It’s self-evident that pastors are holier than “regular” people, right? It’s obvious that those who leave their home country to take the gospel around the world are better Christians than those who stay and work ordinary jobs, right?
And the reason why those sentiments are wrong is the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was a movement that recaptured the gospel which had been sullied by the corruption and misinformed theology of the medieval Catholic Church.
Over time, the Catholic Church developed a serious divide between the clergy (the priests) and the laity (everyone else). The clergy were those who were more devoted to God, i.e., holier. The (supposed) greater holiness of the priests was why only the bread was given to the laity during Communion, for the blood of Christ was considered too precious to give to the unholy masses.
The divide grew wider for a new class of “super Christian” developed: the monk and the nun. Now, someone even holier than a typical parish priest entered the scene, for they could devote their whole lives to God without the encumbrance of “normal” life, particularly family.
The Protestant Reformers protested against such gradations of holiness amongst God’s people, for the Scriptures indicate that the whole church is filled with “saints” (Ephesians 1:1; 5:3-4; Colossians 1:2; Philippians 4:21). Moreover, the Reformers recaptured Scripture’s emphasis on doing “all things” for God’s glory and good of one’s neighbor (1 Corinthians 10:31). In other words, more work than just church work mattered. Work done with excellence for God’s glory to serve other in the community is pleasing to God.
The Reformers taught that you don’t need to be a monk to please Jesus. You don’t need to be a “super Christian” to close follower of the Lord.
And that’s really good news for us today. Because some of the same messages get pumped out to Christians in churches like ours: “Well, if you want to be a real follower of Jesus you’d do this…” And what gets promoted is akin to some version of Catholic monkism. But you don’t need to be a monk to follow Jesus. And in fact, I would argue that promoting stories of people who make wide-sweeping changes to their lives to follow Jesus can actually do more harm than good for one simple reason: you can be a close follower of Jesus right where you are, right now.
You don’t need to move to another country. You don’t need to change jobs. And you certainly don’t need to so become a monk!
So what does following Jesus closely look for you right now in the midst of your current life? Here are four don’ts to follow to grow in know and loving Jesus.
- Don’t Watch Porn: Pornography is ubiquitous now due to the internet. Don’t watch it. It is grievous sin, akin to adultery according to Jesus (Matthew 5:27-31). It also leads to enslaving habits which you will ruin your capacity to have real and authentic relationships, even with God. It causes Christians to experience low-grade guilt all the time because they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing. How do you overcome porn? First, confess your sin to a trusted Christian friend. You can’t fight for purity alone and in private. It doesn’t work. You have to confess your sins to other Christians in order to be healed (James 5:16). Pick a trusted Christian who is more mature in faith than you and confess your sin to them. Second, memorize Romans 6. You need to cleanse out all the bad stuff from your mind and replace it with the truth of God’s word. Scripture tells us that we are “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:1). Don’t complain that memorizing it hard. The difficulty of memorization is what makes it powerful. Third, install Covenant Eyes on all your devices. Using guardrails like Covenant Eyes will not cure you, for these things are Law and the only things that changes us is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, these guardrails can slow your heart and mind down enough to become “rational” and actually about the truth of the gospel. Too often, we fall into sin because we are almost unconsciously responding to temptation out of habit. We need something to “wake us up” and give us the time to think about Scripture: Covenant Eyes can do that.
- Don’t Be Distracted: Stop giving yourself over to digital distractions. Instead, try a 40 days of Focus Challenge to reshape your relationship to technology. You will cut out optional technologies like Instagram and TikTok and instead pursue deeply meaningful and fund activities instead. You will want to get back in touch with those things that used to bring you joy and happiness from an earlier point in your life, or chart a new course of things that are meaningful. Of course, the extra time saved from aimlessly scrolling will also give you the space to develop a more consistent habit for Bible reading, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines.
- Don’t Be Greedy: The final step to reshaping your current life to follow Jesus is to stop being greedy and instead live generously. Although I don’t believe that Scripture gives us a certain percentage to give, God does delight in a cheerful and generous giver (2 Corinthians 9:8-12). One of the prevailing idols of our Northeastern US culture is money. Being generous can then cut off money’s power over us. Being generous will also enable us to bless and serve other. Think about all the people you could help if you were committed to giving away 5, 10, or 20% of your income.
The reason why I mention all these “don’ts” is not to create a new law, as if meeting these standards will make you hardcore for Jesus. I merely mention them as a way of giving some ideas and insights into how the gospel can transform you right here and right now. Following Jesus closely may be much closer than you think.