Each week leading up to the 2015 d4 Discipleship Conference, I’ve been sharing some reflections and snippets from last year’s gathering that I pray will be as valuable to you as they’ve been to me. We’re just 3 days away from this year’s conference in Cleveland, Ohio! Check out my previous post in this series on the Process of Transformation.
Chances are you’ve probably heard the term “following Jesus” or being a “follower of Jesus” in your circles and/or teaching. As committed as it sounds, and it is, today, unfortunately, it has also become another Christian buzz word that we like to use. Last year, we explored this topic in depth with Heather Zempel of National Community Church, who delivering an eye opening perspective of what it is to be a true “follower” of Jesus.
Here are 7 characteristics of what a “follower” of Jesus looks like that we should strive for:
.: 1 A follower of Jesus, by definition, is doing what Jesus did the way He did it—no more, no less. This means saving the lost, discipling the found, obeying, loving, serving, giving, etc. Trouble always results from us doing more or less outside of the boundaries of the model that He’s given us. Jesus didn’t strategize on how to change the world, He just listened to, followed and obeyed God.
.: 2 Following Jesus means sharing the same road with Him (Matthew 4:18-19), where He leads. Sharing the same road requires a heart of repentance in an ever on-going alignment to God’s plumb line of truth. Imagine taking a small business trip with your best friend. Everything’s off to a great start, you’re making good progress, the weather’s great, the conversation is great, you’re excited about the opportunity—you’re having fun… You then find out shortly after that you’ve drove 30 miles in the wrong direction, and as a result, you will miss the opportunity. The lesson here is that it doesn’t matter how smooth the trip is, how much fun or progress we’re making, if it’s all in the wrong direction—that is, not on the same road with Jesus, we’ve missed the goal.
.: 3 A follower of Jesus understands Lordship. Lordship is about keeping Jesus core, where priorities revolve around Him. Lordship is not making Jesus the top priority on a checklist that everything else follows after. Lordship is realizing that our story is a part of a bigger picture (His). Parents can relate to this well because your day to day life revolves around the priorities of your children. The difference here is that, while your children may implicitly necessitate the need, Jesus actively wants control, to guide and give direction in His sovereignty.
.: 4 Followers of Jesus want Him to be glorified. It is said that the human heart is an idol factory, made to worship something. If we don’t have something, we’ll create something—as history demonstrates. To follow Jesus means to never allow anyone or thing to occupy His space and (also) the seat of authority in our hearts.
.: 5 Following Jesus means trusting God first ahead of our own understanding. This is also called faith. Christians have heard this a thousand times about not leaning on our own understanding because it’s flawed and can never see the vision that Jesus sees in it’s totality. In the walk of faith, trust comes first, and understanding comes later. Where is there stagnant growth in your life because you’ve withheld trust where you don’t understand?
.: 6 Following Jesus is allowing Him to lead (Matthew 16:18-23). It is said that we are often educated beyond obedience. Up until now, I had not contemplated or even considered the question of, ‘is this something that God asked me to do?’ Whatever the ‘this’ is, when a moment of decision comes, are you really saying, ‘Jesus follow me’ (bless the things I’m doing) or ‘Jesus, I will follow You’ (follow what You’re doing)? If you’re the kind of person, like me, that’s easily moved to meet a need, without question, this area can be quite challenging. Ultimately, we can’t be too quick to rush and meet needs without asking if God wants you to be the one to meet that need and how He wants you to do it. Meeting needs is not wrong, and is something we’re each called to do. But because our priorities revolve around Him, we understand that God is seeing the bigger picture in this situation and we simply have to play our part in line with how He wants to do this.
.: 7 Lastly, followers of Jesus reproduce followers of Jesus. It’s easy to fall into the habit of observing and choosing what we’ll ultimately take and implement into our lives… or not. But if being an authentic follower of Jesus means doing what He did, the way He did it, this also means reproducing Who He is (character, ways, mission) in the lives of those that we pour into and especially among those whom we have influence with.