My photo: mountain sheep following the leader on the highway near Jasper, Alberta
Following Jesus is not enough to experience real peace with God and the peace of God! As human beings, we like to control how we live. This even includes our relationship with God. For those who like to be in control, what does it mean to “follow” Jesus? For good reason, most Christians speak of following Jesus. According to Matthew 4:19, NIV, Jesus spoke to fishermen Peter and Andrew: “Come follow me… and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their work to follow Jesus (vs 20).
This is wonderful but it is not enough. They physically followed Jesus, but their hearts and motives were not always pure or pleasing to Him. Even after 3 years of following Jesus, Peter quickly denies knowing Jesus three times just before Jesus died for us on the cross. It is also a fact that some professing Christians and even some pastors have suddenly announced that they no longer believe in Jesus. Those who ultimately deny Him were not real members of God’s spiritual family (see 1 John 2:19). If we really desire to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit must reside in us and have full authority over our hearts so that our living becomes not merely our own. Now, our lives should express the reality of Jesus, by means of the Holy Spirit, living through our personalities as He lives in us!
Living the Christian life is impossible for us. So, to live as Christians who are truly pleasing to God, we need to understand and live by the reality described by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. The choice is clear. You can superficially follow Jesus as you choose or you can unconditionally surrender your heart and life to Him – allowing Him to live in and through you and your unique personality to others around you.
It is crucial to understand this truth. Prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (as described in Acts chapter 2), the disciples were very inconsistent in their relationship with the Lord. Before the Holy Spirit came to Live in them, they were with Jesus. After they were baptized by the Holy Spirit, they were now in Jesus and Jesus was now in them. Now, they could successfully be witnesses of Him to a spiritually lost world! Before the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to live in and fill him, Peter followed Jesus but denied Him when he felt threatened. After Peter was spiritually baptized in and by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), he fearlessly preached and communicated the crucified and risen Jesus regardless of threats and opposition. The amazing result was that thousands of people responded and came to faith in Jesus!
What was the difference? In Philippians 3:9, the apostle Paul expressed his supreme life aim – to know Christ and “…be found in Him”. In the same way, Peter was found permanently in Jesus, not merely superficially following Him when times were good! It was now Peter in Jesus and, by the Holy Spirit, Jesus in Peter. So, it must be with us. In His prayer to the Father, Jesus prays that we may be in Him and He in us just as Jesus the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son. (John 17:21). This is spiritual baptism—the Holy Spirit baptizes or places us into Jesus and Jesus comes into us, as we hear, believe, and accept the word of God (Ephesians 1:13). This is the sealing – the confirmation that we no longer follow behind Jesus but daily live in Him, from him and for Him. Being now exclusively set apart for God, we can now live this glorious new life-His life in us and through us (Romans 6:4,11).
After Acts chapter 2, the Bible speaks of those who belong to Jesus as being in Christ, in Jesus, or in the Lord, not merely following Him. The lesson is clear. After the Holy Spirit of Christ (Acts 16:7) came to live permanently in each true believer, we are not described in the New Testament as mere followers of Jesus but as living in Him – forever. So, let Jesus live His awesome, divine life through you so that you bear lasting spiritual fruit from your position inHim-the safest, most secure and fruitful place you could ever be in our challenging times!