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What can we do in our lives that would make Jesus Himself consider us a true follower of Him?
I stumbled upon these verses in Matthew a few months ago and it has been constantly in the back of my mind ever since. I normally have to read a verse quite a few times for (1) me to understand it and (2) for it to stick with me. But this one has been echoing in my mind ever since the first time I read it.
It caught my eye because it was labeled The True Disciple. It created one of those “ah-ha” moments for me as I am always questioning what on earth I have to do to be considered a true follower of Christ.
What do I have to do for Him to look down at me and smile?
Read the Bible more?
These verses in Matthew answer that question so well!
The Bible’s Definition of a True Disciple
Matthew 7: 21-23 says:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me on that day [of judgement], ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.’ Depart from me, you evildoers. (NAB)
And Matthew 7: 24-27 goes on to say:
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined. (NAB)
My personal study Bible explains Matthew 7:21-23 as:
The attack on the false prophets is continued but is broadened to include those disciples who perform works of healing and exorcism in the name of Jesus but live evil lives. Entrance into the kingdom is only for those who do the will of the Father. On the day of judgement the morally corrupt prophets and miracle workers will be rejected by Jesus.
And it explains Matthew 7:24-27 as:
Here the relation is not between saying and doing as in Matthew 7:15-23 but between hearing and doing, and the words of Jesus are applied to every Christian (everyone who listens).
Basically, you hear the gospel>>you spread the gospel>>and you LIVE the gospel to be considered a true disciple of Christ.
How Can We Apply What the Bible Defines as a True Follower in Today’s World?
I often hear people saying that the Church needs to “get with the times”, that life has changed and it’s too ancient. What they don’t realize though is that the Church actually is with the times. EVERYTHING in there is relevant to today’s world and events. I’m amazed how accurate it is with every new verse I read!
Applying the definition of a true follower of Christ in today’s world is not easy. But it reminds me of a verse I came across about hearing the truth and knowing the truth and still choosing to dismiss it and do as you please.
James 4:17 says:
So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin. (NAB)
It is incredibly important as Christians not only to know and study the Bible, but to LIVE it! We tend to pick and choose what we consider sin and that’s just not how it works.
We become true disciples of our Savior, by listening to Him and applying His Word to our every day life. We need to apply to our friendships, to our marriages, at work,to our parenting, to our families, etc.
Sitting there at your desk and quietly reading the Bible doesn’t count when you get up from your desk and crawl into bed with your live-in boyfriend. We don’t get to choose what is considered a sin. If everyone is doing it, that still doesn’t give you permission from God to join them. It makes the temptation stronger, yes. But that doesn’t make it any less of a sin.
There are no exceptions to what God asks of us. He tells us not to have premarital sex (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). He tells us not to live in drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 20:1). He tells us not to engage in homosexual relationships (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-28). It’s all right in the Bible.
“For whoever does any of these abominations shall be cut off from the people,” (Leviticus 18:29, NAB).
These are truths and rules we are given as Christians but we tend to choose what we want and ignore the rest. That is not a true disciple.
These are the very sins that led our Savior to the cross for us. He sweat his blood for us, for these sins to be forgiven.
Imagine yourself standing in the crowd watching Jesus struggling to carry His cross. His motivation for carrying that cross was YOU! You see His trembling body with raw wounds, the things He endured for your salvation, for His Father to forgive your sins. Would you still pick and choose those sins?
Jesus loves us so much that even if we did still choose to hurt Him, even if we chose to pile up those sins onto that cross that He could barely hold up, He would still forgive us. How powerful is that?
God gives us rules because He knows what is best for us. Not because He is trying to be some kill-joy. He is a loving Father looking out for and setting boundaries for His children.
What Are the Consequences If We Do Not Become A True Follower of Christ?
When you ask your 4 year old to stop hitting his brother and he hears you, looks at you, but chooses to ignore you, he gets sent to time-out, right?
The same thing happens when we choose to not listen to our Father on matters like this as adults. There are natural consequences when we don’t follow His rules.
I will use my own personal example of consequences that almost cost me my beautiful marriage because I chose not to live the gospel.
I grew up being told by my mother and my aunts that sex was for marriage. That it was a beautiful thing but it was meant for marriage only. Other than the part about possibly having children, I didn’t truly understand WHY it was for marriage only, though.
I had premarital sex with my then-boyfriend, now-husband 7 months into our relationship. I fought myself and fought myself and eventually gave in (he never pressured me, but we definitely didn’t avoid situations that caused temptation).
And I almost broke off our engagement because it completely changed how I looked at him.
The spark was gone. I didn’t even want to spend time with him.
I remember one specific time driving 11 hours from Pennsylvania to Illinois to go visit him at the base he was stationed at and pulling up to the base gate and wanting to turn around and drive home. What an absolutely terrible feeling that was! Here was a man I was head over heels in love with before we took our relationship to that new physical level and now I wanted to leave him.
I knew something had to change!
We needed to stop playing house.
I eventually told him how I felt and explained that I needed us to abstain until our wedding night for our relationship to begin to heal.
And we did thank goodness!
This skewed my view on sex though and our sex life suffered after marriage because of it, on my part. I was rejecting him often because I felt it was only about him and I felt used. Why did I feel used? Because we used each other when we engaged in this act outside of wedlock. I had no idea the importance of sex in marriage, that it was a GOOD thing, and that it was a connection my husband desperately needed to feel closer to me. It was more than physical. It is the greatest thing between a man and a woman joined in marriage!
I thank God my cousin sent me the book Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri. This book caused a small stirring in my heart to put God first in my marriage. I was terrified of my marriage ever becoming like my parents‘ and I knew if I wanted my marriage to work that God HAD to be at the center of it, no matter how much we loved each other. Our earthly love would only carry us so far. I needed to learn how to choose to love my husband like Christ calls me to.
I knew He gave rules for us to follow for a reason and after suffering the consequences of not listening to Him, I knew He meant business and that something had to change!
When God asks us not to have premarital sex and we do, sex becomes something so cheapened that it only causes hurt. God’s plan for sex is for an emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical connection. Between husband and wife. When someone has sex outside of marriage, none of those things are experienced the way God intended because it is purely selfish and only for physical gratification. No matter how much you try to butter it up (trust me, I tried!), it’s not good for your relationship!
Sex outside of marriage is something Satan twists around and uses to hurt others, use others, ruin families, destroy marriages (or even prevent them from happening), etc.
Satan HATES marriage! Marriage reflects the love between Christ and His bride, the Church – the ultimate love story.
When you have sex outside of marriage and live together outside of marriage, you make Satan so happy because you are using everything good God created for you against yourselves.
This. Is. God’s. Truth.
When God asks us to not have premarital sex or cohabitate and we choose to anyways, the consequences are there even in statistics! (I’m including cohabitation and premarital sex together because they often go hand in hand and the statistics are similar for both).
You increase your chances of divorce by 33% when you live with someone before marriage.*
Thirty-three percent?! If you truly love someone, do not put yourselves at risk for this!
I know people talk about having premartial sex and cohabitating as ways to make sure you know the person is the right fit for you.
But when you go into a relationship with such a selfish mindset, you cannot expect that mindset to instantly go away once you are married.
That is why the divorce rate is so much higher for couples who live together before marriage than couples who don’t. Many people cannot overcome those consequences and do not know how to handle the problems together as one because they did not start their commitment as one.
Is there hope for couples who lived together before marriage? YES! If you commit wholeheartedly to putting God at the absolute center of your marriage, you can beat the odds! Nothing is impossible with God!
How Can ((Truly)) Following Jesus Affect Our Lives?
Truly becoming a disciple of Christ and listening to Him, sharing His word, and LIVING His word will bring you more joy in your life than you can even fathom! Imagine your worries and your anxieties begin to disappear! When you begin to truly follow Christ, you can begin to trust God which changes lives! Relinquishing control to HIM will free you more than you can ever imagine.
James 4:8 says:
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
What a wonderful God! If you come to Him on your knees, crying out how sorry you are for making His Son carry your sins on the cross, He WILL reach out for you to pull you back up into His arms. He is a LOVING God!
I believe God is stirring up MANY hearts right now! He wants us to share His Word with others now more than ever.
If we keep our mouths shut, then we give our stamp of approval. And if we keep our mouths shut, this world Will. Not. Change. It is our time to show that we are fiercely His and we will share with others His Truth!
People are afraid to say these things to others in case they offend that person. But honestly, they need to hear it! I know I needed to hear it! I drank in college and had premarital sex. I suffered consequences because of those actions. I knew better-I was blessed enough to have been raised to know better.
We cannot be afraid of persecution for following our Lord anymore! Do you remember the persecution He took for us?
I was led astray by this world – which is SO easy to do! – and I thank the good Lord for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His love! I am so thankful to have begun a true relationship with Him and I pray myself and you, my dear reader, may be able to find the strength to become a TRUE follower of Christ!
*Resources used: Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Leman
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