“Follow Me!” ~ Jesus
I would venture to say that most of us, when we had the Gospel explained to us before we were saved, were not told that we were signing on for a life of following Jesus. What exactly did Jesus have in mind when He took our sins upon Himself as He died on the Cross? That we would follow Him into a new life. Christ said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
So we have this dilemma in the church: Many church members do not see themselves as disciples. They think that one can be a Christian forever and never become a disciple. A typical Christian today thinks disciples are people who sit in the first-class section of the Christian life, and the rest sit in the coach section of the Christian life. And it doesn’t matter where you sit because we’re all going to the same destination.
For years this was true in my own experience. When I was saved as a teenager I had a mistaken view of what the Gospel meant and what Christ wanted to do with my life. I wanted Him to forgive my sin and reserve a place in heaven for me. But Jesus had so much more in mind for me. He was calling me to follow Him, to walk with Him into a new life.
Some may say, “Well, this wasn’t explained to me when I was saved. This isn’t what I signed on for.” Others may say, “Well, that’s all fine and good for some believers, but I’m on a different plan.”
News flash! There is no other plan.
Someone has observed that this kind of Christian is just “auditing” Jesus, like they’re just attending His “class” but are really not responsible to learn, change and grow.
Peter exhorts believers to “make every effort to add to their faith” goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love” (II Peter 1:5-7). He also admonishes us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).
Dallas Willard has described a disciple as “someone who has come into such a union with Christ that they routinely do what Jesus taught.” Though we start our life as a believer with that purpose, it is a lifelong journey of that purpose becoming practice in our lives each day.
So the challenge for the church is to raise the standard for what we expect for and from each other. The command of Jesus was to go and “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Our presenting of the Gospel is to include the vision that those who are saved are becoming Christ-followers.
This standard is based upon the revealed activity of God in the lives of each believer as stated by the Apostle Paul:
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Certainly when we are saved we are completely saved. There is nothing about our standing with God or our eternal destiny that is still undecided. It is finished!
So then what is this “good work” that God has begun and is carrying on to completion until Christ returns? It is our sanctification. He is perfecting us into the likeness of His Son. So we cooperate with God in His activity to progressively sanctify us in our walk with Christ.
“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12b-13).
Are we solely dependent on human effort in this? No, as in all things in the life of a Christ-follower, we depend on God’s grace. By God’s grace we work out what God has worked in. For some, grace is simply synonymous with forgiveness for our sins. Thank God it is that, but it is more. We need grace for the way we are called to live every day in union with Christ, and the change that should come to us.