Within Christianity, there has been a pervading idea that all you have to do to be a follower of Jesus is to say a prayer of salvation. In most churches we act like all it takes to be a Christian is a quick prayer, spurred by an emotion-driven, sermon. I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately, I do not believe this to be true. I’m not talking specifically about salvation. The Bible clearly says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” I don’t think it matters whether that takes the form of a prayer on Sunday morning or a private declaration in a moment of desperation, saved is saved. However, saved does not automatically equal follower.
In the U.S., we have made the “salvation prayer” the primary focus, when it is instead a part of the entire Gospel. If Jesus’s objective was, “Go and get people saved,” we would do well by eliciting the emotional confession on Sunday mornings. However, the command is, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” We have missed the fullness of the command – it requires more than prayer.
So, what does this discussion have to do with The Whole Man? Everything. The purpose of this blog is to focus on the theological truth that Jesus is the only way to God, and on that way, He heals us and makes us whole. If the prayer is our beginning, what does following Jesus look like?
Deciding to Follow
To follow requires action. Following Jesus is based on the decision to go where He goes. We see this in the lives of each of the disciples. Jesus said follow Him and, without a confession of who He was, the disciples followed. It would not be until later when they would confess to who they believed Jesus to be. It is conceivable that a significant amount of time occurred between Peter’s invitation to follow Jesus in Matthew 4, and his confession of Jesus as the Christ in Matthew 16. Because Peter did not confess Jesus in Matthew 4, the time between his decision to follow, and his confession is not pointless. In fact, I would argue that time made his declaration more profound and impactful. Our decision to follow Jesus does not require a prayer. I’ve known a number of people who decided to follow Him and would later confess, “You are the Christ, to whom shall I go. For you have the words of eternal life.” Every time I have seen this, it is more beautiful than the last.
Committing to and Allowing Renewal
Making the decision to follow Jesus requires action. The commitment to follow Jesus requires the intentional “putting off” of your “old” self. This is more difficult than a prayer. This is the intentional decision to abandon certain, sometimes all, things that are present in your life. I’m not talking about smoking and cursing, but instead weightier behaviors that separate you from God, like hatred, anger, and drunkenness. We are required to surrender. We surrender our will to God and allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds. This happens by taking in God’s word and through worship. We are then able to put on our “new” self, which is the reflection of Christ.
Obeying His Commands
Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Those commands include The Golden Rule, the Greatest Commandment, and the New Command. Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. He told us that The Golden Rule is the Law and the Prophets. He was saying the entirety of the Law revolved around treating others like we want to be treated. Then He said that we accomplish this through loving God and loving others. Without love, we are not capable of fulfilling The Golden Rule. The decision to follow Jesus involves the decision to allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate a Christ-like love in you, for God and for others.
Jesus then gave His disciples the New Command to love each other and said that it would be the evidence of them belonging to Him. When we gather together and allow the Holy Spirit to generate unity and love between us, we are better equipped to obey other commands. It becomes more evident Whom we follow.
Following Jesus is not only a prayer. It begins with a decision. It is accentuated with the declaration of the belief we carry in our heart for who He is. It is not “action over words,” it is words in action.