(Click to listen to an audio recording of this article, read by the author: Aren’t Christians supposed to follow Christ?)
The word “Christian” does not mean “admirer of Christ,” nor “recipient of Christ’s blessings,” nor even “one who believes in Christ.”
“Christian” means “follower of Christ.”
Jesus became a man and left us an example
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.’” 1 Peter 2:21-22.
How on earth are we humans supposed to follow Christ, the Son of God? Well, Jesus couldn’t have been an example for people if He had remained in heaven. Neither could He have been if He had come to earth as some supernatural being with special privileges. Jesus gave up being equal with God and became a human being like us in every respect. (Philippians 2:5-8) He even preferred to call Himself the “Son of Man”. From His mother Mary, He inherited human nature (or a “flesh”) with all its weaknesses, and was tempted in all points as we are. Yet, He never sinned. Not one single time!
In Hebrews 2:17 it is written, “In all things He had to be made like His brethren … For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” In other words, He did all this for the sake of those with the same and blood as He had. Those who want to follow Him – Christians.
Sin has a stranglehold on people, and we have all fallen short of God’s will in our lives. Even the “best” of us, if we are honest with ourselves, have to admit that we are sinners. Take our thoughts. Are they always so pure and noble, loving and forgiving as we make ourselves out to be? Are all our words a blessing? Are all our deeds unselfish? Are we really following in Jesus’ footsteps?
The death of the cross
In Philippians 2 it says that when He had become a man just like us, Jesus humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death. Humbling oneself – what does that mean? For Jesus it meant that in every situation when He was tempted, He always said, “Lord, not My will, but Yours, be done.” That meant that He didn’t allow Himself to think critically about the others; He didn’t give in to anger, discouragement, impatience or any other sin that He was tempted to!
In other words, Jesus’ own life – the sin in His flesh – had to die. That is also why He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24. Why does He set this condition for those who want to follow Him? He says it because it’s the way He went Himself!
When Jesus was obedient to God’s will, it was “to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8. That was the “daily cross” He spoke of long before He was crucified on Calvary. All the sin that dwelt in Jesus’ flesh was crucified on this cross, and all true Christians make use of the same death over sin in their own flesh when they follow Him.
“We shall be like Him”
Those who follow in Jesus’ footsteps will obviously end up where He is. “Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:10. Have you ever read this, really? Do you see what’s written here? The life of Jesus – in our body! Death over our “own life” results in an incredible miracle taking place in us. God is able to create something completely new.
That is why Jesus took that huge risk and became a man like us – so that He could give us a way to follow: a way out of sin and death, into happiness and life, both now and all eternity. And not only did He open the way; He also sent us His Holy Spirit to guide, help and strengthen us to walk on it.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3. That is true Christianity.
Maybe you’ve never heard of this kind of Christianity, but God’s Word speaks of no other kind. Pick up your Bible today, and rather than reading what Jesus did in your place, read how you can follow in Jesus’ footsteps to become like Him! Ask yourself, “Am I really a Christian, according to the Bible?” If this is the life you want, don’t hesitate – pray that God will give you His Spirit, and start following in Jesus’ steps. The result will be indescribable!