My grandfather raised sheep on a small 210-acre ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. When I was a child, my family and I lived across the mountains from him and would often make the five-hour drive, climbing and descending through three mountain passes just to get to his place.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ Matthew 16:24

As we got closer to his ranch, I’d start to look for Granddad and his little Caterpillar Twenty-Two tractor. That’s how he farmed all those acres—he would sit on his small tractor working the fields of the land. Once I spotted him, my parents would stop the car on the roadside so I could run out to him. Waving and calling, I’d chase after him until he stopped the tractor. Then, I’d climb up into his lap, grab hold of those controls, and think, “I’m driving this tractor!”

Granddad only let me think I controlled that tractor. He could operate it using only his knees. As we plowed, my grandfather would stare straight ahead, chin up, with his eyes squinted under his hat. More than once I asked him, “Granddad, what are you looking at?” He would say, “You see that fence post down there at the end? I just put my eye there and drive straight for it, and when I get to the edge of my field, I look back…and the row is straight.”

The way Granddad plowed his field is the way disciples are instructed to follow Christ’s lead. We’re to focus on him, moving forward toward the mark, eyes on the goal of eternal life with him.

But we get distracted. News about the latest shooting, our presidential elections, marriage and family issues, economic and job challenges, and much more conspire to take our focus off Christ. We can get weighed down by the problems of life and become negative, cynical, and critical. We lose our joy and chase after substitutes that promise happiness.

One of the ways we, as a contemporary audience of Jesus’s teaching, can follow Christ’s lead is by pursuing Christian principles.

One of the ways we, as a contemporary audience of Jesus’s teaching, can follow Christ’s lead is by pursuing Christian principles. If you check a concordance to study the word “follow,” you will find that the Bible also contains the verb “follow after” and then lists a set of godly principles, or virtues, that we’re to aspire to as Jesus’s disciples.

  • In Romans 14:19 we’re instructed to “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (NASB).
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:15 tells us we’re to “always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all” (NKJV).
  • 2 Timothy 2:22 says we are to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” (ESV).
  • Hebrews 12:14 tells us to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (NKJV).

These passages specifically mention “pursue.” In reality, however, all the other passages in the Scriptures in which character qualities are mentioned could likewise be marshaled as the signposts of Christ’s direction for our lives.

God has given us principles to follow and wants us to pursue them and make them our goals. Instead of chasing a dream, we’re to chase after these. Godly servant-leaders pursue their own character transformation first. Then, as spiritual leaders, we can model for those whom God has chosen us to teach what it really means to follow Jesus.

About the Contributors

Mark L. Bailey

Dr. Bailey assumed the role of DTS Chancellor after serving for 19 years as the Seminary’s fifth President, and continues his role as Sr. Professor in the Bible Exposition department. In addition to his years at Dallas Theological Seminary, he has pastored various churches in Arizona and Texas. He was a seminar instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for twenty years and is in demand for Bible conferences and other preaching engagements all over the country and world. His overseas ministries have included Venezuela, Argentina, Hungary, and China. He is also a regular tour leader in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Rome. His board service includes Bible Study Fellowship, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, and Word of Life.