People used to say "I'm saved by Jesus." Or, "Jesus saved me."
I don't like saying 'I follow Jesus'. I'll tell you why.
Saying "I follow Jesus" puts me as the subject. 'Look at meeee, I follow." The verb is about me too. The verb alerts the hearer to something I am doing, following. It puts a picture in the mind of the hearer on two people walking, the second one being the follower, and that is where you're mind's eye rests in forming the picture of the words spoken to you. On the one doing the following and not on the One doing the leading.
It is also kind of boasting. If one is saved by the atoning work of Jesus Christ, it stands to reason that a person would then follow His commands and abide by His statutes. No one says, "I'm saved by Jesus but I don't follow Him." The following is tacitly understood by one and all.
But one can say "I follow Jesus" and not be saved. Mormons follow Jesus and are not saved. Catholics follow Jesus and are not saved. Judas followed Jesus for three years and he was not saved. I understand that saying "I'm saved by Jesus" doesn't guarantee a person is saved, but at least it includes the acknowledgement of sin and the need for a savior. Following Jesus is something a lot of people do, and saying so only increases the likelihood that what they are doing is simply an activity. When you decide to call yourself a Jesus follower, in my opinion it increases the likelihood that are one of the people DOING things for Christ and not actually saved by Christ.
All these people followed Christ, too:
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:22-23)
Saying that "Jesus saved me" puts the emphasis on Him. Referencing my salvation by constantly saying "I follow Jesus" puts a boasting aspect to the phrase the speaker may not have intended, but is there nonetheless.
Now, someone could reply that the comment is not about salvation, but is about sanctification. Sanctification is the growth we experience in Christ after we are saved (justified). They could argue that they were saved by Jesus and now they follow Him in His statutes, ever growing in sanctification. After all, Jesus said, "Follow me".
Yes, Jesus said "Follow me" many times. He said it in Matthew 4:19, Matthew 16:24, John 8:12, Luke 5:11, 1 Peter 2:21, John 10:27, etc. It is biblical to say that one is a follower of Jesus. I cannot categorically condemn the phrase.
I can make a statement that it is unwise to speak solely of one's salvation OR sanctification in terms of the self. The growth we experience when we follow Jesus is partly done under our own steam but not fully. The Holy Spirit grows us. Our part is aggressive obedience, fervent pursuit, and a total submission. Therefore saying "I follow" seems just so...anemic.
'Following' as opposed to submitting, pursuing, or obeying is one step away from Jesus. Who are we following? Why? That small shift in emphasis is incremental but dangerous nonetheless. Once the shift is made away from the object of our pursuit, then the following becomes the main theme. And one can easily go astray. One can follow your bliss.
|Creative Commons, source|
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
The members at Corinth were split along doctrinal lines and had shifted their eyes from Jesus and their unity in Him to personal preferences among different teachers and the doctrines these teachers were teaching.
Erin McCrum wrote about the "why" this trend eschews the name 'Christian' in favor of 'Follower of Jesus:
...proponents of the “follower” lingo claim two advantages over the label “Christian” or “evangelical.” “First, it doesn’t carry baggage. You can wear it abroad, in Islamic countries, or at home with your Jewish or Buddhist friends, without causing offense. Second, it distances the bearer from the culture wars that have made American politics so divisive.”In this scenario, one can envision saying to a Muslim, "I'm a follower of Jesus!" and they reply "I'm a follower of Isa!" Hugs all around. It is precisely the offense which makes a Christian a Christian. Paul said if there is no offense then the cross has been taken away (Galatians 5:11). If claiming Jesus as our Christ doesn't offend, there is something wrong. There should be love in witnessing, but there should be no attempt to cloak, diminish or otherwise distort who we are and who Christ is. Of course the term "Christian" carries baggage. That is the point. The 'baggage' is the cross which offends everyone.
Satan is so subtle and so skillful. Satan managed to convince a third of the holy angels who saw the face of God every day, to follow him instead. He convinced Eve to bite the forbidden fruit just by asking a question. It is unwise to allow incremental creep into our language regarding who we are or what we do. Satan will quickly take advantage of it. Instead, we must be mindful, biblical, and vigilant in our language about Jesus and in our active holy walk. See the difference:
The Jesus Follower: I am a pretty good person who just made some mistakes and so I decided to follow Jesus and I want to live out His plan for me because after all, He loves me.
The Christian Saved by Grace: I am a totally depraved sinner saved by unmerited grace of the Son of Man who came to live a sinless life, die as the atoning sacrifice for my sin, and endure all God's wrath for it. I pursue the resurrected Jesus who has holy standards for the ones He has saved, and am living by those standards to the best of my craven ability, by submission to and obedience in the Holy Spirit. I rest on the promises Jesus the Christ has made to His chosen ones to both activate the faith He has given me, and to empower me to live in ever-growing sanctification. I'm looking forward to obeying him all the days of my life until He deems it the time to bring me home.
I have a very small leak in the tub faucet. A tiny drop comes out every few seconds. One day, the cat had tripped the drain shut. I went into the bathroom a few hours later and there was an inch of water on the bottom of the tub. The litter box was floating. Small doctrinal leaks add up. Explosively wrong doctrine can pop a balloon or a tiny leak of slowly shifting language can drain it. The result is the same.
|I'm not a Christian. I'm a Jesus follower.|
The terms Christian, sinner, salvation, justification, sanctification etc have lasted so long and been so understandable to everyone for centuries is because they are biblical. These terms transcend time. Be mindful of falling into a trap of exchanging words attached to known and commonly understood concepts with new terms that are nebulous, temporary, cultural and lack Spirit power. Sometimes synonyms aren't synonyms, but a subtle trick of satan to drain power from our witness.
Liberals change word meanings with intent to deceive
The cults are infamous for perverting historically accepted biblical terms. “Is it any wonder then,” said the late Christian apologist/polemicist Dr. Walter Martin in The Riddle of Semantics, “that orthodox Christians feel called upon to openly denounce such perversions of clearly defined and historically accepted biblical terminology, and claim that the cults have no rights — scholastically, biblically, or linguistically — to redefine biblical terms as they do?” (Source)