Are You a Believer or a Follower?
by David Neal
The use of the words “believe” and “follow” in the Bible have essentially the same meaning. This is referring to a living faith in God, which is an unreserved (unconditional) surrender of your will to God in full love and obedience to Him, yielding to His purposes. This is seeing Christ as worthy of your full trust and confidence and following in His example. This is allowing God to rule in your heart (Col 3:15).
We develop a very real and personal relationship with Jesus. Questioning God or His purposes simply reveals that you have not totally died to self and there is still some rebellion within you – this is your judgment upon God’s purposes. You do not have any authority to judge God. The only one who has presumed to do such is Satan and this is the nature of his followers. To most the word “believe” is applied as a mere mental acknowledgement, agreement and acceptance of Jesus Christ and what He did, but not necessarily full commitment and submission to Him. This may be evidenced in a desire for a Savior, but not necessarily a Lord. However, anything short of full faith and commitment is hollow, unacceptable and just plain lukewarm.
Christ made a distinction between professing with your mouth and living with your heart: Matthew 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” He said such worship was in vain (v. 9). Jesus said we must die to our old lives and be “born again.” Until we die to our old way, there can be no conversion (newness of life, new creature, Rm 6:4, 2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15, Col 3:10). Most just want to incorporate being a Christian into their existing life. Sort of like a membership with a get out of hell free card benefit.
Jesus either becomes your life or you have no life in Him. To mentally acknowledge Jesus is equivalent to what the devils do. James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” If you have not totally surrendered to Him then you are in rebellion just as the devils are. The devils believe, because Christ’s existence is a fact (Mk 1:34). The devils do not follow because they are in rebellion to Him and His purposes. You cannot live for self and just have Christian aspects to your life. You are either a whole-hearted follower or you are deceived. Self seeking (careers, possessions, entertainments, money, etc.) is just that and is the opposite of seeking God. This is a broad, yet temporal outlook that will never be satisfying or fulfilling (2 Cor 4:18). You’re either one or the other and you are what you are – you decide. When you truly become converted, your desire will be for your Lord and not yourself.
If your belief does not fully manifest in your actions, then for what purpose is it? Being a member at a religious institution does not necessarily qualify you to be a follower. When you follow, Christ is your life twenty-four hours a day (Col 3:4, Lk 20:38). He is in your thoughts, prayers, motives, decisions and actions. Your life is not separable from Christ, for they are one in the same – this is a mystery (Eph 5:25-32). Your life revolves around Him and not you. Your actions will be weighed based upon His light. Your life is found in Christ and that relationship and not in religious activities and works. Your heart should always be to please Him and seek His will – for this you do voluntarily out of love as you seek to glorify God.
A believer’s faith will be tested and tried (1 Thess 2:4). This process will draw us closer to God or push us away. The heart will reveal itself under pressure and must be purified. Impurities are identified and burnt away (removed) as the purifying flame (trials and tribulations) is put to one’s life. This is a denial of the flesh and is not necessarily pleasant, but is spiritually necessary. By nature of the act, to “follow” is to submit, yield and obey.
Mark 8:34, “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Jesus said, “Whosoever will.” What hinders you? The narrow path is not crowded; the invitation is open to all. What is the cost? – Trading your love of self for the love of another (Jesus). John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” What about those who will not “come after” or “follow?” Mark 8:35-36, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Job 27:8, “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?” To gain self will and supposed control is to lose the life of Christ and ultimately your soul. After a life of doing what is right in your own eyes, what will you exchange for your soul (v. 37)? You have nothing to offer God nor will you take anything with you beyond the grave (Job 1:21). Will you shame Christ by rejecting Him? What goes around comes around (v. 38).
excerpt from Jesus said Come, Follow Me! by David Neal