It’s trendy for believers to identify themselves as “Christ followers,” but Christianity is more than imitating Christ’s example. We don’t merely follow Jesus; we partake in His life, experiencing and expressing His presence. “Abide in Me,” Jesus said, “and I in you” (John 15:4). “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (verse 5).

True discipleship involves a real-time experience of Jesus, in which both He and the Father make their home within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised: “We will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

God’s presence within us is not an escape from suffering. We must daily pick up our cross and lose our own lives in order to save them (see Luke 9:23, 24). We plunge ourselves into the pain of people around us, sharing the love of a God who so loved the world that He gave His Son and still gives His grace to the world through the body of Christ.

Life’s suffering continues and may indeed increase as we more and more deeply experience Jesus. “We who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11). Life, though painful, becomes purposeful as we cease to seek our own happiness and instead pursue His presence. And in His presence there is fullness of joy, even amid life’s sorrows.

To summarize: being Christ’s disciple means much more than asking “WWJD?” and slavishly following that example. The living, loving God takes up physical residence within us by His Spirit! This is an unexplainable mystery, nevertheless real. And as we express to others the love we experience from Him, we do keenly feel the pain of this world—but the comfort of Christ even more abounds (see 2 Corinthians 1).

To explore this further, here is a link to a fabulous article in Christianity Today by Sarah Lebhar Hall: “The Key to a Purposeful Life (It’s not imitating Christ, but union with Him that makes the difference).”