What Following Jesus REALLY Means (and 3 practical tips)

When asked, most Christians would say that they are following Jesus. They would likely say that an integral part of their faith is following God. The problem is while most Christians say they are following Jesus, few take any actions to actually do it. 

I don’t say that as an indictment on you. I see that attitude in me. I’m quick to say I follow God, but my actions don’t always show that. What I’ve found is it’s easy to say we are following Jesus, but it’s really hard to actually do it. 

The problem is, when Jesus said “follow me” he actually meant it. He intends for us to be participants, not spectators. We are his hands and feet doing his work, not just giving lip services. 

You see, following Jesus means we actually have to DO something. 

Being a Christian isn’t about what we believe as much as the person we follow. 

I think it’s important that we look at what it actually means to follow Jesus, and how we can put it into practice in our lives. 

What Does The Bible Say About Following Jesus? 

Many times throughout the Gospels we find Jesus’ invitation to follow him. Sometimes this is Jesus’ calling his twelve disciples and other times it’s an open invitation to anyone listening. What’s clear is that Jesus expected his follower to FOLLOW him. (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, John 10:27)

Unsurprisingly this theme is continued throughout the New Testament (1 Peter 2:21, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 Corinthians 11:1-2). The early church is continually reminded that they are not just spectators, but they have a role to play. 

The Bible is constantly clear throughout the New Testament. Christians aren’t defined by what they believe, rather who they follow. 

For a full list of what the Bible says about following Jesus check out: Following Jesus Bible Verses

What’s At Stake 

In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul tells us that we are the body of Christ. Think about that for minute. If you are a Christian you are Jesus’ hands and feet. You represent him to the people around you. 

Take a minute to wrap your head around the magnitude of that responsibility. 

There are people who don’t know Jesus who are watching you and making assumptions about what Jesus is like. There are people around you whose picture of who Jesus is will be shaped by what you do and say. For better or worse. 

As followers of Jesus, we represent Him to those around us. What we do, what we say, tells others something about God. Good or bad. Following Jesus means that Jesus actually expects you to do something and there’s consequences for our actions. 

This means that we should love how Jesus loved. We should go where Jesus went. We should do what Jesus did. We should teach what Jesus taught. We should hang out with who Jesus hung out with. We should be following in Jesus’ footsteps. 

We’ve Forgotten Our Calling 

The world desperately needs a church that actually follows Jesus. It needs Christians that take their name seriously, to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus. The world is hurting. People are hungry, oppressed, tired, lost, and out of hope. And it’s our job to go to them. The world desperately needs a church that is following Jesus with their whole lives.

The problem is we’ve forgotten our calling. We’ve neglected to follow Jesus. We prioritize our safety and comfort over our calling. We’d rather criticize than love. Be right than take action. And keep for ourselves than give away. 

When those things become the primary driving force we lose our effectiveness, our saltiness. And what good is salt that loses its saltiness? (Matthew 5:13)

We forget that we serve a God that literally became helpless in pursuit of us. A God that willingly went to the cross to make a way for us to get back to Him. We serve a God that went through hell on our behalf. And the call of Christians is to do the same for others, that’s part of following Jesus.

If the primary driving force in your life is safety and comfort, you have stopped following in the footsteps of Jesus. I don’t say that as an attack, but a reminder. One that I know that I need. 

The mission of Christians is not to seek safety. It’s not to pursue comfort. It’s to seek and love the lost, the hurting, and the opposed. Following Jesus means being His hands and feet. And let’s be honest. As a whole, the church is not known for doing that. The church is not known for following Jesus, and we’ve got to change that.

How To Follow Jesus

So, how do we actually follow Jesus? What does it mean to be his hands and feet? 

I want to give you three questions to reflect on that will help you understand what this looks like. Where did Jesus go? What did Jesus do? And how did Jesus feel? 

1. Where Did Jesus’ Go? 

If we are supposed to be following Jesus the first thing we should do is go where he went. So where did Jesus go? 

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus is most commonly found in one of three places: 

  1. Alone (often praying/resting)
  2. With His closest friends (community)
  3. With the opposed/forgotten (the sick, sinners, and culturally insignificant people) 

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list; Jesus went to plenty of other places in his time on earth. However, if you glance through the Gospels you will find Jesus is often in, or heading to, one of these places. 

I find most Christians are pretty good at the second one. We are typically pretty good about spending time in community. But the other two, not so much. 

We downplay the need for rest and spending time with God. But Jesus prioritized it. He would walk away from crowds that had real needs so he could spend time with his father and rest. We need that. In a society that worships the grind and getting more and more done we need rest. 

For more on the importance of rest check out: How Embracing Rest Can Change Your Life

We also struggle with going to the oppressed and forgotten. It’s messy, it’s dirty, and it can be a little dangerous. So we often just avoid it. We’d rather stay in our safe little community rather than venture into the unknown. 

But to be the hands and feet of Jesus we have to go to the people He went to. That’s what following Jesus means. Even if that makes us a little uncomfortable. And even it that puts us in danger.

Which leads us to the second question, what did Jesus do when he got to those people?

2. What Did Jesus Do? 

When Jesus was with people He gave them what they needed. Not always want they wanted, but what they ultimately needed. He sat with the sick. Talked to the ignored. Challenged the proud. Helped the poor. Gave purpose to the hopeless. Comforted the distraught. And forgave the masses. In short, He showed love to everyone He came in contact with. 

We tend to differ from Jesus in that we would rather give them what they want, not what they need. 

Maybe the most applicable story for us today is found in John 8:1-11. The story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. This woman was unfairly accused and was in great danger of being harmed by those in authority. What does Jesus do? He steps in and defends her.

Jesus got between her and the attackers. He stood toe to toe with her accusers. He defended her in a bold, yet nonviolent way. And don’t miss this, at great risk to Himself.

The reality is she wasn’t totally innocent. She had some blame. But that didn’t make how she was being treated okay. That didn’t justify her attacker’s actions. Often for us to actually stick our neck out for someone we want to know they are innocent. But Jesus didn’t do that. He stood with her not because she was innocent but because she was in dire need of a friend, an advocate, a savior. 

That, I think, is maybe the best example for us to follow today. The church should be defending those that cannot defend themselves. We should stand up for those that are facing unfair treatment. We should be friends and advocates to those being opposed and in doing so we can point them to our Savior. Following Jesus means we stand up for those Jesus stood up for.

And if it puts us at risk, so be it. Their life is worth it because Jesus said so when He went to the cross for us and for them. Following Jesus is a charge is to pick up our cross and do the same. 

Which leads to the final question, how did Jesus feel when he interacted with people? 

3. How Did Jesus Feel? 

Finally we need to look at what Jesus felt. Often we are motivated to do the right things for the wrong reasons. Instead we should focus on our heart, our motives. 

Jesus was motivated by His longing, His desire, to just be with His creation. He was genuinely moved by the people He encountered. He showed His emotions, He empathized. That’s one of the things that attracted people to Him. He actually cared about them and what they were going through. 

Here’s three emotions we often see Him displaying: 

  1. Compassion (like with the woman at the well) 
  2. Grief (like facing the death of Lazarus) 
  3. Anger Over Injustices (like flipping tables in the temple) 

Imagine if the Church was known for these things. If we were actually known for genuinely caring and empathizing with people. If we had compassion on the suffering. Regardless of what brought them to that place. If we cried with those grieving another senseless act of violence. If we got filled with righteous anger over the injustices done to people, to kids, in our country. 

Imagine the impact, the difference, the Church could make if we just embodied these three emotions. If the Church were just known for following Jesus our impact would drastically increase.

We should be motivated by our heart towards people. People aren’t projects to be won over, they are children of God to be loved. And that’s what we should do. Following Jesus means we embody the love He had for people.

Also check out: Jesus Wept (what we need to know about the shortest verse in the Bible)

Closing Thoughts On Following Jesus 

Our call is to follow Jesus. To be his hands and feet. We need to go where he went. Do what he did. And feel what he felt. When we do that we are following Jesus. 

If you call yourself a Christian, ask yourself, are you following Jesus? Are you actually following in His footsteps? 

Prayerfully look over the questions above and look at the direction your life is heading. Who are you really following? 

Jesus actually expects His followers to be His hands and feet. He expects us to get in the game. The question for us is, how will we respond? 

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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