Is Following Jesus Even Possible?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

Ask a kid this question, sit back, and enjoy a series of exciting responses. This question is fun because kids have great imaginations and are hardly limited by the realities of the world. In the Echols’s home, our nine-year-old, Henry, wants to be the CEO of a restaurant. The variety of answers to this question reminds us of a child’s potential and capacity for hope. It’s also fun to watch a child’s answer change as they mature and gain new life experiences. If we’re honest, most adults have probably asked this question of themselves because even we don’t think we have it all quite figured out. 

Be Like Mike

When I was growing up, TV had these things called commercials that you had to watch unless you were making a mad dash to the kitchen to grab a snack or soda. Depending on your age, you may not know this, but you could not fast-forward or skip the commercials. You had to endure these interruptions to your favorite show. 

One of the commercials I remember most vividly was for the popular sports hydration drink Gatorade. The tagline for the commercial was “Be like Mike. Drink Gatorade.” Mike was none other than Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, who some have said is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) when it comes to basketball. The commercial had a catchy tune and showed highlights of Jordan excelling at his craft while everyday people tried to imitate him. You can watch it here. 

As a kid, I would have done anything to play basketball like Jordan. The commercial made me believe that if I just drank Gatorade, I could grow up to be like Mike. 

What the commercial did not show, however, was all the daily hard work and training Michael Jordan put into mastering basketball. If it had shown the actual cost of reaching that level of greatness, I would have probably been overwhelmed and realized how impossible that goal really was, even at a young age. Spoiler alert: I never learned to dunk a basketball or played in the NBA. 

Be Like Christ

There’s a reason this commercial popped into my head recently. I’ve often wondered how many Christians ask themselves this question: “What do I want to be as I mature in my faith?” Do we genuinely aspire to “Be like Christ?” 

In our world, the image of Christ has sadly been corrupted and altered into something less than what Scripture defines. It has been reduced to an idea that is simple to achieve and does not easily offend our sensibilities. The image of Christ has been remade in the image of man, an image that is less than the glorious, perfect, holy, and abundant image of who Jesus really is. This diminishing distorts our concept of discipleship and what it means to follow Jesus. What once was a challenging and transformational journey to Christlikeness is now just a walk in the park. 

What does it authentically look like to “Be like Christ?” How do we even embark on that arduous pathway? 

Discipleship in Scripture

Although our culture is uncertain about what a Christ-follower looks like, Scripture is abundantly clear. In Matthew 16, Jesus says that anyone who wants to follow him must deny themselves and take up their cross. In Matthew 22, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything you are and love your neighbor as yourself. 

Our Westernized post-modern culture may be unclear. Jesus is not. Through His word, He gives us clear instructions on how to live. He even finishes His teachings on discipleship in Matthew 28 by giving us a clear mission statement of how we are to live like Him. He says, “Go tell others about Me and how they can follow Me.” 

There are many other passages that help us understand what it means to be like Jesus. However, you may share the same fear I had when I watched those Gatorade commercials as a child. You may think being like Jesus is even more impossible than being like Mike, so why even try? If the path of discipleship seems discouraging, let me give you some hope. 

Yes, following Jesus is hard, but it’s worth it. 

Discipleship Is a Journey

One reason imitating Jesus is hard in our culture is that we like instant results. Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” offers a great take on how our instantaneous culture affects our faith. 

There is no quick route to Christlikeness. There is no one prayer you can recite or Bible passage you can read that magically transforms you into the image of God. You won’t find a podcast or “Five Easy Steps” that will change your life overnight. Michael Jordan did not become great only by drinking Gatorade but by spending hours every day practicing the game of basketball. Discipleship is similar. Becoming like Jesus is a process. It takes time, effort, and patience. 

Make no mistake – Christlikeness is your purpose and calling. God created you for this. All throughout Scripture, the writers proclaim that God made us in His image. Jesus came to this world to show us how to perfect that image. The Holy Spirit comes into our lives to help us reclaim that image. You are destined to be like Jesus. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy journey. 

You’re Not Alone 

So, here’s the encouraging word: You do not have to go on that journey alone. 

Jesus says He is the good shepherd who will guide and provide for you along this journey. He says that the Holy Spirit is your guide, counselor, and advocate as you navigate this path of transformation. Jesus has provided a church filled with people to encourage and walk with you as you seek to follow Christ. In this, there’s hope. Jesus is simultaneously the goal and the way. He not only reveals what the image of God truly looks like, but He gives us all the tools necessary to get there. 

Brad Echols

Brad Echols

Brad Echols is the Minister to Adults at First Baptist Arlington. He enjoys spending time with his family, playing racquet sports at a high level, and entering Into conversations about God with the Arlington community.

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