This guest post was written by Christy Wood.
It might just be me, having been raised in legalistic Christianity, but I struggle with the way discipleship is often portrayed. I feel like there is this heavy emphasis on what we are supposed to DO as a disciple even from mainstream pastors and teachers.
Follow * Deny Yourself * Take Up Your Cross * Be Like Jesus
These statements, or at least the thoughts behind them, ARE in the Bible. They aren’t wrong. But I think something is missing. Someone.
There has to be more to being a disciple of Jesus Christ than just action verbs focused on our behavior. Check out this “Jesus encounter” from John 1:
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Him. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where He was staying, and they spent that day with Him. It was about four in the afternoon. John 1:35-39
According to Bible scholars, this is most likely NOT the time these men became disciples of Jesus. “Followed Jesus” simply means they followed Him.
Jesus is walking by, just going about His business. John, knowing who Jesus is, points Him out using a strange name. He calls Jesus “The Lamb of God.” The disciples are curious. Who is this man? So, they follow Him. (My imagination starts running wild.)
Jesus turns around, and being God, already knows these guys, already loves them. He can’t help but smile as He asks them what they want.
They want to know where he is staying … basically inviting themselves over for dinner. With a grin on His face and a twinkle in His eyes, Jesus says, “Come and see.” He doesn’t even tell them! He just invites them to come with Him, to walk with Him, and spend time together.
They haven’t “believed in Him for salvation” … they haven’t “committed themselves to Him” … they haven’t “made Him the Lord of their lives” … Yet Jesus invites these seeking men to meet with Him, to get to know Him. They end up spending the evening hanging out with Jesus. After those few life-changing hours, what passionate conclusion do they come to?
“We have found the Messiah!” John 1:41.
This is what much of modern Christianity is missing! There are far too many people trying to be Jesus’ disciples without ever having met Him. Sure, we believe good, biblical, intellectual things about Him. We know a lot about Jesus, but we do not have an experiential, intimate relationship with Him. We are trying to be like Jesus, trying to copy Him, at a distance. Jesus wants more! Jesus died so that we could have SO MUCH MORE!
What if discipleship looked more like this?
Meet * Become Mesmerized * Follow * Listen * Believe * Be Changed
What if you met Jesus, actually met Him? What if you took whatever time you needed to search the Gospels and actually get to know this crazy, radical, first-century rabbi who changed the world? I guarantee that the more you learn, the more mesmerized you will become.
Dig into the culture of Jesus’ time (thank you, Internet!) and be even more amazed. Follow Jesus through the pages of the New Testament. Picture yourself there. Imagine being the people He interacts with. Listen to His message. Let His words sink deep into your soul. As you believe, you will be changed. You will want to follow Him and be like Him, not out of a sense of duty but one of burning desire!
Yes, there is self-denial, there is letting go of sin, there is choosing to let Jesus change you. But when you know Him, when you are in a relationship with Him, it’s different. Obeying Jesus is easier when you know His character and trust His heart. Letting go is possible when you believe in His love. It’s no longer your effort, your action verbs … you are doing it together! Jesus is within you giving you strength and power through His Holy Spirit.
No one can make this happen. You have to want it. You have to seek Him.
Imagine with me.
You’ve been following Him for weeks, maybe even months now. It’s hard to keep track of time. You’ve watched Him do miracles, tasted the food He made from nothing, listened to His stories and pondered their meanings. It used to be enough to just be part of the larger crowd, but lately you have felt a longing for something more. You have found yourself jealous of Jesus’ friends who stay with Him after the crowds leave. But would He want you? Would you be welcome?
One day, you linger. Feeling naked and exposed, you are no longer “one of the group.” Slowly you approach the friends gathered around the fire, talking and laughing. They see you. He sees you. You freeze, but Jesus stands and walks toward you. His eyes, so full of life, passion, emotion, love, fire … it’s like He’s looking into your soul, terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Then He smiles. You stop. Jesus approaches and asks your name. You have this feeling that He already knows, but you tell Him anyway.
The smile that breaks across His face as He says your name, destroys any doubt. His love overwhelms you. Jesus welcomes you, it’s so obvious, and all He’s said is your name. Then He asks a question, “What do you want?”
“I want to know you. Can I spend time with you? Can we talk? Can I follow you?”
Of course the answer is yes. It’s all He’s ever wanted. With His arm around your shoulders, Jesus leads you back to the fire. It happened! You left the crowd and became a friend!
Photo via Pixabay, edited by Christy Wood.
About Christy Wood
Christy Wood is a former youth pastor’s wife, mother of two, lover of Jesus, hater of legalism, blogger, and hopeful author. After spending her teens in a legalistic Christian cult, Christy is passionate about the truth and about helping people find genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. She blogs at www.letmebefoolish.com.