When we become Christians, we make a decision to follow Jesus. It is the greatest decision of our lives. But sometimes, we make this choice without fully understanding what it means to follow Jesus or how it would look in our daily lives. So, let’s talk about it.
Why Do We Follow Jesus?
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When we become Christians, one of the biggest challenges is learning to follow Jesus. We’re not natural followers, we want to do what we want to do…when we want to do it. Staying on the narrow path can be hard–especially after a lifetime of being on the broad path.
Okay, so each of us has our personal reasons for following Jesus, but there are some general reasons why we should follow Him.
1. Salvation: we are sinners in need of a Savior. When Adam and Eve sinned, sin became imprinted in our DNA. Sin has a penalty: death. But as the children of Israel quickly realized, the blood of animals was not enough to save them.
The sacrificial system was but a representation of the sacrifice that would be made by the Lamb of God.
There was only one way to be saved from sin: if Someone who had never sinned, died in our place. We follow Jesus because He did this for us.
2. Reparation: okay, so I admit this is one of those Christianese words that sounds more complicated than it is.
The Oxford Dictionary defines reparation as the action of making amends for a wrong one has done, by providing payment or other assistance to those who have been wronged.
In other words, when mankind sinned, our relationship with God was broken. A good way to visualize it is to imagine a huge wall that had no doors or openings sprung up between us and God.
There was no way for us to get to God who remained on the other side. And He couldn’t come to us because He’s so holy, we’d be destroyed in His presence.
But Jesus bridges that gap.
He restores our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He paid the penalty of sin and made restoration so that we could enjoy the benefits of fellowship with God.
3. Sanctification: remember how we said that God is holy, well He wants us to be holy too. In Leviticus 19:2, He said, “Be qâdôwsh for I am qâdôwsh”.
The idea of holiness expressed in this verse refers to being sacred ceremonially and morally clean. To be qâdôwsh is to be set apart for holy use.
We follow Jesus because it is through Him that we are sanctified. Jesus calls us to a life that is different in every way than the world.
And then He empowers us to live that life.
4. Justification: this is another reason to follow Jesus. He is our justification. The Oxford Dictionary defines justification as the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God.
When mankind was created in the image of God, we reflected the character of God, including His righteousness. But with sin, our righteousness became as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
In Christ, our righteousness is restored because He is our righteousness. What an awesome reason to follow Jesus!
What does Jesus mean by follow me?
One of the most popular sayings of Jesus is found in Matthew 4:19,
Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (NKJV)
The phrase “Follow Me” has been ascribed to Jesus 21 times in the New King James Version of the Bible.
But what did Jesus mean when He said “follow Me”? Let’s go back to that first reference in Matthew 4:19 to see if we can better understand His meaning.
The word translated as “follow” is the Greek word deûte, (pronounced dyoo’-teh). Deûte means come hither!, come, or follow.
Deûte is an invitation to follow Christ, but look at what happened after He called the first two disciples,
They immediately left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:20 NKJV)
The word translated as “followed” is the Greek word akolouthéō, (pronounced ak-ol-oo-theh’-o). Akolouthéō means to be in the same way with, i.e. to accompany (specially, as a disciple), follow, reach.
When Jesus said, “Follow Me”, He meant, and was understood to mean, that He intended for them to become His disciples.
What are the Ways to Follow Jesus?
I think the best way to understand how we can follow Jesus is to look at His disciples. Let’s go back to Matthew 4. I believe there are several lessons to be learned about what it means to follow Jesus in that chapter.
1. To follow Christ is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit–even if it means you’ll have to face off with the enemy.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (NKJV).
2. When you are tempted by the devil, you’ll need to follow Jesus’ example and resist the enemy using the Word of God. That means, to be a follower of Jesus means that you have to spend time reading and studying the Word of God.
3. To follow Jesus is to tell others about the kingdom of God.
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 NKJV
As a believer in Jesus Christ, we have been commissioned to share the Good News with the world (Matthew 28:19-20).
4. To follow Jesus, is to actually go after Him. When Jesus called Andrew and Peter to follow Him, they had a physical response,
and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Matthew 4:22 NKJV
In order to follow Jesus, the disciples had to physically leave everything and everyone behind. Following Jesus means that your life will be different. You may leave everything behind. You may have to leave family and friends to follow Him.
You may even have to change your geography.
5. Following Jesus requires a great deal of courage. It’s not easy to go in a different direction than most of the world. It’s not easy to have to walk away from everything and everyone you love.
But to receive the blessings that come with following Christ, we must be willing to make the sacrifice.
6. To follow Jesus is to learn more about God and His teachings. The men and women who followed Jesus got a firsthand knowledge of the character and nature of God. They spent time in the presence of His Son who represented Him, and heard about the plans and desires that God had for humanity.
When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to spend time learning more about His Father and ours.
7. Following Jesus involves practicing spiritual disciplines. One of the spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced most often was prayer. He was fond of withdrawing into solitary spaces to spend time in prayer. As His disciples, we must also make time to pray.
Other spiritual disciplines that we’ll practice as followers of Christ are fasting (Matthew 9:14-15), fellowship (John 15:12), and ministry (Mathew 28:18-20).
Bible Verses About Following Jesus
There are many Scriptures about what it means to follow Jesus in the Bible, here are just a few of them. I encourage you to meditate on them as you ponder your own reasons for following Christ.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 ESV).
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV).
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV).
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:10-11 ESV).
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV).
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:23-24 ESV).
I encourage you to spend some time thinking through your reasons for following Jesus and the ways you can personally follow Him. Understanding our reasons for following Jesus is a critical part of our Christian walk and if we’re going to be strong if our faith, we have to know why we follow Him.
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