At the heart of who we are is not our membership to a church (though church is essential), nor commitment to a way of life (though how we live matters to God), nor even a set of beliefs (though these are fundamental), but devotion to a person—to Jesus Christ.
People first became Jesus’ disciples when he called them to follow him. And they did. They weren’t following a teaching (though Jesus was a teacher). Nor, in the end, were they simply following a miracle worker (though Jesus worked miracles). They were following him. Why?
1. He came bearing God’s authority
This wasn’t a repressive authority, nor a dictatorial authority. Quite simply, he was the King of the Kingdom of God, and people realised it. His miracles spoke for themselves—with astounding authority over what terrifies us, Jesus put our fears to rest, casting out demons, rescuing people from death and deformity, and silencing the storms! Then he taught with an authority that was unparalleled, not just claiming to speak as God, but surpassing any wisdom heard thus far.
2. He served people with compassion
He welcomed sinners, and ate with outcasts. He touched lepers. He saw beyond his own needs and tiredness. He had an inexhaustible compassion towards others.
3. He saved people
No one else rescued people from demon possession, no one else raised the dead, no one else restored the full dignity and life to people like Jesus did. And no one—no one—ever died for other people’s sins and rose from the dead, defeating death.
Church and behaviour and beliefs all matter, but the heart of discipleship is a personal devotion to Jesus himself.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
1 Peter 1:8