They’re basic, yet somehow, we often manage to lose sight of them. So here are some reminders.
When I was a teenager and people would ask, "Are you a Christian?" I almost instantly say yes. I was 15, had a Christian mother, went to church, had a Bible, ate apple pie, believed in God, and was part of my youth group. But was I a real follower of Jesus Christ? No way. I didn't know a personal relationship with Jesus—the God of the universe—was even possible.
We need to help all understand that being a Christ-follower is not just a title or label. It is something you are and something you do. You believe in Jesus, so you follow Jesus. Wherever He leads.
So maybe a re-definition is in order. Could it be that a real Christian is someone who is truly following Jesus? Not in sinless perfection, of course, but overall living out of love for Him Who first loved us?
Yes, I'm involved with my church, helping others through my writing and speaking, etc. But what am I most involved in? One word. Jesus. I am into Jesus. No other tag, title or license comes close to competing.
So, don't let the "extra stuff" that our culture of spirituality promotes dominate you — the stuff many of us do (if truth be told) at least partly to show others or ourselves how pious we are. God in the flesh never tried to impress anyone by playing their religious games. Why should we? Give me the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ. No more. No less.
Jesus meant to make the complicated simple. He wanted to cut through all the rules and regulations to get to the relationship, purposely putting all the goodies down on the bottom shelf where anyone could have the chance to understand and embrace Him. And His message? Two words:
Being a Jesus-follower is an invitation to be a close friend and companion with the creator of the cosmos. Many so-called Christians strive to live religious lives out of the "ought to" rather than experiencing the freedom of following Christ out of the "want to."
Besides the fact that God chose me, here are six reasons why I choose to be a follower of Jesus.
1. I'm addicted to the love of God.
I've used drugs and just about every other artificial high but I can tell you that the unconditional love of God is the greatest high there could ever be. Once you've had it you can't get enough of it — and best of all (unlike drugs), it's 100 percent real.
To be able to truly say: "I like being with you — in your presence; it brings me pleasure" is just about the biggest compliment you can pay anyone. Being in a relationship with Jesus is a two-way street. He enjoys you, and He wants you to enjoy Him.
Be still and drink deep from the delightful well of His endless love. There are some good addictions, and this is one of them.
2. He has changed my life.
I remember all too well what my life was like before Christ, and I don't want to go back to the emptiness I saw in my own soul and others.
I believe the rebellious, disaffected person can be a lot closer to the kingdom than the good moral person who deep down thinks they are good enough to get into heaven.
Me? I was desperate and therefore took desperate measures. I accepted the love of God. The payoff? Jesus Christ transformed my life — forever.
3. I don't want to go to hell.
More importantly, and more to the point, I want to go to heaven to be with Jesus. Ultimately God gives us what we choose. If we choose to live a life separate from Christ on earth, that is what He will give us for all eternity. I can think of nothing worse. I can't wait to be able to hang out daily with Jesus!
4. I have a reason to wake up every morning.
As a young man, I remember waking up one morning thinking I must be the loneliest young man in all of Canada. Oh, I had most of the stuff, was chasing my dream. But all the time, money and energies I was pouring into those pursuits did not give me the "kick" I was looking for.
It wasn't until I said yes to Christ, that I found a real, lasting reason to wake up each morning. My life is not a bed of roses all the time, but at least I know what my mission is each day: To love Jesus and be loved by Him and to share that love with others.
5. I can overcome my failings and weaknesses.
I have no way of conquering the sin in my life. I tried and tried, but to no avail. I turned over so many leaves in my life I looked like Sherwood Forest! I realized I couldn’t change in my own power.
But Jesus has the power!
A regular prayer of mine, "Lord, I can't—but then You never said I could. Lord, You can—and You always said You would."
Surrender. Become a follower of Jesus, and He will set you free. Religion does not have that power. Only Jesus has that power.
6. Truth is very difficult to run from.
I have studied the other religions. None have a Jesus. None have a perfect God-man who died for our sins and rose from the dead. None have a salvation by grace through faith alone as the way to heaven.
The others are all about working hard to be good enough. But how much is good enough? What about when you slip — do you lose your salvation? Other religions, cults and works-oriented "Christian" groups have taken the truth and twisted it.
I don't want to look back on my life and realize I based it on a lie. I ran from God and His truth long enough. Now, I'm running toward Him.
In the final analysis, the Christian life is not about me. It's about God and bringing glory to Him. His job is not to follow me around to fulfill my every wish. His desire is for me to set aside my own agenda for His. In fact, Jesus boils down our existence on this planet to two words: