Christ Follower – It’s All About Following Jesus
Am I a true Christ follower? As a self-professed Christian, am I really a born again child of God, or am I one of the many people who attend church, live a pretty good life, and know enough about God and the Bible to uphold my end of a conversation about spiritual things.
Christ Follower – A True Desire to Serve God
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof method to determine whether someone is a true Christ follower, for indeed only God knows the heart of any individual. However, after many years of seeking God and the truth found in His inspired Word, I have come to the conclusion that there is one definitive desire that lies in the heart of every true believer -- the desire to serve and please God with one’s life.
Notice that I did not say that the individual would necessarily be living such a life, but the desire will be there. Let me say it another way -- any person claiming to be a child of God who does not have the desire in his or her heart to obey, serve, and please God has either never experienced true conversion or is in a state of spiritual infancy. If you, the reader of this article, do not have such a desire to live a life of love, obedience, and service to God, then please examine your own relationship with Him. There is no Scripture that indicates a person can be a true child of God while having no desire to please Him with one's life. It is perhaps those who only go through the motions without having a personal relationship with Christ that Jesus is addressing in this passage found in Matthew.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'’" (Matthew 7:21-23).
Please understand the intent here -- it is not to go around trying to evaluate if every person you meet is truly born again or if he or she is just "playing the game." The purpose is to help you, the reader, come to grips with this all-important issue of your desire to serve God. I strongly suspect that since you are reading this article, you have such a desire. I also suspect that you, like most believers, are dissatisfied with your current fulfillment of that desire and are searching for answers on how to be more successful in this important part of your spiritual life.
If this describes you, then the principles discussed in this website will enlighten and encourage you while at the same time it may frighten and cause you some degree of distress. This is just how God's Word works. First, it will convict and chasten us, then it will instruct us in truth and righteousness, and finally it will challenge us to its application. For those desiring to please God, it is this final step that brings what Henry Blackaby (author of the study, Experiencing God) calls "a crisis of faith" into our lives. It is then that we show what we truly believe about God and His promises. It is not in the understanding of God's will, but in its application that this "crisis" comes. "Will I apply what I know the Word teaches?" "Will I do what I believe God is calling me to do?" "Will I step out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus?”
Christ Follower – A Full-Time Calling
I believe every true Christ follower wants to walk on the water with Jesus. What I mean by this is simply that we have a desire to live in a daily relationship with our Lord. We want to serve Him faithfully, to trust Him implicitly, and to please Him continuously. Understand that the application of God's will looks different for each believer. Some may sense that God is calling them to the position of pastor. Others may believe they are being called to the mission field. Still others are perhaps sensing the call to a teaching ministry or a music ministry. These are callings that man usually refers to as the full-time Christian ministries. By this we mean that these positions are not only the way a person serves God, but also the way the person earns his income. While this may be true, it is my firm conviction that, just as God never calls anyone to be a part-time Christian, neither does He expect a person to be a part-time servant or have a part-time desire to please Him. Every believer is called to Christian service with the expectation that there will be a full-time desire to please God.
Let's take Paul for example. He was a tentmaker. He did this because he did not want to be financially dependent on the churches to which he was ministering. In this way no one could accuse Paul of "being in it for the money." I do not think any of us believe that Paul was only committed to God on a part-time basis or that his secular vocation was what defined him. I am sure if you met Paul on the road and asked him what kind of work he was in, Paul would not have replied, "I'm in manufacturing and sales." That may have been the way Paul earned a living, but I feel certain Paul's reply would have been more along the line of, "I am a servant of the Most High God!" This is what defined Paul; this was his full-time calling!
This means that growing as a Christ follower is not just for those who are being called to a position that allows them to earn their income through the ministry of the gospel. It means this article is for every born-again believer who has the desire to serve and please God, regardless of how they earn a living. Being "Free to Serve God" is not a concept for a select few. It is the heart cry of every Christian desiring to live a life surrendered to God, of every person seeking meaning and purpose in life, and of every child of God who longs to one day hear "Well done, good and faithful servant…enter now into the joy of your Lord!" It is the expectation of God that every one of His children learn how to live free to serve Him.
Christ Follower – Spiritual Growth
A final thought on spiritual maturity for those desiring to be Christ followers. A person who is a new believer is called a "babe in Christ," a term comparing that person's level of spiritual maturity to the level of physical maturity of a newly born infant. After a person becomes a Christian, there is not a miracle of instantaneous spiritual maturity, just as a newborn infant does not instantaneously mature into a physical adult. Time must pass and growth must occur in both cases before a degree of maturity is achieved. There may certainly be a period of time after conversion before a believer will be able to acknowledge and identify that inward longing and desire to serve and please God. While I believe the knowledge that we are to love, serve, and obey God is immediately placed within our hearts at conversion by the Spirit to help us begin our path toward spiritual maturity, there will usually be a time later in one's life when that desire can be understood and verbalized for what it truly is. It is at this point of spiritual maturity, the point of acknowledging our desire to live a life pleasing to God, that our struggle for freedom to serve Him truly begins.
There is a verse in the Old Testament Book of 2 Chronicles that has always spoken to my heart.
"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. . ." (2 Chronicles 16:9).
I want to be such a Christ follower. That is my heartfelt desire. I sincerely hope that this is also your desire!
Rendered with permission from the booklet, Free to Serve God: 7 Principles Every Believer Should Know, by James O. Jones, Jr. (Light of Life Ministry, revised printing 2009). Compliments of James O. Jones, Jr., and Light of Life Ministry. All rights reserved in the original.
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