INSIDE: Learn the difference between stalking Jesus and following Jesus, and how to make the switch.
Have you ever stalked someone? Even just a little?
When I was in high school, there was this guy I liked. He was a childhood neighbor that I had lost track of. It was a shock to discover, many years later, that he was a friend of a friend and attended a nearby school.
I didn’t know much about the guy (we lost touch after grade 1) so I asked around. I found out a bit more about him from his friends, including his email address. And I’m super embarrassed to admit this on the internet, but I created a new email account and emailed him a few times anonymously.
And NOW you know what a nut job I am. Go ahead, laugh. Please remember this was half my life ago.
Stalking means to follow and watch someone very intently.
If I were to really stalk someone, I’d read their diary. I’d memorize their movements. I’d take pictures. I’d study their ways. I might even write love songs for them.
Are you creeped out yet? I promise not to stalk you. (Side note: I did NOT do any of those things to the poor guy from high school.)
A lot of those things could look like relationship, on the outside. The only difference is that stalking is a one-sided venture. I never actually talked to my crush.
Don’t we do the same with Jesus all.the.time?
We read his diary (or at least, the diaries of those who knew him).
We memorize his words.
We paint pictures and make coloring pages.
We study his ways.
We even write love songs.
But all that stalking doesn’t add up to relationship, just like my semi-creepy emails in high school didn’t create a relationship.
Paul the apostle was a God-stalker.
He was a pre-eminent scholar of his day.
He knew the Scriptures like the back of his hand.
He could quote Numbers chapter 4 like a kid at AWANA.
He was the kid that got ALL the stickers in Sunday School and extra points for bringing a friend.
But he wasn’t a disciple.
Paul wasn’t transformed until he MET Jesus.
He wasn’t transformed by stalking Jesus. He was transformed by following Jesus.
So why would Paul, or anyone else, stalk Jesus instead of truly follow Jesus?
Sarah Bessey says that “Jesus was a bit too wild for the Church.” (Out of Sorts)
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And it’s true, isn’t it? Jesus has always been a bit too wild for dominant religious groups.
The Pharisees and Saducees of the time were the most suspicious of Jesus and of his early disciples. They were the first persecutors of Christians.
Because Jesus and his followers were WILD. They broke many of the rules that had kept the Jewish people safe and protected for a long time. They preached against the corrupt religious leaders and basically got in trouble everywhere they went.
The Jewish people were afraid of Jesus and of the Christians, whose lives turned upside down for an upside-down kingdom.
We don’t like being turned upside down.
We prefer comfort.
We are scared to say anything that might have us thrown out of our comfortable places – our pews, our leadership positions, our tax brackets.
So we stalk Jesus instead of actually following Jesus.
But for those who would truly follow Jesus, the rewards are immeasurable.
Stalking someone is a bit like looking at an elaborate door.
We memorize its details, the intricate whorls carved in the wood, and the fine stonework along the sides. We dream about opening it, even going so far as to place a single finger near the door. But we never actually walk through the door.
It’s only when we walk through that doorway that we actually experience the doorway in all its glory.
“Jesus offers himself as God’s doorway into the life that is truly life. Confidence in him leads us today, as in other times, to become his apprentices in eternal living. “Those who come though me will be safe,” he said. “They will go in and out and find all they need. I have come into their world that they may have life, and life to the fullest.” Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy.
“Few things will reorient your life like discipleship: it’s leaving behind a false humanity and entering into the truth of home at last, exiles returning.” Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts
In John 15, we read Jesus’ famous speech on the vine and the branches.
Remain in me,” he says, “as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)
Life to the fullest.
Apprentices to eternal living.
Returning from exile.
Those are incredible perks to truly following Jesus. But how can we actually walk through the doorway?
How can we stop stalking Jesus, and start truly following Jesus?
1) It starts with relationship.
In Acts 4:13, the religious elite were astonished to see Peter and John preaching with such courage. They were unschooled, ordinary men, but the difference was that they had been with Jesus. They hadn’t stalked Jesus, they had followed him.
The disciples memorized his words, but they also memorized his ways and chose to follow in his steps.
How can we choose intentional relationship with Jesus?
Wait for it…you probably know what I’m going to say…
We need to make time for it.
I’m currently reading Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work. His theory is we no longer know how to go deep because our society has been so disrupted by shallow, distracted work.
While his book is aimed at our professional lives, it has far-reaching implications for our spiritual lives as well.
Only those people who can cultivate the deep, hard heart work will grow in our relationship with Jesus and be truly transformed.
The early disciples had the privilege of being with a physical Jesus for three solid years. But we have the privilege of having the Spirit of Jesus with us constantly, our entire lives.
Peter and John aren’t the only one who can be marked by a life with Jesus.
2) It continues through obedience.
Matthew 7:24-25 records a story that Jesus told:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
I always thought that the wise man was the guy who was a Christian. He believed the words of Jesus and therefore had this fabulous, unassailable house.
But Jesus says otherwise.
It is not those who believe Jesus’ words that are like the wise man, it’s the one who hears the words and puts them into practice.
When was the last time you put Jesus’ teaching into practice?
Oh, we love to read Paul’s words about Jesus, or read the stories that point to Jesus, but how often do we spend time in the gospels, getting to know Jesus and choosing to put his words into practice?
I bet if we did, we’d be VERY different people.
So how about you?
You may know some people that seem like they’re merely stalking Jesus. But what you and I need to do right now is look at our own hearts.
Am I stalking Jesus? Learning about him, instead of being discipled by him.
If so, you have a choice.
Are you going to choose to follow Jesus today, instead of merely stalking him?
Will you walk through the door?
If you want resource to help you get to know Jesus on a deeper level, join my 40 days with Jesus Bible study. In it, we go through the entire book of Mark. Each day has a shortish reading, questions that will spark conversation in your entire family, and a deeper devotional for yourself. Best of all, it’s currently free. Read more here.