Summary: It is possible to believe in Jesus without actually following Jesus. We need to be sure we know which category we fit in.
ARE YOU A REAL FOLLOWER?
INTRODUCTION: You can’t be a follower without being a believer but it is possible to believe in Jesus without actually following Jesus. I’m not saying that a believer isn’t a follower. You will find plenty of places in scripture that refer to Christians as ‘believers’. I believe these references imply true followers. But there is a distinction to be made between simply believing in Jesus and truly following Jesus. We need to be sure we know which category we fit in.
1) We can claim to be a follower but that doesn’t mean we are one.
• It’s about walking in His light. 1st John 1:5-7. A believer will know certain things about Jesus but a follower will have an intimate relationship with Jesus. We can’t follow who we don’t know. We need to know Jesus-what he said, how he said it, what he did, how he did it-and imitate it. We can say we have a relationship with Jesus but if we are living a worldly lifestyle we don’t have fellowship with Jesus because there is no fellowship between light and darkness. Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” If we are true followers of Jesus we will not be trying to spend some time in the darkness and some in the light. We won’t try to have the best of both worlds. We won’t try to be a friend of the world and a friend of Jesus. If I’m a follower then I’ll be walking in the light of Christ.
• It’s about walking in His obedience. Titus 1:16, “Although they claim to know God by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” We need to walk the talk. Lip service is not enough. As someone said, "Not all who profess Christ really possess Christ." In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson wrote, "It is not difficult in our world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier Christians called holiness." I can claim to be a Christian but if my actions contradict what I claim to be then I am not walking in obedience.
• It’s about walking in His will. Matt. 7:21-23. We can say Jesus is our Lord but that doesn’t mean he is. Jesus said he didn’t know them. It’s probably safe to say that these people didn’t know him very well either. They weren’t seeking to do God’s will. They were doing their own will but attaching Jesus’ name to it. Putting Jesus’ name next to my agenda does not make me a Christian. Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?” We can use the term ‘Lord’ too loosely. If Jesus is truly my Lord then I’ve made him my master, my ruler. But if I’m not serious then I’m just using the term ‘Lord’ as a token of recognition and I haven’t attached myself to the depth of meaning that it should hold for me. Jesus is Savior and Lord. You don’t make Jesus your Savior now and Lord later. You can’t have Jesus as your Savior unless you’re ready to make him your Lord also. I once lived as if you could separate those two terms. I was fine with Jesus being my Savior; I was all right with having my sins forgiven and being able to go to heaven. But it was obvious by how I lived my life after my “conversion” that I hadn’t made Jesus the Lord of my life. I still lived how I wanted to. Oh sure, I may have been obediently reading my bible and going to church (now and then), but I was still partying and sleeping around. Then one day it was pointed out to me by a minister that I had tried to make Jesus my Savior without making him my Lord. I realized that you can’t do that. If he’s not both he’s neither. For 10 years I thought I was saved, but I wasn’t. I knew I needed to be baptized again because I wasn’t serious the first time around. I claimed to be a Christian, but it was clear that I wasn’t. I was a believer, but I wasn’t a follower. A. W. Tozer was a man of God who was troubled with the idea that Christian profession does not demand obedience to Christ. He said, “[Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and had taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Savior, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord. It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!” Today, we let them say they are saved no matter how imperfect and incomplete the transaction, with the [stipulation] that the deeper Christian life can be tacked on at some time in the future. Can it be that we really think that we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience? We have owed Him our obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if we do not give Him that obedience, I have reason to wonder if we are really converted! I see things and I hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch them operate within the profession of Christianity I do raise the question of whether they have been truly converted. Brethren, I believe it is the result of faulty teaching to begin with. They thought of the Lord as a hospital and Jesus as the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that had gotten into trouble! “Fix me up, Lord,” they have insisted, “so that I can go my own way!” That is bad teaching, brethren. The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is not a Christian. To that person, Christ says, “Why do you call we, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).”