What does it mean to follow Jesus?
You may have heard terms like salvation, getting saved, or being born again. All of those descriptions are attempts to define what following Jesus really means. Following Jesus is a relationship and a journey, not some formula or super-secret prayer. That relationship is one of Jesus as the teacher and we as students. The word for that is disciple.
So… what does it mean to be a disciple?
Jesus asked a lot of questions. He also made statements that required both answers and actions. One of the most important, “Follow Me.” Here’s where Jesus invited Matthew:
Matthew 9:9 (NLT)
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
In the first century, following a rabbi was a great honor. It was a chance to literally do life together as a perpetual student of a master teacher. But Jesus is more than a teacher, He is the eternal Son of God!
Following Jesus as a disciple meant they left everything behind and walked where He walked, slept where He slept, and ate what He ate. They willfully and totally submitted to His authority as their role model and life coach. They had daily, direct access to the greatest teacher that ever lived. He taught them to do what He did – how to live the things He commanded. As the first disciples discovered who Jesus really was, they realized their journey with Him meant eternal life!
John 3:36 (NLT)
And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.
The steps of a disciple
There was a saying in Jesus’ time: May you be covered with the dust of your rabbi’s feet. A rabbi always walked in front, discussing scriptures with the students who followed behind. Students would also sit at the feet of their rabbi, usually in the dirt. They quite literally followed in their teacher’s footsteps, dusty roads and all.
Jesus didn’t always start with the challenge to follow Him. There were four steps, four levels of invitation to be a disciple.
- Come and see (John 1:38-39).
- Follow Me (John 1:43).
- Follow Me and become a fisher of people (a disciple-maker – Matthew 4:19).
- Go make disciples (John 15:16).
Come and see
This is where the relationship begins. Jesus invites you to come and see. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You may not be sure of everything. That’s okay. Every journey has a starting point. It’s not a puzzle to figure out. Following Jesus is the only way to a rich and satisfying life, both now and eternally (John 10:10).
- Are you satisfied?
- Do you feel like something is missing?
- Does it feel like you are carrying the weight of the world?
- Wonder what your purpose in life really is?
Come and see what following Jesus really means.
Matthew 11:28 (NLT)
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
John 3:16 (NLT)
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
There is a better way to live. God created you for more! He designed you to have an eternal relationship with Him. Jesus loved you enough to die on the cross for you. God raised Jesus from the dead to prove how eternal that love is! It can be yours, forever! Are you ready to be His disciple?
The first disciples left everything behind to follow their rabbi. We have to do the same to follow Jesus today. We must leave behind our sin, shame, guilt, and selfishness. Jesus called it being born again (John 3:3), or being born from above. It’s the opportunity to be brand new! But don’t stress out. You don’t get there through self-discipline or by trying to be good. This new, eternal life is a free gift no one can earn or deserve. You just have to believe Jesus is who He said He is!
Believe it? Say it.
Following Jesus means to recognize who He is and that He’s worth giving up everything to follow. Even our faults and failures. To repent means to change your mind and obey what Jesus said. Jesus is the Son of God. Disciples know Jesus as our supreme authority and are willing to give Him total control of our lives. The Bible uses the titles Lord and Master for Jesus to describe that realization. Following Jesus begins with believing that and saying it.
Matthew 10:32 (NLT)
“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)
9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
It’s that simple. That’s the first step of obedience in following Jesus. Believe it. Say it.
Welcome to God’s family! A party in heaven just started…
Luke 15:10 (NLT)
In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
Can you imagine winning the lottery and not cashing in the ticket? Following Jesus wins eternal life for free and we cash in the better life right now by obeying what He said. But don’t worry. You don’t have to do that with your own understanding, willpower and ability. Jesus ascended to heaven but didn’t leave us alone. We have a supernatural teacher who empowers us to be disciples!
John 8:31-32 (NLT)
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.
32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 14:26-27 (NLT)
26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Romans 8:11-15 (NET)
11 Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh
13 (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”
So now what? Disciples are all about relationships. Following Jesus isn’t a solo sport! We need each other.
Today.Church would love to connect with you as we follow Jesus together. Church is a family! Let us know you have decided to follow Jesus, or if you aren’t quite decided and still have questions. We can help!
To obey what Jesus said, we need to know what He said. Reading the Bible is a vital part of new life as a disciple of Jesus. The 260 Bible Plan is a great way to make that happen.
And there’s more!
Following Jesus is an incredible journey together with other disciples. Jesus taught us to be baptized, be filled with the Holy Spirit and go make disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8) Each of us has a unique place and purpose in God’s family! Disciples are disciple-makers. We make a difference by loving and serving others. Want to know more? Discover purpose. Find family. Experience starting PINT!
Love God. Love people. Make disciples.