Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Don Everts' new book, Getting Your Feet Dirty: A Down-to-Earth Look at Following Jesus, (InterVarsity Press, 2007).

You can’t have a real relationship with Jesus from afar. If you want to genuinely follow Him, you have to be willing to walk through the mess of everything He’ll lead you through – obstacles, sacrifices, crises, and more – as He transforms you into the person He intends you to become. 

Trying to keep your shoes clean will only cause you to miss out on adventures that will help you grow. So don’t be afraid of stepping into the mess. Here’s how you can get your feet dirty as you follow Jesus:

* Ask questions. If you feel perplexed by something, seek out answers. Find some Christians you respect and ask them all of your burning questions. Read thoughtful books that address the issues about which you’re curious. As you consider all your specific questions, be sure to ask one general question, as well: “What does this mean?”. Whenever you bump up against the limitations of the answers to your specific questions, let them lead you to the boundless truth that is found only in Christ.

* Listen to the story. Pay attention to the most important story of all – the Gospel. Don’t get sidetracked by focusing just on the story of the Christian religion, the story of morality, the story of creationism, or any other story that isn’t the central point of the faith. Focus on the story of Jesus, discovering who He was and the significance of what He said and did. After you get to know the story, ask yourself how you should respond to it.

* Answer the call. Don’t stop at just admiring Jesus for how He got His feet dirty during His time on Earth. If you sense God calling you to get your own feet dirty by following Jesus, act on that call. When the Holy Spirit stirs up your soul, don’t be afraid to deal head-on with the full range of your thoughts and feelings, from painful questions and confusing doubts to exciting revelations and joyful assurances. Recognize that as you seek God, God is also seeking you. Don’t minimize God’s call by simply respecting Jesus but living your own way, and don’t add onto God’s call by tacking on human rules such as having to pray a certain way or give a certain amount of money away. Instead, respond to God’s call by repenting (turning away from your sins and turning wholeheartedly toward God) and being baptized. Understand that God’s call to you to join the faith means much more than simply trying a new religion or philosophy, trying to be a better person, or joining a social club. Bask in the deep and awesome realities of God’s promises to you, like forgiveness of all your sins, and a Spirit who will manifest gifts through you.

* Devote yourself to learning. Get to know God better. Let your love for Him motivate you to be disciplined about discovering His teachings. Read the Bible regularly. Try to read from both the Old and New Testaments often. Make sure you’re reading passages in context. Always ask, “What did this mean back then?” before asking, “What does it mean for me?” Read Scripture with other people when you can (such as through a Bible study). Find a healthy church and listen to the sermons there. Make time to reflect on them afterward.

* Engage in relationships. Realize that you can’t truly grow if you try to practice your faith alone. Expect God to use relationships with other people to help transform you. Ask God to give you love for others and the courage to build meaningful relationships with them. Expect fellowship to be costly, but worthwhile. Pray with other believers, and consider joining a class or small group at church. Get together with other people in each others’ homes, building close friendships as you share hospitality.