NOBODY FOLLOWS JESUS (So Why Should You?)
BY KEITH GIILES
Nobody follows Jesus anymore. Just look around, and you'll see what I mean. How often do you ever see someone show love to a person who is in their face? Have you ever once heard of anyone chasing a thief down the street screaming, "Hey, you forgot my DVD player!" or witnessed a person who has just been slapped in the face turn their head to offer the other cheek?
I doubt it.
That's my point. Jesus had some pretty radical teachings. Love your enemies. Pray for those who abuse you. Give to those who steal from you. Lend without expecting anything in return. Bless those who curse your name.
Even the most casual glance at the words and teachings of Jesus will tell you this guy had unreasonable expectations of those who would dare to follow Him. It was almost as if He was trying to thin the crowd by raising the bar so high.
He doesn't stop there. No sir. Jesus even goes so far as to say that those who follow Him must deny themselves and take up their own cross (an instrument of brutal torture and death). In fact, He says if you don't do this, you "cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).
No wonder no one follows Jesus anymore.
Now, I'm not suggesting people don’t believe in Jesus anymore. There are millions and millions of people out there who really do believe a guy named Jesus actually lived 2,000 years ago. They believe that He was the Son of God, and God the Son, and that He lead a sinless life, died on the cross for their sins and rose bodily from the grave three days later. Yep. They all believe that. But, those people don't necessarily follow Jesus the way He expected them to.
Maybe that's why Jesus wondered out loud, "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Maybe He knew after 2,000 years of Christianity, we'd just have given up on following His specific example of how to live.
G.K. Chesterton once said, "It's not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it's that it has been found difficult and left untried."
I think Jesus really did expect His followers to live extravagant lives of love as He commands in Luke 6:27. He wasn't kidding around.
He's pretty clear that the kind of love the world has is nothing special at all. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that" (Luke 6:32).
Jesus was trying to get His potential followers to understand they were expected to model a standard of love that went far, far beyond what anyone living on this planet had ever encountered or dreamed of before. A kind of love that could change someone's life for eternity.
Once you understand this, it starts to make more sense. Jesus calls His followers to this kind of life for a reason—so we can show those who aren't aware of the kindness of God what it means to be loved, forgiven and shown mercy.
Yes, Jesus expects us to actually do these things.
Yes, it will hurt.
Can you think of a better way to show those who are far from God that He really loves them, Christianity is the "real thing," and forgiveness is for them?
Imagine a world where we all actually did this stuff on a daily basis.
Would it change the world? Would it change the world's idea of Christianity? Of Christ? Would it set the teachings of Jesus apart from every single other religious figure who had ever lived?
Isn't it ironic to think the most radical thing a modern Christian could do today would be to simply do exactly what Jesus says? Yeah, it's really a shame that no one really follows Jesus anymore. But, can you imagine what would happen to the world you live in if even a few people actually did?
Not only that, Jesus promises those who actually do put His words into practice will be blessed and have life abundantly. Maybe it's time to start following Jesus? Maybe it's time to take Him seriously? What do you think?
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock". - JESUS (Matthew 7:24).
It is sort of sad, but we can't help but face the awful truth. Jesus doesn't seem to inspire followers anymore.
Christian author Dallas Willard once said, "There is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggests you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus' expense and have nothing more to do with him."
Noted theologian A. W. Tozer once remarked that "a notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles—the widely—accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to!" (From his book "I Call It Heresy").
He goes even as far as to suggest, "that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures."
What we have in modern American Christianity is a brand of religion that says to its founder, "I'd like a little of your blood to cover my sins, but I don't care to follow you or take your teachings seriously. If you would please excuse me, I’ll get on with my life. See you in heaven Jesus!" Dallas Willard calls those kinds of people "Vampire Christians" because all they want is some of Jesus blood, but none of His leadership.
Does this make any sense? Does this sound to you like what Jesus had in mind for His church?
Why would anyone align him/herself with someone as radical as Jesus and then totally ignore His teachings?
What if you met a guy who said he was a Muslim, but after interviewing him you discovered that he didn't read the Koran, didn't attempt to live his life according to the teachings of Mohammed, didn't seek to become more like a person who modeled Islam, etc. In what way would that guy be considered a Muslim? You could say the same of a Buddhist or a Mormon or whatever.
Clearly, Jesus taught and expected that those who followed Him would put His words into practice and respond with obedience.
"We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, 'I know Him,' but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did"- (1 John 2:3).
In my Bible I’ve penciled the word "Yowza!" right next to that verse. You might want to do that too.
According to this verse, and many others in the New Testament, the way to know for yourself whether or not you have actually come to know Jesus is to ask yourself if you're obedient to Him or not.
Jesus did spend a lot of time on the subject of obedience. He seemed to really stress it. He seemed to really expect that we would obey Him and seek after Him and encourage each other to do the same.
I've been looking at the verse where Jesus speaks to those on His right and on His left at the Judgement seat. Both sides call Him "Lord", and both sides did the same works, but only one group was allowed into the Kingdom— the group that showed compassion to the sick, the hungry, the poor and that "knew" Jesus. (Suggesting that they did these acts of mercy BECAUSE they truly "knew" Jesus and were responding out of a heart of love). - see Matthew 25
Jesus was also careful to warn us that just because we call Him "Lord" doesn’t mean that we'll actually see the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus states, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21).
The Great Commission that Jesus left to his church had discipleship and obedience built into it. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." - JESUS- (Matthew 28: 19- 20).
How many churches do you know of that offer classes like "How To Love Your Enemies"? Virtually no church on the horizon has any real, practical method of actually training their flock on how to go about obeying the teachings of Christ, and yet, this is exactly what Jesus left us to accomplish.
It makes one wonder, what are we doing with our time? What is the church about if not training us to be followers of Christ himself?
I have to be fair. After I started thinking about this column, I tried to remember how many people I knew who had ever actually lived out the teachings of Christ and I did find one person.
My friend David used to be the Children's pastor at my previous church. He and his wife helped my family get through a very difficult year and a half when I was without gainful employment after I was laid off. That alone was an amazing thing for me, but then David and his wife did something that astounded me even more.
Even after seeing the difficulty we were going through, they willingly quit their jobs, sold everything they owned and entered the mission field, taking their three children with them. I can't think of anything else more amazing than that. For a follower of Christ to take Jesus so seriously that they would enter a life of complete surrender and submission like that astounds me. It blesses me. It challenges me.
Maybe there's hope yet for this generation? Maybe there really are followers out there who really do take Jesus seriously, and choose willingly to surrender themselves to His authority?
I pray their tribe will increase.
I want to be in that tribe.
I'm in the middle of planning the last-minute logistics for the "Children-At-Risk.com" Conference right now.
I hope you enjoy this "Classic" article from my [Subversive] column over at Relevantmagazine.com all those years ago...