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Follow Jesus, not me

To follow Jesus today, do we need a following ourselves? There are many Christians who have hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of followers on social media and they have the potential to reach many with the gospel. Even with a handful of blog or social media followers, are we making the most of the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus? I’d like to suggest that the time is now because the time is short.

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11 (NIV)

The New Living Translation captures it well by calling Christians to ‘wake up’ as time is short until Christ’s return:

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11 (NLT)

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What is the gospel again?

The gospel means ‘good news’.

It is good news because of what God has done through Jesus. We are all under judgement because of sin against God – all of us. It doesn’t matter how good we think we are, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). However, in God’s love, He took the penalty of what our sins deserve – death – and in doing this, He paid the price so we wouldn’t have to. A holy and just God cannot be in the presence of sin, yet because of Jesus, we can now come before God as if we had never sinned! We can be restored into a right relationship with God. Jesus said that we need to ‘repent and believe the good news’ (Mark 1:15 NIV) – the Lord will send His Holy Spirit to help us to live it out. When we put our faith in Jesus, we are reconciled to God and we will have eternal life.

Be prepared for opposition.

The gospel is foolishness to those who are dead in their sins. We need to pray for those we know who have yet to hear or respond to the good news, and we should be doing our part in telling them about it. Even though it is foolishness to some, it is the power of God for those who follow Jesus.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)

We should expect opposition when we share the good news. Our following may take a hit if we share it. So be it. We might get ridiculed. Some in the world get beaten, imprisoned and tortured for this good news that they hold onto in the darkest times of their lives. The disciples knew what it meant to face opposition because of Christ and they were killed for it. Are we willing to risk our reputation, comfort, status and everything else we hold dear, for the sake of knowing Christ and making Him known?

What’s our motive behind what we do?

My motive is I want people to repent and encounter Jesus. I also want to encourage and equip Christians to be bold in their faith, even when the culture recoils a little. Yes, I get it wrong. No, I’m not perfect. Yes, I am completely sold out for Jesus. No, I don’t want to be labelled a Bible-bashing bigot. Yes, I am guessing that will happen at some point. It comes with the territory that we will have trouble in the world, but I take heart because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

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There is the temptation with follows, likes and shares to think upon all that we are doing and gauge our success by how many people follow us or are engaging with us online. We don’t want to offend. We want to be ‘cool’ to win converts – or something similar. I do believe we need to love our neighbours as ourselves, and part of loving others is warning them about sin, judgement and hell. We can show them that Jesus has made a way in the mess and rebellion of humanity.

We may be doing a lot of stuff ‘in the name of Jesus’ and telling our followers all that we are up to for Christ, but it’s always important to check our motive. Let the Holy Spirit prompt us into prayer, a posture of humility and grace, willing to surrender all of our plans to Him. I know the context was different, but the verse below reveals the desire to be praised by others. This is still a feature of the human heart which is often exacerbated by social media, or am I the only one?

Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be praised by men. Matthew 6:1-2 (Berean Study Bible)

Join those who have gone before us.

It says in Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT):

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.’

We’re not figuring this stuff out by ourselves. There are many followers of Jesus who have gone before us and set an example on what a life of faith looks like practically. I absolutely love reading biographies of those who kept their eyes on the prize of seeing Jesus face to face for all eternity. And the Bible is full of them too.

Jesus promises to be with us as we follow His commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19 NIV). Whether we are out and about or online, we are Christ’s ambassadors; we are messengers for our heavenly King. And as a church, we need to wake up, fix our eyes on our King, Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ and join in with the apostle Paul who wrote:

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT)