…In Following Jesus 1
by Sade Akanni
There are multitudes today that go to church, ignorant of what they are doing. They simply assume that they are followers of Jesus Christ without knowing the implications thereof and neither willing to pay the price of following. They attend church services, participate in church activities, give willingly and bountifully for God’s work and may even be bold in talking about their involvement in church work, but actually they have never touched nor encountered Jesus. Many are like Nicodemus in John 3, so committed to the work of the Lord yet without the experience of the salvation that Jesus gives. Nicodemus was a religious leader, a Pharisee in his time. He prayed at least three times daily, fasted twice a week, gave alms regularly, and he knew the Holy Scriptures at least from Genesis to Malachi. Who could ever think or say that such a person did not know God? Worse still, even Nicodemus himself never knew that he was not yet part of God’s kingdom. This happens in the church even today. Are you there, very religious and zealous to serve God, but without the knowledge of the Lord whom you think you are serving? You need to pay close attention to what God has to say here, so that your labour will not be in vain.
There are yet others who neither go to church nor care about the things of God. Just like the other group above, you are also outside the kingdom of God; you are an alien to the inheritance of God’s people. You need God’s intervention in your life so that you will not be lost eternally because following Jesus is a must for as many as desire to inherit the kingdom of God. But you cannot follow a man whom you have not known. Even though you may be familiar with information about Jesus, you must meet Him, if following Him will be meaningful and rewarding to you. Zacchaeus was a man in the Bible who desired to see and encounter Jesus (Lk 19: 1-10). He was very rich and might have been generous in giving even in the synagogue. But he knew that there was an emptiness within, because he had never met Jesus. He was not satisfied with his life.
When an opportunity came for him to see Jesus, just as it is coming to you today, he did not hesitate. Jesus was passing through Jericho where Zacchaeus lived, so he did something. He sought to see Jesus. He asked questions, he looked for the venue, the road where Jesus would pass and the time he would pass. That was a man like you, not an ordinary man but a rich man. But you, probably without your seeking to know Jesus, people have come to you with the message, the gospel of salvation to show you Jesus. Some have invited you to crusades and Christian programs where you could encounter Jesus. But what was your attitude? Did you not give excuses or even drive them away? You carelessly threw away divine and gracious opportunities to encounter Him who will change your life and make it right!
God is giving you another opportunity today, as you go through this article. Having fulfilment and satisfaction in life only comes when you personally meet Jesus as it happened to Zacchaeus.
The man Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus, but he could not because of the crowd; for he was little of stature. And usually there are two reasons why a man who desires to meet Jesus and be saved, may not be able to do so. These are the crowd and the person’s stature. As soon as you start taking steps to draw close to God to encounter Jesus, may you understand that there are people all around you, in fact a crowd, the seeming majority who will hinder you. They would discourage you by words or even by actions. Despite this, you must be willing to push them aside and press forward to meet Jesus. The other hindrance is your stature – and you know that a man’s stature is an in-built characteristic. Zacchaeus was short. That is actually the situation of every person born into the world. That is what sin brought to mankind.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’~ (Rom. 3:23)
Sin makes a man to be short in stature. It cuts him short of God’s glory. Are you living in sin? You are short … you are not up to standard…. You are not up to the level of people who experience God’s glory. That is why you need God’s intervention. What did Zaccheus do? “He ran ahead…”And you need to do the same. Run ahead of the crowd towards Jesus. Push away the crowd, and Jesus will not pass you by. “…and he climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him”. Zacchaeus saw a platform on which to stand in order to see Jesus, and he made use of it. The blood of Jesus has been shed for the remission of your sins, and it is by the blood that we have access into His presence (Heb. 10:19).
As Zacchaeus proceeded this way in eagerness to see Jesus, Jesus did not pass him by. When Jesus reached the place where he was, He called unto him and saved him. That encounter turned Zaccheaus’ life aright. He immediately opened up his life and confessed his sins to Jesus with all readiness to restore what he had stolen. That is what happens when a man meets the Lord. He will remove sin from your life and make you clean; you become a new born child of the Living God. Sin is the thing that separates man from God (Isa 59: 1-2) and God deals directly with this, when a man meets Jesus. Salvation that does not deliver you from sin is no salvation at all. The whole purpose of Christ coming into the world is to deliver and save us from our sins.
If you are willing, Jesus is there where you are. Bow down your heart to Him in prayer right now, confessing your sins and asking him to forgive you. Open your heart, your life and your house to Jesus and ask him to come in. He will change your life and make you a child of God. It is only then you can start following Him.
To follow Jesus simply means to come after Him, Jesus going in front while you come after Him. It means placing your feet where He put His own. Having thrown aside your will and your desires, you willingly embrace His own. It means becoming His disciple (His apprentice) having handed over your life to Him. It means going towards the same destination as Jesus, and therefore becoming like Him. It involves your spirit, your will, your mind, emotions, as well as your body. It involves your all.
It is not in vain that God points Jesus unto us to follow. His thoughts towards us are thoughts of peace, not of evil, to give us an expected end (Jer. 29: 11). Severally you hear God saying in the scriptures
“… This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt 17:5)
“… follow in his steps” (1Pet 2:21)
There is a reason for this. God’s overall purpose for every soul saved is seen clearly in the scripture.
“For whom he did fore know, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren”. (Rom 8:29)
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2: 11)
No man has ever seen God. In the days of old, God sent prophets to show man God’s way and to point God to man. He spoke in diverse manners and at sundry times in time past unto the fathers by the prophets. But in these last days, He has spoken unto us by his Son (Jesus Christ) whom He has appointed heir of all things. This Jesus is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person (Heb. 1:1-3). His lifestyle, behaviour, power, etc. shows exactly who God is. He came physically into the world in order to show us the Father. And he did the will of God from the beginning of his life to the end. Anything you do not understand about God, just look at the life of Jesus and it will be clearly shown to you. That is why he said,
“He that has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9)
Therefore God purposed that as many as He has predestined and called must be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you been called by God? Have you been saved? Are you born again? If you are, there is one important reason for your salvation: that you should be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that Jesus will not be the only son of God but that He will be the first born among many brethren. Furthermore God desires to work on our lives and mould us so much that when Jesus looks at us, He will not be ashamed to call us brethren. That is the grand purpose of God for as many as are born again, and that is why He commanded us to follow in His steps.
O child of God, you need to understand this because if you do, your attitude towards the way you handle your soul will change. You will not just be following the inclinations of your heart in your Christian life, but you will live to fulfil God’s purpose for your life. If you do otherwise, it may lead you into eternal shame. May that not happen to you in Jesus’ name. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. You were born again to be like Jesus, to follow His life style and His footsteps so that your life will be moulded to become like His.
There are many today who answer altar call to surrender their lives unto Jesus after hearing God’s word. But soon after that experience, they give a sigh of relief and go back to their old way of life. The new birth is nothing but the beginning of a completely new life, just as the birth of a new baby is just the beginning of his life in the world. As soon as a child is born, he faces the challenge to grow and go on in life.
As soon as a person is born again, he must be ready to face the challenge of spiritual growth, a process by which his life is moulded to be like Jesus. He must be willing to follow Jesus every step of the way; otherwise he may fall by the wayside. Becoming like Jesus involves following Him. It cannot take place in a day; neither does it happen by laying on of hands in prayer. It takes place by consistently looking at and unto Jesus, studying His lifestyle and following In His footsteps all the way till the end of your life. It involves maintaining a constant intimate relationship with Him. Once you lose touch with Jesus and are unable to see Him in your life again, the shaping of your life to become like Him also stops at that point. So it becomes necessary for us to wage war against whatever brings separation between Jesus and us.
To make the matter of becoming like Jesus possible, God decided to put His nature within us – the same nature that Jesus has. “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one …” of one stock, of one gene, of one Father. “…for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Whosoever is born of God has the seed of God, the nature of God remaining, dwelling in him (1 Jn. 3:9). That is what basically makes the difference between an unbeliever who is struggling to please God, and a man who has experienced the new birth. The one who is born of God has the basic ability to grow and become like Jesus, because he already has the gene, the seed, the nature of God, whereas a man who is not born again cannot see nor experience the life of Christ, neither can he become like Jesus no matter how much he struggles. Every child has the nature of his parents in him. He is born with it. That is why he grows to become like them. In the same way, every child of God has the nature of God in him, being born again not of corruptible seed, but by the incorruptible seed of the word of God. For this reason, he has the in-built ability to become like His heavenly Father if he grows. And so you must not only be born again, you must also grow. You must arise to follow Jesus in every step and situation of your life.
(To Be Continued…)