Following Jesus is much more than just an intellectual exercise. There is believing, and there is belonging to each other, and there is also, must be, behaving. Followers of Jesus are to look and act and speak differently. This is a view shared not only by Pietists, but by many Christians, but Pietists (says Olson and Colin Winns, p. 96) give it a distinctive twist. Early Pietists summed up holy living as “love your neighbor.” It wasn’t a legalism, nor a lifeless moralism, nor escapism, but rather a way of living that was seen outwardly because of the transformation of the inner person.
Pietists emphasize the ongoing journey of a believer. While revivalism asks the question: when were you saved?, Pietism asks: are you alive in Jesus? It is not enough to look back to the moment of conversion, when you said the prayer, walked down the aisle, got baptized. As important as those moments might be, it is also important, and maybe more so, to be walking with Jesus today.
Are you alive in Jesus? Do you live in him? This Christianity is not fire insurance: avoiding hell. This Christianity does not passively find assurance in a past instance of conversion. Pietism expects that the Spirit of Christ will work in the life of a follower of Jesus, and transform that person into his image. And that transformation will be visible to others!
In John 13, Jesus says that our love for each other will be the sign of followership. The prophet Micah reminds us of how we are to live: He has told you, human one, what is good and
what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.
Pietists and Weslyean Methodists actually held each other accountable! Visible Christianity was not just a matter of liking the preacher’s sermon. There was the expectation that lives would be lived differently. And people would be held to account: through prayer, through conversation, through trusting in the work of the Spirit.
It is easier to say: this is when I got saved. It is harder to strive towards a life of following Jesus.