A lot of people like that poem “Footprints in the Sand” about Jesus walking with a man on the beach. It’s there to point out how, during the most difficult times in our lives, Jesus carried us through. I’m not going to analyze it, but, as much as I like it, I always thought the poem was missing something. The man was walking with Christ and carried by Christ, two fine things we all should aspire to, but what about serving Christ, and doing the work He did? I almost imagine it like an apprentice carpenter with his master, watching his master work, and then trying his best to imitate what his master does. Jesus is, absolutely, our friend, and He does care for and carry us, but it’s so much more and deeper than that. Jesus is calling us to be like Himself, with the blessings, work, and, yes, persecutions all thrown in to the mix. In the age of programs in the church, or products to be delivered to consumers, what we really need to do is go back to the basics. The Church is not a business, nor is it an enterprise: it’s the Body of Christ with Jesus as the Head. From this perspective, then, we need to get back to the beginning! And what did Jesus begin with? Discipleship, plain and simple. He called out to 12 men and said “Follow Me.” They watched Him work, preaching, teaching, and performing miracles. They heard His teachings and gleaned from His wisdom, and it began by Him inviting them to follow Him. When someone is a disciple, they are there to learn from and be like Him. Jesus’ disciples (and disciples of other teachers and rabbi’s of Jesus’ day) believed that they should follow so closely to their master that the dust of His sandals should gather on their robes. In other words, walking in His foot steps. Now, imagine, if you will, taking this, and putting it in to a modern dichotomy.
Disciples are called. So we need to call. We need to reflect the words of Paul, who said “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” We need to imitate Jesus, who called disciples, and showed them the work of the Kingdom. Instead of saying “Come to church, partake in the meal” we should say “come watch us prepare the meal, so that, some day, you may work alongside us and, when the Lord calls us home or somewhere else, you may teach others to do the same.” The invitation “Follow Me” is important. Jesus called His disciples to do it, and told them to do the works He did. Give the invitation. Say “Follow me as I follow Christ,” and make sure the example you’re setting is one that future generations will imitate.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.