Just follow Christ in 2024
We’ve got a brand new year in front of us. Welcome 2024. I just love the promise of new possibilities that a new year brings. It’s an opportunity to take stock of who you are and where you are, and where you’re going, where God is leading you. For me it’s simply to follow Christ.
It’s also a time to reflect on where you’ve been, how far you’ve come and appreciate the lessons you’ve learned from all the ups and downs of the previous year.
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I have to work on myself in 2024
During 2023 it became increasingly clear to me that, as much as I enjoy and thrive and feel God-directed to help and minister to others, I also need to minister to myself more consistently. And I’ve known this, but I’ve realized it in a whole new way, I cannot change someone else’s behavior, and believe me, I’ve tried. I can only be a guide. The only thing I can do is work on myself. I can change my behavior, my thinking.
When I think about all the chaos in the world right now, from the global conflicts down to the national, regional, and local levels of society, not to mention the personal challenges we’re all facing, life can seem pretty overwhelming at times.
There are so many things trying to grab our attention these days. Do this. Do that. Go here. Go there. Buy this, buy that. Start this new project. Solve that problem. Talk to this person. Avoid that person. Try this new Social media strategy. Quit wasting time with that one.
There are so many opinions telling us to go in so many directions. Everyone seems to think their solution to a problem is better than anyone else’s. How do you know which path to follow? It’s not always easy.
Prayer for guidance
But during the last month or so, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying about how to deal with all these external influences trying to pull me in so many directions.
Sometimes, in trying to figure out what to do or not do, it gets even more confusing if I’m trying to decide everything for myself, get other people’s opinions about what they think I should do, and then compare what I’m doing to what someone else is doing. That does not help me figure things out.
I’ve realized the best thing to do when I feel overwhelmed with all these voices crying out for attention is to take a step back, be still, and just think about God and my relationship with Him.
There’s that wonderful verse that’s quoted all the time and almost becomes a trite little saying, but it really rings true for me in times like this.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 NIV
Our need to know God better
If you are trying to make some big decisions in 2024 or deal with all the conflicting influences in your life and the world, the real need may simply be to get to know God better.
Paul brings this out in his letter to the church in Philippi.
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Philippians 4:6-8 TPT (The Passion Translation)
I love that phrase, “be saturated in prayer.” Prayer is not so much the words you say, but the mindset you have about your relationship with God, how you talk to Him and listen for His voice.
If you’re having trouble sifting through all the things the world is throwing your way, all the influences that pull us away from a more spiritual approach to life, one of the most powerful prayers is simply to praise God.
I love the simplicity in
I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. Psalm 34:1 NLT
When I get to the mental and spiritual space where I am just thinking about and praising God, and having an intimate conversation with Him, and just rejoicing to be in His presence, it’s as if the fog clears and I can see, think, and pray more clearly.
And that’s kind of what I’ve been up to in my prayers recently, especially this last month or so.
Seeing what God has called you to do
So what happens when the air clears and you see clearly what God has put in front of you? Well, you’ll have to answer that for yourself. But for me, it helps me focus on what I know God has called me to do.
Now, the problem at this point, and which I have struggled with over the years, is to compare myself to others and how it appears to me that they are succeeding or failing at what God has called them to do.
It’s so easy to look at someone else’s life and decide they are doing a better job of obeying God than I am. It can be equally easy to look at someone else and decide I am doing a better job than they are.
What a trap!
Stop comparing yourself to others
I’ve gotten much better at noticing when I do this. It does no good to compare myself to others in a positive or negative way or be impressed with what someone else is saying or doing. It takes my mind off what God is telling me.
And what is God telling me? What do I see clearly that I need to do?
It’s really simple.
This process of comparing myself to how others are succeeding in their careers, their ministries, or maybe even how successful their podcasts, books, and social media content are, reminds me of something Jesus said to Peter.
Several days after Jesus’s resurrection, he was with seven of his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They had just eaten the breakfast he had prepared for them. You can read the whole story in John, Chapter 21.
Jesus and Peter
The part of the story that’s helpful in this discussion starts in verse 20.
Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?”
Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:20-22 NLT
Jesus had just given Peter some very specific instructions about how to show how much he loved his Master, to feed and care for his lambs and sheep, the new and mature followers of Jesus. Then Jesus implied how Peter’s life would come to an end.
When Peter turned and saw John, “the disciple Jesus loved,” it was only natural to wonder what would happen to him, and whet he would do with his life. Peter and John had both been very close to Jesus from the beginning of his ministry.
Peter’s assignment: Follow Christ
But Jesus immediately squelched any thought of comparison by simply responding, “What is that to you? As for you, follow me.” In other words, don’t compare yourself with how someone else is following me or what I have called them to do.
“What is that to you? As for you, follow me.” This is the phrase that’s been coming to me constantly during the last month. And it’s going to be the earnest focus of my efforts during 2024. And beyond.
In 2024: Follow Christ
When someone I know is successful at something, I will rejoice for them, but I will not compare myself to them and think they are better, or closer to God, or loved more by God.
If someone is not successful at what they attempt, I will not think of myself as superior or be judgmental.
I will simply strive to follow Christ first and foremost in my own life, and treat everyone with compassion.
If war continues around the world, I’m going to focus on following Christ more closely in 2024.
If the government of my country does things that shouldn’t be done or doesn’t do things that should be done (according to my opinion) I will remember Jesus’s words, “What is that to you? As for you, follow me.”
Whatever happens, follow Christ
If someone tells me how inspired they are because of something I said or wrote and how it helped them get closer to God and follow Jesus better, of course, I’ll be grateful. But I don’t want to be proud about it. I will strive to just keep following Jesus myself.
If someone disagrees with something I have said about the Bible and tells me how wrong they think I am, I will just follow Christ to the best of my ability.
If the candidates I vote for win or lose, I will keep my focus on following Christ.
Whatever happens, my earnest desire in 2024 is just to follow Christ, in the best way I know how, no matter what happens, no matter what anyone says or does.
How do you follow Christ?
What does it mean to follow Christ? Just go to church, say your prayers, sing some hymns and call it good?
Why should we follow Christ? I’m not asking why we should believe in Christ. I’m asking why we should follow him.
First, I’ll say why you should not follow Christ. You should not follow Christ just because someone, a friend, a preacher, or maybe even a street evangelist or a podcaster, tells you you should.
You should not follow Jesus just because someone else does.
You should not follow Jesus out of fear, fear of being left out, fear of being left behind, fear of going to hell.
Why follow Christ?
You should follow Christ because he has given us the pathway to God. He is the pathway to God.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV
This verse has been controversial at times among some Christians. Some churches take see this verse in a very strict, narrow, and exclusionary way. Others see it having broader implications and think of it as more inclusive.
But all human opinions about what Jesus meant are really pointless. He knew what he meant. Your or my opinion of what he meant may or may not be right.
The point is, Christ shows us the way to the Father. He is the Way to get to God. Quit evaluating how others are doing compared to how you think they should follow Christ or how you’re doing.
It’s usually not your job to determine how well someone else is following or not following Jesus. When you’re so busy judging whether someone else is on the path, you may get off the path. You are not following Christ as well as you could.
Keep your eyes on the Shepherd
If you have your eyes on the other sheep, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the Shepherd.
Since Jesus is the way to the Father, does that mean we just need to say the name of Jesus and, Poof, we’re with God? Of course not.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV
And by the way, this is another reason we should follow Jesus, because we love him. The natural result of loving Jesus, he says, is that we will keep his commandments.
Keeping his commandments, doing what he told us to do, living our lives the way he taught us, loving God and our neighbors as ourselves, is what it means to follow Jesus.
Think and live like Jesus
Following Jesus means to live your life the way Jesus lived his life while here on earth. It means to think, pray, and love like Jesus. As I like to say on The Bible Speaks to You Podcast, it means to have the mindset of Jesus.
This is possible. Yes, you can have the mindset of Jesus.
Paul makes it clear in
…we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16 NIV
This is a present fact. It’s not just way off in the future. This is true for me and it’s true for you. You have the mind of Christ. You have the mindset of Jesus at your fingertips, in your heart. We just need to use it.
In 2024, my deep desire is to adopt the mind of Christ as my own more than I have in the past. And I invite you to join me.
Follow Christ in 2024
When you’re in the middle of a challenge, trying to make a decision, alarmed at what’s going on in government and between warring nations, when you’re concerned about injustice at home and abroad, or any of the multitude of other things that clamor for our attention, ask yourself, “How would Jesus think about this? How would he see this situation? How would he pray about it? Who would he talk to and what might he say? How would he love everyone involved?
In one way, it’s impossible to know what Jesus would say or do, because from the information we have in the four Gospels, he was always saying or doing something very unexpected.
But in another way, you can get a very good idea of how Jesus might respond by studying those four Gospels and seeing how he talked to, loved, forgave, and healed people. You can study his words and dig into the meaning of those words. And the best way to get to know the mind and heart of Jesus is to put his teachings into practice, obey his commandments, and follow his example.
This is not a new idea. I have talked about this very thing often here on the podcast. And so do other people. But what is new for me and I hope to do in 2024 is, regardless of what is going on around me or in the world, to focus on following Christ more consistently than I ever have before, not just copying his words or actions, but thinking, loving, and praying with his mindset.
And I invite you to join me.
Quit comparing yourself to others in a good or bad way. Quit being impressed or influenced by all the materialistic ways of the world. And just follow Christ. Keep your eyes on the Shepherd.
Jesus’s words to Peter are for you and me as well today: What is that to you? As for you, follow me.
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Psalm 46:10 NIV
10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
Philippians 4:6-8 TPT (The Passion Translation)
6 Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life,
7 then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.
8 Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.
Psalm 34:1 NLT
1 I will praise the LORD at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
John 21:20-22 NLT
20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?”
21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”
22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”
John 14:6 NIV
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:15 ESV
15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
1 Corinthians 2:16 NIV
16 …we have the mind of Christ.