To be able to answer this question, we must first answer two other questions which we find in a short passage at the beginning of John’s gospel.
In John 1:35-39, two important questions are asked. One is asked by Jesus to those who first start following him: what do you want? The second is asked of Jesus by those first followers: ‘where are you staying?’ I suggest these raise two important questions that relate to following Jesus, and will determine who or what we follow:
- What do you want? This addresses our desires.
- Where will you live? This addresses our choices.
What do you want?
Becoming a follower of Jesus puts us in connection with our deepest desires. Our strongest desires are not our deepest desires. We may be pushed and pulled around by all kinds of desires but deep down our longing is to know Jesus and have a relationship with him. As Augustine prayed to God:
“…you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
That is our deepest desire. Therefore, discipleship starts not first with our thinking but with our longing, it is about our hearts and not just our minds. We are lovers before we are learners.
So how do we learn to live from our deepest desires rather than our strongest desires? St Paul had the same problem and the same question (Romans 7:14-20). We all do. It is answered by looking at the second question.
Where will you live?
Note that it says in the passage from John, that those first followers remained with Jesus all that evening (v.39). It is exactly this that Jesus invites us to do for more than just a day – to remain in him, to abide in him (John 15:4). Peterson translates this as:
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.John 15:4 (The Message)
God’s answer to our restless state is to invite us to make our home in him. We have to choose to do so. Everyone is following and being formed by something, and it is determined where we make our home. We can choose to dwell in unhealthy emotional spaces – bitterness, despair, cynicism, etc. I would not recommend living there. We also inhabit cultural spaces. There are forces in these spaces that pull us in the way of our strongest desires, not our deepest desires. We must actively choose to make our home in Jesus. A key to this is not just the renewal of our minds but the drawing out of our deepest desire by abiding in a place of worship (Romans 12:1-3). We have to choose and be intentional about giving our time and attention to be with Jesus, to stay where he is staying.
The apostle Paul said, ‘I want to know Christ…and be found in him’ (Phil.3:9-10). May we desire to know Jesus and choose to live in him, so that when anyone comes looking for us, that’s where we will be found.