No Longer a Follower

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 37

One of the upshots of understanding “Christ in you” is that I no longer consider myself a Christ-follower.  The word follower implies that there is some kind of distance between me and Jesus.  Jesus is up ahead and I am following at a distance.  Seeing ourselves as followers feeds the erroneous message we have been taught that my behavior determines my closeness to Jesus.  When I am doing well, I am moving closer to Jesus like a good follower would.  And when I am doing poorly, I am falling behind with an increasing distance between me and my Savior.  But does this line of thinking make any sense when Christ has promised a bond so close that He is literally living inside us forever?

Now I know most folks use the term “Christ-follower” to identify as a believer and I am not all bent out of shape if people keep using this term.  I just want you to think about the subtle implication that the word “follower” supports; the idea that there can be some degree of separation between you and God.  I know I am repeating myself, from several of my previous posts, but it cannot be said too often.  There is no separation between you and Jesus.  Your bond is unbreakable.  Your bond is unshakeable.

You know, I find it interesting that in all of the apostles’ sermons in the book of Acts and in their subsequent letters, there is no call to “follow Jesus”.  After the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came to live in God’s children forever, we are not instructed to “follow Jesus”.  Paul, in all of his writings, never commands believers to “follow Jesus”.  I think this is significant because there is no more following when Christ lives in us.

We are instructed to “imitate Christ”.  But I see this as a completely different focus than “follow”.  There is no distance implied in “imitate”.  Imitate is simply an encouragement to look like Christ, in your attitude and actions.  It is living into our new identity as His beloved child.

So if Christ is not up ahead of us, as a teacher to be followed, where is He?  “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I IN YOU” (John 14:20).  “God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

If we keep thinking of Jesus as outside of us, then we will think we have to do something to get to Him, to stay with Him, and to follow Him. But if we think of Him as He is, happily at home inside us, then we will look for Him there. And the sheer beauty is that when we look for Him there, we will find Him. We will find Him in us full of life and love and joy; a life, love, and joy that we have the pleasure of expressing as He lives His life through us.

I like how our friend Ralph Harris summarizes this thought, “Christ is the one who came to us and who stays with us.  There is no following at a distance, no matter how small.”