Being an Authentic Follower of Christ
by Don Solin
I am a follower of Christ. I am a committed follower of Christ. I try as best I can to be like Christ. I know others that follow Christ with all they have and all they can give. I know many, many today that live their lives as though they are literally following the Christ and that is a great way to live one's life. But, is that it?
Is following Christ all about the first 4 books of the New Testament? Is following Christ only about the “red letters” in the Bible? Is following Christ only about how He lived? Is there anything else? Does following Christ include the writings of Paul or John, James, King David, Ruth and the rest of the Scriptures? Does following Christ only include the great writings of practical theologians that speak of being the hands and feet of Christ? Does following Christ exclude the hard things such as doctrine, theology and hermeneutics? Seriously? Really? Yes really.
I love the phrase “Follower of Christ”. I hope I can be honest here, I'm struggling right now as a student pastor, as a father, as a friend to many other followers that believe that “being like Jesus” is the only thing that matters as one follows Christ. Some may say, “Well, of course, if you follow Christ, that's all you need.” Is it? Does following Christ mean that what Paul states in his writings about authority, or his theology found in the great book of Romans is at best second or third to what following Christ means, or lives like? If one is a follower of Christ but does not view mankind as completely fallen and depraved, how well is this person really following Christ?
After all, if mankind can somehow fix himself, why follow Christ? Really? Romans chapters 1-3 speak of mankind's condition but if a follower of Christ is only about the lifestyle of Christ, who needs the rest of the Scriptures? That is a logical conclusion and I am watching not only my peers treat the scriptures (except the Gospels) with a “lil” disdain these days. Quite frankly, some of my peers are refusing to live, to speak, to influence about such things as the value of the local church. While Jesus may not have been overly strong about the “church”, the apostle Paul does speak about the local church.
After all, the local church movement came at Pentecost, after the death and resurrection of Christ. So, how well are we as youth pastors/workers helping student to embrace “following Christ” completely? My concern is not about thumping people over the heads with a “new list”. My concern is that following Christ is not just about the first 4 books of the New Testament or better yet just the beatitudes, or even better just about social justice. Doesn't following Christ embrace all of the Scriptures? Doesn't following Christ mean that Jesus, the Living Word cared about the Scriptures, so we should also? It is not enough anymore to just tell students and others to “just Follow Christ.” It's not.
I have seen, witnessed, been part of people’s lives that have loved, lived the term “following Christ” but when the tough things of life hit, they had no foundation to stand on. They had no church community to help-- “they didn't need the church, they don't need a pastor, they don't need anything but to follow Christ.” So when life got twisted, when life got whacked, when sin was hurting them, when they had no answers to why follow Christ, they had no foundation except that they were committed to being like Christ and following Christ. The tough answers to tough questions were side stepped, the P.C. Idiots got to them, the mantra of the day became their mantra, and they ultimately became disgruntled with church (they are all hypocrites) with people (they don't follow Christ like I do) with worship (it's not the way they like it) with just following Christ period.
We youth pastors/youth workers have to help students to get the big picture. The Scriptures help us to follow Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 Jesus used Scripture has he lived. Matt. 4.1-11 Jesus speaks of the foundation of Scripture. Matthew 7:25-27 John writes of the Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 1 John Hebrews is a book dedicated to the Priesthood of Christ Jesus. Of course there is so much more about Christ found throughout the whole Bible. The value of Following Christ is found not just in the following but in the knowing of Christ. The reason why He is the only way. The reason why the local church matters. The reason why the Scriptures are alive and have meaning for daily life. The reason why submitting to authority is part of following Christ. The reason why "doing and not doing" has eternal implications. The reason for giving, for caring, for being a follower of the Christ and many more found in the Scriptures.
I simply want to encourage, to exhort if you will, all of us that work with students to continue to teach the Word so that our students can be as Paul wrote: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3. We must help students to engage, to pursue with passion, to obey, to live out with definition what it means to “Follow Christ.”