If there was one message spoken by the Lord Jesus during His earthly sojourn, it was the message, “Follow Me.” When He was calling those fishermen to become His disciples and eventually apostles, He said to them, “Follow Me.” When He approached the seat of customs where Levi worked, He said, “Follow Me.” And to many others, including you and me, the Lord Jesus Christ issues His call to follow Him. But what does that mean? How do we understand this?
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”—Mark 8:34
I was looking through a storage area I use for books the other day, when I spotted an old book—the name of which, I have heard many times, but have never read. It caught my attention, so I grabbed it and brought it into my office. The name of the book is In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. My copy is from 1937, but it had already sold 20 million copies. It is based on 1 Peter 2:21: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”
The book is fiction, and begins with a pastor in a small town, with a comfortable congregation—well to do and very complacent. He is well respected and serious about his ministry. As he is working on his Sunday sermon, he is interrupted by an out of work man, looking for work. The pastor says he is unable to help him, but does try to encourage him some.
The next Sunday, at the close of his message—which was from 1 Peter 2:21 a voice spoke up from the rear of the church. It was this same man, who then made his way to the front of the church and began to speak. Because the pastor had already met him, he didn’t stop him. The man spoke quietly and shared his story of losing his job because of new technology, the struggle to find something else, a wife who had died recently and a daughter who was staying with friends while he searched for work. Then he referred to the pastor’s message on the words of Jesus to follow Him.
“But I was wondering, as I sat there under the gallery, if what you call following Jesus is the same thing as what He taught. What did He mean when He said, ‘Follow Me’?” The man went on to describe his life and how as he sought employment, he had spoken to many of the people in that congregation and wondered what they meant when they thought of following Jesus.
As the story progresses, the man collapses there in front of the congregation. He is obviously very sick. He is taken to the home of the pastor and cared for, but dies before the week is over. The pastor, so stirred by these events, challenges himself and his people to commit for one year, to do nothing without first considering: “What would Jesus do?”
We thought that saying was just a trend a few years back, but it is a powerful thought. The rest of the story follows several people whose lives are dramatically changed by their commitment—and the lives of some who decided not to follow Jesus. I could hardly put the book down.
Reading the book has given me much to think about in my own life, values, words and actions. But one thing that is necessary, if we are to determine to follow the Lord and “follow His steps” is that we must learn more about Jesus’ perspective. That is, I must grow close enough to the Lord that I begin to see my life and this world through His eyes, with His divine perspective.
So much of our paradigm is shaped, not by Jesus Christ or by the Word of God, but by social trends, by attitudes reflected by the world around us, by our own wants and desires, not by that which pleases Jesus Christ. I wonder if my heart is such that I want to learn more about Jesus—to understand His heart and how He would have me invest my life.
It is a powerful thought: “What would Jesus do?”