Follow (verb): to go or come after; move behind in the same direction; to accept as a guide or leader; accept the authority of or give allegiance to; to conform to, comply with; to obey; to act like; to imitate or copy.
Jesus calls us to follow him.
The definitions above help us to understand what it means to truly follow him.
Jesus gives many directives throughout the Gospels, summed up in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. And both of these are summed up in Matthew 28:18-20:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In the body of Christ, some are called to focus more on the Great Commission and others on the Great Commandment. The ministry I am a part of, and many in the evangelical world, feel called more to the Great Commission command.
But does that let us off the hook for the Great Commandment?
As we pursue the vision of going into all the world to make disciples, we must make sure that we are working as God desires, that the disciples we are making and multiplying are true followers of Christ.
Recently as I studied all four gospels to see what a true follower looks and acts like, I saw some important statements by and about Jesus that have great impact on our discipleship:
The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
It is good to go looking for the lost, find them, tell them the amazing good news of how they can be found—and invite them to make that choice and enter a beautiful new life.
Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners. (Luke 4:18-21; Isaiah 61:1-3)
Our calling may be to win people to Christ, build them in their faith and send them out to do the same, so we emphasize that. But we must consider what else Jesus requires of us.
Jesus called us to follow Him, to live as He did. (Mark 1:17)
Following Him means to serve as He served: “I have set you an example…servants are not greater than their master…you will be blessed if you do [this]…” (John 13:13-17)
Following Him means to love as He loved: “A new command I give you: …As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Compassion, preaching and teaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, convicting of sin: Jesus did it all, as He went.
“Make disciples…teaching them…everything I taught you…”(Matthew 28:18-20)
This famous Great Commission verse contains key words we must not ignore: teaching them everything I taught you.
So what does this mean for those of us called to evangelism and discipleship ministry?
- Although such missions should focus on our calling, making our primary thrust to reach the lost, disciple believers and send everyone into the harvest field, as individual members of these movements, we must make sure we are living out what Jesus said would be true of his followers: that we would, with compassion, preach and teach the kingdom of God, care for the needy, feed the hungry, heal the sick.
2. When we disciple people, we must disciple them to the whole gospel that Jesus presented: the good news and the good deeds. If we never teach them that Jesus preached both, then shame on us! We are not fully discipling them. And who knows which disciple of ours, well-taught, might be the next leader of some great humanitarian effort in the name of Christ.
3. It is right that we engage in good deeds ministry for several reasons:
- It is right. Jesus did it and taught it. So should we.
- As we know, humanitarian efforts are often great door openers, especially in difficult places, for demonstrating God’s love and sharing the good news.
- We need to encourage opportunities for our disciples to engage in such efforts as part of our ongoing discipleship.
How can you make sure that your disciples are learning and living ALL that Jesus taught?
C 2011 Judy Douglass