Following Jesus Christ by Tom Tarrants - page 1

From the Fall 2011 issue of Knowing & Doing


Following Jesus Christ 

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III
Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

As Jesus traveled throughout Israel urging people to repent and believe the gospel, “Follow me” was a constant refrain in his message. At the beginning of his ministry, he called his first disciples with the terse command, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” As his ministry progressed, he told the crowds, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). At the end of his earthly ministry, he recommissioned the repentant Peter with the words, “Follow me” (John 21:19).

Have you ever probed the meaning of this phrase? If not, you should, because it can lead to a profound, transforming change in how you think about and live the Christian life. Perhaps this article can help get you started.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Following Jesus begins when we respond to his call to repent and believe the gospel. The Good News that God loves us and has taken the initiative to reconcile us to himself by giving his Son to atone for our sins awakens us to God’s grace and moves us to want to live for Christ and follow him.

When we turn our attention to what the Bible shows us about how to actually follow Jesus in daily life, two things stand out immediately: understanding and obeying his teaching and following his example. Let’s take them in turn.

For his first disciples, hearing and obeying Jesus’ teachings were fundamental to following him. This is evident in the fact that soon after calling them, Jesus gave his disciples the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7), an extensive in-depth teaching on  life in the kingdom of God - what we might call basic principles of discipleship or the Christian life. At the conclusion of this sermon, Jesus emphasized with striking clarity the profound importance of hearing and obeying this teaching:
 

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Matt. 7:24–27).

The point Jesus is making in these words is that  building one’s life on obedience to  his teaching is wise and will sustain his disciples in the challenges they will inevitably encounter in life, just as building one’s house on a foundation of rock will secure it against the forces of nature that will assault it. Disobedience to his Word is folly and leads to ruin, as surely as building a house on sand will result in utter catastrophe when those same storms come. If we want to follow Jesus, then, we will certainly want to begin where the first disciples did, with understanding and obeying the foundational teaching in this sermon. And from there we will go on to study his teaching elsewhere in the Gospels.

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