If someone were to ask you if you were a follower of Jesus and what made you one, what would you say? Generally, when that question is asked, there is a variety of answers. The most common one is I go to church. But there are
others: I am a good person, I give to charities, I’ve been baptized, I pray sometimes, I am a religious person, I participate in communion, etc..
While these are activities practiced by Christians, they alone do not necessarily indicate that an individual is a follower of Jesus. Not to mention; they do not answer the question. So, what is a follower of Jesus Christ?
What is a Follower of Jesus?
To be a follower of Jesus is to be a disciple of Jesus—a wholehearted supporter of Jesus. A disciple is a pupil, student, or learner and holds fast to the teachings of another. Not only does a disciple follow, but also is additionally active in spreading the doctrines of another. In the Bible, disciple is the word used most often to refer to a follower of Jesus and implies an inner circle relationship with Him.
It is a serious commitment to be a follower of Jesus.
The Characteristics of a True Follower of Jesus
A true follower of Jesus exhibits and maintains certain undeniable characteristics. Some are exterior and obvious, while others are internal.
First and foremost, we must “born again.” Jesus said in John 3:3, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” To be born again, we must confess and repent of our sins, surrender our lives to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, receive forgiveness by faith, and begin walking in the ways of Jesus. It is not just accepting Christ and living the same life, but a change to a new life born of the Spirit. For more on born again, see the article, “What Does it Mean to be a Born Again Christian” on this website.
Next, prayer—if we are following Jesus, we must be a person of prayer, following His example. Let’s look at Matt 14:23
23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
This is just one of many examples of Jesus’ motivation to pray.
Characteristically, Jesus often spent the night in prayer. While we are not required to spend whole nights in prayer, prayer is to be a major component in our lives. It is important to spend time alone with God. A day should never go by without prayer as opposed to an occasional cry for help when faced with difficulty. Every day must begin and end with prayer. Prayer is to be a lifestyle, not a life jacket!
Next, listen—God requires our submission and obedience. However, if we don’t listen to Him, we can’t hear Him. How then can we be obedient? This is why it is imperative for us to listen to God as we read His Word and pray.
Think of the examples in the Scriptures of the Lord expressing His will to individuals. Individuals such as Moses, Abraham, Noah, etc. heard God. Had these men not been in a genuine relationship with God and listening, they would have never known His will for their lives. We may not receive a commission as these did, but God has a purpose and plan for all of His genuine followers. In Ps. 138:8 the psalmist wrote, The Lord will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands. NIV
Here the psalmist acknowledges with confidence that the Lord has a purpose for his life and He will fulfill it because of His faithful love. This applies to all of us.
We are commanded by God to listen to Jesus. This commandment was handed down at Jesus’ transfiguration. Let’s look at this in Matt 17:5:
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
It is essential that we submit to God and His son and listen to Him as we pray and read His Word.
Next, we must believe—Just as we initially trusted Jesus as our Savior, we must continue to trust and believe as we live by faith. Scripture says in Heb 10:38, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
This Scripture is part of a passage that encourages perseverance. We are to persevere by believing in faith in spite of our difficulties and rely on Him; this pleases God. Also in Heb 11:6, it states, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
We must remember that Jesus came so that we would believe in Him and be saved from our sins. As it states in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For more on faith, see the article, “What is Faith About” on this website
Next, obedience—Following and obedience go hand and hand. You can’t truly follow someone without being obedient. Here is what Jesus said about following Him in John 8:12
…”I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” In order to receive the blessings of God, we must be obedient to His Son. For Jesus also said in John 5:22-24:
22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
We can’t expect to be blessed without honoring and obeying Christ. A true follower of Jesus knows this and undertakes it as an obligation.
Next, we have love—the love we are to have for Christ entails our whole being. We can’t follow Christ half-heartedly; with a heart that is half in the world and half with God.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said in Mark 12:30:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
This is a commandment that requires wholehearted love for God. Therefore, we must live a life that exhibits our love for the Lord. Consequently, we can’t allow the impure thoughts, images, and words of the world into our minds and claim to love Him simultaneously. This has become to be known as popular Christianity. For more on Popular Christianity, see the article, Popular Christianity: the danger, on this website.
Wholehearted love for Christ has an effect on what we think and watch, where we go, and what we do. We simply cannot allow impure thoughts, images, and words to dwell in our minds and profess to love Him at the same time. Wholehearted love for Christ affects what we think and all that we do. We are further encouraged in the Scriptures in 1 Cor. 10:31:
31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Next, we have service—Jesus was a servant, and we as His followers should be the same. All of us can serve the Lord in some manner by serving others. Service occurs in many different forms: encouraging, caring, helping, giving, comforting, teaching, or sharing God’s Word. These are manifestations of the Gifts of the Spirit. [1 Cor. 12:1-11]
Following Jesus isn’t about accepting Him and folding our hands. There is much work to be done for the kingdom and the Lord equips us to do it!
Jesus said in John 12:26:
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
In order to serve Christ, we must follow Him. In return, we are promised the presence and protection of the Father.
Next, we have suffering—As you can imagine, this one is not popular! However, Scripture instructs on this matter. Phil 1:29:
29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
When following Jesus, we can expect to go through some form of suffering. We suffer financial loss, rejection, and even lose relationships because we make individuals feel awkward and we simply don’t fit in with those who love the world. However, this must not halt us from following Jesus and sharing the gospel.
After all, Scripture states that we are “a peculiar people.” [1 Peter 2:9] We are not to be of the world.
Last but certainly not least, sharing—we are commanded by Jesus to share the truth with others. We find this command in Matthew 28:19:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.
This is the commandment of Jesus known as the Great Commission. Therefore, if we are going to follow Him and be His disciples, we must share the truth of God’s Word with others, despite whether they like us or not.
In a world of animosity, bitterness, hatred, and death, Christ’s followers
are endangering their lives to bring the gospel to individuals throughout the world. Each of us can unquestionably say something to spark the interest of at least one person we know who is not following Jesus.
These are the characteristics of a true follower of Jesus Christ. While it is not a cakewalk and can be difficult at times, it provides fulfillment knowing that we will be rewarded in due time. As the Scripture encourages us in Gal 6:9, “ And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
We must keep our eyes on the prize!
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