What Does It Mean to Follow Jesus?
Short Answer Version
The phrase to ''Follow Jesus'' means a few different things put together. It means to learn from Him and to follow the instructions He gave. It also means to keep your heart focused on Him each day, hoping to sense His guidance, wisdom, ideas, or direction for your life.
During the earthly ministry of Jesus, we see people physically following Jesus around, listening to Him teach, watching how he lived, and doing what He told them. Some of them did what He did, even in working God's miracles.
When I was a child, I did not understand what people were saying when they talked about following Jesus. I had a small Bible with a picture of a child walking closely behind Jesus, and stepping in the footsteps His feet had left. I didn’t understand the symbolism.
Long Answer Version
The difference between a believer and a follower is that those who are believers are saved for eternity, with no strings attached, while a follower is a believer who determines to be more like Jesus, by learning about Him, and walking in His ways, knowing heaven awaits him or her.
A life of following Jesus is rewarding and beneficial and should not be downplayed. Being a follower of Jesus means you choose to make him the primary person around whom you shape your life. He becomes your role model.
Following Jesus is not exactly the same as being His disciple. The difference between being a disciple and not just a follower of Jesus, is that disciples are followers who have moved on to the next level.
Jesus told a story indicating that if He asked a follower to do something, He would rather the person said 'No', but do it anyway, than say 'Yes', and not do it.
Have you ever heard the phrase 'a Yes Man'? Although that label can mean something fairly negative in the world, being a 'Yes Man' to Jesus is very positive. A disciple is a person who says 'Yes' to Jesus and does what Jesus wants on a regular basis.
In His earthly ministry, Jesus understood the human heart and gave people a chance to respond to Him with time. Being a disciple comes with time. It does not come with a title. Nobody can tell if we are disciples rather than just followers, especially ourselves.
I am a follower who is contented to consider himself a disciple wannabe. Perhaps when I get to eternity, God will tell me I was a disciple meant to be!
A disciple is happy to try and liv like a disciple as the opportunity arises, rather than to be called a disciple. A disciple develops his or her talents, skills, and giftings, to use in serving God.
Disciples become more and more effective at being like Jesus. A disciple fulfills God's callings and commissions. A famous passage of scripture is called 'the Great Commission'. It is when Jesus told His eleven remaining disciples to go and make disciples of all nations.
You will find that disciples tend to produce other disciples because they model discipleship and train people into it. A disciple both obeys and yields to the presence of the Holy Spirit. A disciple persistently studies and serves God.
Discipleship exclusively to Jesus is an honor. Others might be mentors, leaders, or good examples of Christ-likeness. With complete respect to noble people of that kind, a disciple reports directly to Jesus first and foremost.
This website is calling people to become rescued, saved, and born again. When we become saved, it is possible that sometime later, God might indicate to a believer or follower to prepare themself for discipleship, starting with counting the cost.
All the human bravado, in the world could not accomplish acts of discipleship. It takes God's power and leading. Jesus said, “whoever does not bear their cross and follow after Me cannot be My disciple. For who among you, when intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, to see whether he has enough to finish it; Lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him.”
Jesus wanted people to count the cost of being a disciple so they would not be surprised when it is difficult, dangerous, or even fatal in respect to martyrdom. That is why He spoke of taking up the cross and following Him, because He wanted disciples to know, what they were getting themselves into before, taking that step.
It might seem like a fairly small percentage of believers in Jesus are taking the Great Commission seriously. God is patient with those who are believers yet not disciples, and He loves them for who they are at any time in their faith journey.
Neither becoming a follower nor a disciple, is required for salvation. However, both are good things to pursue. Jesus had disciples who trained under Him to go out into the world and make more disciples. Jesus would ultimately like us all to do the same. Jesus won’t feel let down or disappointed in you if you fall short of becoming an all-out disciple. On the other hand, believing in Jesus for salvation could be the first step toward a fruitful life leading to discipleship. If you feel the urge to move in that direction, it would be in line with what Jesus would like for each of us. He doesn’t pressure us into that level of commitment. He equips us when we are ready and willing.
Not everybody who becomes saved moves from a believer to a follower and then to a disciple. The most important step is the first one, to believe in Jesus. Do that alone, and it is better than 'winning the lottery'. The rest is up to you. When you are ready, you can move on to taste the abundant life believers are promised.
Here is a menu with lots of great information that might help you decide to become a follower of Jesus.
If, as a result of viewing this website, you decided to believe in Jesus as your Savior, please click here for next steps.
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