To Follow Jesus: What Does it Really Mean?

To follow Jesus takes constant effort to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and surrender to God’s will even when we don’t understand. But let’s remain faithful and always remember that the reward will be worth it all.

If Jesus were to appear right in front of you and ask you to follow Him, what would you say? Would you drop everything immediately and go, like what the 12 disciples did? Would you ask for time to think about it first? Or would you instead come back to it another time when it’s more convenient for you? 

If you think about it, believing in Jesus Christ is easy. Choosing to follow Him, however, is where most of us would struggle to answer quickly. We hold onto worldly pleasures too tightly that we forget none of those could amount to the joy and contentment we’ll receive in following Jesus.

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

“Follow me”, Jesus’ simple invitation seems daunting, but really, all we need is to place our trust in Him. This simple invitation will require us to live a life of constant surrender and service but isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross? He remained faithful to the Father and followed through so that we could all be saved. 

The journey will not be easy, God did not promise us a smooth ride, but He reassures us that His presence will always be with us. Though there will be uncertainties, God will be there to guide our steps. Everything we would ever need, God is ready to provide. All we need to do is ask. 

For the disciples

“Follow me” frequently appears in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, particularly at times when Jesus was talking to the twelve men He chose to be His disciples. When Jesus asked His disciples to follow Him, they saw it as an incredible honor. They didn’t think for another second and abandoned what they were doing so that they could focus their attention on Jesus. They all saw the invitation as an opportunity to become Jesus’ student and have first-hand experience living according to Scripture.

The disciples followed Jesus wherever He went. Jesus often taught through His actions, so even when He wasn’t preaching, the disciples could still learn from His actions and interactions with others. For them, following Jesus also meant that they were as enthusiastic about preaching the good news. They shared Jesus’ teachings through their trips and then would spread the Word throughout the world.

Where in the Bible Talks About How to Follow Jesus

We see verses about how to follow Jesus throughout the Bible, primarily concentrated in the New Testament. In the Gospels alone, we will see many verses on following Jesus like Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23, where Jesus tells His disciples what they must do when they choose to follow Him. Jesus repeats this once again in front of a crowd in Mark 8:34. If we went back a little, to Matthew 4:19-25, we’d see how quickly James, John, and their father set aside their work and followed Jesus.

As we read on, John 12:26 and 15:16-17 talk about the rewards all who follow Him will receive. Jesus also reassures His followers that though there will be hardships, He has already overcome the world (John 16:33). This means that we will never be alone in our journey. He will always be there to protect, guide, and provide for us.

Three commands Jesus gave to follow Him

Deny oneself

As it says in Luke 9:23, the first step to following Jesus is to forget about our desires and interests. Also, when we deny ourselves, we are humbly submitting our plans for God’s Will to prevail. We are no longer living for ourselves but towards the higher calling that God has for His children

By denying ourselves, we surrender desires that we used to enjoy and instead focus on developing our relationship with God and staying faithful to His guidance and leading. At first, it would be difficult because we do not yet see the results of our efforts. But as our journey progresses, we will see the fruits of our labor are worth more than our desires before.

Take up your cross

After we deny ourselves, Jesus asks that we take up our cross. This can be taken as it is and means that we are willing to die to follow Jesus. Or it could also mean that we make constant efforts to deny sinful thoughts and temptations firmly. Both are acts of surrender to God. 

Choosing to follow Jesus means that we give ourselves up for the glory of God. Following Jesus does not guarantee a smooth journey; 2 Timothy 3:12 makes that clear. But those trials are what will reveal the weight of our commitment to God. The reward of accepting Jesus’ invitation will always be worth the sacrifice. 

Follow Him

Lastly, Jesus commands us to follow Him. No reservations, and no matter what cost, we go where Jesus points we need to go. When we think about it, the first two steps prepare us for the last step. Because we already denied ourselves, our focus would be on God’s will and desires. Taking up our crosses trains us to reject sinful thoughts and temptations daily. In doing all these steps, we place our trust entirely in God and prepare ourselves for eternity in His kingdom.

Bible verses that show us what it is like to follow Jesus

Colossians 3:1-17 gives us a detailed picture of what we must do to follow Jesus. Now that we have been saved through Christ (Colossians 3:1-4), we must leave our worldly desires so that we can focus on God’s desires instead. We leave our “old” selves behind and live out our “new” bodies according to how Jesus lived on earth. 

Colossians 3:5-10 further enumerates the desires we should deny ourselves now that we are made new. Aside from that, this passage also reminds us that there are no divisions among Christ’s followers. This is why in verses 12-14, we are to love as God has for us.

Lastly, Colossians 3:15-17 tells us to be thankful and let peace rule overall. For as long as we are able, share His teachings and do it all in the name of Jesus. 

Considerations Before You Follow Jesus

We must understand that choosing to follow Jesus is the first step and not the only step we’ll have to take. Following Jesus is a life-long journey, meaning we will constantly face challenges and hardships that will test our trust and faith in God. Now, this list is not to discourage you from taking that step; instead, it is to help prepare ourselves for the journey ahead:

Be willing to obey and submit

Luke 9:23 was evident with this; we are to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily. To follow Jesus means we leave behind our selfish pasts and live in Christ’s example and instructions daily. We are to embody the teachings of Jesus and make a constant effort to obey His instructions and submit to His will. 

Be prepared to endure hardship

Following Jesus doesn’t mean that we are exempted from hardships. We are more prone to challenges and temptations because we stand for something larger than ourselves. Instead, by following Jesus, we are gifted with the armor of God that will help protect us from forces that aim to bring us down. Besides that, we can hold onto God’s promise, which is that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us. God will always be with us, even when it feels as if He isn’t.

Jesus doesn’t guarantee a comfortable journey

Our journey will not always be comfortable; God will place us into situations way beyond our comfort zone. But that is how God can teach us His lessons by letting us experience them first-hand. Even deciding to follow Jesus is already outside our comfort zones because we are going against what the world thinks is right. But as long as everything we do brings joy to God, what the world thinks doesn’t matter.

Be accountable

As we receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we leave our old bodies behind. This means that we cannot continue sinning and instead constantly deny ourselves of sinful desires. Not only that, once we stand before God for our judgment, we are held accountable for the sins we have committed in the past. Being responsible for our sins teaches us to acknowledge that we were wrong and now choose to correct where we lack.

Prepare to love

This may sound like the easiest to do out of all but remember, loving as Jesus did means that we cannot pick favorites. Jesus has loved us no matter the weight of our sins; as His followers, we must convey the same love to those who need it. Unconditional love is entirely different from what the world taught us, which is why it seems difficult to do. But when we love others despite everything they have done, we can give them a glimpse of God’s love and mercy. In this way, we can share Jesus’ teachings with others.

Steps on How We Can Follow Jesus

Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior

The salvation that comes from Jesus Christ is a gift from God. Jesus died for our sins so that we have a way back to the Father. However, receiving the gift of salvation is not the end but only the beginning. By accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we take the first step into creating an eternal and personal relationship with Him. 

Obey His teachings

Much like loving God and our neighbors, we should also obey God unconditionally. As easy as that sounds, being consistent will be tricky because we do not understand God’s plans most of the time. But this is why we need to learn to trust God despite the uncertainty because, remember, God doesn’t place us in situations that we cannot overcome. 

One way we obey Jesus’ teachings is by putting them into practice. When we heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit and turn away from temptation, that can be a sign of obedience. Instead of focusing on what the world may think, let’s choose to focus and remain faithful to our calling.

Meditate on God’s word day and night

Deciding to follow Jesus requires constant effort to continue learning something new about God every day. Most of the time, God doesn’t just teach us one lesson and be over and done with. Staying faithful to God’s will is a life-long journey and preparation for eternity with God. 

Love your neighbor as you love God

Loving God is easy because He is our sole provider, protector, mentor, and friend. It is effortless to love someone who you know will always be there for you and love you unconditionally no matter the circumstance. The easiest way to represent Jesus is by loving others without any restrictions because that is the opposite of how the world views love. 

Always trust in God

By choosing to follow Jesus, we are automatically putting our trust in God. Following Jesus means we have to surrender to God’s will and teaching constantly; even when it seems complicated and too far-fetched. Trusting God is about offering your worries unto Him and allowing God to dictate your next steps. 

It’s about giving it your all, despite having no idea what the outcome may be. Trusting God is a sign of strength and not of vulnerability because you acknowledge that He is sovereign and that He will never fail you. 

Rely on the Holy Spirit for Wisdom

The Holy Spirit not only warns us about temptations but can also guide us when we feel lost. He is always present, ready to help us with our decisions and next steps. As we grow closer to God, we are more aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance. 

What Does it Take to Follow Jesus Today?

It takes courage

Choosing to follow Jesus is not an easy task. Reading through the Bible, we can get the gist of the challenges and hardships we will be facing once we have decided to follow Jesus. And honestly, a lot of us would be scared and feel that we are not yet prepared for that responsibility.

But if we once again read the Bible, none of them had a firm grasp of the role Jesus had in mind for them; the only thing they all had in common was they trusted God with all their hearts. 

It takes commitment

Following Jesus doesn’t end when we’re dead; it extends beyond life itself. Yes, we can walk away whenever we feel like it, but we will someday come to the point of realization that something is missing. Committing to God’s will starts with trust. We build trust by forming a personal relationship with God, spending time, and getting to know the Lord more.

It takes trust and surrender

Going back to Luke 9:23, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We cannot trust God and choose not to surrender certain aspects of our lives; it doesn’t work that way. We need to both trust God and surrender our lives to Him; there’s no in-between. How can we trust God’s plan when we don’t offer to serve and obey His teachings and guidance when we have doubts and worries about the future? 

Trusting God with everything requires us to surrender everything and believe in the process and journey that the Lord is guiding us through.

It takes faith

Lastly, following Jesus takes faith. At its core, this is where it all starts; believing and declaring Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our faith is the foundation of our trust in God, which allows us to freely serve and obey His teachings. Our faith in God’s promises gives us hope and assurance that God is in control. As we grow closer and get to know God more, our love and faith grow as well. 

In Summary

Following Jesus may seem a little daunting at first. It may seem like we are alone when in fact, we are not. Remember God’s promise that His presence will always be with us. He will prepare us for the hardships that will come our way. He will also protect us from harm and temptation. 

Deciding to take the plunge and follow Jesus will be accessible once we’ve learned to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. Trusting and surrendering to God is a life-long commitment. We are not expected to be perfect but to be examples for other broken individuals that yes, God’s love and grace are for everyone. Though we are all a work-in-progress, God is patient and will see it through the end as long as we trust in Him.

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Alex Shute
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.

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