In my life, and especially in my Christian life I’ve had a lot of conversations that revolve around Christianity. I’ve, way too often, had conversations that don’t glorify God or impart grace to the hearer but I’m thankful that God is growing me to understand Him better and He continues to refine me.
I’ve thought back on a conversation that I had years ago that involved following Christ and Christ-likeness. It’s an interesting conversation and one that goes like this. “I’ve been told before that you should strive not to just follow Christ but to be like Christ.” I’ve given this some thought over the years and I sort of get where this is going and you know what? I agree. We should strive to be like Christ.
However we need to back up for a moment. We can’t strive to be like Christ unless we have first followed Him, because outside of God’s regenerating work nobody would ever desire to be like Christ, in fact, the bible tells us they won’t even truly follow Him.
And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. – Mark 1:16-18
The Lord Jesus Christ did not tell Peter and Andrew to become like Him, He said “Follow Me…” and so we see this pattern repeated in the gospel accounts.
Mark 8:34 …”Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
This is interesting, because now we see that following Christ is expensive. It costs us something. It means picking up a cross and denying ourselves. Immediately this thins the crowd doesn’t it?
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Matthew 19:21-22
Very expensive indeed for this young man… In fact, more than he was willing to pay.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25
Apparently following Christ will now cost you your life, all your possessions, your nets, and force you to pick up and carry a cross. How many people are still in?
These didn’t seem to care for the cost either.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:58-62
And let us not forget that the world will think we are crazy if we decide to follow Christ, because He has some pretty extreme demands.
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. – John 6:54
…”Does this offend you?” – John 6:61
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. – John 6:66
So before you tell someone to be more Christ like, we better first find out if they are willing to follow Him, then we’ll get to the tough stuff. More on that next time.