Who do you follow?
Culturally, the word “follower” is used with social media to identify those individuals who follow (or subscribe to) another person’s social media. “Followers” of social media do not necessarily correspond to the biblical use of the word “follower,” but there are some similarities between how our culture uses “followers” and how the Bible describes “disciples.”
What is a disciple?
The Greek word translated as “disciple” comes from the verb that means “to learn.” That means disciples are learners, students, or pupils who spend their time and resources learning, studying, and training. Disciples strive to adhere to the teachings of another, meaning they willingly submit to the instruction and guidance of whom they have chosen to follow.
Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, learning His ways and living what He teaches. Following Jesus meant imitating His way of life and embracing His mission. Jesus invested in His disciples by allowing them to know Him, learn from Him, and ultimately take up His mission on earth – make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). In their uniqueness and specific context, Jesus’ disciples chose to be in relationship with Jesus so that others would come to know who Jesus is and could embrace a relationship with Him.
Who is Jesus?
Jesus asked a similar question to His disciples in Matthew 6:13-19. The disciples responded with a variety of answers that they had heard people say, but Peter responded with, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 6:16). This declaration by Peter was affirmed by Jesus as revealed by God and learned by Peter (reference Matthew 6:17). Peter is claiming that Jesus is God in human form.
What does it mean to be “a follower of Jesus?”
A follower of Jesus means you have declared that Jesus is God, you have a relationship with Jesus through belief in who He is, and you are learning His ways to live His mission. You do not earn a relationship with Jesus – this relationship is given to you through your belief in Him. Also, you learn who Jesus is by God revealing Himself to you in multiple ways, such as through Jesus, Himself, reading the Bible, and learning from others.
When Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower,” Jesus offered anyone the opportunity to become His follower through believing in who He is. But following Jesus implies you take continuous or habitual action. Following Jesus in not a casual or haphazard occurrence, but rather a purposeful and deliberate action on your part.
If you are on social media, you know the process of “following.” If you are prudent, you investigate the person or organization before you follow. If you decide you want to learn from them or at least know what they are doing, you select the “follow” button. Then, you consistently and deliberately spend time taking in what they are sharing – their instruction, guidance, and life experiences.
Jesus’ full statement is, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
In Luke 9:23, Jesus presents deliberate actions to signify you are putting forth the effort to demonstrate you have a relationship with Him – that you are His follower. You give up your own way (some translations say “deny yourself”). You take up your cross daily, and you follow Him.
Giving up our own way does not come naturally to us. Jesus knows this about us, but He still says this action is part of following Him. Giving up our own way happens moment by moment and day by day whenever opportunities arise that require this deliberate action of denying ourselves – freely giving up our own way to follow Jesus in the situation.
Although followers of Jesus often wear cross jewelry and t-shirts, the cross signifies a death instrument. When Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily, He means we willingly put to death those things that would take us away from following Him that day. Therefore, following Jesus is a continuous pursuit on our part, one day at a time, day after day.
Being a follower of Jesus is a day-by-day choice, but maybe one day in the future, others may recognize that you are deliberately choosing to be a follower of Jesus. Not because you advertise or promote that you are a Jesus follower, but because you consistently give up having your own way to follow Jesus’ way, and you daily put to death those things that hinder you from following Jesus.
At Courage For Life, we desire to help you be a courageous follower of Jesus. We want to support you in your daily pursuit of demonstrating your relationship with Jesus. Follow Courage For Life on Instagram @GodGivesCourage to stay updated with all our latest resources and content. Watch the LIVE REPLAY to hear more about what it means to deliberately choose to follow Jesus day by day. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.