Guide Following Jesus in the Modern World

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For obeying and imitating are not ends in themselves but are means to a greater end. That end or goal of discipleship is to become like Jesus himself: to think as he thought, to feel as he felt, to act as he acted, desire what he desired. Because Jesus is the image of God in human form Col. A key part of this process is gaining a clearer knowledge of Jesus as he is presented to us in Scripture. And a time-honored way of doing this is to consistently and prayerfully read the Gospels and reflect on the life and teaching of Jesus.

As we immerse our minds and hearts in the gospels, two major defining characteristics of his life stand out with striking clarity: faith and love.

Following Jesus in the Modern World

Secure in the love of God and his own sonship, Jesus lived with an unshakable trust in his heavenly Father and wholehearted love for God and others. If we want to become like Jesus, faith and love must become defining characteristics of our lives, too. The picture of Jesus that emerges in the Gospels is of a man who lived his daily life in conscious, trusting dependence on his Father in heaven. Or his dependence on the Father in the raising of Lazarus from the dead John — Or his confidence that his Father would raise him from the grave Mark In each instance, Jesus has absolute trust in his Father.

Jesus not only lived a life of faith before his disciples, he called them to live a life of faith as well. First and foremost he called them to put their trust in him as Messiah and Son of God. He called them to an active, living faith in their heavenly Father in the affairs of everyday life. Whether for daily bread or power to heal the sick and cast out demons or to overcome the perils of nature, they were to live by faith and to grow in faith. Each challenge they encountered was an opportunity for growth. They were slow to learn the lessons of faith, and most of us probably identify with them and give them a pass.

But Jesus never did. When the disciples were in danger of drowning in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus upbraided them for their fear and lack of faith Mark— When they were unable to cast out a demon, he told them it was due to their lack of faith Matt. Growing in faith was a very important part of maturing as a disciple. One of the saddest commentaries on the church in the West today is the weakness of our faith. Secularism has seriously eroded our belief in the almighty, miracle-working God of the Bible, who answers the prayers of his people and intervenes in the affairs of the world.

We have embraced a reductionism that acknowledges faith in Christ as essential for salvation but largely ignores the necessity of living by faith thereafter. How many of us really live each day with a confident trust in God to do what he says he will do? How many of us take him at his word and act with the expectation that he will be faithful?

This is the kind of faith that Jesus calls us to exercise as we seek to follow him. Of course, such faith does not suddenly appear in our lives. When we do this, God uses the needs, opportunities, and circumstances of our lives as a training ground to help us grow in faith, fulfill his purposes, and bring him glory. At the heart of following Jesus, then, is walking by faith in God, just as he did, and not living by reliance on our own limited wit, wisdom, and resources.

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Jesus lived a life of love. He loved his Father with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. And he loved others and sought their good. This may sound commonplace to those who have been in church for a while. And we may wrongly assume that we know what it means. Our ideas about love may be shaped by unrecognized cultural assumptions and may be far from correct.

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You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Before they ever knew him, God loved Israel and chose them to be his special people. He demonstrated his love by rescuing them from slavery, giving them a land flowing with milk and honey and promising them great blessings in the future. In return, he asked for wholehearted love and devotion, to be expressed in obedience to his covenant.

Jesus teaches that God still seeks the wholehearted love of his people and that responding to his love is to be our highest priority. Thus we should spare no effort in seeking to grow in love.

Jesus in the Modern World | The Millennial Star

But what is love? Have you ever pondered that question? In pop-culture and contemporary usage, the word love is closely associated with feeling and sentiment; this tends to color our thinking. It is easy for us unconsciously to sentimentalize the call to love God and reduce it to a matter of feeling.

But while feeling is certainly a part of loving God, it is not the heart of the matter.

In the Bible the essence of loving God is to give ourselves fully to him who first loved us, to surrender to his love and devote ourselves to him. Far from being an arbitrary demand, this command is an entreaty of love.

Modern Life of Jesus?!

You may wonder how you could possibly love God this way. To be sure, it is not a natural human ability. Assurance that God loves you deeply evokes an answering love for him that increases over time and is essential to living the Christian life. What does this kind of love look like in daily life? According to the Bible, obedience is the acid test of true love for God.

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If we love God, his commands will not be burdensome or irksome to us. Rather, we will desire to obey him. Do you desire to obey God and bring him pleasure through your obedience? The more we ponder and marvel at the good news of the gospel, the more we will want to please him. Some people today mistakenly equate obedience with legalism and see it as the enemy of grace. But actually the opposite is true.


The Pharisees were famous for this, and we can easily fall into it today by insisting on commitment and obedience without grounding it in grace and love. Obedience offered in love is the fruit of grace and is an antidote to legalism. The second part of the Great Commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves, originates in Leviticus and reflects the nature of God and his deep concern that we seek the good of others and bless them.

Again, many people are confused about what it means to love our neighbor, thinking that it means to feel emotional warmth, sympathy, or closeness toward them. However, the agape love that is enjoined here is not primarily emotional in nature. It is chiefly volitional, an act of the will.

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It is acting in the best interest of the other person, seeking their good, regardless of how you happen to feel toward them. This is a wonderfully liberating command, because while it is not possible to feel emotionally close to everyone we meet, it definitely is possible to act in their best interest.

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We can always treat them as we would want to be treated if we were in their situation. Happily, feelings often do arise in the wake of our actions, but it is the action not the feeling that is most important. This simple but profound guideline will show us our duty in nearly every case. We have briefly looked at how the Great Commandment guides us in following Jesus. It remains to look at two specific commands Jesus gives elsewhere about loving our neighbor.

What Would Jesus Do in Today's World?

The first deals with loving neighbors who are our enemies. No doubt many people wish Jesus had not spoken on this topic. Loving friends or even strangers is not nearly so difficult as loving our enemies. But Jesus said,. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.