A Closer Walk

Picture a dad taking a walk with his five-year-old daughter. They are close to a fairly busy road with many cars passing by just a few feet away. What does this caring father do? He takes her hand. 

Now, picture yourself. As you grow in faith and walk with Jesus, you take his hand. The more you follow him and walk in his ways, the closer you stay to him. This is true for you and every Christian who has ever walked through this world with Jesus.

Discipleship is all about walking in step with the Savior. You do what he leads you to do. Growing in Jesus means going with Jesus. When he has your hand and you follow his ways, you stay at his side. Where the Lord goes is where you go.

So here is the $1 million question: Where is Jesus going?

Just read the Gospels and pay close attention, and it will become crystal clear. Jesus was always moving toward the lost, confused, broken, forgotten and wandering sheep he came to save. Sometimes the sheep Jesus reached looked like they had it all together. They were wealthy, clean-cut, powerful and even devoutly religious. At other times, they were outcast, broken and lonely. Jesus found them all because that was what he came to do: “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

When we are growing in faith, we hold the hand of our risen Lord. As we do this, we go where he goes. We feel what he feels. We do what he does. In short, the more we grow in Jesus, the more we go with him on mission. And if the Lord of the universe is busy seeking out those who are still wandering like sheep without a shepherd, then we will be doing the same thing as we walk with him.

So, how do we continually grow in Jesus?

1. Study Scripture.

If growing in Jesus leads to going with Jesus, our study of the Bible should ignite our heart for the lost. When a Christian says, “I love the Bible and read it regularly,” that should be an indicator that their understanding of the mission of God is ever-crystalizing because of the truth revealed in the Scriptures. 

As we read about Abraham being blessed so he could be a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:3), we ought to be moved to love people of all backgrounds. As our heart breaks over the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, we should shed tears for people who have not yet met this prophesied Messiah. When we see the incarnate Jesus just before he ascended to the Father, calling his first disciples to “go make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19–20), these same words ought to echo through time and propel each one of us to walk with him on mission.

If a Christian claims to love the Bible, believes it is true, and studies this holy book regularly, but has no serious devotion to reach the lost, something is very wrong. If we know the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15) but have little concern for our lost neighbors, family members or friends, are we truly students of the Scriptures? If we take the hand of Jesus and saturate our soul with his Holy Spirit-breathed Word, we should find ourselves walking with our Lord into the world he came to save by his blood and grace. We can know we are growing in Jesus when the truth of his Word inspires us to go with him to the lost and broken sheep all around us.

2. Pray consistently.

If growing in Jesus leads to going with Jesus, our prayer life should empower us to naturally and frequently share stories of God’s presence and power. In his longest recorded prayer in the four gospels (found in John 17), Jesus prayed for those who would come to believe in him through the ministry of his followers. 

If we love prayer and talk with our Heavenly Father often, this will grow our heart for the people he died to save. A deep prayer life will stir us to cry to heaven for hard hearts to grow soft, for lost sheep to come home, and for complacent Christians to become missionaries right where God has placed us. When Jesus pointed out that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” he exhorted us to “pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers out into his harvest fields” (Matt. 9:37–38).

When we are growing in prayer, our heart beats more and more in time with the pulse of God’s love for the world. As we talk with God more and more, we find ourselves loving like he does. A life of prayer that reflects the heart of Jesus will lead to supplications for the lost, the broken and the wandering sheep who desperately need what only the Good Shepherd can give.

3. Reach the lost.

If growing in Jesus leads to going with Jesus, our community life with other believers should shine the light of our Savior in a dark world. It was Jesus who said, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). One of the most powerful ways to show nonbelievers that God is real and Jesus is present in our lives is to love one another with the heart of Jesus. In the same way, if Christians are always bickering and can’t get along, we send a message that could drive spiritually curious people away from Jesus. When we love each other with grace and extend forgiveness to one another freely, our life in Jesus becomes a testimony to the world and makes us effective witnesses. 

Every aspect of our spiritual maturity process connects to our ability to shine the light of Jesus in our dark world. Our growth in Jesus leads us to go with Jesus on mission. Our discipleship propels us out to the world as those who bear the good news of the Savior. 

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Kevin Harney
Kevin Harneyhttp://KevinGHarney.com

Kevin Harney (KevinGHarney.com) is an Outreach magazine contributing editor, lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California, and the founder and visionary leader of Organic Outreach International (OrganicOutreach.org). He is the author of the Organic Outreach trilogy and, most recently, Organic Disciples: Seven Ways to Grow Spiritually and Naturally Share Jesus, in addition to multiple studies and articles.