How to Follow Jesus

Perhaps you (or someone you know) have heard of the good news of Jesus and wish to know whether it applies to you—it does. If you are attracted to Jesus, but not to the baggage often attached to his message, you can begin to follow him now. It is not difficult.

Following JesusPart 1: Making the Good News of Jesus Your Own

If you are attracted to Jesus and want to appropriate his good news to your life, how do you do that? What steps must you take? What commitments must you make?

Sermon on the Mount, Carl Heinrich Bloch 1876

Carl Heinrich Bloch 1876

It is Less Complex than Many People Think

Many believers think that to follow Jesus and have eternal life a person must perform a ritual in which one makes a decision to accept Jesus as their personal savior. Otherwise they will go to hell. Some believers require a formulaic ‘sinners prayer’; they think if a person has not performed this ritual their relationship with Jesus is questionable.

There is nothing wrong with ‘accepting Jesus as personal savior’, but there are difficulties with the typical baggage attached to this approach.

1. To begin with, there is no ‘hell’ or punishment awaiting anyone—and the Bible does not teach that there is.

2. Secondly, one’s relationship to Jesus does not depend on a specific moment of decision. There are many who cannot pinpoint such a decision in their lives, and yet they are believers as much as anyone. It is disrespectful of the Father’s love to question a person’s relationship this way.

3. Another misconception is that one must meet behavioral requirements to be acceptable. The New Testament shows Jesus to be tremendously inclusive; he understands our messed up lives and is eager to remove our burdens. There are NO barriers to overcome or rituals to perform.

If we want to follow Jesus he is there for us. In Matthew chapter 11 he gives this invitation,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

What is the Good News Anyway?

There are several aspects of the good news of Jesus.

  • He relieves our fear and alienation. Many think God is angry, strict in his expectations, and ready to punish us at our slightest mistake. Jesus shares with us that this is not so; instead the Father loves us freely and accepts us as we are. There is no reason to fear him or feel alienated from him; any alienation we may feel is on our side–not on the Father’s side.
  • He relieves our burden of guilt feelings. Because we are imperfect, we feel guilty for our failures, but Jesus knows our limitations. He is concerned about our shortcomings but is not disappointed in us. We need not improve ourselves to come to him; rather, when we come to him we begin to improve. This is a very rewarding experience.
  • He provides eternal life. The most remarkable thing we learn from Jesus is that he provides eternal life for us—we can live forever in happiness. This does not apply only to a select number; this applies to all of us!

Does this sound like good news to you? It is!

What Must We do to Receive this Good News?

Perhaps you wonder what conditions you must meet to make this good news yours. The answer is that there are no such  conditions. Read Jesus’ invitation above once more; just come to him and learn of him. As you learn of him, you will begin to change for the better.

What Rules Must I Follow?

Jesus has only one rule: to love others as you love yourself. This is the only standard of behavior. You may feel that you cannot love some people, or perhaps even yourself; but as you begin to comprehend the Father’s unconditional love for you, you will love yourself more.

This will cause you to notice, and begin avoiding, behaviors that are bad for you because you are now concerned for your own well-being. As you learn from Jesus, you will choose better behaviors for yourself, but only you can determine what those are. No one has the authority to give you rules to follow.

As you realize the Father’s love for you and begin to love yourself more, you will also grow in the capacity to love others as you now love yourself. You will not become perfect in this, but you will enjoy a life of greater harmony with the Father, yourself, and others.

If this is all new to you and you want more information about Jesus and his good news, you may contact me personally if you wish by emailing me at tchastain@cfl.rr.com.

Part 2: Choosing to Identify with Jesus and Learning More about Him

Now that you have heard the good news of Jesus, you will want to identify with him in a concrete way. When we begin to follow Jesus, it is good to follow up with baptism; baptism is a public statement that we have identified with Jesus and is almost universal among followers of Jesus.

Baptism

credit: Andrey Dementev

Why are Believers Baptized?

There are several reasons why baptism is such a universal practice.

1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to prepare for the Kingdom of God. We identify with Jesus and follow his example in baptism. The Kingdom of God is just an older special term for those who are aligned with Jesus and the Father.

2. Jesus instructed his followers to baptize new followers. Matthew chapter 28 reports that Jesus said,

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

3. The symbolism of baptism reminds us of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. So, when we are baptized, we identify with Jesus in that way as well. Paul writes in Romans chapter 6,

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

4. Baptism is a public statement of identity with Jesus. Once we learn about the good news of Jesus and embrace it in our lives, the next logical step is to identify with Jesus in a definite, public way.

Baptism is not a condition for acceptance by God, but it is the way to signal our commitment to following Jesus.

How does Baptism Work?

The practices of baptism vary from group to group. Some baptize infants who are born to followers of Jesus. If this is the case, they will also baptize older children and adults who become followers of Jesus later in life. Other groups baptize only older children and adults.

The method of baptism also varies. Many groups sprinkle or pour water on the heads of the new follower. Others dip the new follower briefly under the water’s surface; this is usually done in a baptistery (water tank) in the church, but some use natural bodies of water or even a swimming pool. Sprinkling, pouring, and dipping are all valid methods of baptism.

Who Will Baptize Me?

Most churches have guidelines about who can baptize others, but this is not always the case. Some groups require membership in their church for baptism, while others will baptize anyone who becomes a follower of Jesus. Check with any church or Christian minister to learn more.

Baptism is a positive and rewarding step for those who begin to follow Jesus.

Part 3: How Should I Behave as a Jesus Follower?

Perhaps you have questions about behavior for Jesus followers–many people do. Does behavior matter? Yes! It does! But not in the way you might think; There are no rules to follow. Jesus came to relieve us of burdens of—not to increase them. To be a follower of Jesus, one need not agree to any list of doctrines or even a list of rules.

But this does not mean we are unrestrained in how we act. Behavior DOES matter. But if behavior matters and there are no rules, then how do we know how to behave? What is the standard?

Jesus himself tells us.

Love Your Neighbor via Quotepixel

Jesus Talks about Commandments

In the culture that Jesus lived, there were many religious rules. At the very top were the Ten Commandments. In Matthew chapter 22 we read the story of a person who asked Jesus about the commandments.

The Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

Jesus replied:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Jesus did not make up these two principles; he was referring to familiar passages from the Old Testament, but he seems to elevate these principles to a level that supersedes all specific rules of behavior.

The Problems with Living by Rules

The problem with living by a list of rules is that, while rules are easy to apply, keeping a list does not go to the heart of behavior. One can say, ‘I didn’t kill anyone’, even if they destroy someone’s reputation. One can say, ‘I didn’t lie’, even if their misleading comments have damaging results.

Another problem with lists of rules is that they are limited. If you have a list of 50 rules, you can congratulate yourself each day that you have observed all your rules, but what if gossip is not on the list? Perhaps you can add it and have 51 items, but your list will never be long enough to cover all eventualities.

Lists are also stark and inflexible; they do not account for circumstances. There was a time when my list included: ‘Do not lie’. It was not a bad rule, but I was so tied to the list that were I in Hitler’s Germany and soldiers came into the house asking ‘Are there any Jews hiding here?’, I would have responded ‘They are behind that false wall’, because I could not bring myself to lie.

Lists of rigid behavioral rules are always inadequate.

The Principles of Jesus are all We Need

The two principles put forth by Jesus, to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself, go beyond rules and toward motivation. If these principles are your motivation, then you can decide a course of action at any time and circumstance based upon them. They are easy to remember and they apply to everything.

Let us examine the principles more closely.

Loving God with all Your Heart

What does it mean to love God with all your heart? I understand it to mean choosing to be for God. It means identifying with God and being in harmony with him. This is difficult when one is afraid of God and cannot trust him. Many of us cannot love God fully because we feel alienated; we think of God as angry and harsh—and quick to punish.

This is where Jesus helps tremendously by showing that God is like a Father. The Father loves us, and we see that love in Jesus. Our love for the Father is responsive; we love the Father with all our heart as we come to understand that the Father loves us with all his heart.

Loving Others as Ourselves

The second principle is to love our neighbor as ourselves, and we discover that this means everyone—including our enemies. This does not mean that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to every person who is out to harm us or exploit us, but we should love even those people as the Father does. Jesus says as much in the sermon on the mountain found in Matthew chapter 5.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Like Father; like son)

This statement combines both principles we are discussing. We love our enemies, and we do so because we choose to act in harmony with the Father’s opinion about them.

I once worked in a Christian organization where my supervisor was extremely and systematically hurtful to me. This was obvious to others and some told me, ‘God will make her pay some day!’ But I said, ‘No. God will forgive her.’ So I forgave her. There is no place for vengeance for those who see people as the Father sees them. The Father is not about vengeance; the Father is about love and healing. I could no longer endure persecution from my supervisor, so I left the organization, but I did not wish her harm or misfortune. In fact, I wished her success, healing, and improvement in relating to others.

God Does not Punish Us

The Father is not interested in punishment. The Father loves us and wants to heal us of our pains and sufferings. He will not punish us—no matter WHAT we do!

But this does not mean there are no consequences to our careless or malicious behavior. There ARE consequences to our behavior. If we murder someone, there are many negative consequences: a person loses their life, their loved ones suffer, the community lives in fear, and the murderer is apprehended by the society and dealt with.

These are all horrible consequences, but they are not punishment from the Father; they are natural consequences of bad behavior.

Murder does not reflect our loving the Father and identifying with his perspective of other people. Neither does it reflect a motivation of loving others as we love ourselves—or does it?

A Delightful Insight into Behavior

We have already talked about loving God with all our heart. This gives us the ability to love others. Hurting someone does not seem to reflect a motivation of loving others as we love ourselves—but perhaps it does!

Here we may discover a third principle of behavior implied by the other two. If we are to love others as ourselves, it is assumed that we love ourselves. I don’t mean that we simply protect our own selfish interests but that we genuinely love ourselves and care about our welfare. Often we do not.

I contend that if we do not love ourselves we cannot truly love others, and many of us do not love ourselves very well. If this is the case, how can we change it? How can we begin to truly love ourselves? Perhaps the best way to begin to love ourselves is in response to love. If we see that others love us, we begin to have the capacity to love ourselves.

An even stronger catalyst is to understand that the Father loves us. This is the heart of Jesus’ message to us. This is the good news! The Father loves us and wishes to heal the alienation we feel toward him/her. We become confident that the Father loves us and desires the best for us.

When we begin to comprehend the love the Father has for us, we begin to love ourselves better. Then we are able to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and desire the best for them because we love ourselves and desire the best for ourselves, just as the Father loves us and desires the best for us.

This affects our behavior. We do not avoid irresponsible sexual relationships because of rules but because of the consequences to ourselves and other people. We do not exploit others because of the consequences to us and to others.

What about personal behavior such as smoking, drinking, and other personal pursuits? The answer is the same, and you must evaluate that. I cannot catalog for you a list of behaviors for you to observe. And neither can anyone else!

If you grasp the Father’s love for you and his desire for your well-being, and you respond to that love by beginning to love yourself and desire your own well-being, and you begin to love others as yourself, then you (and only you) are in the position to determine the propriety of your own behavior.

What is Hell All About?

We are not perfect. We often get things wrong, and when we do there are consequences. Sometimes the consequences entail punishment from society, but the consequences do not include punishment from the Father. The Father loves you no matter how much you fail in your behavior. He does not become angry with you and he will not punish you.

If this is true, then what is hell all about? This is a very important question! The concept of hell is one of the most destructive elements of superstitious baggage often associated with the message of Jesus. It is so serious that I devote a significant resource page to exploring it.

Don’t be concerned about punishment but begin to love yourself as the Father loves you, so that you can love others as yourself!

Part 4: Growing as a Follower of Jesus

I have emphasized several important points:

  • There are no requirements for becoming a follower of Jesus except the desire to do so
  • There are no rules a believer must follow
  • The principle of loving others as ourselves guides our behavior
  • The Father does not punish us no matter how badly we mess up

So Why Bother? If God Does not punish us, then why worry about our behavior?

If the Father is not angry with us, and we are not facing punishment, one might conclude that we need not be concerned about our thoughts and behavior. Then why make any effort to improve?

I firmly believe that personal (spiritual) growth is important in the life of believers, and we should persistently nurture that growth within us. We should strive to improve in:

  • Aligning our attitudes with the attitudes of the Father who loves everyone
  • Contributing to the good of others instead of causing pain and suffering
  • Looking out for our own best interest by avoiding self-destructive attitudes

When we act with love toward ourselves and others we reduce suffering in the world and we don’t have to carry a load of guilt for our actions. We also build self-respect when we behave well.

None of us can become perfect, but committing ourselves to loving the Father, ourselves, and others is quite worthwhile.

What Does It Mean to Grow as Followers of Jesus?

grapevine

Photo Credit: Transguyjay via Compfight cc

When we begin to follow Jesus, he accepts us just as we are without preconditions. But then something happens; we begin to change! The more we learn about Jesus and of the Father’s love, the more we will change for the better. And we are not on our own because Jesus helps us change.

A good way to think about this is found in Jesus’ metaphor of the vine and branches reported in John chapter 15. He says,

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Remaining in Jesus means cooperating with the changes in our thoughts and actions that come with following him, which is what it means to be a disciple—we follow him. Otherwise, we are like dry branches that take no nourishment from the vine; we wither away. This metaphor is not a threat but simply describes what happens to branches that don’t participate in the life of the vine.

If we do not cooperate with the changes, we can maintain our old condition for as long as we want and will not be punished. But we miss out on the benefits of following Jesus. In our stunted state we continue to feel alienated because of the guilt we feel from our behavior, and we will not have the peace, joy, and happiness that should accompany life in Jesus.

Instead we will be dry, withered, and fruitless.

How Do We Cooperate in Our Own Growth?

We grow through the increasing capacity within us to love the Father, ourselves and others. This is our fruit! And we feed that growth by learning more of Jesus and of the Father. We can:

  • Read and re-read Jesus’ words and actions found in the Gospels
  • Talk with trusted, more experienced followers of Jesus
  • Read good books about living as a believer
  • Reflect on what it means to love one’s self and others

However, be careful of those who would lead you into legalism. Many believers try to grow by compiling lists of things to do and not do. This is legalism, but growth does not come through observing rules. Legalism takes the focus off the objective, which is to grow in the love of God, ourselves, and others; and it leads, not to love, but to self-righteousness, judgmentalism, and increased guilt.

Focus on loving—not on rules and rituals.

Also do not let others, even long-time believers, dictate what actions are appropriate for you; this is between you and the Father. The Father works with each of us individually and does not need a spokesman or enforcer. No follower has a right to judge another. We travel together, but we are all on our own journey.

By cooperating with the love of the Father, we experience personal (spiritual) growth. Growth is sometimes difficult but it is extremely rewarding.

What is the Good News of Jesus?

Though growing as a follower of Jesus includes a commitment to the kingdom of God, it should never be a drudgery or a burden. You might be interested in a series of articles on the benefits of following Jesus. They begin with What is the Good News of Jesus Anyway?

I hope you have found this article helpful in your wish to follow Jesus. If you want to contact me personally, do not hesitate to email me (Tim Chastain) at:

tchastain@cfl.rr.com

39 Responses to How to Follow Jesus

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  6. Debi says:

    Reposted on Jesus House Western Maryland (facebook).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I read this article and the one on hell. My question: If someone does not choose to follow Jesus. What becomes of him? Does God forgive him and he goes to Heaven the same as those who do follow? If they do not go to heaven isnt that punishment? To be seperated from Gods love, grace,and Mercy?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chas says:

    Tim, I notice that the earlier comments on this topic have not been included. Is that deliberate?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. To follow Jesus, we need to listen to HIS voice,
    not the accusing tongue of another man.

    Poem – Looking forward (Rocky)

    Jesus never calls us out
    For what we used to be.
    His voice is so much greater
    Than paul the Pharisee.

    “You are Simon son of John”
    said Jesus, without elaboration.
    No mention of a cloudy past
    No hint of condemnation.

    No accusation against the brothers
    No comments dark and obscure,
    Writing to the Church in Corinth
    “that is what some of you were.”

    Not the voice of the accuser,
    Boss Paul the Pharisee,
    Telling the redeemed people of God
    About what they used to be.

    Jesus never said right is wrong,
    He never said wrong is right.
    He came so we can turn from darkness
    And into His glorious light.

    “Neither do I condemn you” said Jesus,
    to a woman entrapped by dogs.
    The game the dogs play is the same today,
    Except now they do it on blogs.

    “Go and sin no more” said Jesus,
    Don’t relive that history.
    Look forward, not back, don’t dwell on your past.
    “You will be called” Rocky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      “To follow Jesus, we need to listen to HIS voice, not the accusing tongue of another man.” Excellent statement, Matthew! And I really like the poetry; thanks for sharing it.

      Like

      • Great- I’m glad you liked it. I just wrote it recently.
        If we are listening to the voice of Jesus, we should hear HIM about what is “most important”. No, it’s not “Love” without God. That was the voice of the Beatles, Paul and other men.

        Poem – What is love?

        Two men came to Jesus
        With different motivations.
        They asked Him the same question
        Relevant to all the nations:

        Which is the Most Important?
        The answer was the same.
        Jesus did not manipulate
        He was not there to play a game.

        “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
        as He quoted from The Law –
        to fulfill and not abolish
        was His purpose, full of awe.

        Jesus did not make all Scripture
        Into one new great commandment.
        He summarized The Law and Prophets
        “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

        The Love of God is higher
        Than the love of any man.
        Receive from God, give back to God-
        Then to others, that’s His plan.

        The Love of God involves much more
        Than simply “love your fellow man.”
        Worship, trust, and pray to God,
        and obey Him – that’s His plan

        To worship and pray to neighbors,
        Whoever they may be,
        Or trust and obey our enemies
        Would be idolatry.

        The love of God is first and greatest,
        And the love of man is second.
        “All we need is love” are words
        of dead Beetles on the pavement.

        “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
        are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
        It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
        an “accuser of our brethren.”

        “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
        in his chapter to the Corinthians.
        “I will show you the most excellent way”
        is the road to eternal perdition.

        Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
        Nowhere in view of the eye.
        Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
        “I, I, I, I.”

        Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
        Not the words of a Pharisee.
        The words of Jesus are very clear.
        Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Matthew, in this second poem it seems more clear than before that you have a poor regard for Paul. It seems to me that Paul understands Jesus’ message on love quite well. What are your objections to Paul?

          Like

          • Paul’s “message on love” in 1 Corinthians 13 is “love without God.”

            Paul refers to himself almost 20 times, and never mentions God even once. This chapter is prefaced with Paul writing “And now I will show you the most excellent way.” [1 Corinthians 12:30].
            And Paul concludes with “Follow the way of love….” [1 Corinthians 14:1].
            Those are simply observations of fact about the text, what Paul said and what Paul didn’t say in the text – anyone can open a Bible and see this, it’s not my opinion.

            “Follow the way of love”- “all we need is love” – “love wins” – “love is the answer” – “I am on the side of love”. That is the message of Paul, Satan, and the world – “love without God.”
            But it is not the message of Jesus, who quoted two commandments, but elevated Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ABOVE Leviticus 19:18.

            Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Matthew, let me respond to your comments on Paul’s emphasis regarding love in 1 Corinthians. You begin at the end of chapter 12, which is good, but I suggest you read earlier in chapter 12 to see the context of Paul’s discourse on love: it has to do with human relationships within the local church. There was a lot of bickering, one-upmanship, and disrespect in the congregation.

            This is a human relationship problem, and Paul’s solution is that the members of the congregation love each other. He is not placing ‘loving others’ over the principle of ‘loving God’; he is addressing the issue of an inadequate state of love and harmony within the local group. His omission of the commandment to love God is not because he does not respect that commandment but because it is not applicable to this situation.

            Paul was not elaborating on the two greatest commandments but on a big problem in the local church. In this case you seem to pose an argument from silence which is among the weakest of arguments.

            You mention several phrases that are popular today. I agree with you that the intent of the Beatles’ ‘All we need is love’ is an inadequate spiritual statement, but your inclusion of ‘Love Wins’ makes me wonder if you are familiar with the context of that statement.

            It is from author Rob Bell and what it means is that God is very intent in bringing all people in harmony with him–BUT! If after all God’s efforts a person still does not want to align with God, then in God’s love of that person he lets them go. He will not force them against their will. In the contest between bringing a person to embrace God and God’s respect for their free will, God let’s them go. In love. Therefore ‘Love Wins’. It doesn’t seem to apply to your argument.

            You also mention that Paul does not mention ‘God’ one time in his discourse. However if we read earlier in chapter 12 (that you use) and later in chapter 14 (that you use) we discover that Paul referenced God 14 times.

            I do not think the totality of the context demonstrates that Paul elevates loving others over loving God.

            Like

      • For inspiration, here is more food for thought….

        Parable of the House Painters

        A homeowner called his friend, who was a painting contractor. “Friend, I want to hire you and your team to paint my house and my garage. Paint the house first, and I’ll stay in the garage until you’re done. Then when the paint is dry, I’ll move back into the house, and you can paint the garage.”

        The painting contractor hired a new foreman named Paul, and gave him the homeowner’s instructions. (Paul insisted that all the workers show respect for him by addressing him as “Boss Paul.”) Paul called the team of painters together and told them:
        “Boys, we need to paint this garage and house. The quicker we do it, the more profitable it is for us. So get to work! Since the garage is smaller, we can finish that quicker. Then those who finished the garage can go help the others finish the house.”

        One worker objected: “But Boss Paul, those were not the owner’s instructions! We are supposed to paint the house first. Only after the house is finished and the paint is dry can we go and paint the garage.”

        Paul replied: “I’m Boss, you work for me, and you do as I say. We are painters, and we paint. We don’t have time for debates about ‘which one is first’. We need to get to work applying that paint to the garage and house as quick as we can. Which owner would be upset if we finished early? The job is to paint the garage and house – what difference does it make ‘which one is first’”?

        “It makes a big difference to the owner,” the worker objected. To which Paul replied, “you’re fired.” Paul then took his team of painters, and started painting the garage and the house.

        When the homeowner returned in the evening, he was furious. He had nowhere to sleep, and had to go stay in a hotel for several days. The homeowner’s friend, the painting contractor, apologized, and explained:

        “I hired a new foreman named Paul, but that was a huge mistake. He ignored your instructions that I passed on to him. You don’t know him, and I’ve just barely met him.
        To be extremely polite, I could say that Paul ‘says some things which are difficult to understand.’ To be more direct, I could say Paul talks like an arrogant megalomaniac with a messiah complex, proclaiming; ‘I am not under the law’ but yet making up his own laws as he goes along, that everyone else has to obey. Paul said: ‘I became your father…. therefore I urge you to imitate me,’ and ‘I have become all things to all men.’ Paul thinks he’s Boss, and doesn’t need to listen to your instructions that I gave him.”

        In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, Jesus identified two commandments, saying one of them is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Matthew, I read the parable after my comment on the second poem. It seems even more clear that you think of rather poorly of Paul. As I said earlier, I think Paul was a very insightful interpreter of Jesus. He made a tremendous contribution to the Way; otherwise, where would we gentiles be?

          Like

          • “Where would we Gentiles be”?

            The Gentiles were doing just fine in Acts chapter 8 without Paul – actually is spite of Saul the Pharisee, before Paul’s “road to Damascus experience.” And when God called Peter to go to the Gentiles in Acts 10, they were doing great too.

            Do you believe that Paul was “The Apostle to the Gentiles”?
            Who gave Paul that title?
            Who appointed Paul an Apostle?
            Who recognized, accepted, and affirmed Paul individually as “an apostle”?

            No, Luke’s editorial comments in Acts 14 don’t answer those questions, and neither do the Apostle Peter’s passing comments about “beloved brother” Paul in 2 Peter 3. Jesus said nothing recorded in Acts 9 about Paul being an apostle either. There are only 12 Apostles, and Matthias is the 12th, according to Jesus and the Apostles Jesus appointed.

            Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Matthew, it seems apparent that we have very different views on Paul and his place in the developing church. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter; it is always good to hear opposing ideas expressed.

            Like

          • Yes we have different views about Paul and his role in the “New Testament Church” – and can you give a Biblical basis for your views, other than “Paul said so”?

            Here is MY Biblical basis regarding the question “What is an Apostle?” based on the original sources:
            The words and actions of Jesus and the Original Apostles in the text of the New Testament.

            .1) Gospel of Mark – time lag between being appointed and being sent
            “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him…” [Mark 3:13-14]

            Three chapters later,
            “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” [Mark 6:6-7]

            .2) Gospel of Luke – time lag between being appointed and being sent
            “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon…..” [Luke 6:12-14]

            Again three chapters later,
            “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” [Luke 9:1-2]

            .3) Gospel of Matthew – which is organized by theme, not necessarily in chronological order.
            “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon…” [Matthew 10:1]

            Without any clear time reference, continuing on the theme of the Apostles, Matthew does record “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…” [Matthew 10:5] Matthew never said that the Apostles were “sent out” immediately after being appointed. If we didn’t also have the clear records in Mark and Luke, it would be a fairly logical assumption that Jesus sent them out right away, but it would still be just an assumption. In this case, that assumption would clearly be wrong. The Twelve Apostles were absolutely NOT sent out right away after being appointed Apostles, according to Mark chapters 3 through 6, and Luke chapters 6 through 9.

            So being an Apostle of Jesus involves being sent by Jesus, yes. But that isn’t the only meaning, or even the first and primary meaning. The first thing was “that they might be with Him” personally, together, for His entire earthly ministry, from the time of John the Baptist until Jesus rose to heaven. Jesus poured his life into the 12 Apostles for 3 ½ years very personally training them to be the leaders of the church, and Jesus chose Peter as first among equals.

            The NIV translation inserts the heading “Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas” for the passage Luke wrote in Acts 1:12-26]. The NIV headings were not part of the original text, and sometimes they can be misleading, but in this case I believe the heading is right on.

            Jesus and the Original Apostles knew what an Apostle is better than anyone else in the world. Why is this a strange idea? Why do so many people frequently attack and tear down and dismiss the Original Apostles, particularly Peter, as if they were all incompetent, stupid, and wrong in so many ways, and they didn’t even know what an “Apostle” was? The answer to that question is, they have been listening to the voice of Paul, rather than the voices of Jesus and the Original Apostles.

            As we consider the question “what is an Apostle”, we should carefully listen to the words of the leader that Jesus personally appointed as first among the Apostles, and trained personally for 3 ½ years, Peter.

            “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” [Acts 1:21-22]

            Neither Paul, nor James, nor Luke were with Jesus and the Apostles the whole time, so they were not qualified to be a “witness with the Apostles of Jesus’ resurrection”, which is what it means to be an Apostle. Matthias was qualified, appointed, and later recognized as part of The Twelve. No one except Judas ever lost his apostleship.

            Responding to a question from Peter,
            “Jesus said to them:
            …you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Matthew 19:28]

            We cannot prove that Judas was present at that time, and we cannot prove that Matthias was absent at that time when Jesus spoke those words. Even if Judas was physically present, as we all realize now, he was not a true follower of Jesus. And even if Matthias was physically absent at that particular occasion, Jesus is still establishing the basic qualification for having one of the twelve thrones as being “you who have followed me,” not someone who will follow Jesus in the future, like Paul, James, Luke or anyone else in the world.

            At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His Apostles:
            “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred on one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Luke 22:28-30]

            Was Judas present when Jesus spoke those words? Even if someone wants to be argumentative and say we can’t prove that Judas wasn’t there at the time, we certainly can’t prove that Judas WAS there. Judas obviously didn’t stand by Jesus in his trial, as the whole world knows. But that was the requirement Jesus gave to “sit on thrones:” “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” “You”, speaking to His 11 Apostles who had been walking with Him faithfully for 3 ½ years. Not others in the future who will follow the risen Jesus Christ. Notice that at the Last Supper, when Judas lost his throne and Matthias was definitely absent, Jesus chose to speak of “thrones” rather than “twelve thrones” as he had previously.

            The Apostle John recorded about the New Jerusalem,
            “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” [Revelation 21:14]

            The Apostles are 12 faithful eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus during His entire earthly ministry, and Matthias is the 12th. That’s the short version of my definition of “what is an Apostle.”

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Matthew, thanks for elaborating on your thoughts regarding the Apostles, Judas, Matthias, and Paul. Again, I see things quite differently but have no need to debate the issue. I don’t see how such an argument would be useful to anyone.

            Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Matthew, I agree with you that Paul was not one of the 12 apostles. I don’t know anyone who says he was. You ask, “What is an Apostle?” One of the first things I leaned in biblical Greek class was the definition of ‘apostle’. An apostle is someone sent with a message; and that is exactly what the 12 apostles were.

            You ask, “Who appointed Paul an Apostle? Who recognized, accepted, and affirmed Paul individually as ‘an apostle’?” Well, it was the church at Antioch. They sent out Barnabas and Paul as apostles ‘sent with a message’ to people living in Crete and Galatia. Paul continued in that effort for the rest of his life. No, he was not one of the twelve, but he was sent with a message by the church at Antioch.

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          • You are not quoting chapter and verse from the Bible – because there is nothing for you to quote.
            No, your Biblical Greek class is NOT the word of God, but I’ve included some Greek below for you to look at.
            and
            no, the Church at Antioch did NOT appoint or recognize Paul as an apostle.

            There were “prophets and teachers” in Antioch, NOT “apostles” [Acts 13:1] (No, being “sent” doesn’t make one an “apostle” according to Jesus – regardless of what your Greek teacher or modern dictionary definition may say. You dictionary is not the Word of God.)

            No, Luke’s editorial comments about “the apostles Barnabas and Paul” in Acts 14 don’t answer these questions – compare and contrast with Acts 1, 6, 9, 13 and 15. In the Council at Jerusalem, there is no hint at all that either Barnabas or Paul were ever recognized as “apostles.” [Acts 15]. You can open your Bible and see for yourself. I’m not wrong. These are facts about the text.

            Neither do Peter’s passing comments about “beloved brother Paul” one time in 2 Peter 3:15 answer these questions. On the contrary, Peter’s reference to apostles in 3:2, and then use of the Greek word agapetoi throughout chapter 3, cut Paul down to size, and show that Paul has no special status or title as an apostle. Paul was simply “beloved,” just like everyone else Peter was writing to. God loves everyone.
            (The NIV Bible translates the words differently, sort of “covering” for Paul to make it seem like Paul is the only “beloved” one, while the readers of Peter’s letter are simply “friends” – but that is faulty translation, as you can see from the below detail.)
            2 Peter 3:1 agapetoi beloved
            2 Peter 3:8 agapetoi beloved
            2 Peter 3:14 agapetoi beloved
            2 Peter 3:15 agapetos henon adelfos Paulos, beloved of us brother Paul
            2 Peter 3:17 agapetoi beloved

            Nor did Jesus ever say Paul was an “apostle”, in Acts 9 or anywhere else. Every true follower of Jesus is a “chosen instrument of God”, and so were King Saul and King Solomon.

            You have dodged these questions with vague irrelevant answers.
            Who appointed Paul an apostle, when, and where?
            Who accepted, affirmed, or recognized Paul individually as “an apostle”?
            Who gave Paul the title or role “Apostle to the Gentiles”?

            If you have ears to start listening to Jesus rather than the voice of Paul the accuser, then you can listen…..

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Matthew, I have been trying to determine your motivations because one can misread a lot from written words and make wrong assumptions. But I am now convinced that you are not a person who wishes to discuss ideas in a forum but one with an aggressive argumentative agenda.

            I entertain a wide range of views on this blog, but I do not allow this type of negative arguing (see my comment policy). You helped confirm my suspicions in saying, “I’m not wrong. These are facts about the text.” Apparently, you know the truth and anyone who disagrees with you does not simply disagree–they are wrong. This is utter arrogance; there is no place for this attitude on this blog, but there are plenty of other sites where you can get down and fight about you understanding of the Bible; they would be more appropriate for you.

            I am not interested in an apologetics debate. I am not interested in convincing you of my position. I am not interested in winning an argument. It is pointless. But be aware that I am not intimidated by your insults on my grasp of Greek and of the Bible. You don’t even know me.

            But I do wish you well, and I hope you find a good venue in which you can deliver your inerrant theories about Paul.

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  10. OK, then why not focus on the “Most Important” question?
    In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, “Jesus Without Baggage” spoke for Himself.
    He identified two commandments, saying one of these two is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

    Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Matthew, I don’t see the point. It doesn’t seem that you are really interested in an open exchange of ideas; I think your mind is closed to alternatives to you large-scale scenario. And I am not interested in arguing.

      Like

      • “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [Mark 12:29-30, Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

        Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” [Matthew 22:37-38, Deuteronomy 6:5]

        Do you agree with Jesus?
        Or do you agree with Paul [Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:8-10] ?

        Like

      • The quotes given here are the words of Jesus without baggage- His voice, the Red Letters.

        Poem
        Looking forward – Chapter 2

        “I am he who searches hearts and minds”
        says the Risen Jesus Christ
        “Repent and do what you did at first”
        Don’t be lazy since He paid the price

        Yes, Jesus sees our sins today
        Don’t think that He is blind
        But the words of paul the Pharisee
        Will put you in a bind

        Jesus washed away your sins
        Don’t listen to paul the accuser
        paul abandoned the Church in Corinth
        And then paul became an abuser

        When you put your trust in Jesus
        Yes, your stains were white as snow
        You didn’t need to wear a Scarlet Letter
        Everywhere you go

        “I will repay each of you
        According to your deeds”
        This is Jesus speaking to The Church
        Not a business selling felt needs

        For “those who claim to be apostles”
        Jesus said they must be “tested”
        Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos
        Persevered and were not bested

        They exposed the false teachings
        Of paul the Pharisee
        So the Church in Ephesus rejected paul
        And had a chance to be free

        Bibliography
        All quotes are the words of Jesus, in Revelation Chapter 2

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  11. Rebecca says:

    What about evil in the world? The problem of evil? I know god is loving but why pain and suffering by other people, diseases, and natural disasters? Why do animals suffer pain as much as us? They must have a soul like you and me, because god loves every creature great or small.
    I do believe in Jesus and not the bible, I’m understanding what you’re saying except for the god being all-loving. If we possess “free will” then why don’t animals? We do things to survive and are conditioned in our behaviors and culture, animals do the same thing. Do they not have as much free will as you and I? What I believe is there is a supreme being from all of us, animals, and everything thing. I feel what possess as a soul is something that can produce a thought, not the fact that you have “free-will”. If a loving god gave us pain and suffering with a “free-will” we would have almost no disease, or natural disasters. God is more than just a loving entity, or whatever it is. The existence of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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