Following Jesus is not something passive; it is dynamic and demanding. It is not an inactive condition to assume; it requires diligence and involves taking actions. It is not a one-time event; it is a daily or continuous exercise.
Jesus said to the multitude that had come to Him, “And He said to all, if any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself – that is, disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself – and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (that is, cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example, in living and if need be, in dying also.” (Luke 9:23 AMP).
It is quite possible to be a believer and yet not be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus pointed this out when he demanded that the Jews who had believed in Him as the Messiah should also abide in His Word and thus become His disciples indeed.
The Scripture records: “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:30-32 NKJV).
The word “follow” is a dynamic word having various meanings or implications.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “follow” as: “To come or go after; proceed behind; To move along the course of; To go in the direction of; be guided by; To accept the guidance, command, or leadership of; To adhere to; practice; To take as a model or precedent; imitate; To act in agreement or compliance with; obey; To keep to or stick to; To watch or observe closely; To be attentive to; pay close heed to; To keep oneself informed of the course, progress, or fortunes of; To grasp the meaning or logic of; understand.”
Collins English Dictionary adds these meanings to the definitions of the word “follow:” “To go or come after in the same direction; To accompany; attend; To keep to the course or track of; To accept the ideas or beliefs; To understand; To watch closely or continuously; To have keen interest in; To help in the cause of or accept the leadership of; To do the same as someone else.”
Also, when you examine Jesus’ words, “Follow Me” in various Bible translations, it means: “Come after Me” (Luke 9:23 BBE); “Be my follower” (Luke 9:23 WNT); “Keep close to me” (Luke 9:23 LB); “Walk in my steps” (Luke 9:23 TCNT); “Cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example, in living and if need be, in dying also” (Luke 9:23 AMP).
From the above Dictionary and Scriptural definitions or renditions of the word “follow,” we can deduce that:
First, Following Jesus is submitting to Jesus’ Leadership:
You cannot be a disciple of Jesus if you are unwilling to accept Jesus without any reservation as your Lord, Master and king. Following Jesus implies embracing and adopting completely Jesus’ values, beliefs, ideas, principles, goals, visions, lifestyles and teachings.
It is quite possible to believe, accept, receive and confess Jesus Christ as your Saviour, Healer, Deliverer, Protector or Provider, but not embrace and submit to Him as your Lord, Master or Leader.
Many religious people could not follow Jesus Christ in His days on earth because they were unwilling to accept His leadership and submit to His teachings. At a point, many of those who had embraced Jesus as their Saviour went back and walked with Him no more because of His teachings (John 6:60-66).
You are not following Jesus if you don’t totally believe and accept all that Jesus has said or taught about Himself and about everything else whether in person while on earth or through His early apostles.
Second, Following Jesus is taking Jesus as your ultimate Standard or Model in everything:
A model is simply someone worthy of imitation. Following Jesus speaks of accepting and regarding Christ as your ultimate Standard, Model and Example to imitate in everything.
You cannot be a disciple of Christ if you are not willing to conform wholly to Christ’s example in living, and in suffering and dying also, if need be (Philip. 3:10).
God’s ultimate purpose for all His children is to be fully conformed to Christ’s image or likeness. That is, to grow up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, or grow up in all things into Christ (Rom. 8:28-29, Eph. 4:11-15).
If this is not the ultimate purpose you are pursuing in life, you are not following Jesus Christ!
Third, Following Jesus is paying close attention to Jesus:
Following Jesus connotes watching or observing Jesus closely and continuously. It involves fellowshipping or communing daily, regularly or constantly with Jesus in prayer and in the study of His Word.
You are not following Jesus if you have no fervent desire or keen interest to commune with Jesus daily, to observe His lifestyle or example in the Bible, to inquire and learn from Him, to seek to know and understand His will and ways, and to pay a close attention daily to His corrections and instructions (Psa. 27:4, Prov. 8:34-35).
If you don’t make it your daily priority to wait upon the Lord and commune with Him, you are not following Him. When you stop waiting upon Jesus, looking unto Jesus, or paying close attention to Jesus and His teachings; you cease following Him and being His disciple (John 8:30-32).
Fourth, Following Jesus is obeying Jesus:
Following Jesus is obeying every command, instruction, or teaching of Jesus Christ. This is not a selective, partial or delayed obedience, but a prompt and perfect obedience to whatever Jesus commands, instructs or teaches.
If you are selective in your obedience to Jesus’ teachings, you are not following Him!
Following Jesus is essentially practicing God’s Word. It implies abiding or continuing in Jesus’ teachings. This is why Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him, “If you abide in my teaching, you are my true disciples.” (John 8:31 MNT).
Therefore, if you are living in disobedience to God’s Word or specific instructions from the Lord, you are not a follower of Christ (John 14:23, 15:14).
Fifth, Following Jesus is cleaving to Jesus:
Following Jesus demands separating from others to cling or stick steadfastly to Jesus. You cannot follow Jesus closely and consistently without leaving yourself and the world behind you (Matt. 6:24, Jam. 4:4, 1 John 2:15).
Following Jesus is leaving no gap between you and Jesus for anyone or anything to fill (Matt. 26:58).
This is what the Psalmist meant when he said:
“My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psa. 63:8 NKJV).
“My soul followeth hard after thee…” (Psa. 63:8 KJV).
“My soul clings to thee…” (Psa. 63:8 RSV).
“My soul keeps ever near you…” (Psa. 63:8 BBE).
Following Jesus speaks of panting, thirsting or longing for Jesus and His Word above anything else (Psa. 63:1-2, 84:1-2).
This is what the Psalmist meant when he said: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psa. 42:1-2 NKJV).
Following Jesus is looking unto Jesus; taking your eyes away from all others and fixing them only on Jesus constantly and continuously (Heb 12:1-3). It is holding fast unto God’s Word or standing firm on His promises (Heb. 3:14, 6:11).
Sixth, Following Jesus is possessing Jesus’ mindsets:
While on earth, Jesus’ mind was set on pleasing His Father, on seeking and doing His Father’s will, and on accomplishing His Father’s work.
Jesus publicly declares: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:34 NKJV).
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38 NKJV).
“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30 NKJV).
Following Jesus speaks of setting your mind as Jesus set His mind on seeking, doing and accomplishing God’s will on earth. Following Jesus demands you possessing Jesus’ mental attitudes or inclinations. How?
By imbibing Jesus’ Word constantly and continuously, thereby renewing your mind to conform to His mindsets!
Following Jesus is seeing things from Jesus’ perspectives and thinking like Jesus. It is embracing and adopting Jesus’ values, principles and standards in life.
You are not following Jesus if your mind or affection is not set on seeking and doing God’s will, bringing glory to God, and on things above (Matt. 6:31-33, Col. 3:1-2, 2 Cor. 5:9).
Lastly, Following Jesus is devoting yourself to Jesus’ mission:
While on earth, Jesus was fully committed to His Father’s business or work which is primarily seeking and saving the lost souls.
Jesus said to His parents: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV).
He also declared: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 NKJV).
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19 NKJV).
Therefore, following Jesus does not end with watching or observing what Jesus does, but it entails doing what you see Jesus do in like manner.
Following Jesus entails demonstrating God’s pure and unconditional love to people, seeking for the lost souls, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, teaching God’s Word, making disciples for Christ, healing the sick, setting the captives free, feeding the poor and taking care of the widows and orphans as Jesus did.
The Lord’s desire and expectation is that anyone who follows Him will do the works He did and even do greater works than what He did.
Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12 NKJV).
Beloved, following Jesus is not just living as Jesus lived, or walking as Jesus walked, but also working as Jesus worked while on earth.
This is why Jesus said to His disciples: “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 NKJV).