Even through all of the wrestling matches with belief in Jesus, one thing never changed for his inner circle of friends, they always followed him. Even before they believed in Him, even when everyone else left, even before they discovered the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, in the midst of figuring all that out, these men still followed him, some of them all the way to the cross. They may have been hiding amongst the crowds like cowards, but they followed.
In fact, that was Jesus’ first real command to them. In Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, and in Luke 5:10 Jesus never says, “believe and have faith in me, then come and follow me”. His command is much simpler, and I think shows much more power. “Follow me.”
In my experience, evangelical Christianity often times gets hung up on an ordering of faith that says, “believe in Jesus, then begin to follow him”. While I agree that belief in Jesus as the Savior of the world is the most important realization a human being could ever come to, I would argue that the process above is actually a bit backwards. It seems clear to me from the scriptures that Jesus first invites us to simply follow, and it is through following, by getting to know him and learn from him, that our hearts will be changed and we will come to believe in him.
Pastor Andy Stanley says it better than I ever could. He says that the message of Jesus doesn’t say, “change, and then you can join us”, it says, “join us, and you will change”.
Andrew and Simon and James and John were not fully formed fishers of men when they first decide to follow Jesus. They were not convinced that He was the one they’d been waiting for. They were just lower class fishing brothers. Jesus doesn’t seem to be too concerned about all that though. It looks to me like he trusts that God’s power will speak for itself once these men decide to go with him.
In my experience, screaming at people to just all of a sudden believe in Jesus almost never works. And anytime it seems to, it usually means the seed was planted in some pretty rough soil and it won’t last very long. What I have found to be much more effective, is to invite people to simply begin to follow Jesus around, invite them to objectively read what the Bible says about him, invite them to begin hanging around communities that are gathering in his name. I invite them to do that, and then trust that God will do the work needed in their hearts.
The Great Commission of Matthew 28 tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations”. We could do that by screaming “repent and believe” from sidewalks and street corners, thus adding to the Bible-beating, hate-filled, Christian stereotype. We could do that, or we could do it the way Jesus did to his disciples, by simply extending a loving invitation to follow Him, and trusting God to do the transformation in their hearts.
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