By some estimates, there are over two billion Christians in the world. If you compare that to the largest online followings today, Jesus would have the largest following of anyone alive — more than 2,000 years after his earthly life, death, and resurrection. Today, “following” someone means following their social media account, tracking what they’re doing, liking what they share, and watching their life from afar. Our culture and our lives are built around who we “follow.”
Into fashion? There are people ready to share the latest trends on what to wear.
Like to try new local restaurants? There’s a foodie in your city ready to share the latest places to eat.
Sports fanatic? Your favorite athlete is ready to share what they’re doing both on and off the field.
Have a case of wanderlust? Countless travel bloggers are ready to share their favorite places to go.
While these influencers are amassing a “following” to gain fame and wealth to build a brand. Jesus gathers followers to transform lives and lead people into eternity. Rather than simply watching his life from afar, Jesus wants his followers next to him, to guide them through life. There are similarities though. Simply put, “influencers” want to shape our lives — so does Christ. When we follow celebrities and athletes, it’s often because we wish we could have the earthly things they have. Jesus wants his followers to follow him, not to gain things on earth, but to build a life that will last into eternity.
The only requirement to follow an influencer online is to like their page or subscribe to their channel. What does it take to follow Jesus? Consider these four ways to follow Jesus.
1. Respond to his calling
Even the act of clicking a button to follow someone on social media takes action. Responding to Jesus also takes action. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus calls for people to follow him. In these instances (one example is Matthew 8:22), Jesus calls for the person to leave what they’re doing and follow him. The same is true for us today.
Jesus calls us to turn from the lives we have today and follow him. The first step is responding to his calling by acknowledging who Jesus is.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him about his statements about where he was going to prepare a place for them, Jesus told them in John 14:6 (NIV) the path to get to where he was going.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
And Jesus makes it plain in John 3:16 that believing Jesus is the Son of God means that person “will not perish but have eternal life.” To start following Jesus, you need to acknowledge he is the one true God and one true path to a redeemed, everlasting life. Like those people who Jesus called in the gospels, listen to the voice of your Savior calling you to follow him. Turn from the way you’ve been living your life and trust that he is the way, the truth, and the life.
2. Deny yourself
In Luke 9:23, Jesus tells us what it means to take the next step in responding and following him.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Belief is where our journey starts. But Jesus wants all of us, and he doesn’t promise that following his path would be easy. We are all stuck in the death perpetuated by our sin, but the wonderful gift is that Jesus saw our sin and declared that we were worth redeeming. That’s why our next step in our response is to deny ourselves, submit to Jesus, and die to ourselves.
Choosing to take up our cross means we are laying down our lives to follow Jesus. He has a better way and path forward for our life, but it’s only visible when we stop focusing on what we want. Our eyes have to be on him.
3. Follow only him
How many people are you friends with on Facebook? How many people do you follow on Instagram? How many Twitter accounts do you check when something happens in the news? More than likely, the answer to these questions is a number greater than one. However, Jesus wants to be the only one we follow and look to when we need guidance in our lives.
What would happen if you stopped listening to the advice and recommendation of everyone you’re connected to online and only listened to what Jesus was telling you to do? Your life would probably look a little different. In Matthew 6:24 (NIV) Jesus says:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
This is similar to Exodus 20:3 (NIV) when God declares as one of The Ten Commandments:
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
God demands that he be your top priority. The Bible shows us in passages, including Isaiah 42:8, Exodus 34:4, and Deuteronomy 4:14, that God is jealous. As said earlier, he wants all of us. That’s why even the slightest division in our devotion is a betrayal of our allegiance to Jesus. When we turn and serve something or someone else, whether it’s money, selfish desires, or another person, we aren’t giving our all to Jesus. That’s what he means when he says, “No one can serve two masters.”
You can’t follow and take instructions from two masters at the same time. If you’re listening to and pursuing money, you won’t have the capacity to also follow and take instructions from Jesus. So, that’s why it’s so important to choose Jesus as your top priority each day.
4. Conform your life to his
Perhaps most importantly, the final consideration in following Jesus is conforming your life to the way he lived. When you’re an avid fan of a celebrity or influencer, you’re probably trying to talk like they talk, wear what they wear, go where they go, and generally live the same kind of life they live (no matter the cost). For followers of Jesus, people around you should be able to see and recognize that same kind of all-in passion in pursuit of living like Jesus.
If you hear or read Jesus’ instruction but simply do nothing or your life doesn’t change, are you really following Christ? Or is Christ someone that we simply admire? Jesus describes it this way in Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV):
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Are you building your life on the rock of Jesus’ word or doing nothing with his instruction? The C.S. Lewis Institute describes conforming to the life of Jesus in this way:
“The goal of discipleship is to become like Jesus himself: to think as he thought, to feel as he felt, to act as he acted, desire what he desired.”
What does that look like? In his time as a man on earth, Jesus gave us an example in John 13:14-15 (NIV) of being a servant leader.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Jesus makes himself lower than his disciples as a way to reinforce that he did not come to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28). That’s how we should live our life — serving others. This is how we conform our lives to Jesus and show who Jesus is to others.
If you haven’t decided to follow Jesus, these four considerations are a good place to start. If you still have questions, read “Following Jesus Christ” from the C.S. Lewis Institute. If you have a connection to a local church, go there to help get your questions answered and engage in conversation to wrestle with the answers. While it’s more than just clicking “like” or “subscribe,” following Jesus is worth the added effort.