How do I follow Jesus in my everyday life?
This is the next big practical question most of us have after being saved. Jesus says to follow Him. He is the Good Shepherd according to the Bible. His sheep hear His voice and come after Him. We are called to be His disciples. This is the desire put in all of our hearts. We want to be like the men and women in the Bible and literally walk after Jesus.
We understand this as a concept, right? We should follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Yet, we don’t have a man walking physically in front of us. So how do we do it?
The answer is relatively simple:
- We listen to Jesus
- We don’t listen to everything else.
We listen to Jesus. The words of Jesus are clear for most things. Love one another, make disciples, bless your enemies and do unto others are easy to understand. The Bible has been the established standard for Christians to live by for 2000 years. It is full of stories of men and women who followed Jesus well. People like Paul, Peter, Barnabas and Mary Magdalene are great examples of disciples of Jesus. Listen to Jesus and read about how people did that.
Then don’t listen to anything else. There are a million things that vie for our attention and allegiance. They try to pull us away from the first rule – listening to Jesus. Our job is to take all these things and make them submit to Jesus.
These are both easy to understand conceptually. The tremendous difficulty comes in the execution. Putting them in practice to truly follow after Jesus is the battle that determines our Christian walk. It decides whether we will be a joyful, powerful, and on fire believer in Christ or sleep walking through life. A simple matter of choosing our loyalty steers our Christian ship.
To do the will of God our hearts must be set on Him and Him alone. Then we will be men and women after God’s own heart. We must leave the world behind and follow Jesus even when everything is going the other way.
For more on our call from the Lord read: Thought for the Day: Focus and God Doesn’t Call the Qualified, He Qualifies the Called
God Seeks Undivided Servants
God loved King David. David was called a man after God’s own heart. This was despite Bathsheeba, Uriah and the list of other problems David caused for himself. David was a sinner, just like us. Yet, God holds him up as an example of faith because God knew one thing. David was clear in his allegiance. He served God. He listened when God spoke. He did God’s will. It was a simple cause and effect relationship involved. God spoke to David. David did what God said no matter the circumstances. God blessed David.
This does not mean David was perfect. He was far from it. David strayed from God in his adultery and scheming. David erred in his behavior. Yet, when God spoke to him about his sin, David was immediately undone. He grieved his own inquities. His transgressions pained him greatly. He loved God so much, his sins against him were immensely disappointing. He could be distracted at times but he was always undivided in his underlying devotion to God.
David listened to God regardless of the circumstances and consequences. He followed God even when the external costs pushed him to do otherwise.
God is looking for the same sort of man today. One who listens to God’s voice even as society becomes more hostile every day. For more on David, read Why was David Chosen to Be King? Faith in the Lord is Everything! and God Chose You For a Purpose!
Robert E. Lee was a leader of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The primary reason for secession was the right to keep other humans as slaves. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was one of Lee’s right-hand men. He earned his nickname in defense of the states rights to maintain slavery. These men were both soldiers, both generals and both hailed from Virginia.
They were also both devout Christians.
Lee’s writings are filled with references to God. Jackson was a deacon. He taught Bible studies and enjoyed teaching Sunday School to black children. The overwhelming majority of soldiers of the Confederate States of America identified as Christians. It is shocking to think about.
Some of these men were likely culturally Christian. There were also likely truly saved brothers in Christ in the Army that was fighting to protect slavery. Their letters home and diaries are filled with prayers and references to God’s protection and will in their lives.
There was even a revival that took place in 1863 while the war was raging. The Battle of Gettysburg took place that same year. It eventually led to 100,000 of the South’s soldiers professing a faith in Jesus. Tent meetings, Bible study, and baptisms sprung up wherever the soldiers camped.
In one particularly poignant baptismal ceremony, soldiers of the South were baptized the day after a large battle in a local creek at the site. The water was filled with dead from both armies.
It even gets stranger. The revival was not limited to the Confederates. The Union Army experienced 100,000-200,000 soldiers giving their lives to Christ around the same time. A general commented that he had never experienced such a mighty move of God in his lifetime. From the high ranking generals to the regular private soldiers, they experienced genuine conversions to a life in Christ.
Divided Loyalties Reap Terrible Results
These men from both sides expressed genuine faith in Jesus as their Savior. Jesus promised to give us as His followers peace. He said that we would be known by our love for our brothers. These men experienced Jesus then went out and killed their Christian brothers in the hundreds of thousands. Many of them were praying to God while killing men who were praying to the same God.
These men had the same Bible as we do, said the same prayers that we do and even sang a lot of the same hymns. Yet, they failed in one main aspect of their Christian lives.
They were not undivided. Their devotion to state, politics, or slavery overwhelmed their duty to Jesus.
God’s direction was clear in the Bible. Love your brothers in Christ. Love your enemies. Jesus’ Words were there for the reading. The men of the southern armies chose to honor human bonds and affections instead of Gods’ Word. The results were terrible.
This strange phenomenon was not limited to the men who fought the US Civil War. Many of the men who took up arms in the armies of Nazi Germany proclaimed the name of Jesus. They believed God was on their side but did not honor his Word while killing for Hitler. They chose to mix pariotism with Jesus. “You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, mind, and soul”, says the Lord. Giving part to God and part to anything else misses this point.
- Listen to Jesus
- Don’t Listen to Everything else
How did they do? The Civil War soldiers and World War 2 Germans failed miserably on item 2 – they listened to worldly loyalties. They totally failed at item 1 as a result. They chose not to listen to Jesus at all. Misplacing allegiances gets us in trouble as Christians.
We are called to serve Jesus and have our lives dictated by God alone. That is simple to say. It is hard to do. Loving things in this world tends to distract us and lead us away from God’s clear directions.God Always Speaks – Do We Always Listen?
The distractions are often not bad in themselves: family, country, money or lifestyle are good things. The problem comes when we are loyal to them rather than to Jesus. Our love of stuff, ideals, people, political parties and even our country can compel us to do things that Christ would never ever support. A Heart for God
Lee’s Divided Heart
Consider Lee and his role as chief of the rebels. Lee spent most of his life prior to the Civil War as a soldier in the American Army. He was a loyal soldier for decades. He also was at least luke-warm to possibly outright opposed to slavery. His opposition was motivated by his Christianity. He saw the terrible injustices and believed God did not support them. He understood the leading of God in opposing a horrid practice. However, Lee was also a member of the upper class of the State of Virginia. He dearly loved the state. He fervently loved his lifestyle there as well.
When the war broke out he had a choice to make. Lee had loyalty to Jesus as a Christian, loyalty to the US as a citizen and soldier and to his state as a Virginian. He was a picture of a divided man. Which of his allegiances would come first?
He chose his home state of Virginia. He made all of his decisions based upon that bond. Patriotism for Virginia was simply higher in his personal ranking. He esteemed his home, family and his lifestyle more than anything else, even more than his love of God.
God led in one direction. Everything else led in another. Lee chose everything else and paid accordingly.
Contrast this with David’s life. The entire army of Israel was terrified of Goliath when David came on the scene. David’s own brothers were part of the army and mocked him when he came to the battlefield. King Saul hid in his tents. David was unmoved by their feelings. God led him to take on the giant. He did not care what anyone else was doing. King Saul attempts to refuse David. He tries to talk David out of God’s conviction on his life. David pushed forward. Read more at Why was David Chosen to Be King? Faith in the Lord is Everything!
David understood God led him to fight Goliath. He ignored everything else that argued he needed to run away. God’s calling is all that is important.
God’s Call on You
These may seem like abstract examples. Robert E. Lee has been dead for a long time and none of us are following Hitler. Yet, the more extreme instances shine a light on the same conflict we are faced with every day. They may be subtler versions, but it is the same choice – Listen to Jesus or to everything else. We choose daily who we will serve with our heart, mind, and soul.
How often do we go through the same process in our lives in smaller ways? We know what God says about a decision we must make. Yet, our love of our lifestyle, career, money, or family pushes us to make a different choice.
We may be offered an opportunity to preach the Gospel at work. We know the Lord tells us to make disciples but it could hurt our career.
We may feel strongly about a political candidate and a person visits our church wearing the shirt of our leader’s opponent. Jesus says to love our brothers and enemies and preach the Gospel.
We may think that Robert E. Lee was a patriot while our brother in Christ is greatly offended by his name. The Bible says love covers over a multitide of sins. Jesus says we are united in Christ as the Temple of God. Christianity without Love? and God is Love
Who do we listen to? Are we undivided in our response?
Each situation presents a choice. Do we love our plan more than we love what God calls to do? Are we undivided in our devotion to God?
What do we love more, Jesus or our careers?
Jesus or Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump?
Jesus or the world?
Again, simple in concept, right?
In execution, it tests us to the very core. Jesus calls it taking up our cross as it involves the death of what is dear to us. Execution is never an easy business. People like Lee and Jackson have been swept away in their failure to accept this call as long as people have been on this earth. For More Read Why am I NOT Growing in Christ? A Hard Hitting Answer
Most of those who fought for the South never owned a slave or benefitted from the enslavement of others. They simply choose their allegiances over Jesus. They chose what they loved over what Jesus loves. They did not take up their cross.
As the political and ideological climate grows more heated every day, we Christians need to heed the lesson of these tragic men of history. People may be taking sides politically and arming up everywhere but that is not for us. People may demonize one another at an unprecedented rate but that is never our calling.
Jesus said the world would know us by our love. He told us to love our neighbor, our enemy, and God’s people. That covers everyone. There is no reason for hate or fear if we are following Jesus.
Where does our loyalty lie today? Are we loving the Lord God with all our mind, heart and soul?
How to Follow Jesus
The question posed is how do we follow Jesus practically?
The answer is surprisingly simple. We listen to Jesus. He speaks through His Word, His people, and His Spirit. Do what the Bible says to do.
Perhaps more importantly, we don’t listen to everything else.
Do we have anything that we love in this world more than Jesus?
If so, lay it down today before a forgiving and loving God. He loves people no matter their political persuasion. Leave it to the world to fight its battles with itself.