salvation, but we live out of it. One friend told me, “You can have works without faith, but not true faith without works” Thanks for the food for thought and God bless you

    1. Hey Kenneth, thanks for leaving a comment! I encountered the earning vs. effort thought in Dallas Willard’s writings. It really helped me unpack some of the legalism issues from my childhood.

  2. Thanks for this post! Offers clarity to the issue of grace and works… And helpful points regarding the writing (related works) required discipline. :^)

  3. Exactly. We do the things Jesus did because it’s who we are as Christians. Not what we have to do to be considered Christian, but simply doing things people in our family do because it’s who we are.

    Amen mark, I love the practical steps you include at the end! Super helpful.

    1. Hey Drew, thanks so much for reading and engaging! This is an important distinction, right? It makes all the difference for how we see ourselves and our behavior.

  4. I am so grateful that my salvation is not left up to me! I used to think this world and my credit report told what a great person and worker I was. Thank you Lord for saving me from myself!!

  5. I enjoyed reading this. Scanning might be better, so I plan a more leisurely read during the Sabbath hours. Thanks, Marc.

  6. I’m new to your posts; am appreciating them.
    May I copy a section to paste to Facebook (being intentional!) as long as I credit you?

    1. Sure thing. Glad to have you share. Ideally link back here. In thankful my writing is connecting with you!

  7. Marc. I stumbled upon your article and it gave me confirmation as to what God just began a new in my life, a writing career. Marc, I’m scared though. Years ago, I knew God had called me to write, even trying to “make it happen” a time or two, but failed. Now, that the time has come for me to write, I’m scared and apprehensive. God wants me to start a blog, but I have no clue how to do that. But, I’ve begun the journey. For the past few days, I’ve heard God say over and over, “Just write son.” So I wanted to leave a comment telling you that you confirmed in me to “just get up and write”. Good day.

    1. Hey John, that’s exciting news. Thanks for sharing it with me. Find some way to be encouraged and accountable in this process, ideally some community. Maybe a writer’s group, or an online writer’s community. Set yourself to the task and do it every week. Let me know how things progress for you, OK?

      1. Marc. You asked me to let you know how things are progressing. I am currently subscribed to an online writer’s club where I can enter a contest with a writing and get feedback; I bought a domain/hosting website and am currently working to figure out how to make that work. I keep thinking that I’m going down the wrong road, but that only strengthens my faith that this is the road God wants me to take. As usual, I desire this process to be a bit easier and less scary, but God won’t have it that way. Obviously, if the process was that easy, we wouldn’t need God, nor would we be able to grow spiritually or mentally. Good day to you.

  8. Thanks, Marc. Connecting the writing life to the following-Jesus life in this way was a big encouragement and exhortation in both areas for me. God bless and guide you as you do both, too!

  9. Marc, I appreciate your writings and your efforts to get real. Thanks for the inspiration in tweets and posts!
    On grace– I believe grace is grace to us, no matter our response to it. It supersedes our karma (our actions/behaviors/responses) and enriches us, no matter what we do with it. It’s grace.
    I’m also down with the “work for it, more than you wish for it” concept, especially with goals and dreams and what I hope to accomplish in the world, and bigger than that, what I believe I am here in the world to do.
    This is where it always gets dicey for me. I don’t believe I have to do anything. I can do, and I find I am greatly enriched, when I do. I, too, grew up in a very rigid religion with many requirements. I find talking about doing because of grace gets messy and confusing partly because it seems frequently to turn into a “you’ve been shown grace and now you should do xyz” type of conversation.
    Maybe it’s simply that grace helps me to find the strength to get on with the doing. I think that helps me as a concept.
    Again, thanks for what you do.

    1. Hey Marklyn, I agree with you. I had a professor in college once tell the class that always the exactly wrong person heard the hints he placed in test questions. When he wrote “Be thorough,” only the students who already wrote too much would take the guidance. When he wrote “be brief,” only the students who were already not doing enough would do less.

      I think in spirituality and practice of religion, there’s a similar predicament. Some people need to be encouraged to take more tangible steps forward in their journey. Some people need to be told to rest in their identity in Christ. Oftentimes it’s the wrong people who get the message though! Both are true, and both engage each other.

      Grace allows me to do things without falling into performance. Doing things allows me to grow in the experience of grace, as God works in and through me. Grace without works is dead. Works without grace are drudgery and legalism.

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