Would you define yourself as a Christian? If so, I have a question for you: Why are you a Christian?
Are you not a Christian? I have a question for you too: Why should you follow Jesus?
Most of us who follow Jesus do so because we believe He's the "only way to the Father" (John 14:6). In short, He's the one sent from God who would die for our sins, though He never sinned, so we could have eternal life. That seems to be God's big game plan in the Bible, so that's what we follow. Jesus is our scapegoat, the one who took the blame for us; therefore, we follow Him.
Although we may not describe it as such, we’re following Jesus because of what He has done for us, and what He promised to do for us in the future - give us eternal life in Heaven.
But there's a big issue here: Jesus doesn't want to be followed because of what He does. There was a spiritual leader named Nicodemus who came to Jesus in John 3, saying that they all knew He was a teacher from God because of the miracles He performed. Jesus' long answer to Nicodemus was an attempt to refocus his attention from what Jesus did to who Jesus is. And Jesus starts His response to him in John 3:3 with, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Wait. Nicodemus wasn't talking about the Kingdom of God; he was talking about the miracles Jesus performed. It's as if Jesus knew that Nicodemus desired to have a relationship with Him, but because of what He did, not for who He was. So Jesus begins to explain that He's the promised Messiah, not a prophetic magician.
Erwin McManus, the founder and pastor of Mosaic in LA, shared an Instagram post about his friend and music superstar, Usher. He said, "Thank you for wanting to know me as a person and not as a personality." I feel like that's what Jesus is trying to get at with Nicodemus. I want you to know me as a person, not a personality.
We have to follow Jesus for who He is. When he says, Follow Me, it’s an invitation to mold our lives after His, our character after His, our being after His - to walk in the beauty of who He was, not just what He did.
I think we have a false illusion of the gospel’s climax. Our human nature desires an action to justify heroism, so Jesus’ death and resurrection serve as that heroic action for us. He was our scapegoat, and then He did what no one else could do: He came back from the dead. And that makes him the ultimate hero, so we claim His name. We’re proud to be Christians.
But the real climax of the gospel isn’t what Jesus did, but who He was. The climax is in the ordinary - the grace He extended, the compassion He felt, the generosity He gave, the humility He showed, the passion He followed, the integrity He maintained, the fullness of life He lived. The cross is not the climax of the gospel; the empty tomb is not the climax of the gospel. Jesus Himself is the climax of the gospel.
So let me ask you again: Why are you a Christian? Why are you following Jesus, really? Why should you follow Jesus, really?
He's more than the miracles He performed. He's more than His powerful teaching. He's more than His sacrificial death. He's more than His supernatural resurrection. He is loving, full of joy, the presence of peace, always patient, kind, genuinely good, unwaveringly faithful, gentle in spirit, and consistently self-controlled. He perfectly embodies the fruit of the Spirit and is the full expression of a God-filled, limitless life. He is the only person worth molding your life after. He is the only person worth abandoning yourself in full pursuit of who He is. Who He is is more than enough reason to follow Him. In fact, it needs to be the only reason.
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