I’m new to the world of social media. I’ve enjoyed using Instagram (IG) as a way to meet new people. We also use it to let members of the wider military, law enforcement, and security community know about Panoplia.org and the articles we post. When I run across an interesting IG account, I’ll often read the Profile bio. Once in a while I’ll see a bio that says something like, “Former special forces. Faithful follower of Jesus Christ.”
I pay particular attention to accounts like these. I enjoy interacting with others who prioritize biblical faith, and who share a similar world view with regard to security. Some of these accounts are inspiring to me. Others, however, are surprising with regard to the content they publish. It doesn’t take long to realize that what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus means different things to different people.
This leads to the question, “What’s the biblical view of what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus?” Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder. The Bible is very clear on the subject. In fact, the word “faithful” features prominently in one of my favorite verses. Revelation 17:14 describes one of the final battles that will eventually be fought between good and evil. Jesus, the Lamb of God, faces a coalition of ten kings who choose to make war against him. In the NIV this verse reads:
They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings –and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.
There are few verses about battles that peak my interest as much as this one. This gives us a glimpse into the future. There’s no doubt that this epic battle will, one day, take place. Notice the characteristics of the warriors whom Jesus has chosen to fight this battle by his side. These warriors are said to be called, chosen, and faithful. You and I have control over only one of these attributes. While we live on this earth, we have a choice as to whether or not we will be faithful followers of the King of kings and the Lord of Lords.
There are few things that involve higher stakes than where we will spend eternity. When we meet Jesus face-to-face, will he recognize us as one of his faithful, or will he utter the most devastating words that will ever be heard? Matthew 7:21-23 gives us another glimpse into the future. As individuals appear before Jesus, there will be some who lived their lives assuming they were faithful followers, and yet who were not. In the ESV these verses state:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.
The Bible speaks in other places about those who knowingly reject the offer of salvation through Jesus. As they watch believers enter God’s presence, and finally realize the consequences of their own choices, it’s said that they will break down weeping, and will grind their teeth in anguish. Perhaps the only individuals to be pitied more than those who reject Jesus are they who eagerly approach him expecting to be welcomed as champions of faith, only to be rejected. How could this happen?
Jesus spent three years on earth teaching people what it means to be his faithful followers. Thankfully, what Jesus taught has been handed down to us in the Bible. Those who genuinely trust in Jesus for salvation will be guided and led as they draw near to God through His word. John 16:12-13 records Jesus as saying:
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
The difference between faithful followers of Jesus and those who simply claim to be so is clear. A faithful follower of Jesus is led by the word of God. The Bible is like a compass that leads us as we journey through this life. As the follower seeks God in the Bible, he or she is led by the Holy Spirit. In this way the true follower of Jesus is transformed. The faithful follower of Christ slowly changes as he or she is led by God, seeks to conform to that which pleases God, and discovers God’s will for his or her life.
Let’s be very clear. While on earth no one ever “achieves” faithfulness to the point that the true follower of Christ would desire. After all, those who trust in Jesus for salvation, and thus have been justified, still operate in this world and still have our sinful nature with which we must contend. And yet, transformation through God’s word and the Holy Spirit is real. Reflect on Galatians 5:13-26 for the differences between those who are led by the Spirit, and those who still live to please their sinful nature.
It’s God’s desire that all people come to faith in him through Jesus (1 Timothy 2:1-4). He also wants all believers to be transformed into faithful followers of our Lord. Jesus himself said the following as recorded in Luke 6:46-49 (NIV):
Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.
As we consider what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus, never fall into the trap of comparing yourself or your faithfulness with anyone else. Jesus alone will judge our hearts, our faith, and our actions. Our part is to love God as we are taught to do in His word, to be led by the Holy Spirit as we seek God’s will in the Bible, to love others in the ways that are pleasing to God, and to draw near to God in prayer and dependence. As we do so God grants us assurance of faith, and leads us to be faithful. May He now and always find us so. Amen!