It is strange to me that the Christian community has wandered so far from the simplicity of Jesus’ message. Nowhere in Scripture do I read that Jesus instructed us to “receive Him into our hearts”, to sign a decision card or to answer an altar call, leave alone pray the “sinner’s prayer” or even follow the “Four Spiritual Laws.” I am not knocking these things, only questioning the legitimacy of them against Jesus’ simple invitation, “Follow me”.
He made it clear, throughout His ministry, that He came to reveal the Father. His invitation, “Follow me” implies that if we stick close to Him, watch what He does, hear what He says and absorb who He is until we are convinced that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and believe in Him, then He will take us to the Father. His death reconciled us to God, removing all obstacles to our living as beloved sons. As we watch and listen to Him, we learn how to live as sons by following His example.
The church (i.e. theologians, leaders and preachers) has, over the centuries, buried this simple life under layers of theology and religious requirements until the Christian is burdened with a yoke that is opposite to the yoke Jesus invited us to wear with Him.
Jesus was a rabbi, trained in the rabbi school of His day, the Beth Talmid. Upon graduation it was His right to determine the yoke He would place on His followers. Other rabbis chose the yoke of the Law, weighing the people down with a lifestyle of religion, legalism and prohibitions which was bondage and missed the heart of God.
Since Jesus’ is the Son of God and since His primary purpose is to show His people what the Father is really like, He treated everyone with love, mercy and generosity. The religious leaders hated Him because He showed up their hypocrisy and challenged their interpretation of the Torah.
He preferred the company of the ones they regarded as “scum”. He loved them, He ate with them (implying that He had no issues with them), He laughed and cried with them, He chose His disciples from among them and He turned everything that the scribes and Pharisees taught on its head.
Even when Peter had messed up, all that mattered to Jesus was, “Simon, do you love me?” Only love for Jesus would carry him through dark days of persecution, deprivation and hardship for His sake. “If you love me, Peter, then follow me.” Peter would have to face a horrible death for Jesus’ sake. Nothing but passionate love for Jesus and the trust that was born out of love, would carry him through to the end. That’s what following Jesus means.
Jesus is not looking for recruits for a cause or votes for a political candidate. He is seeking passionate lovers and faithful followers, imitators who do what He does, say what He says and stick by Him through thick and thin because that’s what He does for us. He issues only one command, “Follow me,” and everything else flows from it. He is the perfect example of a perfect son. He is calling us to be sons like Him.