Believing vs. Following

For the first 26 years of my life, I was a believer in Jesus Christ.  I went to church every Sunday, I completed all of my sacraments (having grown up in the Catholic church), and I even spoke to God regularly (but mostly, if not entirely, when I was in need of something)…  There was no doubt in my mind that God did exist.  I had excepted Him as my “Savior”, but in no way, shape, or form was He my “Lord”.

Then, on February 06, 2006, I was at a service where I heard a man give the following scenario:  [He said] “Imagine that after you die you go the gates of heaven and you are put on trial.  As the Defendant, the charge you are facing is that you are a ‘Follower of Jesus Christ’.  If you are found guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, of being a Follower of Jesus then your sentence will be an eternity in Heaven (also known as being ‘in perfect communion with God’).  The jury/judge is made up of the One who has seen every action you have ever taken, every thought you have ever had, and every feeling you have ever felt…”

Then the speaker posed the question:  “Would you be found guilty?”

As I sat in that pew, I knew in my heart that I would not have been found “guilty” by any jury on this planet, much less by God himself.  Not because of reasonable doubt, not because of a biased jury, but because up to this point in my life, all I had done was “believed”…  Talk about a terrible feeling!

I know that many will argue that all you have to do is “believe”, but James 2:17 says clearly that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  Additionally, he points out that “even the demons believe” in God.  Thus, though believing in God and Jesus Christ is vitally important, it isn’t all there is.  After all, even Satan believes in God (and I’m pretty sure he’s not going to heaven).

So, there I sat, faced with a crucial decision that would result in consequences for eternity:  “Do I continue to live life chasing after my own selfish ambition, or am I going have Jesus as my Savior AND the LORD of my life and attempt to follow the example He set for us (beyond a reasonable doubt) in hopes of spending eternity in perfect communion with God?”

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him. – Matt 4:19-20

As overwhelming as the decision was that night, it was a complete “no-brainer” in retrospect!  I know most people believe that “Following Jesus” implies a life filled with rules, regulations, limitations, and poverty.  On the contrary, over the past four years, I have found purpose, passion, prosperity, abundance, joy, and fulfillment in all aspects of my life!  In all candidness, the last four years have been the absolute best years of my life, each one surpassing the one before.  That’s not to say that they have been without sacrifice, struggle, and hardship, but who hasn’t had to deal with these things over the past four years.

Following Jesus Christ has nothing to do with “being perfect”.  [If we could be perfect, there would have been no reason for Him to die on the cross for our sins.]  Following Jesus is about putting what we “believe” into “action”.  That doesn’t mean “going to church, not drinking, and not cursing”.  It means “loving our neighbor as Christ loves us”.  It means sacrificing for others.  It means putting others first.  It means surrendering our own selfish ambitions and seeking to better the world around us for the glory of God.

I know, it’s all easier said than done.  But, this is why people are afraid of Following Jesus…  Because it’s hard.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  The fact is, nothing in life worthwhile is easy.  Have you ever noticed how hard it is to stay “fit / healthy” and how easy it is to get fat?  How about how hard it is to keep the house clean and how easy it is to let it get dirty?

In the same way, following Jesus is hard and living a self-centered, self-focused, self-motivated life is easy.  In the short-term.  If you don’t believe me, just watch one of those “Hoarders” shows on tv.  At the beginning, their house was just a bit messy and cluttered.  But as the years went buy, the junk piled up.  So too are our lives of selfishness.

In the long run, the only thing harder than “following Jesus” is “not following Jesus”.  And in no way is “just believing” enough.