How to Follow Christ With All Your Heart
Most people have heard of Jesus, and perhaps some of his miracles and greater deeds in his short 33 years on this earth, but this article is not a "who is Jesus" article, but rather an "I'm a Christian, but I don't know what it means to truly follow Him."
Following Jesus is an arduous task that is NOT for the faint of heart, or the weak of spirit. Despite what you may have heard in your sermons, Jesus did not preach the message of "come one, come all!" but rather "disown everything you hold near and dear to you and follow me."
That's not how Jesus is usually portrayed in most churches (at least the ones I've been to), but that's the Jesus of the new testament, and the Jesus that was there at the founding of creation, and resides over and with us even now. In the next sections, I will detail some of the steps it takes to prepare yourself for following Jesus.
Take Stock of Who You Are
Take a look in the mirror, all your myriad of flaws and strengths and try your best to gain an accurate representation of yourself. I understand that that is sometimes like asking someone to move a mountain with their bare hands, but it is essential to at least try.
Once you think you know who you are, discard it.
John 1: 45-46 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith until him, we have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the phoets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."
I put this passage here to say, forget who you are. Forget your flaws and your strengths, and your worries and your troubles, and go and see. Go and see Jesus. Where is Jesus? And how do I forget who I am and keep an open mind? It's different for everyone, but prayer is essential, I have found. As humans we have egos and goals and motivations and sources of pride that cause us to be wrapped up in our own world. If we can forget ourselves for a moment, and seek truly who Jesus is, we can begin to follow him.
Seeking Jesus Out
This can be in a multitude of ways. Prayer, which is direct communication with Jesus and the Father above, or through Bible study alone, or with others. Also, can be just in general fellowship, but it MUST be a deliberate action on your part, not just a half-hearted endeavor that you were talked into by some random article on a website....er...wait.
Luke 3:3-13 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Basically, when you see/meet Jesus, you'll know. It will be like the mountains have moved and the valleys have filled and the crooked -- us-- shall be made straight, and the rough ways -- our lives -- shall be made smooth. All flesh shall see the salvation of God. How powerful is that? Just by meeting Jesus, just by accepting who He is and what He has done, we are granted this holy boon that has no equal.
So I beg of you. Keep seeking Him, and when you feel yourself slipping away, seek Him again. He's always there, and always beckoning us back, so no matter how many times you stray, He's waiting with open arms and ready to discipline you as a loving father would to his son. For how else can a crooked branch be made straight, but by tempering it and disciplining it. Seek Him and you will find Him.
Now That You Have Found Him...
What do you do? Let's see what scripture says.
Luke 9: 23 And he said to them all, If any many will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Let's stop and digest that for a second. Deny himself, you've done that. Take up your cross. Now what does that mean? It isn't a literal meaning, but it is incredibly metaphorical. Jesus was cool like that. If you were to take up your cross, the burdens of life and the kicker is, FOLLOW HIM. If you just let the burdens fall on your shoulders and started walking, the weight would pull you down and you would be in anguish upon the earth. But if you are following him, and give up your life, bearing burdens for His sake, then you are granted ETERNAL life.
At what cost? Enormous cost for some. As Jesus say, what does it profit you to gain the whole world if you lose your soul? Jobs, education, relationships, possessions, everything else is secondary to Jesus. That's his point.
Let's continue on in Luke in the next section.
Luke 9: 26- For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
28- And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 35 - And there came a voice out of a cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
When these three gentlemen were following Jesus, they encountered two of the most famous prophets of the old testament, and then heard the very voice of God from the heavens. Pretty profound, right? That's the type of future one has in store for them when they truly abandon themselves and follow Christ. Maybe not seeing Moses and Elijah, per se, but miracles and wonders that defy ALL understanding. I know this in my own personal life. Every time I set off on my own selfish journey, I fall flat on my face, in fear, overcome with the burdens of this world, and I wonder how I ever got there.
Because I wasn't following Jesus. I wasn't following the one that loves us so very much that He willingly came down to this earth, lived our pains and our sorrows and even DIED to show His love for us. His power comes in having conquered death, and his teachers are just as true today as they were when He said them, for His Spirit resides within us, guiding us gently toward the life God means for us to live.
Following Jesus is not a walk in the garden of eden, nor is it the pathway of least resistance, but it is A path that we can follow. God has given us the choice to follow or to turn away and go back to whatever it is that we hold dear. Video games, pornography, hedonism, television, food, whatever! We can turn away at any time and choose to live the way we want to live, or we can drop everything, and I do mean everything, and follow Him.
As Jesus also says, there is a narrow path and a wide path. The narrow is path is the ones who will arrive at heaven's pearly gates greeted by the Almighty One, and the wide path is for those who chose that taking up their cross and following him was too arduous a task. I pray for you, brothers a sisters, myself included, that we are following that narrow path, the path that Jesus has set before us and that I will see you all in the land of No More Suffering. Peace be upon you, and in Jesus' Name, Amen.