What does it mean to be a Christian? There are so many different ideas and misunderstandings of that label. But, what did Jesus say? He said simply, “Come follow me!” Yes, it sounds simple enough, but it’s one of the most challenging and countercultural things Jesus ever said.
The concepts of leading and following sound safe enough, but what Jesus said about following Him is, “You must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me!” Wow! Nothing could be more in conflict with our natural desires and ambitions. The idea of denying ourselves and taking up a cross runs counter to our culture which tells us to “Follow your dream!” Obeying our appetites, letting ambition direct our lives and following our dream moves us in predictable directions. Denying ourselves to take up a cross and follow Jesus always means we have to change course and move in a new direction.
Following Jesus means more than following all the rules of a church. It means you live in a daily relationship with Christ letting Him direct your steps.
Here’s another challenging piece to this: If we are going to follow Jesus, we begin by acknowledging the fact that we are broken. God gave us free will. Each time we have chosen to do our own thing with our free will instead of submitting ourselves to God’s love, sin was the result. The truth is that sin has marred our lives and everything around us.
Sin means missing the mark. Think of the center of an archer’s bullseye as being perfection. Anything outside of the circle of perfection is missing the mark. Whether you are close to perfection, or far away if you are not inside of the circle you have missed the mark. We have all missed the mark!
Have you noticed when we try to rank sins we always come out looking better than others? We’ll think, “I’m not perfect, but I’m not a murderer! So, I must be OK.” Sometimes we try to minimize our sin and think, “What’s the big deal? I’m not hurting anyone.” The truth is that all sin is destructive. It damages our relationship with others and with God. In fact, sin damages everything it touches.
The good news is that God loved you so much He sent Christ to die for you, to pay the consequences for your past, present, and future sins. He took the consequences of your sin and mine. This allows us to make a fresh start and choose a new direction in life.
Have you come to the place where you realize you need God’s forgiveness? Are you ready to change course? When you ask for God’s forgiveness and put your trust in Jesus, the new life that Jesus talked about becomes a possibility for you. You can begin to follow Jesus today from wherever you are.
Lord, right now I’m doing an about-face away from following my selfish appetites and ambitions to follow You. Forgive me of all my sins. From this day forward help me to live in daily relationship with You, doing the things You would have me do and becoming the person You want me to be.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.