The story is told of a young boy who went to his first day of school. That evening, when asked how it went, he gave a positive report about his activities that day. The follow-up question, “What did your teacher tell you about tomorrow’s class?”, caught him off-guard, though. He replied, “You mean I have to go back?”
Many good things in life don’t provide much benefit if we stop after one session. One workout at the gym isn’t going to make us fit. One visit to the doctor isn’t enough to ensure that our body remains in good health. Going to work for a single day won’t provide a lifetime of earned income. Giving helpful advice to our children on just one occasion won’t prepare them for adulthood.
Unfortunately, I think that some people treat their relationship with God in this way. They accept Jesus’ offer of salvation, and then decide that they are “set for life”. However, I don’t find any indication in the Bible that this is what God intended. Instead, we find examples like this one from Paul, within his Holy Spirit-inspired letter to the Colossians:
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 NLT
The purpose of following Jesus is not to “get saved”, or to just get our ticket punched for the glory train to Heaven. Yes, Jesus’ atonement for our sins, and the seal of the Holy Spirit, does secure our place with God in eternity. Even with those blessings, though, walking with Jesus was not meant to just stop there.
I think that one reason that some people who have accepted Jesus as their Savior don’t continue living for Him (as their Lord), is because they misunderstand – or just didn’t ever learn about – the larger picture of why Jesus came. In a world of “transactions”, where we give something (like money) in order to get something (like a funnel cake at the fair), Jesus’ offer of salvation can seem like just another purchase that we make. We might pray a prayer, confess our need for Jesus, ask a pastor or other believer to baptize us…and then think that we are done. After all, when we buy a new shirt at the store, we don’t normally continue spending the rest of our lives hanging out with the cashier who rang up our purchase, or with the manufacturer that produced the shirt.
Following Jesus is much more than that. In fact, that is why I like the term, “following Jesus”, a little better than “becoming a Christian” or “getting saved”. Those latter two phrases are certainly valid parts of God’s plan for human beings, but their tenses describe something more like one-time events, instead of an ongoing way of life (see also Matthew 16:24).
In the Bible, I don’t remember Jesus calling his disciples to just “get out of Hell” or “sign up on a church’s roll”. Instead, He told people to follow Him:
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
Luke 5:27-28 NLT
This seems similar to what Peter told the crowds at Pentecost, using terms like “repent” and “turn to God” – see Acts 2:38. The early church clearly didn’t just sign up and then consider themselves done with Jesus, as demonstrated a few verses later in Acts 2:42-47.
So, if we follow Jesus, and walk in the same way (in our life choices and behavior) as He did, what does that look like? One of the best ways to learn the answer is to read about the life of Jesus, from the books of the Bible that tell about His ministry on earth. These books are sometimes called Gospels (which means “good news”, so it is a fitting term), and you can click on any of the following links to start reading one of them: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
As you read through these (and you really should, whether you don’t yet know much about Jesus, or if you have been following Him for a long time), look for things that Jesus did, like the following:
- Making choices that reflect God’s standards of right living, instead of making harmful and selfish decisions.
- Telling others the truth about the Kingdom of God.
- Sacrificially loving and serving others.
- Talking with God the Father on a regular basis, and giving Him the glory.
- Spending time with people who want to grow spiritually, and helping them do so.
These should be part of our lives as well. To paraphrase a statement that I heard a pastor say years ago, “You don’t have to keep living the life that Jesus offers (and modeled). You get to live that life.” May we each live that life for the glory of God, and for the blessings that it brings to both ourselves and others.