Following Jesus Christ
Following Jesus Christ
What does it mean to follow Jesus? How can I get started? Where will He take me? What will we do along the way?
It must have been awesome to be one of those Galilean fishermen who first heard Jesus say, “Come! Follow me.” They had to be as curious as they were honored and excited when Jesus invited them. What would that mean for them?
They couldn’t have understood fully why Jesus singled them out, yet something about him drew them like a magnet. Without a hint of coercion, Jesus convinced them to leave their boats and nets to become his disciples. Though they could have turned back at any time, they became so committed to him that—with only one exception—they preferred giving up their lives to giving up their calling.
But what does it mean to truly follow Jesus Christ today? He still makes that invitation to us and it still takes a willing response on our part. It requires a courageous choice and commitment.
If you have not yet made the wholehearted choice to follow Jesus, I hope you will read these pages with an open heart and mind and that you will commit to being his faithful follower, servant, and friend. If you have already made that decision, I trust that these pages will help you understand what your decision meant, what God did for you, and what you need to continue doing to be a joyful, committed, victorious follower.
You will find many verses from the Bible. The references are included in parenthesis to help you find them in your own Bible and read them in the context in which they were written.
Why we all need Jesus Christ
Many people go through life without knowing why they exist and without discovering the most meaningful relationship a person can have. To find fulfillment, we must know that we were created by God and for God. God has always wanted to be the Lord of our life and our closest companion. He has planned a happy, holy, useful, satisfying life for each of us. But we have allowed sin, self-interest and indifference to separate us from him and from the life he wants us to enjoy. By living independently of him we have opened the door of our lives to unhappiness, alienation, and suffering. The Bible describes what we are like if we don’t have the relationship with God that he wants to have with us. We are...
- Guilt is more than just an unhealthy feeling to be avoided; in most cases it is a normal God-given response to our wrongdoing. All of us are guilty. No one is without sin. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23)
- In our natural condition we have no true spiritual life. When we sin we earn what sin pays, death. (Romans 6:23) We don’t need more religion or mere spirituality; we need life in our spirit and only God can give it.
- Led astray by Satan, we can’t begin to understand the extent to which we are connected to and misguided by the devil, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2).
- Sin in our heart affects every part of us We do wrong things because our hearts are wrong. The words that come out of our mouth come from the heart, and make us unclean (Matthew 15:18).
- Like sheep, we have gone astray; we all go our own way (Isaiah 53:6). Our evil separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). We may want to know God, but sin keeps us from him. We must give it up.
- Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:18).
- Without other options. We cannot save ourselves. Jesus is the only Savior sent forth by God and the only one who can save us. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
I once spoke with a young woman who wore a simple gold cross on a chain around her neck. I asked her if she wore it because she was a Christian. She said she, “Yes, but I don’t like the idea that many Christians have that Jesus is the only way.” As she walked away, I reflected on the fact that the cross has to signify that Jesus is the only way because God wouldn’t have required his cruel death on the cross for our sins if there was another way.
Making it personal...
How do you think these Bible statements apply to you?
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
“Like sheep, we have all gone astray. We all go our own way.”
“When we sin we earn what sin pays—death.”
Summing it up...
Without Jesus, we live for ourselves. We go our own way. We plan our own lives. We seek to satisfy our own desires. Rather than doing God’s will, we do our own will. We become self-centered and frustrated. We become entangled in wrongdoing. We find ourselves alienated from God. We have no true spiritual life. We suffer sin’s consequences. Then, when life is over, separation from God becomes eternal. Jesus called it hell. Does that sound hopeless? It’s not, because despite all that, there is good news!
God loves us!
Despite our faults, failures, and sins, God has not given up on us. No matter what we have done, he wants to be our Lord, our Savior, and our friend. He wants us to live happy, holy lives, and enjoy his peace. He desires to redeem our life and change our destiny.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
God’s love is…
God’s love sent us Jesus.
Because God is holy, sin repulses him. His justice requires serious consequences for those who choose to practice sin. But because God loves us, no matter what sins we have committed, he longs to show mercy to us and save us from our sin and its consequences. To carry out justice and provide for our salvation, God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to take upon himself the judgment for our sins. Jesus took our pain, our sin, our anguish, and died in our place on the cross. When we repent of our sins and accept his sacrifice for them, we are forgiven and cleansed of our wrong thoughts, words, actions, and attitudes.
“Christ died for us while we were still sinners.
That shows us how much God loves us” (Romans 5:8).
What is the unmistakable proof of God’s love for us? (Romans 5:8).
Isn't it is time to follow Jesus?
Knowing that God loves you, offers you forgiveness, and wants to save you, why not talk with him and...
- Confess your sins to God. Call them what they really are: (lying, robbing, cheating, selfishness, adultery, anger, hatred, idolatry, filthiness, pride)—and/or other sins. Ask him to forgive you and change your heart.
- Tell God that you are repenting of your sins. Tell God that with his help you will put the wrongdoing out of your life. Tell God that you will quit running your own life and allow him to direct you. Live by his teachings. Let him take control of your life.
- Give up non-Christian religions, idols, and religious spirits. Renounce them: “In Jesus’ name I renounce Satan, all evil spirits, all spiritualistic guides, and all religions that are not founded on the Holy Bible and do not honor Jesus Christ as Lord. I willingly consecrate myself forever to the Lord Jesus.”
- Tell God that you trust in Him and you give yourself to him. Ask him to forgive your sins, and tell him, “By an act of faith, I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and I believe that you receive me as you as your child.”
- Believe that he keeps his promise to forgive your sins and, as you receive him into your heart, he receives you into His family. Believe now that he does forgive you and accept you.
- Finally, thank the Lord Jesus Christ for His love and forgiveness—an act of faith and gratitude.
“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12).
Making it personal...
If you have taken the steps to repent of your sins and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, write a few words recording your decision to follow Jesus Christ. Be sure to include the date, place, and time as a statement of your commitment. And write in a few words of thanksgiving for what he has done for you.
What happens we receive Christ?
When we sincerely repent of our sins and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, wonderful things begin to happen.
- God forgives our sins. Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43).
- God makes us new. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (1 Corinthians 5:17).
- God totally accepts us. “God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22).
- God makes us his children. “Some accepted him... To them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
- Jesus comes to live in our heart. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him...” (Revelation 3:20).
- Jesus becomes our companion. “God has said, I will never leave you; I will never forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). As we become better friends with him, we learn to follow his guidance.
As a newborn child of God, with Christ’s Spirit in your heart, you can live a new life. Be humble and willing to repent of sins you commit. Keep believing. Follow the Bible’s teaching. Christ will help you become victorious!
We can know that we’re saved!
It’s wonderful to be saved and to know we are saved through faith in Jesus. Here are three ways God assures us of our salvation:
- By the witness of God’s Word. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son... “I write so you will know you have eternal life now” (1 John 5:11-13).
- By the witness of God’s Spirit. When we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us inner assurance that we are born of God: “The Spirit himself joins with our spirit to say that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).
- By the witness of a changed life. “If anyone belongs to Christ, then he is made new. The old things have gone; everything is made new” (1 Corinthians 5:17).
We begin to change in many ways.
- We pattern our life after Jesus. “Those who say they live in God should live... as Christ did” (1 John 2:6).
- We seek to obey God. “If we obey God... Then we are sure that we truly know God” (1 John 2:3).
- We learn to love people in new ways. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (1 John 3:14). We find the power to love people we couldn’t love before.
- We have Christ indwelling us. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:10-12).
- We put sin out of our lives. “No one born of God will continue to sin... He cannot... He has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).
- We may fall into temptation and commit a sin. We may have sinful reactions. But we do not approve of sin or plan to repeat it. We are not perfect, but we see change in our life and we know it comes from God.
Making it personal...
What changes do you see in your life since believing in Jesus?
Learning to pray
As a child of God, you can talk with your heavenly Father. God delights to hear and answer your heartfelt prayers. Here are some important things to do when you pray:
- Pray alone, directly to God the Father. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door, then pray to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:6).
- Pray with humility. “God is against the proud, but he gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
- Pray in Jesus’ name. Jesus said, “The only way to the Father is through me” (John 14:6). “If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it for you” (John 14:13).
- Pray with a clear conscience. If you have done wrong, make it right. “If I had known of any sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened to me” (Psalm 66:18). Go to God and to anyone you have wronged. Admit your error, ask forgiveness, and make it right.
- Pray with thanksgiving. “Give thanks always. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- Pray often. Set a time to pray every day. Early morning is a good time to enjoy God’s presence. “Fill us with your love every morning. Then we will sing and rejoice all our lives” (Psalm 90:14).
- Pray believing that you have received an answer. “Ask for things in prayer. And if you believe that you have received those things then they will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
- Pray in a natural way. Don’t imitate other people. Use your own words—not “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7).
- Pray in harmony with God’s will. “When we ask God for the things that God wants for us, God listens and cares and we know that he gives us what we ask from him” (1 John 5:14,15).
- Pray persistently. If the answer doesn’t come right away, keep praying and believing he will respond. “Ask and receive. Seek and find. Knock and the door will open” (Luke 11:9).
- Pray with another person. We need both private prayer and prayer partners. “If two agree on something, pray for it. The things you ask will be done by my Father, because if two or three meet in my name, I am with them” (Matthew 18:19, 20).
Making it personal...
List a few urgent subjects for prayer.
Learning to love the Bible
Another thing to do daily: Read your Bible. For many convincing reasons, Christians believe it is God’s inspired Word:
- The people who have been transformed by reading and following the Bible’s teachings.
- The faithful lives of its inspired writers, many of whom died for their faith.
- The consistency of its contents though it was written by dozens of writers spanning hundreds of years.
- The literal fulfillment of its prophecies.
- The words of Jesus, confirming the Old Testament.
- The confirmation of archeological discoveries.
- It’s own testimony: “All Scripture is given by God and useful for correcting faults and teaching how to live right. Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God... will have everything he needs to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).
What Bible reading does for us
- It strengthens us. “I write to you young men, because you are strong; the word of God lives in you and you have defeated the evil one” (1 John 2:14).
- It purifies us. “How can a young person live a pure life? He can do it by obeying your word” (Psalm 119:9).
- It builds our faith. “Faith comes from hearing... And the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:8).
- It empowers our prayers. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask what you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7).
- It brings joy to our hearts. “I have told you these things so you can have the same joy I have. I want your joy to be the fullest joy” (John 15:11).
- It nourishes us for growth. “As newborn babes want milk, you should want the pure and simple teaching. By it [the Bible] you can grow up and be saved” (1 Peter 2:2).
- It gives us wisdom. “The Scriptures are able to make you wise” (2 Timothy 3:15).
- It guides us in our decisions. “Your word is like a lamp for my feet and a light for my way” (Psalm 119:105).
- It brings us success. “Remember what is written in my word. Study it day and night. Be sure to obey everything that is written. If you do, you will be wise and successful” (Joshua 1:8).
How to read your Bible
- Read with expectancy, believing that God has something special for you. Pray as David did: “Open my eyes to see the wonderful things in your teachings” (Psalm 119:18).
- Ask questions as you read. What does God want to tell me in this passage? What does it teach me about God? About Jesus? About me? About his will? Is there a command to obey? A promise to claim? An example to follow? How do these truths apply to me life? My family? My job? My studies? My church?
- Read each passage several times. Repetition will help you understand. If your Bible has cross-references, use them to find other verses that deal with the same subject.
- Meditate on the words. It’s better to understand, absorb, and apply a short passage than to read hurriedly, with superficial understanding of the text. (Psalm 1).
- Memorize verses and references. “Remember my words in your hearts and souls” (Deuteronomy 11:18). God’s words will strengthen you if you have them in your memory.
- Read with the determination to obey . “Do what God’s word says... Happy is the one who studies God’s law... He listens to God’s teaching and does not forget what he heard... He obeys God’s teaching...” (James 1:22-25).
Where to read
The Bible has two sections: The Old Testament, written before Christ’s birth, having 39 books; and the New Testament, written after Christ’s coming, having 27 books. The books are divided into chapters which are divided into numbered verses. Start reading the New Testament. Read the gospel of John, then Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Read the Psalms to relate to God, and a chapter of Proverbs each day. You will learn quickly.
Be consistent and follow a plan. Write down the insights you find and don’t be afraid to underline verses or write in the margins of the page. A well-marked Bible is usually the sign of a well-used Bible. Also, consider joining a Bible study group.
Learning to overcome temptation
Becoming a Christian does not exempt you from temptation. But don’t be discouraged; you can learn to resist it and overcome it. It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Temptation is an incentive to transgress God’s will. Temptation may make sin attractive, but not irresistible. With the help of the Lord you can see temptation’s power broken.
Like a TV commercial, temptation seeks to:
A — Draw ATTENTION
I — Create INTEREST
D — Stimulate DESIRE
A — Call for ACTION
What to think about when tempted
- Think about who you are in Christ. A child of God. A new creature. A chosen one. God’s workmanship. God’s household. Born again. Justified by faith. Alive in Christ. A royal priesthood. A holy nation. Forgiven. A child of the light. An object of God’s love. Redeemed by Jesus. More than a conqueror.
- 2. Think about whose you are. You are not our own. You are bought with a price. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. You belong to the Lord. You were not redeemed with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. You are of the royal family—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.
- Think about where you are in Christ. You are united to Jesus. You were far from God, but you now are close to him. You are one with him. Where he is, you are. Where you are, he is.
- Think about where temptation comes from. “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15). Although God allows you to be tempted, He never wants you to sin. He limits the temptations you face and provides an escape. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
What to do when tempted
- Keep fit. Daily Bible reading and prayer give you strength. Jesus, when tempted, said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Later he said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
- Avoid people, places, practices, programs, and publications that tempt you to sin. Learn to flee...
“Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
“Flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
“Flee from the love of money... (1 Timothy 6:11).
“Flee from the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22).
- Resist Satan and all evil. When you feel attracted to something outside the will of God, you can say, “I am a child of God. In Jesus’ name I resist you, Satan. In the name of Jesus, I refuse to think these thoughts, say these words, or commit this sin.” “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
- Pray about temptations with a mature Christian. God wants you to have companions to encourage you. Your strength is in God, but sometimes it comes through a Christian friend. You can join together and remain faithful to Christ.
- If you fall... Confess sin to God and receive his forgiveness by faith. “I write this letter to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ to help us” (1 John 2:1). “If we confess our sins, he will forgive us. He will make us clean from all the wrongs we have done” (1 John 1:9).
“Do not be overcome by evil.
Overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Making it personal...
List some temptations you face and how you handle them.
From what four things should you flee?
(1 Corinthians 6:18)
(1 Corinthians 10:14)
(1 Timothy 6:11)
(2 Timothy 2:22)
Sharing your faith
As you follow Christ, your friends and family will observe you. God can use you to win them. Show them by word and action what Christ means to you.
- Tell people what happened in your life. Your faith is strengthened when you share it. “If you use your mouth to say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from death, then you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
- Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will come to you. You will receive power. You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit lives in you, but you need to be filled completely and controlled by him every day. He will teach you what to say, when and how to say it. He will give you courage. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
- Memorize verses to support your testimony. “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). “When we sin, we earn what sin pays—death. But God gives us a free gift—life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him. And he will eat with me” (Revelation 3:20).
- Witness to your family. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house” (Acts 16:31). Claim this wonderful promise! God will use you to reach your family—father, mother, brothers, sisters and other relatives. They may be hard to reach. You will need patience and wisdom. Here are a few ideas.
- Participate unselfishly in the life of your family.
- Be sincere, honest, and open with them.
- Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes.
- Be aware that people may be testing you.
- Take advantage of natural opportunities to witness.
- Resist the temptation to accuse, condemn, or “preach”.
- Pray for additional opportunities.
- Trust God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you.
- Don’t give up. God is faithful. You don’t have to make it happen, He will!
- Use of Christian literature. Naturally, you want to reach the greatest number of people possible. When you can’t speak at length with a person, offer literature. And when you do speak, use the printed page to reinforce your message.
- Invite people to your church and Christian support groups to meet other Christians and hear the Word of God.
Making it personal
List eight people you want to lead to the Lord. Commit to praying for them and sharing your faith with them.
Finding your place in a church
Every true believer is automatically a member of Christ’s universal church and should also be active in a local church. What should you know about the church?
- The church is God’s family made up of millions of believers. “You belong to God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19). It’s where people can feel at home, share joys and sorrows, respond to needs, care for one another, and carry each other’s burdens.
- The church is Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:23). When Jesus ascended to heaven, he left his church in the world to be his witnesses and finish his work. He has a plan for each member. “God put the parts in the body as he wanted them. He made a place for each one” (1 Corinthians 12:19). Everyone has a function. We are all made to share in it.
- The church is God’s building. “You believers are like a building... a place where God lives through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20,22). Note that the building isn’t the building, the people are the building. Jesus said, “If two or three people come together in my name, I am there with them” (Matthew 18:20). God reveals his presence in and through his people as they meet together in his name.
- The church is Christ’s bride. “Christ died so that he could give the church to himself like a bride in all her beauty” (Ephesians 5:27). The church is not perfect, but Jesus loves it and is working to make it pure. As a bride forsakes all others and reserves herself for her husband, the church is made up of those who forsake other gods to be faithful to Christ.
- The church is Christ’s training ground for ministry. “Christ gave gifts to men... To prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving... To make the body of Christ stronger” (Ephesians 4:11-13). The church is where we learn to serve.
- The church is Christ’s army to defeat Satan’s strongholds. “And I will build my church on this rock. The power of death will not be able to defeat my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus has given authority to the church to be victorious in his name.
- Jesus himself is head of the church. “God put everything under his [Christ’s] power. God made him head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22).
- The church meets in local assemblies where God’s people worship, proclaim, fellowship, pray, study, and serve. Every Christian should be a faithful member of a faithful church.
Joining a local church
Each local church has its own structure, but anyone can join if he or she is converted to Christ and baptized. “Change your hearts and lives and be baptized...” (Acts 2:38). Talk to the pastor of the church you want to attend. He will guide you through the important steps of finding your place in the body of Christ.
Once you are a member...
Attend faithfully. “You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing. But you should meet together and encourage each other” (Hebrews 10:25). Even if you don’t find a church that meets all of your expectations, don’t drop out. Your presence will be an encouragement to the pastor and an inspiration to those who need an example of faithfulness.
Get involved! The church isn’t a place to sit back; it’s a place to serve with the abilities God has given you. Make yourself available. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you what your gifts and abilities are and where they fit in the ministry of the church. You may feel that others are more capable than you are, but remember this: God uses willing people and makes them able. He does not choose able people who are not willing. Ask the pastor where you can help.
Contribute financially. The church is maintained by the contributions of its members. Jesus encouraged believers to give, and praised a woman for her sacrifice when she could only give two coins. God has promised spiritual and material blessings to those who demonstrate their love and dedication, contributing to the work of the Lord through the church.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 1-3, 6-8).
One last word...
Jesus said “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
As a follower of Jesus Christ you can help others find and follow him. Why not teach a friend what you learned in this booklet?