What does it take to be a follower of Jesus Christ?

The Key is Your Response

1 Peter 3:16 says “Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath,” as translated in Eugene Petersons’, The Message.  So, what does that really mean and how do we apply to our lives.

Obviously, the plain reading of the text is quite clear; we should not act in a way that causes us to feel guilty, about anything. If we can achieve this level of guilt-free living then if we are wrongly accused, it will be obvious, because of our previous guilt-free actions, that we are being wrongly accused; however, if someone does accurately bring to your attention something that you are doing, that they perceive to be wrong, you will feel no shame in it because you have a clear conscience about every action you have taken.

Perhaps there is no better real-life application of this verse than the political arena. Although many candidates pledge say they want to run a positive campaign, some would argue that this effort is mostly out of self-preservation. Candidates do not want their dirty-laundry aired in public, or maybe they know that in the past their personal actions, voting records related to certain issues, or their stance on important subjects may not be exactly what they want all the voters to know.

It seems that almost every candidate, no matter how vehemently they oppose negative ads in the beginning of the campaign, goes negative before the end of the campaign. This happens for several reasons. First, one’s opponent is ahead in the polls and something is needed to close the gap. Second, one is previously attached by another candidate in the media, maybe with misleading of half-truth statements and so the one being attacked feels the need to defend themselves. Third, a candidate is perceived to be talking the talk, but not walking the walk, and fourth, despite polls to the contrary in reality, negative ads work because as humans and voters, we are much more likely to believe something bad about someone than we are to believe something good.

If politicians would only take to heart the advice, even the command, to keep a clear conscience before God their opponents would have a lot less mud to through at them when election time rolled around.

So, how do you measure up? If you were to enter a political race today and your thoughts, as well as your actions could be used in a negative campaign against you, which would the public believe? Would those who know you best summarily dismiss these attacks and defend you to others because you have consistently proven yourself to above reproach on the matter, or would they have to give it some thought before determining your specific guilt or innocence. If they have to stop and think, we have lost the battle.

Let’s take this one step furtherer, if you look back at your life, say over the last 10 years, are there things in your life that Satan could use against you in a campaign to keep you out of Heaven?  How effective would that be? Is your conscience clear? Have you ask for forgiveness? Is it your intent to change the behaviors of the past so that any such campaign would be less effective today than it was 10 years ago? Obviously, we would all lose that campaign if it were not for the grace and mercy of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:16 is calling us to make and live out the change necessary to make such a campaign against us ineffective.  We can start today, living life in a way that will free us from guilt, guilt from our actions, and our response to others. If people watch our lives will our actions and responses point them to Christ?

The only way for us to properly respond, with a clear conscience, to the challenges of life and the challenges other people may bring against us is to be faithfully living out the Three Basic Principles discussed in an earlier posting. First, we must be diligently praying on a daily basis.  This simply means talking to God, being thankful for his blessings sharing our thoughts, asking for forgiveness, voicing our concerns and disappointments, and seeking His guidance. Second, we must be reading, studying, and exploring the Bible. This is the way God talks to us. The Bible is God’s word, provided to us so that we might better understand how we are to live the life to which He has called us.  The more we read, understand and know about the Bible, the better we are able to hear, know and understand the still small voice that God most often uses to direct us in our daily lives.  Third, we must be living life amongst a strong group of followers, who are seeking to live their life according to God’s word and desire.

We are not called to be perfect. We will never be perfect, but that should not let that deter us meeting the challenge of keeping a clear conscience before God.

Three Basic Principles

To be a follower of Jesus Christ I believe you need to totally embrace three basic principles: read, pray and fellowship.

Now, I know you may be thinking these are not really original. Well, with a faith that has been around  since the creation of the world it is hard to come up with something original, but I really believe embracing at least these three basic principles are essential, to becoming a successful follower.

First read. Read God’s word every day.  Find a translation that you are comfortable with and read something everyday. Maybe it is a verse, a chapter, or a book, but you really need to read something everyday. Take several days and explore the same verse.  Yes I said explore. 

Find different source materials and investigate the deep truths of every verse you read. For instance one day you may read Matthew 6:33, a basic verse that is familiar to a lot of people, so you read this and you think it is pretty straight forward, but then on the second day you read a few versus before that and a few verses after that and you wonder what does this really mean, so you look at a different translation to get a slightly different perspective.

The next day you return to Matt 6:33, except this time you are reading the writings of Matthew Henry, which help to take you deeper into the meaning of the scripture.  Next you notice a foot note in you Bible that leads to other verses, cross references and you start to investigate those.  Before you know it you are deep into a study of Matt 6:33.  Now wasn’t that easy. 

I believe that as we investigate God’s word and it starts to reveal itself to us, we cannot help but desire to go deeper and deeper into the meaning of scripture.  Every time we think that we have reached the deepest depth of a study, God reveals something new to us that continues to draw us deeper.

Second pray.  Again, something that we hear a lot about, but what does that really mean? God wants to have a relationship with you;  a personal relationship.  His main source of communication to us is His word, the Bible. Our main source of communication to Him is prayer.  The more we read His word the more we know and understand Him.  The more we pray the more we begin to understand how He is working in our lives, because a strong prayer life will change the rest of our life.

I think we all start from a place of selfishness when we start a prayer life, mainly because we are not really sure what to pray about or how to pray.  As we grow we notice changes in the things we pray for and how we pray. God does not want our prayers to be solely focused on ourselves and He does not want us to pray weak and timid prayers.

Just as we boldly approach our earthly parents with requests and life situations, God is happy for us to approach Him in the same way.  Now for a word of clarification, it is our responsibility to go before God with a clean heart, which may require some prayers of forgiveness first, but we should not be afraid to respectfully approach God with real world problems that we need real world answers too.  God delights in showing us His faithfulness, we should delight in showing Him ours.

Third fellowship.  Now this is a “churchy” word that simply means to hang-out with other believers, but not just any believers, believers that are drawing you closer to God.  Unfortunately believers are no different than anybody else when it comes to temptation, in fact Satan may be working overtime on believers to keep their walk  ineffective, unproductive and uninteresting causing them to live only slightly different than our unbelieving friends. 

I truly believe that God’s plan is for us all to be in an active, thriving group of growing believers, a group that shares in the good and the bad times. A group that helps us continue on the narrow path through encouragement and loving correction.

I recently read an article about ACCOUNTABILITY, another “churchy” word and to many a scary word, mainly because many associate accountability with sharing your deepest, darkest secrets to someone and hoping that they keep that trust. It is by sharing these secrets that we are compelled to do better.  Well the article I read flies in the face of that concept of accountability. Instead it took the position that a group of growing Christians help to strengthen each other, by simply leading seeking to please God in all they do.  Now this does not mean that they are perfect, or that they hit the mark every time, what it means is that their overall goal and purpose for everything they do is to do it in a way that pleases God.  And, if at some point you develop a really close relationship with another believer and you have an area of life that you constantly struggle with, then you can approach someone about consciously and consistently lifting you up in prayer so that you will feel the presence of God working in your life, and then from time to time, just so they can more specifically pray for you they will ask you how things are going.

Not to beat you up about them, but to fine tune their prayers for you so that you can continue to grow.

Fellowship is essential, don’t over look the importance of this crucial element to be a follower.

Here are some words to get you started

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

John 3:3

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Romans 1 : 16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

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