The culture of finger-pointing and catastrophizing others' words has grown…
Perhaps you’re curious about what following Jesus looks like.
Or, perhaps you’re already committed and seeking to do better.
What a God-inspired desire! Nothing blesses our lives or benefits the world more than following the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus Christ. My life started to fill with light and peace on the very day I committed to believe, love, follow, and abide in Him. Now He is with Me every day by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I personally witness to you that Jesus of Nazareth was not just a wise human. He was the foreordained Savior of us all. He is God the Son, the Creator of earth and heavens, the Messiah, the Anointed One to whom each of us must look.
This article contains helpful insights (and a printable chart) that are immediately actionable. It paints a picture of Christian discipleship. It shows what the fruits of His grace look like and what it means to honor Jesus by living “in Him”, as He taught. (See 1 John 2:1-5.) (Further below, I explain why I wrote this article, including three stark bits of news about Christians not being very Christlike.)
What Jesus Said about Following Him
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27, ESV).
Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24, ESV).
The more I study the New Testament, the more I see that Jesus gave clear and direct commandments of what He expects us to do—and it all starts with “follow me” (Mark 1:17-18).
While His parables taught concepts and principles, they also included clear implications for how we should act. Yes, we are saved by grace, praise God (!), but faith and grace in action lead to a repentant life of humble discipleship, which ultimately changes us to be like Him. (See 1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; plus this extensive list of related scriptures.)
What honors the Lord is our believing, accepting, and following what He taught us to do. Let’s start our Christian journey with what He taught and did.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. . . And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. . . and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:24-27, ESV).
Where Discipleship Begins: Believe
Everything in our discipleship starts with believing in Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior of the world sent by God the Father—in other words, the only One to whom we can look for perfect light, truth, and rescue from this fallen place.
The phrase “believe in the name of Jesus” or slight variations of it occurs nearly thirty times throughout the New Testament. What a critical, foundational act!
Believing in Him opens a channel of spiritual light into our souls. It starts to change our hearts and infuses His grace. Everything starts with full-throated, no-holding-back believing. (See also How to Truly Believe, a free 16-page PDF with fresh metaphors to make believing easier.)
The Greek word “pisteuo” translated in our Bible as “believe” actually refers to a combination of “believe, trust, and obey.” Believing is a far more action-oriented, committed state of the heart than we may realize. It’s not just mental assent or thinking something is true.
Believing and obeying are the flipsides of the same coin.
The “9 Ways” Self-Assessment
Drawing on the teachings and example of Jesus, I have developed a simple, one-page tool that can help all of us become better followers of Jesus. This tool can stimulate humble reflection and insights from the Holy Spirit.
Note: The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be simplified to a checklist. However, lists can help us focus on key actions in a simple, memorable way. This tool is not meant to replace scripture or to be the silver bullet that defines all aspects of discipleship.
Option 1: Click on the image below or click here to launch the free PDF. This tool contrasts 9 ways we can follow Jesus with “fence-sitting” and worldly views that are common today. Following Jesus requires our whole heart, not part of it. Fence-sitting and lukewarm attitudes toward the gospel are repulsive to Him who gave His all for us (Revelation 3:16).
To print it, you must have legal-size paper (8.5 x 14). You may share it freely.
Option 2: Directly below are nine ways to ensure a solid start down the path of discipleship. This is similar to the left-hand column in the above chart.
- Believe in and love Jesus. If you are following Jesus, you believe in and love Him above all others. You believe He is your Savior and Master and God and therefore you begin to experience light in your life, a change of heart, and a desire to behave more like Him. (Mark 12:30; John 20:31)
- Interact with God the Father and Jesus all day. If you are following Jesus, you trust Him, praise Him, and thank Him throughout the day. You pray to the Father in His name, as He taught, and you study His words and seek His guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit continually. (Philippians 4:6, Matthew 6:6, Psalm, 34:1)
- Live with honesty and integrity. If you are following Jesus, you are consistently honest with your family, coworkers, and strangers alike. You know you are accountable to God and that He knows your thoughts and intentions. You avoid hypocrisy in any form. (Colossians 3:9)
- Be patient with others and make peace. If you are following Jesus, you are not an instigator of contention. You don’t fan the flames of conflict online. You are patient when treated unfairly. You strive to make peace and be meek (not weak) in the face of hostility. You are firm in standing up for what it is right but you do it with godly wisdom, like Jesus. (Matthew 5:5; see also my post, How to Calm Your Moral Outrage on Social Media.)
- Be clean sexually. If you are following Jesus, you believe that sexual purity matters. You keep sexual activity within marriage. With God’s grace and merciful power, you monitor your thoughts and strive to be pure and clean before Him. (Matthew 5:28)
- Give of your unique talents, time, and money. If you are following Jesus, you know all of your gifts and resources come from Him, and you are learning to share freely and willingly with His servants and people around you. (1 Peter 4:10; 1 John 5:3)
- Be consistently kind. If you are following Jesus, you are kind and compassionate toward family members, friends, and strangers. More and more, the kindness of Jesus reflects on your face.
- Obey God’s word, relying on His grace. If you are following Jesus, you strive to obey the words of Christ and His apostles, as taught in the Bible. You understand that you are spiritually lost without the grace of Christ and that you cannot save yourself through your own efforts. You are born again and have a new heart, which has changed your desires from obeying your own will to doing God’s will. (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5)
- Share your faith. If you are following Jesus, you proactively and respectfully share your witness of the goodness and power of Jesus Christ in your life and in the lives of anyone who will embrace Him. (1 Peter 3:15)
For further study of the teachings of Jesus, visit the surprisingly brief collection of His most quotable teachings in Matthew chapters 5 – 7.
May you feel the Spirit of God whisper to your soul that Jesus’s Way is THE Way to eternal life and joy. (See John 14:16.)
More Positive Posts and Resources That May Interest You
Stark News: Why I Decided to Write this Article
When Christians don’t act like Jesus, the world takes notice.
When we don’t act like Jesus, we are not “with Him,” as He commanded, but rather we appear to be against Him. We act like others in “the world” and make it harder for unbelievers to take our message seriously. (See Matthew 12:30.)
Here are three stark bits of news about Christians not being very Jesus-like.
Bad News 1 – Would Jesus Wear These?
A recently-created Instagram account calls out megachurch pastors for wearing exorbitantly-priced designer sneakers (@PreachersNSneakers) by posting photos taken from their social media accounts or public appearances. (Full article by Sam Kim)
One pastor can be seen wearing $6,000 Adidas Yeezys and $2,500 “hypebeast grailed” sneakers.
How does a pastor end up wearing shoes that exceed the annual amount an average American contributes to their retirement?
How can this possibly represent honest and faithful use of church funds to the glory of God, regardless of one’s motive to relate to today’s audience?
This next one is not as shocking but it will likely sound familiar; it saddens me each time I see it.
Bad News 2 – CRUEL Christians on Twitter (now called “X”)
Ed Stetzer, the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, called out the following on Twitter recently, which practically brought me to my feet, cheering:
I’m struck by the cruelty of some Christians on social media this week, all being cruel because they think someone else said something cruel, so they can be cruel, then people respond to that, etc. It is not right. It does not honor the Lord. End the cycle. Jesus shows a better way.
How do unkind, harsh words demonstrate loving those we disagree with in “gentle and lowly” ways, as our Master taught and demonstrated?
(Dr. Stetzer has written a wonderful book on this topic, by the way, titled Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is At Its Worst. Read more here. See also my post, How to Calm Your Moral Outrage on Social Media.)
Bad News 3 – A Prominent Christian Admits: “I didn’t Have Any Affection for . . . God”
Now here’s another example, but more positive and constructive.
I respect this high-profile Christian, who demonstrated such courage by putting himself out there like this, in his own words.
Mark Galli, a former managing editor of a prominent Christian publication, Christianity Today, wrote the following in the first article in a series on the condition of evangelism in America:
“It may have been as the result of hearing a sermon or perhaps reading a book. But I distinctly remember thinking that my Christian life was sorely lacking in the love of God. I didn’t have any affection for or yearning to know and love God. I wasn’t angry with him. I didn’t doubt his existence. I wasn’t wrestling with the problem of evil. I was being a faithful Christian as best I knew how. But it occurred to me that I didn’t feel any love for God.
“I also realized that even though I prayed and read Scripture regularly, not much in my life would be different if I didn’t pray and read my Bible. That is, I was living as a practical atheist, meaning my personal relationship with God did not really affect much inside me. I was at the time managing editor of Christianity Today, so naturally, I edited and wrote a lot of things that were Christian to the core.”
I view such a public admission as constructive.
I remember feeling the same thing many years ago: I came to a troubling aha moment that I didn’t really love God. I didn’t know Him. I couldn’t even say for sure that I believed in Him.
I didn’t NOT love Him. I didn’t NOT believe in Him. I just didn’t truly believe or love the Lord. I didn’t follow even that most basic commandment. Then how on earth could I call myself a disciple of Jesus?
I testify that believing in Jesus “full-throated and no-holding-back” will change your life. Believing in Him as if our lives depended on it—which they do—leads to His light entering our souls and changing our hearts. We are born again and rescued from this fallen world. Our desire to love Him and obey Him increases and we experience the joy that is possible in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. May He richly bless you with His light and love.
DISCOVER THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS of JESUS (without a Ph.D. in Bible Studies )
If you would like to dramatically deepen your connection to Jesus Christ, this resource is among the easiest and fastest ways to learn and apply the life and teachings of Jesus to modern contexts.
What if you could eyewitness the life of Jesus from His birth to resurrection—as if you were there?
And imagine a personal tour guide helping you understand and apply His story to your toughest challenges in this overwhelming age.
Twenty years in the making, Jesus Christ, His Life and Mine reflects R. Christian Bohlen’s award-winning skills as an instructional designer plus his thirty years in ministry and church leadership, resulting in this uniquely easy-to-read experience with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Carefully researched and biblically based, this non-denominational book is suitable for all Christians, Bible study group participants, your family members, and friends.
You’ll love how this modern approach to practical faith helps you:
- Find more connections between you and Jesus than you thought possible.
- Double-down on your commitment to believe in Jesus (and learn how).
- Use a powerful visualization technique to love and follow Jesus more.
- Get energy into your spiritual life (instead of religion in a rut).
- Learn how you can consistently rise above the negativity around you.
For those who struggle with the idea of faith, there’s a special chapter with fresh points to ponder and non-judgmental recommendations.
Start reading now and feel the power of Christ grow in your life.
You’ll find out why readers are saying . . .
“. . . all my questions are being answered.”
“. . . if there were six stars I would give it a six . . . not preachy in the least.”
“. . . best articulated resource I have read in a long time for understanding the life of Jesus and practical ways I can live out my faith.”
“. . . never made me feel dumb . . . or not a good Christian.”
“. . . incredibly well-written.”
Estimated Reading Time:
4 – 5 minutes