Follower of Jesus (Part 2)

When I speak at a conference or workshop, I normally introduce myself as a ‘Follower of Jesus’. I recently wrote a blog post (Follower of Jesus (Part 1)) about what that phrase means. For me, a follower of Jesus is someone who makes a decision to live their life differently, with Jesus as the focus and purpose of their life.

In the blog post I made the point that following Jesus is a daily decision. I try to make that decision each day before getting out of bed. ‘Today,’ is my prayer, ‘I choose to follow you.’ But following Jesus is much more than that.

When I was at school I was a bit of a day-dreamer. I found it hard to concentrate in the classroom. There was always somewhere else I would have preferred to be. Something else I wanted to be doing.

Nowadays, as a Christian, I try to live my life in Communion with Christ. I want him to be part of everything – of my whole life. That might sound like a rather grand claim, but it’s actually true. I’m not saying I’m good at it. I’m really not. I am a work in progress. Part of me is still the day-dreamer – I’m easily distracted. I’m just saying that the desire to be in that relationship with God is part of who I am. It’s about actively trying to put Him at the centre of my life. All of my life. I want him to be part of my decision making. I want him to be part of my relationship with my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my neighbours and everyone else. I want him to be part of who I am.

Pope Francis wrote a homily about the centrality of Christ in all things.

‘Christ is at the centre, Christ is the centre[1]

Keeping Him in the centre doesn’t just happen. In every relationship there is more than one person. In my relationship with God, there’s Him, and there’s me. The day dreamer. One of the great themes of Scripture is the call to ‘return to God’[2]. Again and again He calls Israel to return to Him. The point being, God hasn’t moved at all. His people have moved away from Him. He calls them – he calls us, to return. The Apostle James says to us all:

‘Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you.’ (James 4:8)

I have this sense that each day, I start with the best of intention of following Jesus, of being close to him, of serving him, of loving Him with all my heart and soul and mind and strength[3]. Yet most days, there are things which tend to pull me slightly off target. Maybe something makes me angry. Perhaps I notice something which I want but haven’t got. I suddenly feel that something or someone lets me down. I find myself dwelling on something from the past for which I have been forgiven or for which I thought I had forgiven someone else. Sometimes I just find I’ve been day-dreaming in an unhelpful direction. These things just happen – they edge us away from where I want to be – in the presence of God.

The good thing is that the love of God is greater than I can describe. His compassion is endless and his forgiveness is eternal. Like the day dreaming student I find myself missing the point. I can miss the opportunities to serve. I can miss the prompt. I can fail to notice His intervention or provision. I fall short.  

Each time I acknowledge that I have fallen short, he welcomes me back. Like the teacher who smiles at the day dreaming student and encourages them back into the path of learning. Everyone falls short. Let’s move on. Follow me.

So, I learn, day by day is not enough. Hour by hour, incident by incident, I have to consciously put God back in the space where He belongs. At the centre. That’s the context of my life and my ministry. That’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Richard Jackson is the Director of LifePicture UK. He is exploring life as a contemplative evangelical.

[1] Pope Francis Homilies – Christ the King

[2] Eg Malachi 3:7

[3] Mark 12:30

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