following in His steps

“Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men. His obedience brought the outcome of the saving of men. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a doormat.” – Oswald Chambers

followership begins with a passion for God and compassion for people.

True followership begins with a passion for Jesus Christ. Jesus is passionate about building His church. This passion is as contagious as a runny nose in mid-Winter because it flows into our compassion for others. Those who discipled me from middle school until now have modeled a real passionate faith. So passionate that I want to be like Christ because they looked so much like Christ.

Whether we are discipling to Christ or in Christ all Christ’s. I cringe at the idea of calling someone “my disciple”. This is a term we find in the New Testament only coming from the mouth of Jesus. As believers in Christ we are His disciples. I am not a disciple of any man but Christ. Paul talked about “my son” Timothy, “my brother” Ephaphroditus, and co-laborers as “my fellow servants”. New Testament authors never called a fellow believer “my disciple” or “my follower.” in fact, Paul freaks out when he hears that some are calling themselves followers of Paul or Apollos. “ Is Christ divided? he wrote, with evident frustration. “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” [1 Corinthians 1:13] Paul had his eyes on Jesus, so He must be our focus and passion as followers too.

followership invites others to “be with” you.

Christ appointed twelve followers and “designating them apostles, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” [Mark 3:14] Christ is the initiator in challenging and calling men. His vision is clear: before they were unleashed to the world they were invited to “be with Him”.

As a follower of Christ His presence is with us always [cf. Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5]. The original twelve followers were “with Him”, and Jesus “with them.” We find Jesus in their homes, having dinner with their friends, and engaging lovingly with their enemies. True followership begins by inviting others to be with you.

followership is being shaped into the image of God together.

“We proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His might, which so powerfully works in me.” [Colossians 1:28-29] Our goal for every follower is to reach maturity in Christ, that their life begin to look like His.

An artist was asked what he would paint on the white canvas. “You see a blank canvas,” he said. “But I see a mountain, lake and beautiful sunrise. As I gaze at the canvas I smell the mountain air, feel the brisk morning air coming of the lake, and then simply brush the strokes of color onto the canvas.” As followers of Christ His portrait should always be before us, and the canvas of our lives is being transformed into the beautiful image of Christ.

followership is not complete until the follower becomes a teacher.

In Matthew 28:19-20, we often miss the an important point of the Great Commission. I would call it the Great Omission because Jesus says to His followers, “teach everyone everything you have heard and seen in me.”

As a follower of Christ I am doing the ministry of multiplication. No one is becoming mature in Christ until they begin to reproduce Christ in others. Jesus sent His followers out to serve without Him. He warned them they would need at some point to carry the message on their own.  A follower of Christ was prepared from the beginning to make other follower, who in turn made other follower, who made still more follower. And so the gospel of Christ reached you and me.

What if doormat discipleship characterized each of our ministries? What if people were truly shaped into the image of Christ through discipling relationships? What if followership began to take on a life all its own, bigger than any program in our church? What if people left our ministries and continued to make followers of Christ for the rest of their lives? This is the path Jesus destined for His followers to walk after His death [Matthew 28:19-20].

lies we believe about following Christ

How are you doing as a follower? As a follower of Jesus? Are you making follower of Jesus? Depending on your answer you might be joyful and excited or confused, guilty, and frustrated.  There are some misconceptions of what a follower of Jesus is and what the process of becoming more like Jesus really looks like.  The following are common misconceptions of what discipleship is:

“I attend church and that’s enough for me.” Following Christ is a relationship. It is a lifestyle within a community. It cannot be tied to a program or church. A lot of followership can happen at church, but most of the time it doesn’t and shouldn’t. Following Christ happens in a community of followers doing life with one another [Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25]. Following never happens alone. If your only following is sitting under your pastor for an hour or two a week that is a poor view of followership.

“I can grow on my own.” Left to ourselves following Christ does not happen–for long [Luke 9:57-62; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16]. I grow by becoming constantly confronted with the gospel of Jesus. Lone Ranger and Tivo Christianity do not cut it. I must be willing to count the cost and commit to be vulnerable within a family of followers.

“I am more mature now; following is for new Christians.” You are never too old to be discipled. Seasoned Christians realize that problems do not go away because they are Christian, they simply realize they are sinners [1 Peter 4:12-13]. Until we leave this planet we will continually struggle with sin and our faith. As a follower of Christ, I am not quite like my Master yet, so there is room for followership.

“I read my Bible.” We must not be content with only reading and knowing more about the God of the Bible. Some Christians are like an overstuffed Chipolte burrito. It is not just what you know, but what you do with what you know [James 1:19-27]. There is a great difference between being a student and a follower.

“I am not responsible to change everything.” Following Christ cannot be compartmentalized or systematized. It is all of me or none of me. Christ wants to be all and in all. Christ wants to be involved with my money, parenting, marriage, singleness, career, resume, fashion, habits and more. Sound intrusive? That is discipleship. It is not behavior modification, rather it is dealing with sin and living like Christ. True followership takes all of Christ’s teaching and applies them to our life.

“I do not have time.” If someone in your family dies you make the time to be with the ones you love. You ask off of work, you reschedule your plans because family matters [Luke 9:57-62]. So it is with your faith and the faith of others around you. Followers understand they have been given a whole new identity, a whole new agenda, a whole new mission, a whole new community, and a whole new life through the gospel. Followers of Christ make the time because it is a relationship with a living God and our faith at times of dying.

“I don’t know enough about the Bible.” Followers are not just theology PhD’s or seminary trained pastors. In Jesus day, they were fishermen, tax collectors and everyday people fired up about what Christ can do in a life. If you have a Bible, if you have one verse memorized or if you are a follower of Christ that is breathing you can disciple [1 Corinthians 11:1]. Sharing the gospel is enough.

“I am worried I will lead other followers astray.” If you stick to the Word of God and teach the truth therein you are not accountable for how others respond to God [2 Timothy 3:16-17, 4:1ff]. Speak the truth in love. Even your struggle with sin is a great teacher [Colossians 3:13; Philippians 3:12-13]. Authentic followers attract more followers than they distract.

Following Christ is learning what it means to live your whole life in light of the gospel of Jesus. Living as a follower of Jesus is learning how to live in the reality of this new life you’ve been given through faith in the gospel. Not that it’s easy, or without pain or cost. The joy and excitement of living in light of all that God promises in the gospel outweighs any pain or cost.