Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Christian or Christ-Follower?

by Gregory A. Johnson

Christian or Christ-Follower? by Gregory A. Johnson

I feel compelled to bring clarity to the confusion existing that is hindering Jesus' purpose for the church and its witness in our day. In the post-Christian culture we now live in, many are confused about being a Christian and being a  Christ-follower. There is a vast difference between the two.

There are Christians who do not follow Christ, and there are Christians who choose to follow Christ. Sadly, non-Christ-following Christians can do much damage to people inside and outside the church through their words and actions. 

In all my years of ministry, it has always been a joy to pastor Christ-following Christians. Still, I have discovered non-Christ-following Christians to be abusive in their words and actions, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the church to reach and make a difference in its community. 

The kingdom that Jesus revealed to us in his teachings and actions now live within his faithful followers. He builds his kingdom on earth through Christ-followers, continuing his point-of-need ministry, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and reflecting his life through their words and actions, just as he showed us. Sadly, few Christians today follow Christ.

A Christian who does not follow Christ decides to believe in Christ, the cross, and the resurrection of Christ but has decided against following Christ. Maybe they have counted the cost of what Jesus teaches his followers to do through his life, words, and actions, determining it just too costly. 

Perhaps it is too expensive for them to break from the human-made traditions of the church and the human-made denominations controlling what Jesus intended for his church under the disguise of leadership that looks nothing like the authentic-servanthood leadership that Jesus lived and taught. Or, maybe these Christians do not want to abandon their political affiliation, political upbringing, and political beliefs, which are not at all Christ-following. 

So, for whatever reason, there are some Christians who do not follow Christ. They may go to church. They may walk an aisle and repeat a sinner's prayer. They may follow Christ in water baptism, but for some reason, they stop there, and, sadly, they do not make Christ their Lord, and they do not follow him throughout their life.

What did Jesus say? After all, what he says is the most important. Here are a few words of Jesus:

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23 ESV).

"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:27-30 ESV).

And this is what Peter the Apostle, who gave up everything to follow Christ, says to all Christians: "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:21 ESV).

The church in America has chosen a politically appealing position. It has taken a backseat in loving ALL people and being the driving force behind social justice in their communities, bringing equality to All people. When Jesus walked this earth, he was the driving force for social change, with both his words and his actions, loving people along the way. Jesus has not changed. He expects the same today from ALL who follow him.

God is not a Republican, and God is not a Democrat. Neither is his kingdom. The church in America has done much damage by believing the kingdom is either one party or the other, and convincing others of the same. If the church in America will simply follow Christ, we will see revival, renewal, and social justice for ALL people in every community.

Jesus gives a warning and says, "Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone" (Luke 11:42 NIV).

I am for justice—race equality, gender equality, health equality, economic equality—the social justice that Jesus reveals to his followers through his life, words, and actions. I am not only Christian, believing in Christ, the cross, and the resurrection, following Christ in water baptism; I am a Christ-follower, loving God, and ALL people, being a driving force for social justice in our day through my words and actions. 

Some Christians are pro-birth only, but not pro-life after birth for ALL people. Faithful Christ-followers are pro-life for ALL people and not just pro-birth. I follow Christ in being pro-life, from the womb to the tomb, and not just pro-birth. 

Please know that a Christ-follower’s goal is not to find his or her own way, or to follow church tradition, or to follow denominational nonsense, or to follow a political party’s direction. A Christ-follower fixes his or her eyes on Jesus and faithfully follows him in their words and actions. 

Beloved, Jesus is our guide. Jesus is our destination. Jesus is the one we follow, and he will welcome us home when we cross the finish line. 

I pray, God, help us. God, help the church in America. God, help Christians become Christ-Followers in our day. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!

Friend, if you allow him, Jesus will give you the power, the strength, and the courage to always take a stand for him, for social justice, and love, with your words and your actions, in your church, in your workplace, in your school, and your community.

I pray for a mighty baptism of Jesus' presence to consume your life, breaking any religious and political stronghold that holds you captive, controlling your thoughts and actions. May you be set free in Jesus’ name! 

Jesus says, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36 ESV).    

Know that you are loved,

PLAY today’s video teaching from Pastor Greg