What was your first thought? Did you think I was referring to following me on social media?
The word ‘follow’ or ‘following’ is now associated with all things social media. With just the click of a button, you can start to follow someone.
You get to decide how often you want to interact if any at all. Maybe you prefer to just scroll, or lurk as some may call it. And, if that person ever posts anything you find offensive or something you simply don’t agree with, you simply ‘unfollow’ by the click of a button all from the comfort of your chair.
This brings me to the real question. How am I following Jesus? How are you following Jesus? What does it require?
Jesus had crowds literally following Him, wherever He went; the news traveled fast and people would flock to Him. Who was this man that could heal the sick, cause the blind to see, the lame walk, lepers cleansed, the deaf hear, and preach the good news with authority?Did I mention the possibility of free food; bread and fish to feed a multitude!
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
You see Jesus is not interested in people simply following Him, He is interested in those who choose to believe in His name, whose hearts are fully committed to Him and will put action to their words.
Take note that Jesus was not only speaking to His disciples, He called the crowds to Him and then told them that those desiring to follow Him must first deny themselves, take up their cross, and then follow Him. What a way to weed out the stragglers!
Take up the cross.
This is certainly much more difficult than following someone online. Following Jesus requires our full and active participation.
“Following Jesus requires me to make meaningful changes to my life; unlike when I follow someone on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube (from the comfort of my chair), following Jesus means living His way instead of my way.” (Lectio 365)
When we deny ourselves, we are saying yes to God’s plan for us, we are reverting back to the original blueprint. Do you notice that there is no fluff or hype in Jesus’ call to follow Him? He goes straight to what is required. May I add here that denying ourselves is not only offline but also online? Love God, love your neighbor. These things are also evident online, the way we talk, what we post, how we treat others, offline or online, it still matters.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Taking up the cross
I don’t know about you but this is not a part of this verse that I am always excited to embrace. A deliberate action, putting aside the comfort and ease of living, to endure the hardships, the sacrifices, inconveniences, heartbreak, and pain that come as we journey here on earth. Each person has a cross to take up, and it’s at the heart of following Jesus.
What does taking up your cross mean to you?
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-29
The call to follow
Peter and Andrew received the call to follow Jesus while they were busy with their work, doing what they knew how to do, their decision to follow Jesus would now lead them into uncharted territory. “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Action. They left the nets behind and became His disciples and fishers of men.
Matthew was sitting in his tax collector booth when Jesus came by and said, “Follow Me”
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9
Action. Matthew got up and followed Him, he couldn’t stay in his booth and be a follower. Uncharted territory.
“The timetable of what God is doing in the world is going ahead. If we want to play our part in it, we must follow where Jesus hilself leads: along the way of the cross, of self-renunciation and service.” Tom Wright
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
“The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 NLT
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16
Caleb. “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” Numbers 14:24
Caleb gained an inheritance because he had a different spirit and followed God wholeheartedly. Out of the twelve, he and Joshua choose to follow God rather than give in to fear and doubt. Sometimes it is hard to let go of the little we have, in order to go after what God has promised. Along the way, some choose to ‘unfollow’ rather than deny themselves and embrace the cross.
God wants us to follow Him wholeheartedly, walk in obedience, take up our cross daily as His disciples. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it. He did not leave us alone, and He Himself leads us, supplying everything that we need for this journey.
Borrowing the words from Mary Mary, Can’t Give Up Now:
“There will be mountains
That I will have to climb
And there will be battles
That I will have to fight
But victory or defeat
It’s up to me to decide
But how can I expect to win
If I never try
I just can’t give up now
I’ve come too far from where
I started from
Nobody told me
The road would be easy
And I don’t believe He’s brought me this far
To leave me”
How are you following Jesus today? What does it look like when you are following Jesus?