John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Following From the Inside Out

It seems to me that a lot of people think following Jesus comes down to exterior compliance. Performance. Behavior. We tend to equate discipleship with activities first. Attend this event. Participate in this program. Learn this material. Practice these five steps to maturity. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But, in teaching folks to work, give, go, do, we've neglected the simple fact that this is not how Jesus taught people. This is, quite simply, one of the most frustrating things about Jesus: He rarely gave us an outright command. More often than not, Jesus told us how things are and expected us to internalize that thought and adjust our behavior accordingly.

Jesus taught people to follow him from the inside out.

In that order.

Adjust the inside, address the disorder of your heart and mind first. Then, with a new heart and a renewed mind, allow that internal reality to work its way out through your behavior.

The sad truth is, performance-driven discipleship has not produced courageous, healthy, self-starting followers. Instead, it's created disillusionment and apathy.

The gospel must first be allowed to impact the inside of us -- the self, the ego, the libido, the imagination, the ambition, the passion, the soul -- what Gordon McDonald calls "the life below the waterline" -- if it's ever going to provide the lasting change it promises.

We must wean ourselves from this obsession with superficial, performance-based cosmetic changes and learn to follow Jesus again from the inside out if we want to be that city set on a hill like Jesus wants.

But how do we do that? And why is that so counter-intuitive?

We've talked about this before around here, but let's re-visit that conversation.

Why do so many preachers fail to teach the way Jesus did? Why are sermons so full of tips on how to change your behavior but so empty when it comes to new ways of thinking?