“Following Jesus” is fundamentally the experience of “being led.” We follow Jesus wherever he leads us. He takes the initiative, not us. Following Jesus isn’t just a matter of asking ourselves, “Okay, what would it mean to follow Jesus in this situation?” or “What would Jesus do?” When we’re following Jesus, the emphasis is on his leading rather than our thinking. I’m not saying we shouldn’t think about what we’re doing. It’s just that our thinking shouldn’t be turned in on itself, but should be a response to what we sense Jesus may be doing or asking.
The Magi didn’t just decide to go on a quest. They followed a star. They went where they were led. I encourage people to view *28 as an opportunity to experiment with allowing yourself to be led by Jesus, and following his leading whatever the cost, even if you end up being wrong. Revolving our whole lives around Jesus is basically about “following the Leader.”
My own journey has taken some unexpected turns the last couple of days. One of the ways God seems to lead me is through books, especially through books I’m not currently reading. Sunday night my eyes lit on a book on my shelf that I began a long time ago, but never got very far into. I felt drawn to picking up the book, and the few pages I read generated the thoughts that I shared in yesterday’s post. I talked about how because of Jesus’ sovereignty and foreknowledge, there is a sense in which he is always the one “leading” us into whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Once we accept this “outer leading” from God, then we can listen for that narrower “inner leading” for how to engage with what’s happening.
Now I feel set up. Yesterday morning, just before breakfast, I felt drawn to looking at another book that I had received as a gift at a pastors convention a couple of years ago. It didn’t make much sense, given all the other really good books I’m reading right now. In the first few pages the author writes about an experience he had of returning to the place where he had given his life to Christ as a teenager. He talks about some of the values his father had taught him, values that, before his conversion, had kept him from grasping and accepting the full measure of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
I thought, “I’ve sure been reading a lot about fathers lately.”
Later in the day, when Sharon and I were praying, I remembered something my own father had said to me the previous evening. I’m not going to repeat it. If I told you what it was, you would agree that it was an awful thing for a father to say to a son, or for any human being to say to another human being. It was not only awful, it was bizarre. And it was directed at me. Now, my father is a good man, and what he said was his very poor attempt at being humorous. My father is Dutch. He was born and raised in the Netherlands. There is a particular kind of Dutch humor that can be very difficult for other people to appreciate — especially if they are butt of the joke. Well, I was the butt Sunday evening. And no matter how often I told myself it was just a joke, and that my father didn’t mean anything by it, I realized that what my father’s motives were didn’t matter. The words had done their damage. It’s sort of like someone firing a gun at you. It doesn’t matter if it was an accident. The bullet is still going to wound or kill you.
As strange as it sounds, I now realize that the Lord “led” me into that interaction with my father. As Sharon and I were praying yesterday about a totally unrelated matter (or so it seemed), I suddenly became aware of my father’s words and what it said about the relationship I had with my father growing up. And lights turned on, as I realized how my relationship with my father had affected my feelings toward my heavenly Father, and a lot of other things as well. As I wept, I sensed Jesus leading me, introducing me actually, to my heavenly Father. Instead of being faint and distant, the Father was suddenly very large and real and present. It sort of took my breath away. And I heard him say how much he loved me, and of how proud of me he was. I wasn’t expecting any of that. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but I don’t think so. I think that Jesus and the Father arranged all this. Like I said, I’m pretty sure I was set up, and I’m grateful that I was. Yes, “wherever he leads us,” it’s “for love.”
All this makes me think of something Jesus says in the gospel of John: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I wonder where following Jesus will take us today?