Jesus doesn’t want you to be a good person.
When he calls you to follow him, he isn’t asking you to become nice and do your best at helping others. He isn’t telling us to do things so that we can feel good about the other things we may have screwed-up. Jesus’ call is a command for us to walk away from the way we “do” life so that we can follow him down a path or “way” that leads to the kingdom.
To follow Jesus, the first thing we have to let go of is the illusion that following Jesus is about becoming a good person. If that is what we think, then we will spend our lives trying to make ourselves good by following a list of rules that are, in the end, little more than self-righteous attempts to enter the kingdom on our own power. Jesus tells us clearly that this is not the way – that was why he often found problems with the Pharisees.
When we replace our relationship with Jesus with rules, the rules then take on an inordinate and unnatural heaviness. Doing so means that we are simply trying to impress Jesus, not follow in his pattern of living. Scripture teaches us that Jesus was like in every way, except sin. No matter how hard we try, we cannot be exactly like Jesus. If we could, we wouldn’t need him. Moreover, it’s exhausting trying to be perfect – but that is often just what we try to do – and when we fail (which we ultimately will), we find ourselves farther away from God than we ever thought possible.
The sooner we stop trying to impress Jesus, the faster we can get about the business of following him – of being a true disciple. Once we realize that we cannot save ourselves and that we need Jesus, we can put down all our pretenses and allow the Spirit into our hearts – to start a process of change and transformation that is liberating, not burdensome.