Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34 ESV). And though we may know that verse, I fear that many Christians have no idea what it looks like to follow Jesus. Often when I ask people to tell me how things are going in their Christian walk (in following Jesus), they usually say things like, “I pray, and I read my Bible some…” And they begin to fumble through what they think the right answer is; and in doing so it becomes apparent that they aren’t really sure what Christians should be doing… they aren’t sure what following Jesus looks like.
Now, I think part of the reason there’s confusion about what it looks like to follow Jesus is because there seems to be at least two extremes in Christian circles: one that is very legalistic and moralistic and only talks about what we are to do, and another that emphasizes the grace of God in Christ, but acts as though we are not called to do anything or live any differently as Christians. Now, the Bible tells us that we cannot save ourselves, and it tells us that the Christian life is not about mere behavior modification; but God’s Word does speak of gospel transformation… Jesus saves, and when He does He begins, day by day, to transform our lives. By grace people fall out of love with the world and fall in love with Jesus and dedicate their life, because of grace, to living for the glory of Christ. And that idea of living for the glory of Christ is what following Christ is all about.
Christians are saved by the person and work of Jesus; Christians are saved by what Jesus has done, not what they do… the glory belongs to God alone… But that doesn’t mean that Christians aren’t then called to do certain things (Eph. 2:8-10). Christians are to repent and believe in the gospel (the good news about the person and work of Jesus), and repentance and faith are not things we merely do once to become Christians, but they are an every day reality for the Christian. Repenting and believing the gospel goes on day by day as we, by grace, seek to trust and obey God’s Word, seeking to live for the glory of Jesus, not our own. So, though Jesus has done everything necessary to save us, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we are to do as Christians. These things don’t earn us righteousness or salvation, nor are they mere legalistic DOs and DON’Ts… obedience is not legalism… What we are to do as Christians is a part of who we are as Christians.
A Christian is a redeemed sinner who has been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, according to Scripture alone. A Christian is now a child of God, a citizen of heaven, a minister of reconciliation, an ambassador of Christ, a follower of Christ, a disciple of Jesus who makes disciples of Jesus. That means that prayer (talking to God and depending upon Him), studying and sitting under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word (hearing from God), self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and the oversight and fellowship of the church are a regular part of the Christian life (fighting sin and pursuing holiness)… That so, a Christian should be a faithful member of a faithful local church where they can be about the work of knowing the gospel, proclaiming the gospel in our worship gatherings and faithful evangelism, preserving the gospel through meaningful membership, discipleship, discipline, and the right administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, adorning the gospel through holy lives and sacrificial love for one another, and advancing the gospel deep into hearts through discipling and wide out to the world through evangelism and missions. A Christian should covenant together with other believers, gather regularly to pray God’s Word, read God’s Word, sing God’s Word, sit under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and see God’s Word in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. A Christian should support preachers and teachers who preach and teach the gospel rightly… A Christian should live in step with the gospel in word and deed, help other church members to do the same, call non-Christian neighbors to repent and believe the gospel, and pray, give sacrificially, and do whatever they can to help get the gospel to all the peoples of the world.
This may seem like a lot; this may seem inconvenient; but remember, the Christian life is not about us but the glory of Christ. That’s why Jesus said that if we would come after Him, we must deny our self and take up our cross and follow Him. We have to die to our pride, our laziness, and selfishness; and we have to give ourselves to being faithful church members who are committed to knowing God’s Word, to truly knowing God and having a real relationship with Jesus, to knowing God’s people and involving them in our lives, and leveraging our lives to help others come to know Jesus, love Jesus, and live for Him as well.
The Christian life is not exactly easy, but it is worth it. We die to ourselves and we live for the glory of Christ now; but in this faithful obedience we find joy… and at the end of this life we find perfect eternal joy as we enjoy perfect fellowship with Jesus in glory. So, how are things going in your Christian walk?
I am nothing; Christ is all!