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What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus Today?

quest-6-1In the Gospels, Jesus’ challenge for others to follow him became synonymous for becoming his disciple. Matthew tells us in very simple terms how Jesus called on him to follow him. The account explains, “Jesus . . . saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.”

A disciple of Jesus literally followed him around in order to observe him in any and all situations with a view to becoming like him in his teachings and way of life. In those days, becoming Jesus’ disciple meant leaving all other pursuits in order to shadow and imitate him. His disciples had left all else behind in order to follow Jesus.

In many ways, following Jesus today means what it meant with the Twelve. A follower of Jesus learns from and apprentices with him, striving to become like him, aligned with his teachings, character and way of life. As a follower of Christ, we do leave some things behind—our old way of life with its passions and pursuits.

Yet there’s one major difference between what it meant for the Twelve to follow Jesus and what it means for us today to follow him. That difference is that Jesus is no longer physically present among us. Now if you’re like I am, you’ve no doubt thought of that as a great disadvantage at times. We’ve perhaps all wished, “If only Jesus were here!”

But what we see as a disadvantage Jesus planned to our advantage! On the last evening he spent with his disciples they were concerned when he told them that he’d soon be leaving this world. And look at what Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 ESV)

Then Jesus goes on to explain all the various ways in which the Helper (or Holy Spirit) would work in our lives: convicting, guiding, teaching, glorifying God and revealing God’s truth. Jesus, as God incarnate, confined himself in space and time to a human body. But his Holy Spirit is present with and resides in every one of his followers at all times!

The apostle Paul explains following Christ today in terms of “living by the Spirit,” being “led by the Spirit,” bearing “fruit of the Spirit,” and “keeping in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25) A disciple or follower of Jesus today lives by faith in him and relies on him to live his life out through us in our daily lives (Galatians 2:20).

Today, as back then, we follow Jesus by pursuing him, spending time with him and seeking to become like him!

©2009 Rob Fischer

1 comment

1 Ray Edwards { 07.29.09 at 12:19 pm }

You nailed it. I have thought about this many times.

“Well, if Jesus were back in a human body, walking around,” I have thought, “it would be EASY to leave everything behind and follow him.”

But would it?

And what would it be like to not have the Holy Spirit? Could this explain things like how the disciples could fail to understand Jesus on so many occasions? And why their faith sometimes seemed so tenuous (A certain incident involving a boat comes to mind)?