Are you a believer in Christ or a follower of Him? You may think, why can’t I be both? After all, the Bible records both. Indeed it does. Here are a few things it records about believers in Christ:
- “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
- “And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?”
- “And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”
So one needn’t follow Christ to believe in Him, to know who He is and that He is real! Even Muslims purport to believe in Jesus, although the role and nature of the one they call “Isa” or “Isa Ibn Maryam” or “al-Masih” is really a pseudo-Christ figure—an Antichrist.
So what does the Word record about being Christ’s follower? James writes that we are to be doers of the Word—not hearers only. But doing what?
There are neither rules nor set criteria because Jesus did away with the bondage of the law. But Followers of the Way, as early Christians were known, shared some characteristics that we might still expect to see today. We might expect them to:
Believe in Jesus as the only begotten Son of God and affirm Paul’s shorthand version of the Gospel. “How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”
Share the Gospel with others both in deliberate, planned ways as well as taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
Do everything from love. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus quotes Leviticus 19:18, one of 613 commandments in the Torah, as His second commandment, bidding us to unconditionally love those we meet in the same fashion that we love ourselves, with respect, understanding and generosity of spirit.
English (KJV) Strong’s Root Biblical meaning neighbor H7453 רֵע rea` Friend, companion, fellow, another person neighbor G4139 πλησίον plēsion A friend or neighbor. According to Christ, any person whom we chance to meet. as thyself H3644 כְּמו kĕmow Like, as, the like of which as G5613 ὡς hōs As, like, even as, in the same manner as, etc.
Accept that God loves us. The Accuser (Satan) will try to shame us into uncertainty of our salvation. Our true God Yahweh is not a fickle god that we must continually placate with sacrifices or works. Throughout Scripture, God assures us of His forgiveness. The Psalms state: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
Bear spiritual fruit. Though we are but imperfect people, all things are possible with God. By His Grace we too can bear fruit for His Glory. After all, that’s how the Bible encourages us to know others, by their fruit — what they do, not just what they say. And that is how He knows each of us.
Believe in the Bible and test all things by the Bible to make sure that they are of Christ and of God. As Martin Luther put it: sola Scriptura: the Bible alone is trustworthy. Paul assured the young pastor Timothy of the trustworthiness and divine origin of Scripture: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Develop the habit of prayer in every situation: pray in all things. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Be prepared to suffer for our faith. “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” We won’t all be martyrs to take up our own crosses and follow Jesus, but many will be! There are more Christians being martyred for Christ today than in Roman times!
Find the Way Forward
How do we find a way forward in the race that is set before us?
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Thus, the answer is straightforward. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the only Way! We must be followers of the Way! By accepting Jesus in faith, we find the way to forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with God; and assurance of eternal life.
Yet how can we know that we are on the right path? How do we know the Way… the true Way? How do we know that we are not on the wrong path, the wide path that leads to destruction, no matter how noble our intentions? To whom can we speak about directions? Where can we find a map?
Jesus Himself provides the answer:
“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free..”
To test that we have indeed found The Way, Jesus, we need to check the only reliable source of information about Him: The Word of God!
The Bible notes that while walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
Later with the apostles themselves:
“Now He [Jesus] said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’”
The apostle Paul reminded Timothy:
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
In the Old Testament, Jesus Christ and the Way are clearly spelled out in prophecy. As Dr. Missler points out, we should each strive to be able to present the message of Salvation from the Old Testament alone… as Jesus and the apostles were able to time and again.
In some 324 prophetic statements fulfilled at His First Coming, we find the real Jesus. His birth, His sovereignty, His suffering, His death and His resurrection all appear in predictive Old Testament verses.
“Surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
This has demonstrated the importance of God’s Word in finding and following the Way of Christ.
Follow the Way Forward
Once you become a Follower of Jesus, persevere! The apostle Paul reminded Timothy: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
When times are especially tough, as we are told they will be in the end times, it may be impossible to proactively preach the Gospel. We may have to just stand. That might sound easy—just standing your ground—but it is not when under attack by Satan and his worldly followers! Paul warned us what we will be up against: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Our defense is based upon God’s armament, and Paul warns us to put it all on. Each piece of this divinely provided equipment is vital!
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit:”
Jesus has called us to follow Him. Alas, nearly 2,000 years of religious overlay may make that simple calling appear opaque, complex and confusing. While the Way may seem difficult to find or follow at times, the Bible provides us His unambiguous, clear, inspired, practical and straightforward guidance. Hopefully, this article will help de-mystify modern Christianity for Bible-believing followers of Christ.
James 2:19 ↩
Acts 19:15 ↩
Matthew 8:28–29 ↩
Genesis 3:1 ↩
The Qur’an: Translation, Trans. Dr. Muhsin Khan & Dr. Taqi-ud-Din Hilali. 2nd. Riyadh: Dar-us-Salam Publications, 2003. ↩
Do All Three Abrahamic Religions Worship the Same God? Prod. Ray Sarlin. Screenplay by Ray Sarlin. Perf. Ray Sarlin. I720 Polemics. Issachar Track, Koinonia Institute, 9 Sept. 2011. ↩
1 Corinthians 15:3–4 ↩
1 Peter 3:15 ↩
Matthew 22:37–39 ↩
Caplan, Rabbi Micah. “Spirituality: Loving Your Neighbor.” Jewish News. Phoenix Jewish News, 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Dec. 2014. http://www.jewishaz.com/religiouslife/torahstudy/spirituality-loving-your-neighbor/article_5bbae17a-cb0a–11e3–9caa–001a4bcf6878.html ↩
Strong, James. “Strong’s H7453 ‘neighbour’” The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: With Main Concordance, Appendix to the Main Concordance, Topical Index to the Bible, Dictionary of the Greek Testament. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1990. Print. ↩
Ibid. “Strong’s G4139 ‘neighbor’” ↩
Ibid. “Strong’s H3644 ‘as thyself’” ↩
Ibid. “Strong’s G5613 ‘as’” ↩
Psalm 103:12 ↩
Matthew 7:16 ↩
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ↩
Philippians 4:6–7 ↩
Mark 8:34 ↩
Hebrews 12:1–3 ↩
John 14:6 ↩
Luke 24:27 ↩
Payne, J. Barton. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy: The Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their Fulfillment. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Print. ↩
2 Timothy 3:14–15 ↩
Ephesians 6:12 ↩