The first thing Jesus told his disciples when he “called” them was “follow Me” (Matthew 4:18-22).
He also said this to many people throughout the New Testament, such as in Mark 8:34-35:
“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.'” (NKJV)
Following Jesus seems to be a primary calling that He gives us as Christians. What does it mean to follow Jesus?
Looking at the verses above, and if we were to continue to read and study further, we would see that following Jesus, being His disciple (a word given to the original twelve followers, but now used for any follower of Jesus), is a call that costs something, that involves sacrifice, but that rewards greatly.
Following Jesus involves denying myself, taking up my cross, and losing my life for His sake and the gospel’s. Many places in the Bible add to our understanding of this, and other passages also describe the rewards for following Jesus. These rewards include not walking in darkness, but having the Light of life (John 8:12), being honored by the Father (John 12:26), and having our lives ultimately saved (Mark 8:35).
John 8:12: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’”
John 12:26: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”
Though God may give us many “callings” in our lives, as Christians, we are all given this foremost call to follow Him. As we follow Jesus, we can trust that He will lead us into the other callings he may have for us.
This may go against other advice we hear in our culture such as “follow your heart’s desires” or “follow your passions” or “follow your dreams,” all of which sound potentially self-fulfilling, yet seem so abstract and elusive. Even in Christian circles sometimes, these messages can exist, a version of “you can be anything your heart desires” or “be all you can be” with Jesus on the side, endorsing our dreams.
As Christians, we should follow Jesus, not our passions, desires, or dreams, and He will develop in us godly passions after His heart that become our desires that He alone can fulfill. This is a Christ-centered call, not one focused on me.
There is much greater joy in following Jesus than what anyone or anything else can offer. And this is a straightforward, concrete call that we don’t want to miss or confuse with any other message being given.
Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (ESV)