“I think I know, but I have a hard time explaining it: what does it mean to follow Jesus?”
I know what he meant when he said, “I think I know, but I have a hard time explaining…” There are countless things I feel I know, but can’t always describe them if asked. For this student, that thing was following Jesus.
But, I don’t think his question is his alone. Though Christians follow Jesus, that doesn’t mean they’re equally able to spell it out. It’s a question worth pondering.
To that end, here are five answers I see from Holy Scripture.
Trusting Jesus as the Savior
Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” When it comes to our need for salvation, those who follow Jesus trust in Jesus alone (as opposed to their works or other mediators) for salvation from sin, death, and eternal judgment. We don’t trust in our good works, our religious works, our heritage, our history, or our associations to save us. When it comes to salvation from hell and unto God, we followers of Jesus have put all our chips on Him alone. For us, it’s all Jesus or nothing.
Learning from Jesus as the Teacher
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Followers of Jesus see Him as The Instructor. When Jesus saves someone He simultaneously enrolls them into His school. Yes, Jesus has gifted His church with gifted shepherds and teachers to build up His body (Ephesians 4:11-12), but, even then, those shepherds and teachers are a means through which He teaches His people. It is teachings we learn, His promises we hope in, His correction we heed, and His Word we hide in our hearts. Christ is the Christian’s Educator.
Valuing Jesus as the Treasure
Following Jesus means valuing Him above all. Jesus taught that it must be this way. When the rich, young ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus cut straight to the bottom line, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Essentially, Jesus is telling the young ruler, “If you want eternal life, value me above everything else in your life.” To follow Jesus is to see Him alone as the Treasure of our life. This is why followers of Jesus can gladly sing, “Take the world, but give me Jesus.” For the Christian having Jesus is the joy of heaven. We want Him more than His stuff.
Obeying Jesus as the Master
Following Jesus means giving Jesus in throne of your heart. It means that He is now the Boss of your life. He calls the shots. He chooses the direction. He makes the decisions. It is His job to lead us in everything and ours to obey in everything. Followers of Jesus do just that, follow Jesus. He is the Leader and we are not. Why such obedience? Simple. Love. We obey what we love the most. Jesus made that very clear, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 15:1). Because the Christian loves and values Jesus above all, they gladly and joyfully obey Him in all. He is Master and we His happy slaves (1 Corinthians 7:22).
Sharing Jesus as the Gospel
“My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” (Acts 20:24). What is the good news? Well, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Christians who trust Christ as the Savior, learn from Him as the Teacher, value Him as the Treasure, and follow Him as the Master spend their lives sharing Him as the Good News for all! By becoming Man (John 1:14), substituting for Man in life and on the cross (1 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24), rising again to new life for Man from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:4), Jesus now stands as Lord of all (Psalm 2), offering Himself as Savior to any who would believe (John 3:16). Those who follow Jesus, make it their life’s work to share this good news with others so others may come to see Jesus as the Good News.
There are probably more things to say or definitely better ways of saying it, but this is my humble offering for your knowledge and joy.