Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Followers of Jesus

If you ask 10 different people to give a definition of Christianity, they'll give you 10 different answers. Rather than calling myself a Christian, to be more specific I prefer to call myself a follower of Jesus.

Like Jesus, I reject many things about “organized religion” (man-made attempts to reach God through rules and rituals)*. Like the folks at at AllAboutGod.com, I believe religion has kept more people from the Truth than anything in history.

I started out "religious" - and became disillusioned with it. I felt church-goers were mostly hypocrites; and besides, there is no proof of God, or proof of really anything else in the Bible - other than some of these people did exist historically. It all happened so long ago, how can you trust that the Bible is an accurate historical record, and not biased by the different perceptions and interpretations of many men? And for that matter, if there is a God and if he's supposed to be good and wise and all-powerful, how come there is so much suffering in the world? These are all questions that turned me into a skeptic during my high school and college years.

But at some point, people generally face one or more the following:
  • you realize just how difficult and complicated life is
  • you start to quesiton the meaning and purpose of your life
  • you're faced with your mortality and wonder where do I go when I die?
In my case, it was the first two that caused me to begin the transition from "skeptic" to "seeker".

There isn't any proof out there, for the skeptic/seeker. Many of the arguments that believers use are flawed. It comes down to a matter of faith. There's lots of different faiths to choose from. Why should Jesus be the answer?

He's the answer because he's the only one who loved us so much, even the most wretched of us, even those of us who hate him, that he gave up his life for us. And then he conquered death by rising again, so that we might have hope of eternal life, too. Every other belief system in the world says you must achieve a certain level of goodness or holiness, or meditate long enough, or give enough of your time and money or go on some pilgrimage to earn enlightment or eternal life. Jesus is the only one that said, "no, it's a gift. I freely give it to you." No works at all, just faith, and a repentant heart.

What does it mean, to be a follower of Jesus? Matthew 16:24-25: Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

Following Jesus means surrendering your will to Him, and thereby gaining assurance of eternal life. Why is Jesus worthy of being the lord of our lives? Wasn't he just a good man, or a wise prophet and kind healer? Actually, he didn't claim to be a "good man", he claimed to be the Son of God. Here's how one my friends put it, loosely quoting from C.S. Lewis: "I think that one of the most quintessential questions that one must ask is this: Is Jesus who he said he was? There’s no gray area---either he was telling the truth--he died for our sins, was resurrected, appeared to many witnesses, and is the only way to heaven….or, he was the most egomaniacal, self-deluded liar that ever existed."

Matthew 9:11-13: While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees [the self-righteous] saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

If you don't think there is anything wrong with you, that you are basically a good person, then you're healthy. You don't need a doctor.

But remember this: when the Jews were about ready to stone a woman for adultery, Jesus said, "he who has no sin, throw the first stone." And one by one, they all dropped their stones, and walked away.

Some of my blogs related to following Jesus:

Worldviews, or, what is truth? (April, 2009)

Thinking about how hard the Truth is (February, 2009)

Whip lashes (October, 2008)

Speeding tickets (October, 2008)

My testimony (March, 2008)

Teenage trauma (February, 2008)

*You might ask that if I "reject many things about organized religion (man-made attempts to reach God through rules and rituals)" - then why do you go to church? Well, the short answer is that's what followers of Jesus are asked to do, in the New Testament. The long answer is.... forthcoming in another blog, someday!

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