What does it mean to follow Christ?
The Greek New Testament word used in Luke 9:23, akoloutheo (ak-ol-oo-theh’o) means, To be in the same way with, to accompany specifically as a disciple: --- to follow.
This infers to me that there is agreement by me to accept the discipleship of Christ; to be guided and mentored by Jesus Christ.
Sharon (Sharon Sharing God) recently wrote about hiking with her husband:
“Sometimes when we’ve been hiking for a long time I get really hot and tired, and sometimes I don’t think I can take another step. What do I do? I keep my husband in my sights ahead of me, and I just plod on after him.”1
Following was never a strength I exhibited. Taking instruction was for me always difficult because I had my own opinions about what to do and how to do it. If you’ve read the previous two posts you’ll recognize a pattern of thought and behavior inconsistent with someone coming after Christ.
Topics on submission and discipleship were not that important to me as fundamental concepts to grasp. As a result, I continued to be mired in thoughts and behaviors which severely limited my appreciation for the goodness and grace of God. It also restricted my ability (and willingness) to face adversity, temptation and sin.
As I look back on my life, the Holy Spirit has helped me recognize that although my biological father deserted our family, I still managed to pick up an attitude and behavior he demonstrated although he never personally mentored me.
When my father left, he abdicated his responsibilities as a husband and father. It was as if he went to the moon because he had vanished. He never called, wrote or attempted to contact me or any of my brothers; were invisibly non-existent to him. What the Holy Spirit helped me realize is that when I didn’t agree with someone, or they gave me frustration, they became non-existent to me. I wasn’t even cognizant of this thinking and pattern of behavior but I can see how I often emotionally shutdown on people.
As I said, my relationship with Christ was no different than my relationship with anyone else; it was a conditional relationship. I’m thankful that I no longer have that kind of relationship but I’m saddened that I have damaged some really valuable relationships which I thought in my mind were perfectly OK.
Following Christ takes commitment, discipline, wisdom and sacrifice. I can say without reservation that I’ve had days where I’ve cried out to the Lord, “I have nowhere else to go, who is there like You that will listen to me?” I’ve also had days where words just couldn’t be uttered from my mouth and I found the only word in my vocabulary was, Jesus.
We all begin this journey the same way, we hear the message of the gospel and we make an expression of our faith by accepting Jesus Christ as our savior but at some point, the journey starts to get rough.
“…Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the rod, and the birds came and ate them up. And others fell upon rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop…”2
Being rooted is a term used in martial arts that indicates your base cannot be moved. Have you ever seen a plant grow in the most inauspicious place? Through a crack in a concrete sidewalk, in a junkyard; places one can’t imagine a plant surviving. And yet, there it grows! Despite all the obstacles, it remains rooted. To follow Christ, I must remain rooted.
To be rooted in Christ, I must be committed to Christ.
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up…”3
Most of us understand the concept of discipline and the phrase lack of discipline or undisciplined. I had to learn that I couldn’t follow Christ and lead an undisciplined life. I like to think of discipline as order that escapes chaos. My life before Christ was chaotic, undisciplined, and lacking focus. Accepting Christ didn’t suddenly cause these flaws to change. I discovered that it takes discipline. For me, it is the kind of discipline that flees a chaotic life much like a runaway slave. I needed order in my life and as a software engineer, I learned about order and structure. Without me even realizing it, God was giving me a pattern to follow Christ; the order and structure He could impart in my life.
To be disciplined in Christ, I must have order and structure.
Unlike knowledge, wisdom was difficult to acquire. I was intelligent, so acquiring knowledge was never a difficult task for me. But wisdom was far more elusive. For me, I have come to realize that wisdom isn’t the years of experience I’ve gain in an area; wisdom is the correct application of the knowledge I’ve acquired. It’s one thing to know the right thing to do, wisdom enables me to do the right thing correctly.
“Everything is permissible for me—allowable and lawful; but not all things are helpful—good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things. Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.”4
True wisdom comes from God and I had to learn that if I was ever going to be successful in following Christ, I needed something I sorely lacked; wisdom. Reading the bible enables me to acquire knowledge but no matter how many times I read scripture, I am conscious of my need for God to impart wisdom and understanding so that I will correctly apply the word of God in my life.
To apply spiritual wisdom in my life, I must seek wisdom and understanding from God.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Why does God require me to give something up?” Many people think that following Christ is painful. I guess if you’re being stoned as Stephen was, then yes that was painful. But when I considered my thoughts on things I have to give up for Christ, I realize that this was my own concept of the relationship; not God’s. I spoke earlier about how in the Old Testament, the sin offering was brought to the priest and the offerer would lay his hand on the head of the animal symbolizing a transfer taking place. All claims of ownership rights, vested interests were abdicated because the offerer acknowledged that the sacrifice belonged to God. I’ve learned in my life that things I’ve given up required a willingness on my part to transfer rights to God. So if I had a problem in my life, like shutting down emotionally with others, I came to realize that it was something which I was incapable of handling on my own. I reached a point where I offered it up to God, transferring ownership rights to Him.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”5
Sacrificing the things I selfishly crave in order to maintain a relationship with Jesus Christ and others is a choice I freely make.
To sacrifice, I must freely give to God that which I value.
“…If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”6
Following Christ has not always been easy for me to do, but the fault was with me. I humbly declare my desire to follow Jesus all the days of my life. I'm committed to discipleship. I seek Your wisdom and understanding in things pertaining to my life. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me apply Your word in my life each day. The things I once treasured and valued are now an offering to You. I ask You to help me see what else needs to be offered up that I may follow Your Son without being choked by the cares of this life. Amen.
- In His Footsteps, by Sharon Kirby, on the Blog Faith’s Firm Foundation, August 16, 2010
- Matthew 13:3-8, NASB
- John 15:6, NASB
- 1 Corinthians 6:12, Amplified Bible
- John 15:13, NASB
- Luke 9:23, NASB
- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
- The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
- Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6
- Sharon Sharing God, blog by Sharon Kirby