Wednesday, October 26, 2011


What do we mean when we talk about following Jesus? When we say we desire to follow Christ, what exactly are we getting ourselves into? Is it about going to church? How about reading and memorizing Scripture? Does following Jesus mean we manage our sin better? Pray more? How about getting plugged into community? Or, perhaps it is about something totally different! Something more encompassing than each of these individual disciplines. To answer what it means to follow Jesus, we must first determine what theme(s) are central to his message. If we can discover and implement the heart of Jesus, everything else should inevitably align itself.

If we were to read the Bible only to find the heart of Jesus, we would readily find it. Too often, we miss it because we are reading the Bible with our own agenda—to find an answer to our problem, to gain wisdom, to defend our cause (the Bible can do all of these things, but that is not the main purpose God has given us the written Word). God has given us his written Word, in order that we might catch a glimpse of his heart and his plan for his creation.

For starters, I'd like to tell you what isn't at the core Jesus' message. To begin with, it isn't about sin management. His sole desire isn't to keep us accountable to the law. The heart of Jesus isn't about judgment and condemnation. Nor is the core of his message about time or money management. As a matter of fact, Jesus' message is exponentially more others centered than me centered! It's not about church growth. You might be shocked to hear this, but the central message of Jesus isn't even about evangelizing the lost. While all of these are great things, Jesus had far less to say about these than the more pressing matters close to his heart. Don't get me wrong, everything I just listed is important in the life of a follower, but they are all subservient to the overarching theme of Jesus' life.

The central themes of his message are of love, grace and hope. At one point, Jesus tells us his purpose is to seek and save the lost (I've come to conclude he was talking more about redemption and restoration and less about evangelizing, so to speak). And his plan for that, was to walk with us. Take on flesh and live as we lived. To actually live a life of action, not merely theologize and debate the issues. Jesus lived a life worth emulating by humbling himself and serving the least in the kingdom (who we find out have always been the greatest). And his deepest desire was that this might teach us (those who have taken his namesake) only one thing. Jesus hoped we would learn to establish his kingdom here on Earth. And the only way to do that is to, first, love our fellow human beings. And second, to love God. Perhaps I'm off base to mention love for man before love for God, but I believe it is impossible to love God, whom we cannot see, if we care unable to love those we see face to face everyday. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure that exact statement is found in scripture, so I must not be too far off base.

That is the core of Jesus' message. That is his very heartbeat. In case you missed it, let me succinctly lay it out for you. Jesus wants each of us to love as he loved--unbiased, unhindered, uninhibited. We begin to do this by developing a heart of compassion towards not only the marginalized and the less fortunate (whom I have come to find are pretty easy to love) but the religious, the Pharisaical, the pious, and those who feel entitled and far superior to you and me as well (let's be honest, those are the ones we find more difficult to love). It is only when I begin to do this that other things, like tithing, avoiding temptation, sharing my faith, etc. become easier. Jesus' kingdom would come much quicker and easier, if only you and I could learn to love as he loved--in selfless action, not just word!

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