What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

Table of Contents

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter, JFP News, to receive encouraging stories, videos and resources in your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Christians talk a lot about following Jesus, but what exactly does that mean?

Let’s look at how the disciples would have understood Christ’s invitation, and what it means for us today.

What following Jesus meant for the disciples

When a rabbi asked someone to follow him, it was an incredible honor. This invitation was an offer of unlimited access to the rabbi-a chance to become a perpetual student. It not only gave them complete access to ask the teacher probing questions, but they also lived alongside the rabbi, experiencing firsthand how the Scriptures should be lived out. Becoming a disciple required an unwavering commitment to submit to the rabbi’s authority, but it also meant that everyday was full of opportunities to learn new things about God.

Disciples went where their rabbi went. They slept where their rabbis slept. They ate what their rabbi ate. And largely, they shared their rabbi’s passions and beliefs.

As a rabbi, this is the kind of relationship Jesus invited the disciples to experience. For them, following Jesus included sharing his enthusiasm for declaring the good news. This meant taking short-term trips to share his teachings (Luke 10), and eventually, spreading those teachings throughout the world.

What it means to follow Jesus today

Eventually, the disciples learned that they weren’t just following a rabbi-Jesus was the promised Messiah. The Lord had come to teach them about himself, and they were going to help establish his kingdom. If we want to follow Jesus too, we have to recognize him as more than a great teacher.

Declare Jesus as Lord

For us, following Jesus means recognizing him for who he really is. Messiah. Lord. The Son of God. He is the Savior of the world. Paul says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

The first step to following Jesus is believing that he is who he says he is. By declaring Jesus is Lord and being baptized in his name, we make the first steps of obedience in following Jesus. And the Holy Spirit empowers us to understand and live out Christ’s teaching (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

Obey his teachings

While Christians today can’t physically follow Jesus like the disciples did, the New Testament makes it clear that following him includes applying his teachings. Jesus communicated it this way: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NIV).

Paul’s letters to the early church also emphasize the need for Christians to follow Jesus’ teachings and apply them to their lives-just as his disciples did. As it was in the early church, the Holy Spirit is still equipping the church to follow Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

Find your place in the body of Christ

In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he calls the church “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12), explaining how each person has been uniquely gifted to fulfill a role in the church, and the body can’t function as it was intended unless each person does his or her part. With this metaphor, Paul gives us the image of Christ as a head controlling his body (the church) to do his will.

By choosing to follow Jesus, we become part of Christ’s body. Paul wants us to understand that we all serve a purpose within that body, and each one of us has unique gifts to help the church accomplish its mission.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body . . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:15-20, 27 NIV).

As we each discover our unique place within the body of Christ, the church is built up and equipped.

Start your unique journey as a disciple

Like Paul said, we each play a different role in the body of Christ. Not everyone’s relationship with Jesus looks the same. Your path as a disciple may not be the same as your neighbor’s, and that’s OK.

To help you understand how your temperament influences you as a follower of Christ, we’ve created 16 distinct discipleship guides, one for each of the Myers-Briggs personality types. Each guide takes an in-depth look your unique disposition and how it impacts maturing in Christ and making disciples.