Being a follower of Jesus
A prior question is the process of becoming a follower of Jesus. Clearly each person makes this decision for themselves. It is crucial to grasp the significance of this word 'decision', as it presupposes there is no such thing as being born as a Christian (Australians are born into a nation that has a heritage of Christian beliefs and ethics).
Becoming a follower of Jesus requires a 'decision'. So, how is this 'decision' made and what words do I use?
A good way to illustrate this is to provide an incident in the life of Naaman, whose title was similar to the Military Chief of Staff of the King of Syria (2 Kings Chapter 5). There was no more distinguished gentleman aristocrat in that empire than Naaman.
But he had a problem, it was a health issue so serious that the quarantine rules kept him out of society. He has somehow contracted leprosy.
It so happened that his wife's young maid was an Israelite, whom his armies had captured, and she was placed in 'service'. She conveyed to Naaman's wife that there was a prophet of the God of Israel in her home-land that had established a ministry of integrity associated with 'healing'.
Naaman was informed of this and he immediately wrote a letter addressed to the King of Israel accompanied with a huge amount of money seeking this 'healing'.
When the King of Israel received this correspondence he was beside himself with fear as he realised that although he was the King, he didn't have the where-with-all to bring healing to anyone, let along such a 'military might' on his doorstep.
Elisha the prophet heard how distraught the King had become and communicated with the Palace that he would deal with this, so as to illustrate to the entire world the Salvation of the God of Israel.
The long and short of the story is that Elisha gives Naaman 'healing instructions'. He is to wash himself 'seven times' in the River Jordan. Naaman was as cross as! There were much cleaner rivers in Damascus (the Jordon River was polluted), but more than that, his pride was cut to the quick.
Naaman's Aid de Chief quietly suggested that had he been asked to do some mighty deed worthy of his station in life (the Knight in shining armour thing) he would have rushed into it, so why not this simple thing, washing 'seven times' in the Jordan.
So Naaman quietened down, did as Elisha had said and was made clean of his leprosy.
The story of Naaman is the quintessential illustration of how someone makes a decision to follow Jesus and the nature of the words one might use. There is no "Knight in shining armour" action as Naaman sought to demonstrate his worthiness, rather it is a humbling experience.
The words to become a follower of Jesus are simple:
"Lord Jesus, I need You. I've sinned and gone my own way, independent of You. I thank You for dying on the Cross for my sins, and now I ask you to come into my life, forgive my sins, and begin to make me into the kind of person you want me to be."
Is this too difficult? For many it is. First, it's too simplistic. Second, it hands my life over to the Lord and that is way too radical.
What happens if I do say these words? Not much at first, there are no flashing lights. A fresh world view gradually takes over our thinking. Daily reading of the Bible allows the Lord's Spirit to speak into our lives and provides guidance. A quiet assurance takes hold as repentance brings release.
A new world opens to us. It's like trying to explain the 'smile' of the Mona Lisa to someone who has never seen the painting (a quote from Christian Rugby League player of the 80s, Manly's Ian Barkley).
Statement: In my ministry of 33 years these are the words I invite each and every person to pray. It's simple enough, but it's radical beyond anything they have ever done before. It's not for the faint hearted as it is unimaginably life changing.
In my next Letter I'll discuss "why Jesus Christ places this claim on our lives".