Reclaiming the Image of Jesus

Rev. John Rodgers

November 26, 2017

Understanding What it Means to Follow Jesus

The reality of everything is that nothing in life is more important than Jesus and His cause. Disciples must truly believe and live it. Christ calls as away from everything that stands between Him and us. It is vital that as followers/disciples we understand that Christ wishes to introduce His transforming influence into every area of our lives. Following Christ means that He will transform our view of, and response to, all of life, all its components. This is calls total surrender, which is hard in our independence mentality. He doesn’t ask just for this piece or that piece, there is no guessing and wondering which piece He will require next. He seeks to be the leader, definer, and guide over all of our existence. While we may struggle with this, the essence of our response is deciding to follow no matter where He takes us or what He will require. He is looking for fully devoted followers. Following is not a project or a task; it is a way of life – Jesus’ way. We just need to read the New Testament to find what he taught by His words and His doing, and do it.

The impact of a true Disciple’s life goes far beyond the moment, all the way to eternity. Jesus asks us to start measuring everything that comes our way by this question: Will it further the cause of God has called me to, or will it be an extra weight and an additional distraction? We need to begin now to help people understand the need to become more specific with their faith and how they life the way of Christ. You only have to read the Gospels again to realize how much Jesus talked about the things of God and living in the Kingdom of God here and now. The biggest and major problem today is our rush to seek certainty that we shut out the wonder of God’s vastness. We need to change what we truly care about. Because only when we care about something, are we willing to take action for that cause.

A church in Tucson the people worship at 11:00 a.m. and then proceed immediately out the door right into the community to feed the homeless, paint over graffiti, or do other good deeds. Do our worship services today move people to action, or are they simply entertainment for an hour or so. Just look in the Gospels to find what Jesus and His disciples did on the Sabbath.

Jesus looked past weaknesses and focused on people’s strengths and then refined them. Jesus didn’t ask God for what He wanted, He continually ask God what God wanted from Him. That’s where the transforming power comes from. Jesus made it perfectly clear that people who were full of His Spirit and that His Disciples, those that followed His way of living, were going to be rejected, and like Him, asked to leave. Jesus never stayed in a place where He wasn’t welcome.

Undergirding every principle the Jesus taught is the important of your relationship to God, to others, and to yourself. The First and Second Commandment Jesus gave sum up the entire 10 Commandment and His third and final Commandment put the first two into action – The Great Commission. Faith is about taking action in the moment, trusting God to guide you – not waiting for miracles to arrive fully formed. Jesus said follow, not sit there waiting. Current Christians believe we can take any situation and put a bow or two of Scripture around it and have it ‘solved,’ and think we can take the vastness of God and put I AM in a building or a box. In God’s Kingdom, relationships trump rules, and vastness trumps immediacy. Jesus came to demonstrate and teach transformation. When those outside the church see us, they see more of our distorted portrayal of Christianity then they do a clear reflection of the character and quality of Christ and the transforming power of living in the Kingdom of God.

As Christ followers/disciples (Jesus Freaks) we are liberated from religious traditions, dogmas, and conventions that do not reflect the perspective, character, and conduct of Jesus. Keeping our focus on Jesus holds us accountable for how we live. It is sad to say today most who call themselves Christians have not felt the need to become true Disciples of Christ. Instead they soothe their conscience by following Jesus selectively when it is convenient. Although being a Disciple of Christ doesn’t mean, as it did for the Apostles, leaving our careers, however it does mean radically altering our view of them.

Christ emphasized that the most important ethic of a successful life is not memorization of Scriptures and prayers and not the mastery of codified lists (rules) of behavioral patterns, but the cultivation of a commitment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself, including yourself” and so joyous and grateful that you have to share it with the whole world. The early Christians imitated Christ so powerfully and completely that the watching world gave them a nickname – Christians.

Each and every day, our walk with the Lord and our commitment to Him must be fresh and new. This is possible only if we are willing to forsake all that causes us to wander away from Jesus: materialism, seeking comfort and ease, seeking others’ approval and praise, spiritual pride, lack of concern for others, etc. If we are honest, we will discover that 99.9 percent of our Christianity today is based on what we can get out of it. We who form the church, you and me, are not real in our walk with Jesus and in our obedience to the teachings of Christ.

Disciples’ true service is to bring multitudes to know Jesus, willingness to offer all we are, and all we have for Jesus’ purposes. Disciples are commanded to love and serve one another just as Jesus did. Christians today get upset and defensive because they don’t want to be disturbed in their comfort, the pursuit of their goals and in living their peaceful lifestyle. To hear the Gospel is irritating, troublesome, and uncomfortable to many in our churches today. The tragedy of the church today is that we have replaced the obedience to Christ with ‘let’s feel good mentality.’

The religious establishment of Jesus’ day did everything so correctly and according to all the rules and regulations. But Jesus was not looking at their outside deed, but at the ‘why’ motives in their hearts. Faith and following Jesus has nothing to do with human logic, mathematics, or what we can see, hear, feel, smell, or touch. It has everything to do with how God operates!! Faith disregards the obvious facts and trusts that God will do the impossible.

Just read the Gospels and see how Jesus called his disciples, even today: Follow Me and I will make you Fishers of people! We must learn to see other through Jesus’ eyes. Jesus is asking us to be in His place, to walk in His shoes, and to become deeply concerned about the lost sheep in our generation.

Today we stand at the crossroads and have a choice to make: Do we choose the Gospel at the center and the Great Commission as our number one task, or do we continue to fool ourselves with a Gospel that has little to do with Jesus and God’s Kingdom?

We can become a John Mark today. What a blessing this man became to the whole church by writing the story of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. He was the one who was rejected from Paul’s ministry team because on his first assignment he deserted his teammates. In Paul’s opinion, John Mark was a failure and didn’t deserve a second chance. Jesus and God didn’t think that way, and they don’t think that way about today’s Christians and the Church.

We wish to thank the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Youth for Christ, Youth with a Mission, Yokefellow Institute, and Evangelism Explosion International for their efforts in gathering the data and information for the above content.