Do you love to follow God? Or maybe just looking like you love to follow God? I’ve been in both places. My story is one of being proud of my “Christian resume,” secretly sinning while appearing to be righteous, and then finally confessing my sin and experiencing true freedom and joy. For a long time, I faked it with the best of them. I was a Christian, but mostly just following the rules (and blowing it). And like JP said last Tuesday at the Porch, faking it is exhausting.
So how do you not fake following God?
To really follow God, you have to know Him. Not just know about Him – even demons do that – but actually have a relationship with Him. Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God. The mind-blowing reality that imperfect humans can know the perfect, holy, and just God of the universe can happen only through the gospel. You, as messed up and broken as you are, can know God.
And you know what? God wants you to know Him! He says in Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
God delights in you knowing Him. And He wants you to know Him more and more.
It’s impossible to really know God and not love Him, because we see how much He loves us. God went first, loving us before we loved Him. And now as His children, we get to love him in response to His love for us, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
If you know God, you love Him. And if you love God, you obey Him. Obeying God is about having a relationship with Him and walking by the Spirit, not just following His rules. Just trying to follow the rules is exhausting, but loving and obeying God is live-giving. So what’s the connection between loving God and obeying Him?
Obedience is a response to love. Jesus told His followers in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Loving God should lead to holy obedience.
Obedience is a demonstration of love. 1 John 2:3-5 says, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.” Obeying God is a way to show that we love Him.
Obedience is a definition of love. 1 John 5:3 says, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” To love God is to obey Him – it’s the same thing! But the second half of that verse is really important to remember, because God isn’t trying to burden us with a bunch of rules – He wants us to find rest in Him. Obeying God isn’t a burden or a beating, it’s a blessing for our benefit.
You won’t follow someone that you don’t deeply trust, at least not for long. If you really understand that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you, you’ll want to trust and follow Him. Jesus said in John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Sheep follow their shepherd because they know and trust him. We're God’s children, but He also calls us the sheep of His pasture. Embrace your sheep-ness, and trust your Shepherd to lead and guide you with what’s best for you. If you’re struggling with the idea of being a sheep, spend some time in Psalm 23 to see how King David felt about it, and pray that God helps you to see it the same way.
Following God should be enjoyable! A good test for if you’re really following God or just faking it is whether or not following God brings you deep joy. This goes back to the beating vs. blessing thing. If you see following God as a beating, you’re doing it wrong! But if you see it as a blessing that brings joy, your heart is likely in the right place.
Now I don’t mean that every experience you have while following God has to feel enjoyable. Jesus promised that we’ll have trouble in this life. And I also don’t mean that it will always feel good to deny yourself some enjoyable-sounding temptations as you wrestle with your sin nature. That’s part of being human. But in the deepest part of who you are, do you delight in following God? Is there enjoyment in your obedience? If there isn’t, spend some time meditating on verses like John 10:10, Matthew 13:44, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 37:4-6, and Psalm 34:8-10 – these tell you what God wants following Him to be like. Hint: it’s pretty awesome.
Do you feel like you’re missing it in any of these areas? I know I do sometimes. Thankfully, God helps us follow Him, and He is gracious to us when we mess up. If you’ve been faking it, start by confessing that to God, and then to another human being. And then take a step of faith in following Him! We would love to help you on that journey.
What parts of following God are the most natural for you? And where are you most likely to fake it?