Following Jesus

One way to think of a Christian is as someone who has responded to the Good News – or Gospel – that Jesus taught. What is that Good News? It is about something he called “the Kingdom of God” – the state of affairs where things are done in the way the Creator intended. Jesus said that this Kingdom came into the world in a special way when God sent him into the world – in effect, that he was the King of this Kingdom

So what is the Good News of “the Kingdom”? That God in love has not given up on our world, with all its hurt and folly and wars. Rather, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, God is at work to put things to rights, to shape a world where all pain and self-centeredness is done away with. And God invites human beings everywhere to be part of this new thing he is doing in the world.

How do you become a follower of Jesus, then? Jesus used two old-fashioned-sounding words to describe it: “Repent” and “believe.” Repent means to turn away from one thing, and believe means to turn towards something else – a 180 degree change, as if we set off walking west and then turned right around and start heading east. Another word for turning around like this is conversion. For some people, that turning around is sudden, but for others it takes a long time.

So what does that journey in a new direction look like? As you might expect, it means a complete change of view. (After all, if you were heading west, you would have been walking towards the sunset; now, facing east, you’re heading towards the sunrise.) Before, it meant I was living my life as though it belonged to me. Now I realize that it is a gift from the Creator.

Before, it meant setting the priorities of my life according to what I thought was important. Now it means learning what God’s priorities for my life are. Before, I could be as selfish as I wanted to be. Now I am learning to serve God and others. The changes are huge.

Does that sound difficult? Well, yes, Jesus never said it would be easy: He was very clear that in some ways it would feel like a death, and any experienced Christian will tell you that following him is often difficult. But the good news is that in following Jesus, you are actually learning to follow the Creator’s way, which means you’re learning to live your life with the grain of the universe, not against it.

And in the end that means experiencing what Jesus called “life in all its fullness” – becoming the person that you were created to be, and doing what you were made to do – and in the company of the God who made you and who loves you.

(Excerpted from an article published in October, 2011 by John Bowen, who has been associated with the Institute of Evangelism at Wycliffe College since 1997, and has been the Director since 1999. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree from McMaster University.)