I am here to follow and to serve Jesus.
All the Essential Truths we have discussed in this series now lead us to the big “so what” question. What difference do all these truths make? How must my life change now that I have begun to grasp these truths? In other words, to boil it down to the most basic of all questions, “Why Am I Here, right here, right now, on planet earth?”
The Bible gives a clear answer to this fundamental quest for meaning. It tells us that we are here to follow and serve Jesus.
1. Follow Jesus
When Jesus encountered His first disciples, He issued a single challenge:
“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’” Matthew 4:19
And their response?
“At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:20
This defines the essence of a disciple, someone who follows and obeys Jesus. True disciples make Jesus the first priority in their lives and order their lives according to His instructions.
So what does this look like on a day-by-day basis? Jesus summarizes His instructions this way, in what we call, “The Great Commandment”:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40; see also Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5)
To follow Jesus requires that we learn to love God and one another.
1.1. Loving God
The Command to Love God
In our culture, “love” is mostly an emotional word. We talk about falling in or out of love, about feeling or experiencing love. But the scriptures primarily define love as an action word. Love is what we do, to back up what we say. Feelings are not the main point. So then, when it comes to loving God, our actions matter. As Jesus tells His disciples:
“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15
Later, the apostle John would make crystal clear what Jesus is saying here:
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3-6
Here we see the strong link between love and obedience, and this link should always grow stronger. Our love for God must become “complete,” and we measure this completion by how much we “live as Jesus did.”
The Possibility of Loving God
Given this high standard, I clearly have a lot to learn about what it means to love God. Given this ideal, I do not yet love Him with all my heart, soul and mind. Apparently, I still have a long way to go. But this is why discipleship is a life-long commitment. The truth is that we all have a long way to go, and, yet, we do not go there alone.
When we come to believe in Jesus, God begins a marvelous work of transformation in us. He begins to cleanse us from the damages and defects that our sin has caused. We refer to this process as “sanctification”, because God is literally recreating us to be a holy people. As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29
Paul is telling us that, once we make the commitment to love God, He will begin to work good in us. He begins now to prepare us for the destiny that He always intended for us, to be transformed in the image of Jesus.
And, as we engage in this process, we are assured that God never stops loving us. As Paul also makes clear:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39; see also Psalm 44:22
1.2. Loving Others
The Command to Love Others
This growing love relationship with God will in turn improve our love relationship with others. This is the second part of the Great Commandment, that we love one another. Again, Jesus says:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Loving others becomes the visible sign that we truly love God. As John reminds us:
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12
The Possibility of Loving Others
As we follow and obey Jesus, God’s love grows within us. Our love for others is now rooted in Someone bigger than ourselves. If we cannot love the unlovable, we are strengthened by God’s love for them. Our minds are now reformed to think about people the way Jesus thinks about them. As Paul says:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:1-5
Paul emphasizes the fact that scripture means to correct errors in belief, and this correction of belief should in turn correct our practice. It should lead us into righteous and productive living.
This process of becoming more Christ-minded will eventually produce rich rewards. In a broken world filled with hatred and division, we will become living agents of God’s omnipotent love.
1.3. Following Jesus means Loving God and Others
Following Jesus, then, means learning to love God and others. Now this is real and meaningful life. As we submit to His will and His ways, we will discover true and genuine fulfillment. As Jesus Himself promises:
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
2. Serving Jesus
2.1. Loving Others Means Sharing the Story
As agents of God’s love, then, we want the world to know the Jesus that we know. We share Jesus because we are convinced the He is the best answer to a life filled with questions.
In that first encounter with His disciples, mentioned above, Jesus says that He will teach them “to fish for people.”
At the end of His earthly ministry, just before He ascends to the Father, Jesus gives a similar command to His larger circle of disciples, a command which we call “The Great Commission”. He says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20
Disciples are to make other disciples. This is not an option for us. It is a command. Our Lord and Master says “go and make”, and our only appropriate response is to get moving.
2.2. The Necessity of Sharing
Jesus stresses the urgency of this mission when He says:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16
If we love the people around us, we will not hide the light that they so desperately need. And we will continue to share that light, even if we are sometimes misunderstood and rejected. In the face of opposition, Jesus urges His disciples forward:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12
2.3. The Possibility of Sharing
But how exactly are we supposed to go and make disciples? How can we play our own particular role in all of this? The apostle Paul tells us that God has already addressed this question on one level by giving us certain spiritual gifts to engage in this kingdom-building work. He writes:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
God’s Spirit is working in us and through us to call people into His kingdom, and to build them up in the image of Christ.
Everyone called into this family immediately has a responsibility to contribute in some way to this family, and God empowers each person in a unique way to make his or her contribution.
2.4. A Shared Mission
But whatever our unique gifting, all of us share the same central mission of making disciples. We all must be able to tell our story of God’s work within us. As the apostle Peter tells us:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15
As followers of Jesus, we want as many people as possible to experience the joy that we ourselves have experienced. We must share the passion of the apostle Paul who says:
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22
Of course, we are quick to acknowledge that only God can truly save anyone. But we also realize that God has chosen to save people by using us as His agents, as His ambassadors, as His living examples of how He can transform and heal a broken life. As long as we are breathing God’s oxygen, we have this mission and purpose.
This then is how the Bible generally answers the question, “Why Am I Here?”. I am here to follow and serve Jesus. We trust that these sessions have helped you on your way to living out this purpose.
What concrete steps will you take in the next few days to follow and serve Jesus. Consider walking through the next study in this series, called “Essential Disciplines.”