Most of us get it backwards. We think the key to the life we’ve always wanted is to believe the right things and behave the right way. Just take a look at social media. Facebook Philosophers regularly post one-liners, pics and quotes intended to inspire, challenge, convict and guilt people into changing what they believe and how they behave. We see this in politics as well. We pass laws based on our beliefs designed to manage someone’s behavior with words on a page.
It makes sense that we would think the key to success in life is belief and behavior. They’re both measurable. One by what we say. The other by what we do. But when it comes to discovering and living spiritual truth there is a far more important practice than belief and behavior. It’s the way Jesus did it and it’s far less complicated than we want to make it.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
When Jesus approached Peter, James and John, three fishermen on the shore of the sea of Galilee, he didn’t give them a list of qualifications. He never asked for their résumé. He simply said, “Follow me.” Later Jesus goes to Matthew. He’s working in the tax office. Jesus doesn’t look at Matthew and say, “Believe this, obey that.” Instead, he looks at Matthew and says, “Follow me.”
We see this pattern in the Old Testament too. God goes to Noah and later Abraham and essentially says, “Follow me.” And they do. Most people think of religion as a list of rules and regulations. When I say Old Testament I’m guessing one of the first things that comes to mind is the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were first given to Moses. Moses lived about 600 years after Abraham. For 600 years there was no list, only one explicit request, “Follow me.”
When asked what made Jesus tick he responded simply, “I do the things I see my Father do. I say the things I hear my Father say.” In other words Jesus said, “I follow him.”
We get it backwards. We try to convince ourselves and everyone else that if we will believe the right things and behave the right way only then we can follow Jesus. But that’s not what Jesus said. He said, “Follow me.”
Follow him long enough and belief will come. We see that in the Disciples. Following leads to belief. Belief leads to changed behavior.
We understand this. We do it everyday on Facebook and Twitter. We click “like”. We press “follow”. And suddenly we receive regular updates about the thoughts and actions of the people we find interesting. We may agree or disagree. But either way, the people we follow influence the thoughts we have.
I don’t know what you think about Jesus or Christianity. Maybe you don’t put a lot stock in anything spiritual or religion related. Maybe you grew up in church. Maybe you’ve been burned. Maybe you’re doing all the right things, all the right way. No matter where you are, you’re in a good place to start. My challenge for you today isn’t that you would change your beliefs or behavior, but that you would, for a season try one simple thing.
Let me be clear. I don’t mean follow his followers. I mean follow him. Go to Biblegateway.com or YouVersion.com. Search for the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in the New Living Translation and start reading. Read a little every day. Let’s say, one chapter each day. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. I read things online or in the newspaper everyday I don’t believe. Just like checking Facebook or Twitter get in the habit of reading a chapter from the Bible each day. Follow him.
These thoughts inspired by Andy Stanley.