following Christ

Why Some People Feel Drawn to Jesus While Others Don't


Why do some people choose to follow Jesus while others seem to have no interest in doing so? Is it determined largely by a person’s family of origin? If so, Jesus’ family is a notable exception. His own brothers rejected his message throughout his earthly ministry (John 7:5). Other explanations have been offered—such as, our personality predisposes us to either faith or reason. But this implies that religious faith and empirical reasoning are at odds, an assumption that plenty of scholars have debunked.[1] Some have even tried to reduce this to a matter of a person’s IQ, as if to suggest that following Jesus is clearly the sensible choice, or conversely that intelligent people can’t possibly believe that Jesus is God incarnate. Such disparaging generalizations are neither helpful nor true.

So what does Jesus have to say about why some people follow him while others don’t? He addressed this issue succinctly when he said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). In other words, whatever additional factors may be involved, the first condition for someone to want to follow Jesus is that God must draw that person.

But what exactly does Jesus mean when he says that the Father draws us? He doesn’t mean that God coerces us against our will. No, the Father opens our hearts to the truth about Jesus in such a way that we desire of our own will to follow him. Still, the Father can be very convincing, as Jesus points out a few verses earlier where he declares that, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37).

And it’s not just the Father who draws us. The Son draws us too. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). He meant that by his crucifixion he would draw to himself all kinds of people—both Jews and Gentiles. And indeed he has!

Charles Spurgeon, a well-known nineteenth-century pastor, put it this way:

Jesus knows how by irresistible arguments addressed to the understanding, by mighty reasons appealing to the affections, and by the mysterious influence of His Holy Spirit operating upon all the powers and passions of the soul, so to subdue the whole man, that whereas he was once rebellious, he yields cheerfully to His government, subdued by sovereign love.[2]

If true, this revelation upends the notion that those who choose to follow Christ are inherently more sensible or moral than those who don’t. It’s not like that. If you’ve come to Christ for salvation, it’s ultimately because God has drawn you to himself. Coming to Christ is without a doubt the best decision we can ever make, but we can’t take any credit for it.

Whenever I pause to consider how God has drawn me to himself—how I would not even know him if he had not done so—I find myself wanting to pursue him all the more. A. W. Tozer was right: “The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand.”[3]

So let us, as C. S. Lewis urges, “Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless he wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”[4]


[1]See, for example, William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, rev. ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994).

[2]Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Daily Readings (Lynchburg, VA: The Old-Time Gospel Hour, n. d.), 423.

[3]A. W. Tozer, The Best of A. W. Tozer: 52 Favorite Chapters, compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 13.

[4]C. S. Lewis, Letters of C. S. Lewis, rev. ed. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 1993).  

The One Thing about Following Jesus We Must Never Forget


Discipleship was not invented by Jesus. Various secular and religious forms of discipleship were already well established when Jesus called his first disciples.[1] And yet Jesus’ brand of discipleship was different in one very important respect.

In the ancient world, a disciple of some master or movement was someone who was committed to learning a particular skill, acquiring some body of knowledge, or pursuing a certain way of life.[2] By the time of Christ, discipleship increasingly emphasized the relationship between the disciple and the master,[3] who embodied the ideals the disciple wanted to emulate. Still, the master was, strictly speaking, a means to an end.

The reason the Pharisees of Jesus’ day considered themselves “disciples of Moses” was that, in their own words, “we know God spoke to Moses” (John 9:28). The goal here was to hear from God, and Moses was a means to that end. Even though they self-identified as Moses’ disciples, they considered it blasphemy to make Moses the ultimate goal of their discipleship, as if he were God himself. We know this because that’s how they responded to Jesus’ claim to being the ultimate goal of his brand of discipleship. They picked up stones to stone Jesus, telling him it was “for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).

In saying this, they put their finger on the uniqueness of discipleship to Jesus. The one who calls us is not just a wise teacher or even the personification of the noblest of ideals (though he is both of these). Jesus points us to the highest goal of all. He points us to himself.

Oswald Chambers points out that, “There is a difference between devotion to principles and devotion to a person. Jesus Christ never proclaimed a cause; He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself.”[4]

So here’s the one thing about following Jesus we must never forget:

While the fruit of our discipleship to Jesus is a transformed life, that’s not the ultimate goal. Jesus is not a means to an end. He is the end.  

“But wait a minute,” someone will say. “Didn’t Jesus come proclaiming that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)? Isn’t eternal life the ultimate ideal Jesus points us to?”

Indeed it is. And what is eternal life? Jesus answered that question when he prayed, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The ultimate goal of discipleship to Jesus is knowing him. No amount of knowledge about him or service to him can substitute for the sheer joy of knowing him.

The apostle Paul speaks for every disciple of Jesus when he says, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). 

May we never forget it.


[1]For a thorough discussion of this topic, see chapter five in Michael J. Wilkins, Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).

[2]Wilkins, 72-75.

[3]Wilkins, 76.

[4]Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1960), 16-17.