4 Basic Things That Are Essential to Following Jesus

It's about that time of year again.

But what is usually a time of excitement and anticipation for the start of a new season... is currently a time of uncertainty and anxiety as the MLB and the MLBPA continue to try and reach an agreement that won't delay the start of the season.

Nevertheless, it's still a time of preparation. And so, as you guys are getting ready for the start of a new season and a new set of opportunities to impact the guys around you, we wanted to share a probing question that ought to challenge every follower of Jesus.      

It’s a hypothetical question.

Here it is…

If you were put on trial in a court of law because you were being accused of being a follower of Jesus, what evidence would your accusers be able to present before the court in order to convict you of this so-called crime?

Think about that.

What are things that you would have to be doing or what characteristics would you have to be exhibiting in order for there to be enough evidence to be declared “guilty” of being a follower of Jesus?

Now, just so we’re on the same page here… I’m not asking that question in order to talk about actual situations where this might happen. I’m not trying to bring up the persecution of Christians or the reality of Christianity being illegal in certain countries or anything like that.

It’s just a hypothetical question.

I’m just trying to get us to think.

What are the basic things that we must be practicing and exhibiting in our daily rhythm of life in order for our teammates and others to clearly recognize that we are a follower of Jesus?

That's what I want to talk about.

I’d like to give us four basic things that are essential to following Jesus. And these four things are taken directly from a book that I am currently reading for the second time titled, Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser (an excellent book on what discipleship to Jesus looks like during our 30s, 40s, and 50s).  

According to Rolheiser, “a healthy following of Christ will rest on these four foundational pillars”.

Let’s look at them real quick:

1. Private Prayer and Private Integrity

It is only fitting that we start here. Jesus teaches us that “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6).

There’s so much I’d love to say here (and I will in future posts) but one of the most basic things to being a follower of Jesus is to cultivate an intimate relationship with God (in private) and to do so with integrity by reorganizing your entire life around the life and teaching of Jesus.

And so, at the most basic level, a follower of Jesus is someone who is pursuing intimacy with God and integrity in the way that he/she lives out their allegiance to him. As Rolheiser puts it, “Our prayer is honest only when our lives back it up.”

2. Charity and Justice

Many of us get nervous when Christians start talking about justice because social justice has political and economic implications, and it always seems to get intertwined with problematic political and social ideologies. Fair enough. But we must resist the error and the temptation to just throw away concerns for social justice altogether.  

Jesus consistently emphasized the necessity of caring for the poor, the sick, the foreigner and the marginalized. So yes, followers of Jesus should be generous people who give graciously to take care of those in need. However — and this is important — Jesus calls us to also go above and beyond charity and to do what we can to seek justice for the poor and marginalized as well.

This means that a follower of Jesus is someone who gives generously to the poor AND who actively seeks ways to correct the social, political and economic structures that create poverty and that systematize injustice (this comes to mind).

3. Involvement within a Church Community

Simply put… following Jesus is not something that we were intended to do on our own. The invitation from Jesus is for us to join him and his “group” (aka. his church, his body, his family, his new people, his new humanity, his kingdom of priests, etc).

The day that we decided to follow Jesus is the day that we became an adopted member of a new family. A family that is on this journey together to live for God, to love one another and to serve the world. Those in the clubhouse ought to recognize this in the way that they view the "chapel guys" on their team.  

And so, a follower of Jesus is someone who is living and participating in a community with other followers of Jesus — praying together, worshipping together, learning together, sharing their lives together and working together to serve those in need around them.

4. Forgiveness and Mellowness of Heart

This is important.

After teaching his disciples what we know as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus immediately adds a footnote to the part where we are supposed to ask God to “forgive us of our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

At the end of the prayer, Jesus adds this strong warning…

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

Comparing some in the church to the older brother in the prodigal son story, Rolheiser puts it this way, “We can be scrupulously faithful and still find ourselves standing outside of God’s house and outside the circle of community and celebration because of a bitter heart.”

You see, there’s a super important lesson here.

It’s one that we need to make sure we get.

Here it is…

Following Jesus is just as much about having a gracious and forgiving heart as it is about believing and doing the right things.

We must not minimize this.

We must not write this off.

We must not allow ourselves to make excuses for our lingering bitterness, anger and resentment towards others.

As hard as it may be, a follower of Jesus is someone who makes a consistent effort to show kindness and to extend forgiveness to everyone — including our enemies (and especially that person or “those people” that you might be thinking of right now as you’re reading this).

This last one really hits home for me.

Which of these four stands out to you?

Just to recap. A follower of Jesus is someone who…

  1. is pursuing intimacy with God and integrity in the way that he/she lives out their allegiance to him.
  2. gives generously to the poor AND who actively seeks to correct the social, political and economic structures that create poverty and that systematize injustice.
  3. is living and participating in a community with other followers of Jesus — praying together, worshipping together, learning together, sharing their lives together and working together to serve those in need around them.
  4. makes a consistent effort to show kindness and to extend forgiveness to everyone

Now there is much more that we could say about each of these.

But this is a good place to start.

And maybe you’d like to add a few more things to this list.

That’s great too.

I’m not trying to create a four-step process or some kind of checklist for following Jesus. I just wanted to get us thinking about these four things that are essential for any disciple of Jesus.

And so, with these things in mind, let’s finish how we started…    

If you were put on trial in a court of law, would your accusers have enough evidence from your life to convict you of being a follower of Jesus?

Something to think about.

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