Following Jesus – Dr. Charles Stanley

What makes someone a follower of Jesus? Going to church? Donating money to good causes? Trying to be a good person? The answer is actually much simpler: all we have to do is follow the Leader. In this message, Dr. Stanley outlines exactly how to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, surrendering our lives and mirroring His life of prayer, service, and sacrifice.   Don't get caught up in a performance-based Christianity, instead, pick up your cross and follow the Leader. 

Following Jesus

Are you a follower of Jesus?

KEY PASSAGE: Matthew 4:18-20

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES: Matthew 17:5 | Matthew 28:19 | Mark 12:30 | Luke 6:12 | John 3:3 | John 3:16 | John 8:12 | John 12:26 | Romans 6:23 | Philippians 1:29


Are you a follower of Jesus? When that question is asked, people generally give a wide variety of answers.

They may think it’s synonymous with believing in God, attending church, participating in communion, giving to good causes, praying when in need, living a good life, or being religious. But none of these actually answer the question, nor do they prove that someone is following Jesus. Engaging in certain religious activities is not equivalent to following Jesus. Although these activities are generally practiced by Christians, not everyone who does them is a Christian. To determine if someone is truly following Jesus, we must use biblical guidelines.


As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, He called Simon Peter and Andrew to leave their occupation as fishermen and follow Him (Matt. 4:18-19). Their response demonstrates what following Jesus involves: “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (v. 20). This was a whole life commitment, not merely religious activity.

What characterizes a follower of Jesus?

In order to evaluate whether we too are following Jesus, we must understand what experiences are true of those who are genuine followers.

  • Born Again. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This is the first qualification to become a follower of Jesus. We must confess and repent of our sins, by faith receive God’s forgiveness, surrender our lives to Christ as our Savior and Lord, and start walking in His ways. Being a Christian is not just becoming better or improving ourselves; it’s an entirely new life born of the Spirit.

  • Prayer. “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). If we follow Jesus, we will be a person of prayer just as He was. In fact, it will be a major part of our lives not just an occasional plea for help when we’re in need. For prayer to become a priority, we must make it a daily habit to have a quiet time alone with God. Starting and finishing each day in prayer is a good way to make sure we are walking in Christ’s footsteps.

  • Listening. “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’” (Matt. 17:5). Too often many of us begin the morning with thoughts of everything we need to accomplish that day. Although fulfilling our responsibilities is important, it’s more essential to spend time talking to the Father, asking Him to guide, protect, and enable us to be obedient to Him and sensitive to the needs of those around us who need the Savior. As the sovereign Lord and Master not only of the universe but of our individual lives, God requires our submission and obedience to His will. That’s why we must take time to listen to Him as we read His Word and pray.

  • Belief. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Just as we trusted Christ for salvation, so we must continue to live by faith as we follow Him. If we don’t believe Him, we’ll live self-centered lives and won’t do what He says or walk in His ways. But as genuine followers of Christ, we’ll trust Him with our difficulties, pain, temptations, and needs, relying on Him to enable us to do whatever He says.

  • Obedience. “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). Following requires obedience, and when this is the desire of our hearts, we recognize how foolish it is to go our own way. Sin always leads to loss and the death of something whether it’s opportunities or blessings (Rom. 6:23). If we stubbornly refuse to obey God, He will send enough heartache and trouble into our lives to correct us. It is always good to obey Him because He is the source of every good thing.

  • Love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and will all your strength” (Mark 12:30). We can’t follow Christ with a divided heart—half in the world and half with God. The love we are to have for Christ involves our entire being. Therefore, we can’t allow impure thoughts, images, and words into our minds and claim to love Him at the same time. Wholehearted love for Christ affects what we think and watch, what we do, and where we go.

  • Sharing. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19). This is Jesus’ command, and if we are going to follow Him, we will share the truth of God’s Word with others, regardless of whether they like us or not. In a world of hatred, bitterness, animosity, and death, Christ’s followers are risking their lives to bring the gospel to people throughout the world. Each of us can surely say something to spark the interest of someone we know who is not following Jesus.

  • Service. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26). Jesus came as a servant, and as His followers, that’s what we should do as well. All of us have the capacity to serve the Lord in some fashion by serving others. Service comes in many different forms: helping, caring, encouraging, comforting, giving, teaching, or sharing God’s Word.

  • Suffering. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). If we are following Jesus, we can expect to experience some form of suffering. We may be rejected, suffer financial loss, or even lose relationships because we make people feel uncomfortable and don’t fit in with those who love the world. But this should not stop us from following Jesus and sharing the gospel.

Although we may be tempted to pick and choose which of these qualities we want to pursue, all these practices are essential elements of our walk with Jesus and should become an important part of our lives as we follow Him.


  • Can you truthfully say that you are following Jesus? Why or why not?
  • Which of these characteristics of a Christ follower are the most difficult for you to accept and practice? Would you be willing to ask God to work them into your life so you can follow Jesus more fully?


About the Council

The Gospel Coalition’s Council is a collection of pastors and qualified elders who provide direction and leadership to TGC. They meet annually for fellowship, discussion, planning, accountability, and prayer around the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Aiming to bring biblical conviction and pastoral sensitivity to bear on a range of pressing contemporary issues, the Council is committed to shepherding the next generation of church leaders in line with TGC’s foundation documents.

We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices. On the one hand, we are troubled by the idolatry of personal consumerism and the politicization of faith; on the other hand, we are distressed by the unchallenged acceptance of theological and moral relativism. These movements have led to the easy abandonment of both biblical truth and the transformed living mandated by our historic faith. We not only hear of these influences, we see their effects. We have committed ourselves to invigorating churches with new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

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The National Association of Evangelicals


Mission and Work

The mission of the National Association of Evangelicals is to honor God by connecting and representing evangelical Christians.  Church and Faith  The National Association of Evangelicals works to make denominations, churches and ministries strong and effective. The NAE strategically focuses on encouraging, resourcing and enriching denominational, nonprofit, school and church leaders. With a great breadth and diversity of partners, the NAE convenes unique gatherings, conversations and movements on a host of church-related issues.  The NAE Statement of Faith, adopted in 1942, provides a theological touchstone for evangelicals across the country — bringing together Calvinist, Arminian, Wesleyan, Anabaptist and Charismatic traditions. Among these diverse groups, the NAE facilitates united action, cooperative ministry and strategic planning to achieve shared goals.  

Public Policy  

The National Association of Evangelicals represents evangelical concerns to the government and mobilizes evangelicals to engage in the public sphere. The NAE provides a forum where evangelicals can work together to preserve religious liberty, nurture families and children, protect the sanctity of human life, seek justice for the poor, promote human rights, work for peace, and care for God’s creation.  Evangelicals believe that government is a gift from God for the common good. Good governance creates the conditions in which human beings fulfill their responsibilities as God’s image bearers and as stewards of God’s creation. Government plays an important role in protecting life, preserving freedom, and creating an environment in which families, churches, businesses and other human institutions can thrive.  

Chaplains Commission  

The NAE Chaplains Commission provides support and endorsement for evangelicals to minister as chaplains in the three branches of the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, hospitals, prisons, businesses and many other institutions.  The Commission also connects and represents the chaplain ministries of NAE denominations, making it the largest representative body of chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces and Veterans Administration. The Commission champions free exercise and expression of faith in our nation’s military institutions.  

World Relief  

As the relief and development arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief’s mission is to “empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable.”  World Relief provides churches with a platform to bring humanitarian assistance to suffering people in the name of Christ in the United States and throughout the world. World Relief exists for the Church and its mandate to serve those in need.  World Relief has active ministries in the areas of disaster response, child development, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, agricultural development, immigrant legal services, microfinance, anti-trafficking and refugee resettlement.

Southern Baptist Convention




You become a Southern Baptist by uniting with a Southern Baptist church, one in friendly cooperation with the general Southern Baptist enterprise of reaching the world for Christ. Typically church membership is a matter of receiving Jesus as your Savior and Lord and experiencing believer's baptism by immersion.

Southern Baptists have prepared a statement of generally held convictions called The Baptist Faith and Message. It serves as a guide to understanding who they are. Copies are available at Southern Baptist churches. The full text on the issue discussed is also available on this website.


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