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One question I get a lot...
"You talk a lot about 'following Jesus' but I'm not always sure what you mean by that. I know you don't like the word “Christian” and have sort of replaced it with 'following Jesus' and I like that, but not sure how far it goes. And when you refer to a Muslim who's 'following Jesus' I really don't know what it means. Can you help me out a bit?”
This is a great question. It's possibly the one I get asked the most and the one that's the most necessary to answer. There are several ways to answer and several levels to the answer. I'll make it as simple as possible without losing its power.
First and possibly most important is the very simple observation that Jesus' most common form of invitation to his disciples were the words “follow me.” From the Matthew 4:19 when he called the first disciples to “come follow me” until his last words to Peter at the end of John in chapter 21 verse 22 when he basically said, “don't worry about John, you come and follow me.”
It was the consistent message of Christ throughout the gospels – to follow Jesus. To be with him. To learn from him. He's in charge and we are the followers.
So I think you'd at least agree that the words to “follow Jesus” are good ones to use. So….what do they mean?
You will quickly notice that lots of people “followed Jesus.” The Pharisees and religious people “followed” him keep an eye on him.
The crowds followed him because he offered hope and he healed the sick and cast out demons.
And the disciples followed him. The “fishers of men.” The “believers.” Those who noticed there was something more about Jesus and that he may even be the Christ who was spoken of.
When I say that we need to be "followers of Jesus" I'm simply inviting, rather than telling, others they can, in fact, follow Jesus! I am not qualifying their "following" and trying to decipher how well they're doing that. That's ultimately for God to decide. My part is to continually, clearly lift up Jesus Christ. There's really nothing more we can do, than follow him. When someone responds with "Yeah, but....what about the rest?" I can simply say - there is nothing more or better than following our best friend, hero and rescuer - Jesus of Nazareth!
Finally, the more you follow Jesus and the closer you get to him the more you become like him. You're changed by his presence. Healed. Fixed. Transformed. Sin goes, purity comes. Wholeness and health. All that's good. Wisdom and a rightly-oriented life. That's what happens when we “follow him.”