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?
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.
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.