How to Explain What Following Jesus Means to a Student

A little while ago, I was enjoying a cup of coffee with one of the sophomore guys in our church’s youth ministry at one of our (2,000) local Starbucks. Our conversation moved listlessly from topic to topic, but it soon took on a laser focus when he asked, “I think I know, but I have a hard time explaining it: what does it mean to follow Jesus?”

I know what he meant when he said, “I think I know, but I have a hard time explaining it…” There are countless things we know, but may not be able to communicate clearly if asked. For this specific student, that thing was following Jesus.

Knowing that I am not the only youth pastor who has been (or will be) asked this question, I thought it may be helpful to share the answer I shared with my student.

5 Aspects of Following Jesus

Following Jesus means at least these five things…

Trusting Jesus as the Savior

The Apostles preached it clearly, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Those who follow Jesus trust in Jesus alone (as opposed to their works or other saviors) for salvation from sin, death, and eternal judgment. We don’t trust in our good works, our religious works, our family tree, our history, or our religious associations to save us. When it comes to salvation from hell and unto God, we followers of Jesus have put all our chips on Him alone. For us, it’s all Jesus or nothing.

Learning from Jesus as the Teacher

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29). Followers of Jesus see Him as The Instructor. When Jesus saves someone He simultaneously enrolls them into His school. Yes, Jesus has gifted His church with gifted shepherds and teachers to build up His body (Ephesians 4:11-12), but, even then, those shepherds and teachers are a means through which He teaches His people. It is teachings we learn, His promises we hope in, His correction we heed, and His Word we hide in our hearts. Christ is the Christian’s Educator.

Valuing Jesus as the Treasure

Following Jesus means valuing Him above all. Jesus taught that it must be this way. When the rich, young ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus cut straight to the bottom line, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21). Essentially, Jesus is telling the young ruler, “If you want eternal life, value me above everything else in your life.” To follow Jesus is to see Him alone as the Treasure of our life. This is why followers of Jesus can gladly sing, “Take the world, but give me Jesus.” For the Christian having Jesus is the joy of heaven. We want Him more than His stuff.

Obeying Jesus as the Master

Following Jesus means giving Jesus in throne of your heart. It means that He is now the Boss of your life. He’s the driver of our life’s car. He calls the shots. He chooses the direction. He makes the decisions. It is His job to lead us in everything and ours to obey in everything. Followers of Jesus do just that, follow Jesus. He is the Leader and we are not. Why such obedience? Simple. Love. We obey what we love the most. Jesus made that very clear, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 15:1). Because the Christian loves and values Jesus above all, they gladly and joyfully obey Him in all. He is Master and we His happy slaves (1 Corinthians 7:22).

Sharing Jesus as the Gospel

“My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” (Acts 20:24). What is the good news? Well, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Christians who trust Christ as the Savior, learn from Him as the Teacher, value Him as the Treasure, and follow Him as the Master spend their lives sharing Him as the Good News for all! By becoming Man (John 1:14), substituting for Man in life and on the cross (1 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24), rising again to new life for Man from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:4), Jesus now stands as Lord of all (Psalm 2), offering Himself as Savior to any who would believe (John 3:16). Those who follow Jesus, make it their life’s work to share this good news with others so others may come to see Jesus as the Good News.

Christians who trust Christ as the Savior, learn from Him as the Teacher, value Him as the Treasure, and follow Him as the Master spend their lives sharing Him as the Good News for all.

There are no doubt more things to say or even better ways of saying the above, but this is my humble offering for your joy.

I’d love to hear from you, what do you think? How would you describe following Jesus to the students at your church? Share in your comments below. I promise I’ll read them.

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