What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus and should Christians be expected to follow his example in all things?
Podcast Transcript. To listen click HERE now
If you had to define the essence of Christianity to someone who knew nothing about it, how would you do it?
Would you define it intellectually as a philosophy?
Emotionally as an expression of compassion?
Or maybe you would define it bodily as a set of practices?
I suppose there are many ways Christianity could be defined – but I wonder why we often don’t simply define it as following Jesus.
Now that probably sounds too generic for many of us – but I wonder if the real reason we struggle with defining ourselves simply as followers of Jesus is because so few of us actually know how do it?
Could it be the reason why Christians often hide behind belief, social justice, and contemplative practices is because they don’t actually require us to fully follow Jesus to engage in them?
Of course it was Mahatma Gandhi who famously said:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
It is easy to read that quote and dismiss it as not applying to ourselves. I know I have been guilty of that. Sure there are hypocrite Christians out there but he certainly isn’t talking about me. I know I am not perfect, but I believe what Jesus taught, I try to life by the golden rule, and I go to church almost every week.
And yet what I have just done is define my Christianity by my doing rather than my following.
Can I really call myself a follower of Jesus when I am defining my Christianity by my own standards and traditions?
Jesus was pretty straight forward with how he defined who his followers were.
““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 ESV)
In other words – Jesus defines his followers as those who are fully committed to him in heart through surrender and connecting themselves to him through the cross AND do what he did.
And what did Jesus do?
Simply stated Jesus did His Father’s will. Nothing more. Nothing less.
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”(Psalm 40:8 NKJV)
And now we begin to find a definition for the Father’s will. His law.
By keeping the law Jesus was simply doing the will of the Father.
Thus, isn’t it only logical to conclude that since Jesus did the will of the Father by keeping the law that his followers would as well?
This is exactly what we spent episode 13 discussing. That the true followers of Jesus in the last days will keep the commandments of God AND have the faith of Jesus.
Now when we think of Jesus keeping the commandments – was there any of the commandments that he did not keep?
Of course not.
It wouldn’t be consistent for him to claim to be keeping God’s Ten Commandments while at the same time breaking one of them.
In the same way today would it be consistent for Christians who say they follow Jesus to be following his example in keeping 9 of the commandments but not all of them?
No, this would just remind us of the central criticism of Christianity articulated so succinctly by Ghandi – that we don’t really follow the example of the central figure of our faith.
Interestingly enough – the Apostle John anticipated this probability when he wrote:
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:3–6 NKJV)
Here we discover the inverse of Ghandi’s critique. If we are followers of Jesus we will keep his commandments. Those who say claim to follow Jesus but dont follow his example are imposters. (We will discuss the implications of this more in our next episode).
For now though it is enough to come back to the expectation that followers of Jesus should actually follow him and walk as he walked.
Now when Ghandi was critiquing Christianity I’m sure he was observing the very stark contrast between the character of Christians compared to the character of Jesus, BUT could there be one commandment that has been particularly lost sight of?
Specifically the one commandment that begins with the word “Remember.”
Of course I am referring to the 4th commandment. It reads:
““Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8–11 NKJV)
We only need to ask ourselves did Jesus keep the seventh-day Sabbath to conclude whether or not we should still be keeping it today.
That is unless we start defining Christianity differently than Jesus did. Differently then one who has denied himself, picked up his cross and followed him.
This definition become meaningless the moment we set aside the 4th commandment, the 7th commandment or any other of the commandments of God.
And if that is the case, we really have to start asking ourselves what Christianity has become?
Is it the same religion that was passed down to the disciples from Jesus 2000 years ago or has it been subtly changed and altered to accommodate a wider acceptance?
Does today’s Christianity call for the same commitment and self-surrender Jesus required from his first disciples. If not why not?
Why would Jesus teach one thing when he was here on earth and then discide afterward to wink and nod at his followers when they refused to take his words and example seriously?
Theses are questions we must grapple with – especially when we read statements of Jesus such as this one:
““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23 NKJV)
In other words – in the judgement many people who called themselves Christians will be lost because they thought they were following Jesus when they really they had never even begun or had stopped at some point along the way.
Either way in the end, they weren’t following Jesus on his terms but their own.
And so in the judgment he looks at them and simply states the reality of the situation: I do not know you.
They said they knew him but didn’t do the things that he did
They said they knew him but refused keep his law and honor his Sabbath,
As you can see this has serious implications for us living today.
Especially when we read what Revelation has to say about the last generation of Christians on the earth when Jesus comes – otherwise known as the 144,000.
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.” (Revelation 14:1–5 NKJV)
These are the true followers of Jesus and they stand in contrast to those who were prevented from entering heaven by their own unfitness.
In fact this group follows the lamb WHEREVER he goes.
Wherever Jesus goes they go
Whatever Jesus commanded they obeyed
Whatever Jesus did they did
Thankfully this is a vision of the future Which means there is still time today become a part off that number today.
Jesus is no longer here on earth physically calling disciples to follow him like he did with the original 12, however through the symbol of an angel flyings in the midst of heaven he is still calling his final number of disciples 12×12,000 – 144,000 from every nation tribe tongue and people.
And what is he saying?
The same thing he said when he was hear on earth accept in different words
““Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”” (Revelation 14:7 NKJV)
Notice the call is still to surrender and repent but this message also includes a direct quote from the 4th commandment – a reminder to the world what following Jesus looks like: Worshiping the one who made everything!
This is what being ready for Jesus is all about. Worshiping God for the purpose of knowing him. And how do we know that we know him? By keeping his commandments and walking as he walked
At this point you might be tempted to say, I can see that Jesus kept the Sabbath but what’s the big deal since so many Christians throughout the ages have kept Sunday instead?
How can you be right and so many be wrong?
That is the fundamental question isn’t it.
And while we are going to continue to slowly unpack that answers to that question as this podcast continues let me encourage you to ask another question to go with it.
Am I willing to follow Jesus or not.
Because until you answer that question the other is somewhat of a moot point since it will not alter in any way the way you live your life.
Jesus compared the choice to that of building a house; He said:
““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” (Matthew 7:24–27 ESV)
Whether you like it or not according to Jesus a storm is coming and There is nothing we can do to stop it.
We have already talked about signs and they are only going to continue to strengthen in frequency and intensity as we get closer to the day.
What you can do today is begin to prepare for it by building your life on the example and teachings of Jesus.
Yes there is a cost involved in following Jesus but there is far greater cost in choosing not to follow.
Won’t you consider answering Jesus call to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow him by keeping the whole law including the 4th commandment?