Sunday School Lessons

What Does It Mean to Follow Jesus?  

Have you ever been in a situation where someone is talking about bad news – maybe a colleague is getting fired or will be assigned to do some really unpleasant job.  Then, they pause and say, “Oh, but it’s not you!”, and you breathe a sigh of relief?

After some pretty strong statements, the author of Hebrews has encouraging words for the recipients of this message:

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.

Hebrews 6:9 NIV
https://hebrews.bible/hebrews-6-9

In fact, I think that many followers of Jesus who worry about their salvation are probably already making good use of their faith, as well as their talents, resources, and opportunities – gifts that God has given them – for the Kingdom of God.

Perhaps we need to consider what it means to follow Jesus Christ.

  • Is it about just “getting saved”?  Is following Jesus a one-time choice that gets us our “get out of hell free card”, so that we can then go back to our previous life of sin and selfishness?
  • Is it about doing enough good things to make God happy, so that He will let us spend eternity with Him because we checked enough boxes?

I’m pretty sure that following Jesus isn’t exactly either of these things, but here we get into a more challenging topic related to our faith: If following Jesus isn’t about just “getting saved” (although salvation is included), or “doing good things” (although we should seek to be righteous), what is it?  What does it mean to follow Jesus?

I think that the next few verses help answer some of those questions.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hebrews 6:10‭-‬12 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/heb.6.10-12.NIV

What differentiates the recipients of Hebrews described here from those in the previous section, who are not producing results?  They work, they show love to God through their service to others (see also Matthew 25:31-46), and they continue to do so.  This is like the land in verse 7 producing useful vegetation.

And, maybe this is the point that the author of Hebrews has been making.  We aren’t called to just get saved and move on.  We are called to continue to live out our new life.  Rather than laziness, we should be like people who have faith and patience.

Now, I understand that it can be tiring to keep living for Jesus.  I think that’s OK, since He got tired, too (see John 4:5-6).  However, even though He got tired, He still kept on with His mission.  We aren’t called to just put in a certain number of years and then “retire” from following Jesus.  We are called to be faithful to the end (see Revelation 14:12).

A commentator points out that our commitment is first to God, and with the hope, faith, and assurance that grows from this, actions are the result [Girdwood, p. 213].

In fact, going back to the start of this passage, perhaps what these readers need to do in order to become more mature is to get back to what they committed to in the first place: a faith that produces results.

So, if you thought that accepting Jesus was the end of the adventure, or if you are still trying to get God to “like you”, I hope that you will be encouraged by the truth of God’s grace, even as you try to live up to Jesus’ expectations of His followers.  There is a lot more to a life with Jesus Christ than a conversion experience: a changed life with Him includes faith with freedom, and righteousness with responsibility.  Trust me – and trust Jesus – that remaining faithful is better than any alternative that this world can ever offer.


From Sunday School lesson prepared for November 14, 2021

References:

  • The Lookout, November 14, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press Commentary, Hebrews, by Jim Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse.  College Press Publishing Company, © 1997.

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