Come, follow Jesus!
(the real Jesus)

ONLINE EDITION
The Gospel
in simple terms
for nonbelievers
and new believers

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Come Follow Jesus - the real Jesus
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Jesus said, "Come, follow me."
How can you follow Jesus?
"But I'm a sinful person, not fit to be a follower of Jesus!"
Your new life as a follower of Jesus
Find fellowship with other followers of Jesus
Your prayer life
Know your Bible
Your service to God
"Jezebel" in the churches
"If we deliberately keep on sinning . . ."
Why believe the Bible?
Who is Jesus?
What did Jesus teach?
What is life really all about
Angels and demons
Gray areas, mysteries and religious authorities
What Jesus revealed about life after death
'But my relatives won't like it if I follow Jesus!'
Watching for Christ's return
How I came to follow Jesus: the testimony of David A. Reed
Why this book?
Dedication, copyright, ISBN & Scripture references
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Come, follow Jesus! (the real Jesus)
online edition of the book by David A. Reed
The Gospel in simple terms for nonbelievers and new believers.
How to become a follower of Jesus Christ, and live as Jesus commanded

Home  |   Jesus said, "Come, follow me."  |   How can you follow Jesus?  |   "But I'm a sinful person, not fit to be a follower of Jesus!"  |   Your new life as a follower of Jesus  |   Find fellowship with other followers of Jesus  |   Your prayer life  |   Know your Bible  |   Your service to God  |   "Jezebel" in the churches  |   "If we deliberately keep on sinning . . ."  |   Why believe the Bible?  |   Who is Jesus?  |   What did Jesus teach?  |   What is life really all about  |   Angels and demons  |   Gray areas, mysteries and religious authorities  |   What Jesus revealed about life after death  |   'But my relatives won't like it if I follow Jesus!'  |   Watching for Christ's return  |   How I came to follow Jesus: the testimony of David A. Reed  |   Why this book?  |   Dedication, copyright, ISBN & Scripture references

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Why this book?

 


Our dear friend Katy Tripp gave my wife a handful of booklets, brochures pamphlets and tracts, and urged her to, ‘Ask David to write a book like this.’  Each of the items was a brief introduction to Christianity, presenting the basic Gospel message in simple terms to non-believers or new believers.


The need for such a book struck me, although there are churches on every street corner, and there are already many books introducing Christianity or admonishing new believers.  Why would another such book be needed now?


Because, in today’s world we find many confused, distorted and watered-down teachings as to what it means to be a follower of Jesus.


People are often urged to ‘receive Christ’ or to ‘accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior’ without being given a biblical understanding of what that means and involves. It is popular today to stress Jesus’ role as the Savior who forgives, without spelling out his role as the Lord whom we must obey. 


The Gospels show that Jesus started out his preaching ministry with a call to repent:  “. . . Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘Repent! . . .’”  (Matthew 4:17), and that he concluded it with the same message: “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations . . .” (Luke 24:47)  (The meaning of repent is to feel sorry for past conduct, to regret or be conscience-stricken about past actions, attitudes, etc.—with such sorrow as to want to change one's life for the better.)


Jesus’ disciples were faithful to the commission he gave them, and preached repentance.  Peter urged his first public audience to “Repent, and be baptized” (Acts 2:38)  Paul told a pagan audience that, “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent.” (Acts 17:30)  Later, Paul summed up his ministry by explaining that he “declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.” (Acts 26:20)


The call in Scripture to repent, and to do works worthy of repentance, is not given just to non-believers, but is also repeated to the members of Christian churches.  In the opening chapters of Revelation, the risen Christ addressed messages to seven prominent Christian churches in Asia Minor.  To one of those churches, Jesus said, “. . . repent and do the first works; or else . . .” (Rev. 2:5)  To another church he said, “I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam . . . you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans likewise. Repent therefore, or else . . .” (Rev. 2:14-16)


To yet another of these seven churches, the risen Christ said, “. . . I have this against you, that you tolerate your woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works. I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” (Rev 2:20-23) Could that same message apply to some churches today?


To another of those first century churches, Jesus said, “. . .  I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and keep the things that remain, which you were about to throw away, for I have found no works of yours perfected before my God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If therefore you won’t watch, I will come as a thief, and you won’t know what hour I will come upon you.” (Rev. 3:1-3)


Jesus had strong words for five of the seven churches.  Only two escaped receiving such warnings and calls to repent.


Are today’s churches in better shape than those seven churches?  Or in worse shape?  Might we find five out of seven churches today in line for condemnation rather than praise?  The condition of the churches highlights the need for each individual to look to Jesus and to the Scriptures for direction, rather than just passively listen to the preaching from the church pulpit.  My aim in this book is to help the reader do that. 


There is a need for this because today’s churches are filled with false teachers who omit the call to repent, and who present Jesus as Savior without teaching that we must obey Jesus as Lord.  They justify this false teaching by dismissing our acts of obedience as ‘works’ that are not required, since we are saved by ‘faith.’ 


The balance between ‘faith’ and ‘works’ was a controversial issue in the early Church, but for a different reason.  The Apostles had to warn the congregations they wrote to against false teachers who wanted to require Christian converts to be circumcised as Jews and to keep the law of Moses.  In reply to them, Paul countered their false teaching by explaining that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16) and that “by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified . . .” (Romans 3:20)  But some false teachers today go off in the opposite direction and use such passages to ‘prove’ that Christianity is all about faith, and that our works don’t matter much at all.  They present this twisted teaching by focusing on certain passages while omitting or explaining away other passages of Scripture.  But a balanced reading of the whole New Testament reveals that both faith and works are key elements of following Jesus. 


As Paul himself said, converts are expected to “repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.” (Acts 26:20)  In his book The Cost of Discipleship, German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer condemned “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance” as “cheap grace.”  Such “cheap grace” is not the message Jesus preached.  As Paul explained, “. . . by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:8-10)  In other words, we are saved by faith so that we can go on to do good works.  Our good behavior demonstrates that we have repented of our sins.


So, how would this book be different from others with a similar theme?  I resolved to present the invitation to “Come, follow Jesus!” in strictly biblical terms, by quoting biblical passages at length and by presenting them with just a minimum of additional comment or discussion. 


After all, it is in the Bible that we find Jesus inviting us to follow him.  And along with that invitation, he spells out how we should go about doing so.  “Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)


So, followers of Jesus must learn to “observe all things that I commanded you.”  Otherwise, they would face this rebuke: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)  And where else can we find those things that Jesus commanded, but in the pages of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where Jesus’ words are recorded?  And if any interpretation of those words may be needed, we find that interpretation in the Acts of the Apostles, as well as in the New Testament letters of Peter, Paul, James, John and Jude.


Today, however, there are many, many different interpretations of what “following Jesus” consists of, and how a new believer should go about accepting Christ’s invitation. 


For some it is a matter of joining a particular organization or institutional church, perhaps even with the stern warning that there is no salvation outside of that organization.  (My own experience with the Jehovah’s Witness sect was like that, but there are many, many other sects and more traditional churches that take a similar approach.)  For others, “following Jesus” involves adopting a particular code of ethics, or joining a program of social action.  For still others, it is a matter of adopting a particular theology, perhaps as a follower of a certain noteworthy theologian, teacher or church leader, living or long dead.


For the adherents of such views it is inconceivable that someone might simply read the Bible, fall on his or her knees in prayer, and become a follower of Jesus.  It would also be necessary to join their organization, or follow their program, or study and adopt their theology, and so on. 


Certain cults and even some more reputable churches teach that the Bible can be properly understood only within the framework of their program of instruction.  And their instruction often consists of what I call “scripture sandwiches”—a Bible verse or two sandwiched between the author’s or speaker’s discussion, followed by another verse or two later on, again sandwiched between someone’s interpretation or application. There is nothing wrong with a certain amount of that sort of teaching, but we also need to feed on the Word itself.  A steady diet of scripture sandwiches is not healthful.  In such sandwiches, not only is the biblical context omitted, but the verses are actually placed in a different context, namely the context of the sermon or book.


To grasp how this can change the meaning, think of a complete biblical passage (perhaps a full chapter or two) as a cooked turkey breast. Someone cutting into that turkey breast and eating it will know what it tastes like. However, someone who is given just a thin slice smothered with mustard between layers of rye bread will know only what the sandwich tastes like—not the taste of the turkey itself.


Similarly, the original flavor or meaning of a Bible verse can be completely lost or changed when sandwiched between introductory words and concluding applications in the pages of someone’s book or sermon.


Feeding on steady diet of such “scripture sandwiches,” some churchgoers never really come to know the Bible. But they do learn their leader’s teachings, along with the proof texts their teacher uses to make those teachings appear to be “Bible-based.”        


In contrast to that approach, I agree with the Apostle Paul who told Timothy, “From infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17)  I believe that Scripture is the essential guide for those who would follow Christ.  So, I have attempted here in this book to provide excerpts from Scripture to whet the appetite of those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (Matthew 5:6)  My hope is that those who read this book will go on to read the Bible itself—not just once but over and over again, learning more and drawing closer to God with each prayerful reading.


Reading the Bible is essential.  But it is not sufficient to be mere readers or hearers of the word.  As James wrote, “But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.” (James 1:22) Receptive hearts will believe what they read in the New Testament, and will respond by embracing Christ himself.  What a mistake it would be to imitate those who constantly study Scripture but miss this point.  Jesus said to some students of the Bible, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me.  Yet you will not come to me, that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)


Scripture comes alive for us when we come to Jesus personally, as he invites us.


So, I produced this book to invite you, the reader, to meet Jesus Christ.  You can do this through prayer, and through prayerfully reading the written Word of God.  Jesus promises to respond by receiving you, by revealing himself to you, and by coming to live with you.  He says:

“‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.  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.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)  “He who comes to me I will in no way throw out.”  (John 6:37)  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  (John 10:27-28)  “One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him. . . .  If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.’”—John 14:21, 23

 

Jesus says:

 

“Come, follow me.”

—Luke 18:22


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