Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Hugh Halter's book, Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, (Baker Books, 2011).

If Jesus were walking around on Earth today, He might be reprimanded by some Christians, or even asked to leave a church. Why? Jesus didn’t live the kind of life that the Christian culture now considers to be a good Christian lifestyle. His words and actions can seem shocking – and even sacrilegious.

But it’s crucial to follow Jesus Himself rather than just a certain lifestyle, since it’s a living relationship with Jesus that truly connects you to God. What you believe about Jesus and how you choose to follow Him are the most important factors determining what kind of person you become and how you experience God.

So don’t lose sight of the real Jesus underneath all the religious rules that supposedly make you a good Christian – and don’t be afraid to be sacrilegious in order to follow where Jesus leads you. Here’s how:

·         Distinguish between being sacrilegious in a negative and positive way. When Jesus asks you to be sacrilegious, it’s never for a negative purpose, such as to defile something that’s holy. Instead, it’s for a positive purpose: to clear away religious confusion so you can see the purity of the Gospel message. Keep in mind that when Jesus spoke and acted in sacrilegious ways, He influenced people’s lives in good ways, not bad. Choose to learn from Jesus’ example and pattern your life after His life.

·         Ask Jesus to clarify your image of Him. Reflect on how you view Jesus right now, and consider how you got your current image of Him. Then pray for Jesus to clear away any religious haze that has distorted how you see Him, and show you more clearly what He is really like.

·         Follow Jesus as an apprentice. Following Jesus isn’t just a matter of what you do (even good activities, like attending church and serving people in need). Instead, following Jesus is about who you are. Jesus wants you to be an apprentice – someone who becomes more like Him by learning from Him. Rather than aiming to follow a certain lifestyle, make it your goal to grow to become the person that Jesus wants you to be.

·         Open your mind. Ask God to help you recognize when your ideas are simply personal preferences (such as what political party to support, whether or not to drink alcohol, and what Bible translation to read) and when your ideas are truly essential to the Gospel message (such as beliefs in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross to pay for sin, and in His resurrection). Get rid of your preconceived personal preferences about what it means to be a Christian, and pray for the humility and teachable spirit you need to learn fresh insights from God. Gain a fresh perspective on the Bible by choosing a portion where Jesus asks you to do something, and then practice doing that regularly so you can get a clearer idea of why that’s important.

·         Open your home. The people around you whom Jesus wants to reach need to see His love in action through you as one of His representatives. So be willing to open your home to people who are lonely or discouraged and could use some time with you and your family, talking and praying together over meals. Make room in your schedule to get together in your home with the people with whom you sense God leading you to build friendships and share His life-transforming love.