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How do I start following Jesus?

The true story of Jesus is in the bible, so that’s definitely the best place to start. Some people will tell you that the bible is out of date and unreliable but, let’s face it, if we are going to follow Jesus it’s best to read some writings of those who were closest to him while he was here.

The first four books of the New Testament are a biography of his life. If you would like to read one, try the second one, Mark’s gospel. It’s easy to read and gives you a pretty good idea of the things Jesus said and did.

The bible is divided into chapters and verses. This was put in after it was written so we can more easily turn to a particular section. It’s helpful because the bible is not an ordinary book, it is supposed to be a manual for life. So you can turn to a particular passage that will help you understand how to behave, think, or act in any given situation.

"How can I get to heaven?" That seems a reasonable question for a start. That’s the question a rich man asked Jesus (Mark's Gospel Chapter 10 verse 17). "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Part of Jesus’ answer was in his initial reply. "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God."

Just like many people today, the man asking the question thought that if you acted in a certain way you would be able to earn the right to get into heaven. After all, only good people go to heaven, don’t they? As God is good he’ll invite everyone good to be with him. That is true, but Jesus' reply showed no one falls into that category.

Jesus lists a few of the God’s Ten Commandments, which this man knew well. Our own English laws are based on them. Maybe you know some. Here’s the list:

1. Do not murder

2. Do not commit adultery (sleep with someone else’s spouse)

3. Do not steal

4. Do not tell lies

5. Do not try to trick others to get what you want. (covet is the old word)

6. Honour your parents (obey them if you’re young)

The man asking the question told Jesus he had always kept them all. Do you believe him? It may be that he did keep them. But Jesus often talked about our attitude, what was really going on inside. We might not actually kill someone but how many times have we wished someone dead. Or for that matter just ignored a person in need and by ignoring them we failed to show them love. We didn’t care if they lived or died.

We might have never been convicted of theft by a court but how many times have we made an unofficial telephone call at work, used work paper or stationary, just left an invoice off the tax form! If we are honest we have all broken God’s rules. As Jesus said initially, "No one is good."

Jesus listened to the man’s reply and the bible says Jesus loved him. Jesus realised that this man really did want to understand how he could live forever. Jesus said to him, "Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor then come and follow me."

The man realised that following Jesus had to come first in his life and not all the wealth that he had accumulated. The man went away disappointed because he wasn’t willing to give away his vast fortune and put Jesus first instead.

Just like everyone else, we are rebels and have turned away from God and live life as if he doesn’t exist. That is why Jesus later died on a cross to pay the price for our rebellion. You read about that towards the end of Mark’s Gospel. The bible tells us that Jesus came back to life and is alive forever.

The first thing Jesus asks is that we make Him first in our lives. Anything that gets in the way has got to go. That is the first commandment that we love God more than anything else. It’s not that becoming poor makes anyone a Christian but it is saying to Jesus I want you to be the number one priority.

Also it doesn’t mean that we will immediately start obeying all the other commandments. You see we are all guilty before God because we have broken the simple rules he has made.

 To start following Jesus you need to turn away from your rebellion towards God. He died in your place and is calling you to follow him. Are you willing to give him first place in your life and receive eternal life? (1 John 5:12 The Bible!) He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Talk to God - Many people have found it helpful to say a prayer something like this:

"Dear Lord, thank you for loving me so much that you willingly died for me, in my place. I’m sorry for all the things I have done wrong. I’m so glad you came back to life. Please forgive me and come and be the Lord of my life."  

The prayer above has no special words, which make you a follower of Jesus it’s a change of heart that he requires. However, if that prayer expresses the way you feel. God promises that all who come to him in faith he will never turn away. Jesus once said "Who ever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37 The bible)

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