Friday, January 6, 2012

Have you begun to follow?

More than once Christians have been scoffed at as "poor, ignorant, and easily led." Christianity, indeed all religion -- so the argument goes -- is for weak-minded folks who don't want to think for themselves. It creates followers not independent thinkers and doers. My Dylanesque rejoinder to the man who prides himself on his autonomy and independent thought is. . . you gotta serve somebody.

The critics are partly right. The essence of being a Christian is to be led. It's to be a follower. That's what a disciple of Jesus Christ does. He follows his master. One of the most common biblical pictures of this is that of a sheep following a shepherd. Not very flattering is it?

Jesus: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Douglas MacMillan (The Lord Our Shepherd) unpacks some of the implications that "hearing" and "following" have for the Lord's sheep -- those who can say with David: "The LORD is MY shepherd." In this post I shared some of MacMillan's insights on hearing. Now here is Scotsman MacMillan on following.

I suppose if you asked everyone here what a Christian is, they could give you a different definition and still be within the framework of Scripture. But here is a very simple definition. A Christian is a person who follows Jesus. Do you remember the story of blind Bartimaeus? He was healed, and the last thing that we read of him is this: 'he . . . followed Jesus in the way' (Mark 10:52). This phrase 'following Jesus' is so descriptive of what a Christian really is that on the west coast of Scotland, the Gaelic-speaking regions, we use it to denominate a Christian. If you were on the Isle of Lewis, for example, and somebody was gloriously converted, you would say, 'So and so has begun to follow', and nobody in Lewis would misunderstand you. . . . Often when we are asked to say what a Christian is we do so in completely unbiblical terms. 'A Christian is someone who goes to chapel or church; or they are Baptists or Presbyterians; or they wear certain clothes or do their hair a certain way; or they don't smoke or drink; or they don't dress like this or listen to that kind of music.' You know, an awful lot of it is sheer rubbish! A Christian is a follower of Jesus. . .

If you are following it means that you are being led. It's like a rowboat being pulled by a large yacht. Suddenly, the tow-rope goes taut, and you're moving out of the harbour. This "simple definition" of what a Christian is assuages our doubts and strengthens our assurance that we are indeed a child of God.

No matter how you feel or what else is true of you, if God in His grace has brought your life under direction and made you follow Christ, then that is one of the best signs you can have. If that is true of you, then you have nothing to be afraid of.

That's great stuff, and this is a great book!

Quotes from J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord Our Shepherd (pp. 39-41)

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