Updated: Sep 19
Why do I follow Jesus? This seems like a relatively simple and straight forward question. For most Christians, this question would be seemingly easy to answer. However, this one question has been on my mind for several weeks now. It's a question I have thought about over and over in my mind.
Recently this question was submitted to New Testament scholar Scot McKnight on his podcast Kingdom Roots. As one might expect, Dr. McKnight had a well-articulated and thoughtful response. However, his response and forethought set me on a journey of my own. Why do I follow Jesus?
How or Why
Before I give you a few reasons I follow Jesus, perhaps we should consider this. Often I have been very good at telling people how to follow Jesus. I mean by this usually when I would sit down to study the Bible with someone, part of the goal if they were not a Christian, was to have them notice what the Bible says concerning salvation and baptism. Now, there is nothing wrong with sharing God's word and teaching the importance of baptism and salvation. Both are very important! What I was doing, though, as Dr. John Mark Hicks points out in his book Searching For the Pattern is following a blueprint model of reading and studying the Bible. As I understand his use of following the blueprint, it is somewhat like jumping from verse to verse to demonstrate and draw out my points.
Here is what I have found true in my life, though, how is not as important as why. In teaching people how they should follow Jesus, have I said anything about why? The why is important. How can tend to just complete the steps. In completing the steps, have I been introduced to the Messiah? When hardships come, when loved ones pass away, do I know Jesus, or have I simply followed a blueprint? Knowing Jesus, standing on the Rock, helps me survive the storms of life.
Having the privilege of teaching God's word, I often ask people to follow Jesus. I can't tell you the number of times when I have said something like, Jesus is asking you to follow Him. This is true, just as Jesus called His first disciples, He calls us today, "Follow Me…" (ref. Matt. 4:19). However, in all the times I've asked people to follow Jesus, have I ever said why they should? If I have or not, I don't recall at this time. Not being able to remember is part of the problem. If I have not shared why we should follow Jesus, should I expect people to follow Him? Should I think they know Him? Should I assume I have pointed others to Jesus? It started with a simple, straight forward question, Why do I follow Jesus? This simple question has led to weeks and weeks of personal reflection. As I write these brief thoughts, I am convinced this will not be the end of this smilingly simple question, at least not for myself.
Why Do I Follow Jesus
I want to share a few reasons why I follow Jesus with you. I know this list is not complete. I know much more could be said. My purpose, though, is just that we could think together about the why. Hopefully, these simple thoughts will, in some way, encourage you to consider why you follow Jesus. There is no specific order to this list. It's just a few of my first thoughts.
I know my past
I have many things in my life that I am not proud of or hope I never repeat. Reading through the Bible points this out all the more. I see just in how many ways I have missed the mark (sinned). I see how I often failed to uphold the truth of God's word in my life. I see the holiness and righteousness of God. As His words shine like a light, they penetrate the darkness of my own heart. Many times I have felt what the apostle Paul said, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. 1:15 NKJV).
As often as I have missed the mark, His grace, mercy, and forgiveness are all the more. I follow Jesus because I know and have experienced His forgiveness. As Paul said in (ref. 1 Tim. 1:15), Christ came to save those in bondage to sin. Often I may not feel forgiven, and this is difficult. There are some things that my mind replays over and over. Some sins and choices can leave profound scars. Having experienced His forgiveness, I often find myself needing to trust in His promises and His faithfulness. The apostle John recorded in (1 John 1:9) "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." His promises confirm His forgiveness. Forgiveness I have experienced.
With so much misdirection and half-truths in our world today, it's hard to know what we can center our lives on. Has there been a book so tested as God's word, the Bible? So pressed, so scrutinized, so challenged from every direction? It's difficult for me to think of a book that has been challenged more than God's word. The Bible has stood the most challenging of tests. Of course, this alone does not make the Bible true. My thoughts here are not to "prove" the Bible. There has been plenty of scholarly work in apologetics that works toward affirming the reliability of the Scriptures. If that is of interest, I invite you to visit sites like Apologetics Press or The Daily Apologist. Jesus said the words of God; these are true (ref. Jn. 17:17). God's word offers truth, wisdom, and understanding of our lives and the world in which we live. The Bible also teaches us about the character and nature of God. I follow Jesus because I have found His words true.
Can the importance of hope be overstated? Stories of captives tell us of the importance. In Jesus, we have incredible hope. The story of the Bible is a story of reconciliation, restoration, and renewal. Jesus opens the way of new life in Him. Through His victory over death, we are assured of our hope. (1 Cor. 15) is an amazing passage penned by the apostle Paul. In this chapter, he speaks of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In this chapter, he goes on to talk about the hope we share in through the resurrection of the dead. We will be transformed. As Jesus received a resurrected body, so shall we. This, to me, is important and why I follow Jesus. This life is not all that there is. In Him, I share in the hope of eternity. The hope of knowing that He will restore and renew all things.
A simple question, "Why do I follow Jesus?" However, it is a question that has profound impacts. If you have not considered this question, I would encourage you to do so. In asking this question, I pray we may learn to know Jesus.
Scripture references: the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.