12 Ways Jesus Goes Before Us
Each Day Making the Christian Life
a Great Adventure!
Part 1 of a 5-part Series
The Old Testament prophet Micah encouraged God’s people, in their time of defeat and despair, to expect the arrival of a ruler who would go before them, to lead them into a whole new adventure. In Micah 2 we read:
One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
they will break through the gate and go out.
Their king will pass through before them,
the LORD at their head.
In the same way, our involvement today with our living, reigning Lord Jesus should turn the entire Christian life into one of holy restlessness, godly anticipation, abounding hope, and exciting new discoveries because, as predicted by Micah, our Shepherd King is always on the move, forever going before his flock, forever leading each of us places we’ve never gone until now—places that are good!
This blog post will introduce you to a whole new way of thinking about your daily walk with Christ. We’re going to investigate how every day our Savior goes before us—how he gets out ahead of us in order to open new vistas for us, creating fresh opportunities for us—and then reaches back to take us with him into unexplored territory.
There are life-changing pathways for us to travel that we would never attempt if he did not precede us and then bring us along after him.
In the Gospels this reality is summed up in Jesus’ oft-repeated three-word invitation:
“Come. Follow me.”
There are at least 12 amazing ways our Savior remains forever “prior” for us in all of life—which is what makes Christian discipleship such a thrilling adventure. Let’s take a closer look.
Your Grand Adventure With Jesus
Began 2000 Years Ago!
To understand what it means to say Jesus is “prior” for us, let’s start by grabbing hold of an important biblical perspective.
In Ephesians 4, Paul quotes from Psalm 68 to describe Jesus’ triumphant procession preceding us into glory. Recalling the Exodus story of Israel’s massive march out of Egypt many generations earlier, the psalmist declared (NIRV, emphasis added):
May God rise up and scatter his enemies . . . .
God, you led your people out.
You marched . . . The ground shook . . . .
He has entered his holy place.
When he went up to his place on high,
he took many prisoners.
But the psalmist’s portrayal of Jehovah’s royal parade, Paul claims, was fulfilled by Jesus rising from the dead to ascend on high. Jesus went before us taking with him, as his captives, all who are willing to rally to him for salvation. So it is we read in Ephesians 4 (NIRV, emphasis added):
When he went up to his place on high,
he took many prisoners . . . .
The one who came down is
the same one who went up,
higher than all the heavens.
He did it in order to fill all of creation.
No wonder, therefore, Scripture describes God’s children throughout the coming ages as those who will never cease to “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Revelation 14).
Let me give you two pictures—two metaphors—to prepare you to explore the “before” dimensions of Jesus’ spectacular supremacy in our lives, pictures of what it means to say Jesus is “prior.”
Jesus Is Like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis
Completed in 1965, the glittering, stainless steel Gateway Arch in St Louis allows visitors to ride to its top to view a stunning panorama that recalls the role the city once played as “the gateway to the West.”
Intentionally shaped to resemble a rainbow, it speaks of an era in American history when the lands beyond the Mississippi beckoned daring pioneers with unprecedented promises of bright beginnings and fantastic fortunes. The arch commemorates how St. Louis became the departure point for massive migrations (by foot, horse, wagon, railroad, and boat) in keeping with our nation’s sense of “Manifest Destiny,” transforming the makeup of a continent in the process.
Similarly, Jesus Christ, seated at the Father’s right hand, serves as “God’s Gateway,” the entry point into everything the Father has for his children. As the eternal “rainbow” of hope for the nations, our Savior encompasses Heaven’s “manifest destiny” for all believers. He guarantees we will reach our Promised Land because in him resides all that lies in front of us, such as:
- the future of a totally redeemed universe, with new heavens and earth
- the festivities going on around his throne at this very hour
- the fullness and fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Scripture
- the forward advance of the gospel among the nations in our generation
Unlike founders and teachers of earth’s religions who claim to help devotees find a way into the meaning of life, Jesus himself is the meaning of life. At the same time, he makes himself the road that stretches before us into God’s grand intentions for us, now and forever.
One day our Master will perfect our lives. Until then, he directs our lives. He does so by how he precedes us and leads us as Lord of all.
Jesus advances his kingdom in ways that are amazing, wonder-filled, and bursting with surprises. His initiatives prove unexpected, unprecedented, and often inexplicable as they unfold.
Thus, our only reasonable recourse is to fall in line behind him and follow him in his triumphal victory procession—as the King who goes before us (like Micah 2 promises).
Jesus Is Like the Whale in Moby Dick
Published in 1851, Herman Melville’s epic novel Moby Dick recounts the adventures of Ahab, captain of a whaling ship harbored in New England, who is consumed with his determination to take revenge on a gigantic white sperm whale known as Moby Dick.
Years earlier, an encounter with the ferocious sea mammal cost Ahab his leg. Now, irrationally driven by hatred, the whaler is determined to kill the monster at all costs. Eventually, he intersects successfully with Moby Dick in open waters for the final showdown. In the ensuing battle, the whaler successfully harpoons the beast, but unfortunately, the harpoon lines become wrapped around Ahab’s boat and body so that when Moby Dick makes one last desperate plunge into the ocean’s depths, in his wake he takes the captain and crew with him to their doom.
Ultimately, the fate of Ahab became inextricably wrapped up with the fate of the whale. Wherever Moby Dick decided to go the captain had to follow; the harpoons and ropes bound them together forever.
Even so, it is with Jesus and believers.
When we put our faith in God’s Son, it is as if we have “harpooned” ourselves to him. We are so united with Jesus that from that point forward, wherever he goes before us, we are destined to follow. His journey becomes our journey. Surging ahead of us, by the Holy Spirit, he draws us after him.
He has us so “wrapped up” in himself that our “fate” is defined exclusively by who he is, what he’s doing, and how he’s blessed—and above all, by where he’s headed.
Therefore, our lives—similar to Ahab’s fate, irreversibly entwined with Moby Dick—are forever tied up with where Jesus goes before us. In his spectacular supremacy, he plunges into the depths of a loving God’s everlasting kingdom purposes—with us in tow!
In Our Adventure With Him
Here Are 12 Ways Jesus Remains PRIOR
How he goes before us depends entirely on the grand implications of New Testament teaching about our union with Christ.
Likening Jesus’ relationship with us to an arch or a whale makes sense only because, first of all, the Father’s decree and the Spirit’s daily initiative is fulfilled in all who abide in Christ.
Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” over 150 times. He teaches that Christians have been enfolded in Christ—or, to use a familiar term today, we’ve been embedded in him. Our life has been “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3).
In fact, now the entire drama of redemption is not only about Christ but also situated in Christ. Our identity in Christ is the launch point for our whole journey with him.
The gospel declares that freely we are invited to enter into Christ—into joyful participation in everything that’s true about him and into everything that belongs to him.
Consequently, in every dimension of discipleship, Jesus always must remain prior. He always must go before us into all that the Father holds out to us. Consider these snapshots of this truth (emphases added):
- Jesus is prior—our inheritance is in him. “All things are yours . . . [because] You are joined to Christ and belong to him. And Christ is joined to God” (1 Corinthians 3). We are in full possession of this treasure long before we experience all of it (NIRV).
- Jesus is prior—our residence is in him. “You died. Now your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is your life. When he appears again, you also will appear with him in heaven’s glory” (Colossians 3, NIRV).
- Jesus is prior—our riches are in him. In Christ we are fully received by the Father. Therefore, all of the inexhaustible riches in Christ (Ephesians 3) have now become ours unconditionally because they have become ours positionally—in him. In ourselves, we do not possess anything. However, we do possess Christ, or better yet, we are possessed by him. So, we belong to him to whom all things belong. Therefore, for all eternity we can expect to enjoy God’s indescribable riches in Christ Jesus, entering into them because already we have entered into him.
- Jesus is prior—our identity is in him. Even so, from the hour of our salvation, the Father has treated each of us as if Christ were us and we were Christ. That’s why the Father longs to lavish on us every spiritual blessing already poured out on his Son (Ephesians 1). Our “clothes” already have been laid out for us as we enter each day—we put on Christ as our singular identity (Romans 13 and Ephesians 6).
- Jesus is prior—our fruitfulness is in him. To be fruitful, we must first be grafted into Christ as our Vine (John 15). Continually, our existence will be defined by how we unceasingly flourish in our union with him, as the Sovereign of the universe. He never will cease going before us to take us further and further into all that the Father desires for us for all ages to come.
- Jesus is prior—our purpose is in him. For us, therefore, even now we have no life except in Christ alone. For us to live is Christ; he himself has become our reason to live (Philippians 1). “I do not consider myself to have ‘arrived’, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me . . . . All of us who are spiritually adult should set ourselves this sort of ambition” (Philippians 3, PHILLIPS).
- Jesus is prior—our victory is in him. We follow him into his multiplied triumphs on our behalf. Christ died to sin; now we do too—in him. Christ rose again; now we walk in newness of life—in him. Christ ascended; in him, we now share in the saving impact of his reign, seated with him on his throne in the heavenly realms (as Ephesians 2 teaches us).
- Jesus is prior—our destiny is in him. Right now, he is what we are to become! Thus, one day our “life hidden with Christ in God” will be gloriously manifested for what it is when he returns (Colossians 3) and we become fully conformed to his image (Romans 8), including resurrection bodies like the one he enjoys already (Philippians 3). Therefore, to all who are in Christ, Scripture promises we are “predestined” (destined ahead of time) to be presented at the Throne “holy and blameless before God in love” (Ephesians 1).
- Jesus is prior—our justification is in him. Dwelling in him, we have been set down on the end times’ “resurrection ground” because already for us death has been “swallowed up” in Jesus’ defeat of the grave (1 Corinthians 15). I am “justified” before God because in union with his Son I may walk “just as if I’d” already been raised from the dead, already passed through Judgment Day, and already been placed in what Scripture calls “the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven” (Revelation 21).
- Jesus is prior—our exaltation is in him. For example, by going before us into the future and bringing it back to us, Jesus not only secures our anticipation of eternal life after death, but in him, at this very moment, we are nourished with that same eternal life before death. Right now in him, we inhabit eternity as he shares his glorified life with us. The essentials of all that’s promised us in Christ at the close of the age, God has made ours in Christ in the middle of the age—now.
- Jesus is prior—our re-creation is in him. We should act as if the Consummation is upon us because in Christ it really is. It may not be chronologically near, but it always is Christologically near. The soon-to-be-renovated universe, under Christ’s lordship, makes its initial appearance with every believer as today we become “new creations” in the Son of Man. “Son of Man” is one of his biblical titles. It honors him as the preview of what we all will be when the Father finally completes conforming us to the image of Christ.
- Jesus is prior—our security is in him. We have been sealed in him by the Holy Spirit, marked and kept for all that is yet to come. The Spirit guarantees that nothing of the Father’s designs and desires for us in Christ will be missing when it is all said and done.
Yes, in these 12 ways—and in so many more!—Jesus always is prior. In his spectacular supremacy, he always strikes out ahead of us. Moreover, he promises to do so forever!
This is why our union with him automatically creates in us a sense of restlessness, an expectant way of looking at life, as we anticipate all that lies ahead of us as his reign reaches its culmination.
Every day, therefore, we are restless for more of what he already has prepared for us to lay hold of as we simply keep on pursuing him.
As a popular 19th-century hymn puts it: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.”
Every Day, Jesus Goes Before Us
Like a NASCAR Pace Car
Like the pace car that leads the way for the opening lap of a NASCAR competition, the Lord Jesus Christ goes before his people. At the head of the pack, he leads the way. He sets the pace. The only difference is we will never pass him up! He’ll always be setting the pace and the direction. We’re headed where he’s headed. And you can be sure it’s no circular track!
He surges out ahead of his followers in four thrilling directions—moving in all four at the same time:
- He goes before us into the FUTURE
- He goes before us into the HEAVENS
- He goes before us into the PROMISES
- He goes before us into the WORLD
Untold blessings await those who stay in the race, united with him and following him every mile of the way because:
- he goes before us into the FUTURE
in order to bring it back to us.
- he goes before us into the HEAVENS
in order to bring us into it.
- he goes before us into the PROMISES
in order to make them ours too.
- he goes before us into the WORLD
in order to open the way for us to serve.
In the next four blog posts, I want to explore each one of these directions with you to help us uncover the wonders of being a “Jesus follower” in all four directions at the same time:
- onward (into the future)
- upward (into the heavens)
- inward (into the promises)
- outward (into the world)
Feel free to get started right now. Read the chapter on “Christ Before Us” in Christ Is NOW! 7 Groundbreaking Keys to Help You Explore and Experience the Spectacular Supremacy of God’s Son Today.
For now, however, let me conclude with this reassurance:
We should have no fears as Jesus advances the purposes of God. Wherever he leads out ahead of us, we can safely follow because even before we take our very first step of the journey we are already IN him. We are united to him forever in the favor and fullness and fervency of his supremacy.
As Ephesians 2 reminds us:
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ
and seated us with him in the heavenly realms
because we are united with Christ Jesus.
So God can point to us in all future ages as examples
of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us,
as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus . . . .
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
(NLT, emphasis added).
About the Author
Over the past 45 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.