Discovering the art of following Jesus

Growing up, I was the salutatorian of Vacation Bible School. I could have easily been valedictorian had it not been for Emily being “gifted” and “more spiritual” than me. One year, a simple question was posed: Who do you want to be in the Bible? As an accidental Pharisee,[1] I needed to show everyone how spiritual I was with my answer.

The teacher gave us time to consider our options. So we opted, in silence. The fear of answering incorrectly and facing public scorn during VBS was real.

Should we want to be one of the important men and women from the Old Testament? Even a childlike reading of the Old Testament ruled them out. What about people in the New Testament? Ah, yes!

John the Baptist, Peter, Paul? No. Jesus. I wanted to be Jesus. If there was anybody who could be Jesus, it was me. Remember, I said I was an accidental Pharisee. This would be perfect.

Alas, I failed.

Over time, I’ve re-thought this question: Who do you want to be in the Bible? I soon realized one of the biggest mistakes in my ministry is that I convinced myself, and others, to “go be Jesus to people.” None of us can be Jesus to people—only Jesus can be Jesus to people. When I try to be Jesus, I deceive myself, and others, into subversively thinking we don’t need Jesus—that we can be Jesus.

But that’s never been the goal for us as disciples of Jesus. The goal for disciples of Jesus, is to let Jesus be Jesus, and to obediently follow Jesus.

I am a disciple of Jesus.

I want to be like the disciples of Jesus in the New Testament. This led me to a curious encounter in Acts 9. This chapter describes Saul’s conversion and how he became a disciple of Jesus. But I want to look at someone else. I want to observe Ananias.

Saul is headed to Damascus to arrest and persecute a group of Christians there. He meets Jesus on the road and is blinded. Then we’re introduced to a disciple of Jesus, Ananias.

I want to be like this disciple—Ananias. Why?

1. His LIFE demonstrated that he was a disciple (Acts 9:10).

Ananias was known as a disciple. Biblically, a disciple is someone who is in a relationship with Jesus and obeys what Jesus commanded. This means that Ananias believed the Gospel for his salvation.

Being known as a disciple means that his life matched his lips. It’s convenient for a season to put on a good face, to say the right things; but over the long haul, it’s merely a matter of time before who you really are comes out. What are you known as?

2. He LISTENS to the Lord (Acts 9:10).

His response to the Lord is “Here I am, Lord.” We know Ananias was a man who was listening for the voice of God. Are you listening? Do you hear Him?

A great way in 2018 to listen to the Lord is to read God’s Word; to have your Bible open and to actually read it. Do you have a plan to read God’s Word? Here’s a link to some Bible reading plans:

This is what disciples do. They don’t go rogue; they listen to the Lord. Too often, we’re unable to hear His voice when He speaks because we’re preoccupied with our own thing when He calls us. The only right place for any servant of God to be is “here.” That is, to be present and accounted for when He calls for you.

I love Ananias’ response to what God invites him to do (Acts 9:13). He basically says, “Lord, I’m not sure you’ve heard this yet, but this guy Saul … well, he’s not really interested being friends with your disciples.” You see what Ananias is doing—he’s trying to tell God details that God already knows.

Ananias shows me, me. He doesn’t have unwavering trust in God.

God knew everything about Saul. And God told Ananias to go. Are you going?

3. He LEANS into the Lord (Acts 9:17).

Being surrendered to God, Ananias obeys. Ananias walks with a lean to obey Jesus, and he does what he is told to do. He appears before Saul and has the honor of laying his hands on this broken, blind man, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Saul’s blindness dissipates.

Ananias didn’t have unwavering trust in God, yet he obeyed. You may be the same way—your trust in God will often be tested. Your faith, often, will be weak. But followers of Jesus—disciples of Jesus—obey. God’s commands do not always make sense, but they are always right!

But this is what I love the best…

4. He LEAVES the story.

Ananias’ role in this entire story is small but significant. This man who was a disciple, and one who wavered, was obedient. This small act of obedience led to a great impact on the Kingdom of God. Ananias disciples Paul, then he leaves the story.

That’s the lesson. This is why I want to be like Ananias. When we obey God and His Word, even in the small things, the results will be big. God knows better than we do; we just need to trust Him along the way. Perhaps Ananias never knew in his lifetime the full extent of what his obedience meant, but I know that Jesus Christ knew, and you do too.

In 2018, I want to be like Ananias of Damascus. I want to my life to demonstrate that I’m a disciple; I want to listen to His voice, lean into His will, and leave.

The best thing we can be known as is a disciple of Jesus. So, ask yourself this question: How can I be known as a disciple of Jesus in 2018? Listen to Him, lean into His will, and leave for Him to do great things.

[1] The term “accidental Pharisee” comes from a book by Larry Osborne, where he writes about the tendency for spiritual zeal that does not align with the totality of Scripture. He defines “accidental Pharisees” as “people like you and me who, despite the best of intentions and a desire to honor God, unwittingly end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that sabotages the work of the Lord we think we’re serving.” (Larry Osborne, Accidental Pharisees, (Zondervan; Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2012), pg. 17)