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3 Things Following Jesus is NOT

Updated: Dec 24, 2022

Many people call themselves Christians, but what they say and believe are not how the Bible describes following Jesus. Here are three things that following Jesus is not.

#1 - FOLLOWING JESUS IS NOT BASED SOLELY ON EMOTIONS

Our emotions are very real and valid. They are part of our human nature - given to us by God! So, we should never discount emotions when discussing people and their approaches to spirituality. Just think of Jesus in John 11:35, where He wept for Lazarus who had died. That is pure, raw emotion right there! We could also look to Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:10 tat says, "... she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish." Again, that is pure emotion, it is God given, and it is natural.

Therefore, our emotions do have a place in our spiritual walk and they should be engaged in worship and in ministry! Things like joy, thanksgiving, and praise are all good emotions, just as sorrow, regret and solemness are also healthy, emotional responses. So, before we proceed any further, let it be understood that I am not saying all emotion is bad, nor that emotions have no place in the heart of a Christian. They certainly do. However, that does not mean that emotions should be the ONLY thing a Christian has in his/her heart!

Let me give you an example. There are many statements people make about religion that are often based purely on emotions, such as, people believe God wants them to be “happy.” While this is true, to some degree, it doesn’t mean that having an illicit relationship with someone other than one’s spouse is acceptable just because it would “make them happy.” This is simply an attempt to justify immorality with an emotional response of “happiness.” That is not right because the Lord’s definition of “happiness” is not the same as the common human perception of happiness. According to the Biblical definition, “happiness” is not grounded in physical and material goals; and it most certainly involve that which is a clear violation of the Lord’s will!

Here is why being a Christian is NOT based completely, solely on emotions, the Bible teaches in:

Isaiah 1:18 - Come let us reason together
  • The word "reason" is translated from the original Hebrew, meaning: to prove, to decide, judge, to be right. So, when people make judgments, or decisions based solely upon emotions - it does not mean they are always right.

  • This implies that God expects us to use our brains when it comes to spiritual things - to Christianity. We must reason and investigate when it comes to things that pertain to God and the Bible. We must think through decisions when it comes to religion and faith.

Act 17:11 - These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
  • The Bereans had been taught by an apostle of the early church, one with divine authority.. Yet, they still searched the Scriptures after Paul taught them in order to see if his teaching was truly Biblical! They would not just accept Paul’s word at face value, or respond only by emotional appeal. Instead, they wanted to know if these things were accurate.

  • The word “noble minded,” or “fair minded” means: being less blinded by prejudice. What is a great lesson for us! Following Jesus requires using sound reasoning, logic, investigation, judgment, and questioning. We don’t / can’t do that well if we rely strictly on our emotions for making decisions.

Hebrews 11:23-26 - “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he looked unto the recompense of reward.”
  • Notice that Moses forsook “enjoyment” and “pleasure” in order to secure true “happiness” - that being, reward of eternal life. Would it be wonderful if more could discover this secret.

  • Moses gave up worldly pursuits of life, here called sin. He wasn’t driven by emotional responses! God is not going to reward fornication, drunkenness, or drug abuse with “happiness.” That’s an insulting view of the Creator!

Luke 15:11-32 - the prodigal son
  • Gathered his inheritance, left a loving father and safe household to go “sow his wild oats” as some say.

  • Of course things didn’t go as planned and he ends up foraging for his food among a herd of pigs. In his new family of filth, there was no real “happiness.” So all the money, the indulgences, everything worldly brought no real happiness.

  • It was only when he “came to himself,” that he returned home - an important phrase - meaning that he began to reason, think logically about his situation, then he decided to return to his father. He realized that genuine contentment was not where he currently was, but instead, where he had been - with his father.

  • This teaches that our emotions come into play when we repent. But those emotions got there by faith, reason, and deduction which is what produced the sorrow, and so forth.

So, here is what we have learned / this is the application: Being a Christian, a true NT Christian, is not based solely upon an emotional response. It is based upon emotion AND right thinking, examining the Scriptures, and accepting the deductions made.

Therefore, let’s have the kind of faith that isn’t based solely on emotion but also on reason and facts: Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


#2 - FOLLOWING JESUS IS NOT BEING "PRETTY CLOSE"

Have you ever heard someone say something like: “I went to this church down the road (on vacation, with my friend, etc) and they’re pretty close to what we believe and teach.” I’ve had people tell me things like other churches or religions are almost the same as us. In other words, all of these are saying, “They’re okay. It’s all good. … Close enough”?

So, the question is this, is it possible that there exists something “pretty close" to the church of the New Testament that is good enough, that it is acceptable by God? Is it possible to be “pretty close” to being a Christian and still get into heaven? Are people who call themselves Christians and are “almost like us” the same thing? Those questions should be asked when someone makes such a statement.

To answer those questions, let’s carry those statements all the way to their logical conclusions. Just like we have done with religion, let’s apply it to other aspects of our lives. Would we accept the following statements in the same way - would these things be "good enough"?

  • "When I went to the school to pick up my kids, I got some other ones instead, but they're pretty close to being like my kids."

  • "I mailed in my check to the IRS last week. I didn't send them the exact amount that was required, but I sent something pretty close."

Now seriously, would you say that "pretty close" is acceptable enough in those scenarios? Would you say they are “almost the same”? Logically, if people apply the same phrase to everyday life like people do to the church, then you would have to say, “Yes!” But, of course, we know these are not acceptable! Then, why would we think that "pretty close" or "almost the same” will work when it comes to the Lord's church? The church of the Bible?

Listen, being a Christian, like the ones described in the NT, is not about being pretty close or even almost like it. Being a Christian, just a Christian, means striving to be IDENTICAL to those that the NT gives us as examples. We KNOW that they were acceptable to God, so why would we want to try and be anything else?

The church of our Lord is described in vivid detail in the NT. It is exact, unique and it is outlined and on display for everyone to see. So it’s easy to follow their example.

There is one body [that is, the church] and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (Eph 4:4,5)

You cannot be almost a Christian, or pretty close - someone who follows Christ is a Christian and a Christian ONLY. You either are or you are not!

Think also of Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus is separating the sheep from the goats. There is no such thing as pretty close to a sheep, or being almost like a sheep - it is either a goat or a sheep, nothing else! Period. Therefore, following Jesus is NOT being pretty close - it’s being exactly what the Lord requires (cf Matt 7:21-23)


#3 - FOLLOWING JESUS IS NOT MULTIPLE PATHWAYS

There are many in this world who like to say things like, “All roads lead to God/heaven.” “We’re all trying to get to heaven, we’re just taking different paths to get there.”

Sadly, if you try to say that one way is right and all the other ways are wrong, then you are labeled as narrow-minded, bigoted and prejudicial. Some may respond with, "What is true for you is true for you, but what is true for me is true for me.”

Still, others say that searching for God is like climbing a mountain. Since everyone knows there is not just one way to climb a mountain—mountains are too big for that—each person can choose from a number of paths. All the ideas about God contained in the various religions of the world are just different ways up the mountain. In fact, though different religions have different names for God, the names all refer to the same God.

So, is it true that a lot of roads lead to heaven, which means we really don’t have to worry about which road we’re on? Is it true that no person, no religion, no group, no book has a handle on the truth? Is it true that all religions are basically the same and all religious leaders are essentially of one mind so that ultimately all spiritual pursuits lead to the same place? If that is true, then in reality, people need not look for spiritual truth, they just need to decide on spiritual preference.

BUT … just because the multitude believes something does not mean it is correct. So, let me say right up front, if you embrace the idea that multiple paths can lead to God and you turn out to be wrong, the consequences are enormous. Your soul could be lost!

“Jesus said, "I am THE way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

This means that there is only ONE way; only ONE path. What is the way? Only His way.

Here’s the gamble one takes by accepting the idea of multiple paths to heaven: if Jesus says He is the way (singular) and you decide to try a smoother way and you get to the judgment throne, only one of two things will happen:

(a) You were on the right path, or

(b) not on the right path.

Thus, we have to make search Scripture and make a decision - are there multiple paths or only one path? Let's listen to what the Bible says:

Matt 7:13,14 - “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

This clearly means we need to be careful and diligent!


Here’s what multiple paths lead to in the religious world: they lead to one person thinking that are right and another person thinking they are right.

Simply violates the laws of logic. Impossible.

But unfortunately, instead of submitting to God’s word, just reading what it says for what it is, taking it at its word and nothing more, some men decide to make their own path to heaven.

This is where many false doctrines come from, which for the most part are simply about having a second chance, removal accountability, and back to emotionally based.

Most of the time the way they try to justify is by taking verses out of context, ignoring verses or explaining them away with hermeneutical gymnastics, and having people just listen to what the preacher says, instead of looking it up in the Bible - like those Bereans did


Again, carrying that logic out to its end, let’s imagine a young student in school taking a math test. One question is: “What is 2 + 2?” The answer, of course, is “4.” I think we all know that there is only ONE correct answer. But let’s say the child writes down “37.” Is the teacher now intolerant, narrow-minded and bigoted if he/she does not accept that answer? Are they arrogant to correct the answer? Of course not.

So, While there are many religions from which to choose, they all differ radically from one another, and choosing where to place your spiritual trust is neither narrow-minded nor is it intolerant. That is because a singular, objective Truth exists, and it matters!

Let’s submit to the Word of God and follow His ways.


CONCLUSION

There you have it - three ways that following Jesus is not. Looking at contrasts - to help us understand better. I hope this has encouraged you. I hope it has strengthened your faith to know more precisely what following Jesus really means.

Remember, always keep your eyes on Jesus and God bless!

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