Nine years ago in my early twenties, I would have laughed at the person who’d predict that I’d be an unashamed, enthusiastic, passionate follower of Jesus Christ. Before placing saving faith in Christ as my Lord and Savior, I cherished independence, my sinful lifestyle and pleasures, and everything the world had to offer me without repercussion.
When I put my faith in Jesus Christ, my heart changed dramatically, but it wasn’t until I opened my Bible that I understood what it meant to follow him.
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus repeatedly commands, “Follow me.” While most of these instances specifically called the 12 men who would become his disciples (Matthew 10:3–4), other cases show Jesus was calling anyone throughout the ages who wanted what he had to offer them (John 3:16; Mark 8:34).
The same words personally invite us today: “Follow me.” But this invitation goes beyond adapting new habits, embracing Christian beliefs, and living moral lives. The Scriptures give ample evidence of what we should consider.
Before you follow Jesus, reflect on these 10 important considerations:
1. Be willing to obey and submit.
Following Jesus does not mean you live independently from his example and instruction. Christ’s followers trustfully obey and submit to his will by faith, even when it exceeds understanding. “Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23).
2. Be prepared to endure hardship.
Are you prepared to endure hardship for Christ’s cause? Following Jesus means hardship is not only a possibility, but a guarantee. But James 1:12 explains, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” As we endure hardship, we can be assured of Christ’s provision for it: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
3. Be ready to see the ugliness of your sin.
Walking with Jesus Christ means seeing the sin he reveals, confronting it, and asking for forgiveness. You will continue to fall short daily, and that can be frustrating for believers who assume that following Christ is equivalent to perfection. As you still succumb to temptations and earthly pleasures, you will find that having a new heart means you have a new awareness and sensitivity to sin when you never did before. But take heart, friend. Christ’s perfect sacrifice has covered us from condemnation, and he will supply you with the strength you need to flee from sin.
4. Know that the world will not always accept you.
When you truly know Jesus Christ, it’s hard to fathom how others won’t receive him and his followers. But Jesus doesn’t shield us from this sobering reality: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18, NIV). If the world is not walking with him, they are fighting against him. Therefore, as his follower, you will find yourself in similar situations of persecution, misunderstanding, condemnation, unacceptance, hostility, and oppression. Amongst the world’s antagonism, cling to what Peter and the apostles acknowledged in Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than men.”
5. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone.
Christians are called to seek justice, defend the helpless, and serve the poor. None of these commands can be accomplished by sitting quietly in your home. Whether you are comfortable with the Lord’s commands or not, you will be challenged to speak up when you’re scared, intimidated, or uncomfortable. Jesus isn’t saying you must be full of doctrinal knowledge or a spiritual superstar to do these things; no, Jesus calls us to a willing and obedient heart that follows wherever he leads.
6. Prepare to be held accountable.
Through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross, and by faith in him, your sins have been cleared from your record. But this doesn’t mean you have freedom to take Christ’s sacrifice for granted and continue sinning. You will still stand before God’s judgment seat, giving an account of your actions to him (Romans 14:12). Not only must you remain accountable to God, but to others in the body of Christ. Accountability seems intimidating, but it is a gift from God to help us walk the right path.
7. Accept him at his word.
Your limited humanity means you will not always understand God’s sovereignty. You will question why he allows suffering, where he is in the silence, and why your prayers seemingly go unanswered. But you have not been instructed to fully understand; you are to walk by faith, acknowledging that his ways are higher than yours, and that his thoughts are greater than yours (Isaiah 55:9).
8. Leave things behind.
Ephesians 4 tells us to no longer walk how we used to (v. 17) because our understanding was darkened, we were excluded from God, we were ignorant, and our hearts were hardened (v. 18). But we don’t know Christ in this way anymore (v. 20), because we have heard his truth and listened (v. 21). Therefore, we are to put aside our old self, prior to knowing Christ, and to put on our new self, which is now in the likeness of God (v. 24). Faith in Christ demands a radical change in your lifestyle from the way you once behaved. It may mean removing yourself from people or situations that ultimately do not glorify God, and this can be challenging.
9. Expect to be humbled.
Philippians 2 tells us that followers of Christ do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but humbly count others more significant than themselves (v. 3) and look to the interests of others (v. 4). Christians are to walk humbly because Christ himself did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant (vv. 6-8). Boasting in our weakness (2 Corinthians 11:30) seems counterintuitive to our culture, but it is our duty as Christ-followers.
10. Prepare to love.
At first glance, this final consideration sounds easily achievable. But in loving as Christ did, this means you cannot be selective about who you love. Following Jesus means loving without condition. But don’t be confused: Loving here means loving in action, not feelings. You may not be able to feel love for your obnoxious neighbor or spiteful relative, but you are still commanded to love them. John 13:34-35 spells this out: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” By loving others in spite of their sin, the world will see something different in you—and that beautiful difference is that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, unconditionally loved by him through his gospel of grace.
Are there any other considerations you could add to this list?
PS: My testimony on how I’ve moved past the fear of not becoming a mother is featured in Colin Smith’s booklet, “Women of Faith in a Culture of Fear.” Colin brought this booklet to the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Indianapolis this past June. It’s been written to help women face their fears and grow as women of faith. It interweaves reflections on Scripture with testimonies from women who have struggled with fear and have gained some insights on living with faith. The booklet is available for $3 download or $5 hard copy. Grab your copy now! [Non-affiliate links]
I wrote this article originally for Unlocking the Bible on 8.1.16. ©Unlocking the Bible. Used with permission. www.unlockingthebible.org. Unlocking the Bible is the Gospel-centered teaching of Pastor Colin Smith (Senior Pastor of The Orchard in Chicago, IL). The ministry challenges listeners to believe that their lives can be transformed by ‘The Power of the Open Book’ through consistent study of the Bible and a deepening faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.