“What Is Meant By Following Jesus?”

Charles Sheldon wrote an eye-opening, heart-challenging book in 1896 entitled In His Steps. From this book came the well-known phrase “What would Jesus do?”

In this book, Pastor Henry Maxwell challenges his congregation to ask this question regarding everything they do throughout their day. One skeptical man asked this pointed question: what is meant by following Jesus?

“I’ve tramped through this city for three days trying to find a job; and in all that time I’ve not had a word of sympathy or comfort except from your minister here, who said he was sorry for me and hoped I would find a job somewhere. 

“Of course, I understand you can’t all go out of your way to hunt up jobs for other people like me. I’m not asking you to; but what is meant by following Jesus? Do you mean that you are suffering and denying yourselves and trying to save lost, suffering humanity just as I understand Jesus did? What do you mean by it? 

“I see the ragged edge of things a good deal. My wife died four months ago. I’m glad she is out of trouble. My little girl is staying with a printer’s family until I find a job. Somehow I get puzzled when I see so many Christians living in luxury and remember how my wife died in a tenement in New York City, gasping for air and asking God to take the little girl too. Of course I don’t expect you people can prevent everyone from dying of starvation, lack of proper nourishment, and tenement air, but what does following Jesus mean? A member of a church was the owner of the tenement where my wife died, and I have wondered if following Jesus all the way was true in his case. 

“It seems to me there’s an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn’t exist if all the people who sing your songs went and lived them out. I suppose I don’t understand. But what would Jesus do? It seems to me sometimes as if the people in the big churches have good clothes and nice houses to live in, and money to spend for luxuries, while the people outside the churches, thousands of them, I mean, die in tenements, and walk the streets for jobs, and grow up in misery and drunkenness and sin.”

So for you, what does it mean if you say you are following Jesus?

What Does God Want Me To Do?

BibleI often hear people say, “I’m waiting for a word from God” when they are making a decision. Or sometimes someone will say, “I’m not sure what God wants me to do here.”

Many years ago the phrase WWJD―what would Jesus do?―was all the rage. It came from a renewed interest in Charles Sheldon’s book In His Steps. In order to do what Jesus would do (and say), we must be familiar with what Jesus did (and said). Jesus Himself said that the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything He had done and said (John 14:26).

Jeremiah was one of the most prolific prophets of Israel, with his writings making up the longest book in the Bible. Yet one thing clearly stands out―over 420 times Jeremiah uses phrases like:

  • The Word of the Lord came to me
  • Declares the Lord
  • The Lord said to me
  • What the Lord says
  • Hear the word of the Lord
  • Open your ears to the words of His mouth

It’s hard to know what Jesus would do, or the direction God would have you go, or the God-honoring decision that you should make if you haven’t read His Word! He has so much to say to you, and the Holy Spirit is just waiting to help you apply God’s Word to your particular situation.

If you want to make better decisions, and do and say things more like Jesus did and said, be like Jeremiah and be immersed in God’s Word more and more.

Book Reviews From 2014

Our Definition Of ‘Christian’

In His StepsIn His Steps by Rev. Charles Sheldon challenged me to really look at my personal definition of being a Christian. One of the characters in Sheldon’s book hit me with this—

“It is the personal element that Christian discipleship needs to emphasize. ‘The gift without the giver is bare.’ The call of this age is a call for a new discipleship, a new following of Jesus, more like the early, simple, apostolic Christianity when the disciples left all and literally followed the Master. Nothing but a discipleship of this kind can face the destructive selfishness of the age, with any hope of overcoming it. … But if our definition of being a Christian is simply to enjoy the privileges of worship, be generous at no expense to ourselves, have a good, easy time surrounded by pleasant friends and by comfortable things, live respectably, and at the same time avoid the world’s great stress of sin and trouble because it is too painful—if this is our definition of Christianity, then surely we are a long way from following the steps of Him who trod the way with tears of anguish for a lost humanity.” 

You can read my full book review of In His Steps by clicking here. And I quote another thought-provoking passage from this book here.

What Would Happen…?

In His StepsIn His Steps by Rev. Charles Sheldon is a timeless classic that every Christian should read (you can check out my book review by clicking here). This quote is a part of the final message that one of the main characters, Pastor Henry Maxwell, delivers at a prominent church in Chicago.

What would happen if in this city every church member should begin to do as Jesus would do? It staggers our minds to imagine the results! We all know that certain things would be impossible that are now practiced by church members. What would Jesus do in the matter of wealth? How would He spend it? How would Jesus be governed in the making of money? Would He take rentals from saloons? From tenement property? 

What would Jesus do about the great army of unemployed who tramp the streets and curse the church, or are indifferent to it, lost in the bitter struggle for the bread that tastes bitter when it is earned on account of the desperate conflict to get it? Would He say it was none of His business? 

What would Jesus do in the center of a civilization that hurries so fast after money that the girls employed in great business houses are not paid enough to keep soul and body together without fearful temptations? Where the demands of trade sacrifice hundreds of lads in a business that ignores all Christian duties toward them in the way of education and moral training and personal affection? Would Jesus, if He were here today as a part of our age and commercial industry, feel nothing, do nothing, say nothing in the face of these facts that every businessman knows?

How would you answer Pastor Maxwell’s questions?

In His Steps (book review)

In His StepsI first read In His Steps by Rev. Charles Sheldon when I was a teenager. I loved the book then, but I was absolutely fascinated by it while I was re-reading it this time!

In His Steps is the story of a pastor named Henry Maxwell, who lives and pastors in the town of Raymond, New York. The story was originally delivered chapter by chapter by Rev. Sheldon to his Sunday evening congregation during the summer of 1896. As each chapter was presented, the attendance grew and grew until the church building was packed to standing room only.

The whole premise of the book is a simple one: what would happen if each one of us were to live our lives moment to moment by one simple question—what would Jesus do? The story is told through the lives of Henry Maxwell and others in his congregation, as they come to grips with just what this means for them. At the end of the book, the “What would Jesus do” movement has spread, and Pastor Maxwell is asked to speak at a prominent church in Chicago. He concludes his message with this thought—

“Suppose that ‘What would Jesus do?’ were the motto, not only of the churches but of the businessmen, the politicians, the newspapers, the working men, the society people. How long would it take, under such a standard of conduct, to revolutionize the world? What is the trouble with the world? It is suffering from selfishness. No one ever lived who had succeeded in overcoming selfishness like Jesus. If men followed Him, regardless of results, the world would at once begin to enjoy a new life.” 

In His Steps is a powerful book! Simple to read, yet challenging to apply. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to be more of a disciple of Jesus Christ. “What would Jesus do?” shouldn’t be just a clever question, but a way of life!

Book Reviews From 2013

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