You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Follow Jesus: A 30-Day Devotional Journal

You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Follow Jesus: A 30-Day Devotional Journal

by Mike Yaconelli


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When you hear the word disciple, you may envision people who spend all day praying and converting the masses. Or individuals who have a natural holiness deep inside. The truth is, being a follower of Jesus isn’t a job for the perfect or the Christian elite—it’s something anyone can and should be. (And even the original twelve disciples were far from perfect!) This thirty-day devotional looks at the traits real, very humandisciples have, using Scripture, first-person comments from teens, and questions that help you think about your own disciple experiences.

When you think of Peter, John, Matthew, and even Paul, they seem to be heroes for Jesus—the ones we’re supposed to emulate and be more like. After all, Jesus handpicked them to be his followers and ambassadors on earth, and trusted them with everything when he left, so they must have been really holy men, right?

But if you read the Gospels and Acts closely, you’ll notice the men Jesus called into his ministry were often clueless, selfish, afraid, and brash, and made a lot of mistakes during their time as disciples. In other words, they were very human. Just like you. This 30-day devotional peels back the holy veneer and explores the character traits that mark all disciples—things like fear, boldness, doubt, laziness, weakness, sensitivity, brokenness, alienation, hunger, immaturity, strength, and preparedness—and uses Scripture, real-world examples, and questions with space to journal to help you see these “negative” qualities actually qualify you to follow Jesus. Because discipleship isn’t something from the first century, and Jesus is calling you to follow him today.

You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Follow Jesus:

  • can be used for personal study or in a group setting
  • is ideal for teens and young adults
  • contains short readings, with full Scripture passages included, that you can take with you anywhere
  • breaks down the real truth behind Scripture to show how it applies to your life today

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310742630
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 01/28/2014
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.38(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Mike Yaconelli is the author of bestselling books Dangerous Wonder and Messy Spirituality. He was the senior editor for the Wittenburg Door (1971-1996), a satirical religious magazine noted for its irreverent humor, in-depth interviews, and commitment to reforming the evangelical church. He was the cofounder of Youth Specialties, an international organization devoted to equipping youth workers through training and resources. Mike was a prophetic voice in the church-at-large and was a devoted husband and father until his death in 2003.

Read an Excerpt

You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Follow Jesus

By Mike Yaconelli


Copyright © 2013 Mike Yaconelli
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-74263-0




Aliens are foreigners, strangers in a strange land. Aliens don't speak the native language, don't follow the customs and traditions, and don't fit in. Aliens are typically uncomfortable, awkward, and unsure of themselves in their new foreign homes. Disciples are aliens in this world. Many of the values found within our culture are foreign to disciples. Disciples don't naturally fit into a society that's largely out of touch with God. They're uncomfortable-looking, and they feel out of place in the everyday world. Disciples of Christ find themselves continually at odds with the culture, because they have different values, different priorities, and a different language. Disciples feel odd and estranged in contemporary culture—and that's just how they ought to feel.

2 Corinthians 6:14–15, 1 Peter 2:9–12

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Today's Top 10

Make a list of the top ten things that make you different from everyone else.

Journal Entry

The more I try to be like everyone else the more I build walls around myself. I need to tear down the walls. I need to celebrate who I am. I take today and I will ...

Someone Just Like You

Diane found herself at the center of the conversation. The slumber party had been going strong since last night, and now, at three in the morning, the talk was getting serious. "Come on, Diane, what do you mean you've never looked at a Victoria's Secret catalog? It's more than the underwear, which, frankly, I can't believe you don't care about. It's the models. They look so good. I want to know their secret; don't you?"

"Not really," Di said. "That's why I don't go out with guys right now. I'm too young, too easily influenced by guys. I could easily be obsessed with how I look. And I know this sounds stupid, but my faith really matters to me. Thinking about guys and about my body and my clothes and makeup all the time doesn't make a lot of sense when I could be learning more about God."

"Get real, Di. The only reason you're saying that is because you already have a body worth dying for and looks to go with it. Every guy in class wants to go out with you. I mean, come on, you want to learn more about God? That's psycho. What's wrong with you?"

Diane sat up, not sure if it was anger or hurt feelings that she felt inside. "Hey, I know, I know. Girls are considered crazy if they don't sit around drooling over guys and trying to turn them on by wearing tight skirts and miracle bras. Frankly, I don't like being pretty because it keeps people from trying to get to know me. I think it's sick to turn on guys just so I can feel good. Besides, I don't want some guy who just likes my body. Call me weird if you want, but I'm totally happy to have no guys in my life right now."

The conversation ended awkwardly, and Diane eventually fell asleep. Later on that night something woke her up. She would rather not have heard the whispered conversation you don't have to be PERFECT to follow Jesus that was going on. "... but she doesn't make sense. She's full of it and you know it."

"She's just plain weird. All this talk about God is a bunch of baloney."

Diane pretended to turn over in her sleep so no one could see her crying.


If you were Diane's best friend and she came to you with what happened at the party, what would you say to her?




Authority is a word that most young people don't use for one simple reason. It's a power word ... and adults are the ones who generally have all the power. When adults want to describe reachable goals for you, they usually use words like maturity, growth, humility, or patience, but seldom, if ever, do they use authority.

But disciples of Jesus can have authority, whatever their age. This kind of authority is not the kind that acts like a know-it-all. It's the result of simply living for the one who has all authority. The authority of a life for Christ always has greater influence than the authority of talking. A young person can possess all of the benefits of authority—influence, respect, and strength—just by following Jesus wherever he leads.

Here's an easy way to know whether you have tapped into God's authority or not. If your friends ask for your advice, if they want to be with you when they are in a crisis, if they refer their friends to you, if they defend you to others ... then you know that they see you as someone with authority.

Matthew 10:1–14

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

"Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts—no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet."

Journal Entry

I can choose the kind of life I live. I can choose what I believe. I can choose to control myself or not. I have authority over my decisions. I can choose to be ...

Today's Top 10

Make a list of the top ten things you do every day that are your choice to do.

Someone Just Like You

Rick is one of those very bright people other kids tolerate but don't like to hang out with. Rick knows all his "friends" at church put up with him because they need him now and then to purge a computer virus or help them out during final exams or to explain the latest calculus assignment. For some reason, Rick never worries much about his nerd status. He has a lot of self-confidence and has no huge need to be cool. A lot of his confidence comes from his faith in Jesus.

Rick has always lived on the outside of life. His divorced parents have little time for him. He lives with his grandmother, who barely copes with her own arthritis and other old-age ailments. His brother and two sisters have long since gone their own ways—ways that are cluttered with drugs, alcohol, and repeated trouble. When Rick heard about Jesus and understood that Jesus not only died for him, but also wanted him as a disciple, it was all Rick needed to hear. Not being wanted by anyone else only made Jesus' "wanting" of Rick more powerful in his life. It wasn't long before others were drawn to that power.

When Gina—the very popular and very sexy Gina—realized she was pregnant, she asked Rick for help and advice. When Mark—the very good-looking and very popular Mark—realized he was the father but didn't want to get married right away, he called Rick as well. Rick was surprised and, deep down inside himself, rather pleased. Jesus made a difference in his life, and now Rick had the chance to speak power to others. He realized that, although his faith in Jesus Christ hadn't gotten rid of his nerdiness, it had given him authority.


Is there a "Rick" in your church? Are you the "Rick"? What would you say if the popular pregnant girl (or the father) came to you?




Boldness doesn't mean rude, obnoxious, loud, or disrespectful. Being bold is being firm, sure, confident, fearless, daring, strong, resilient, and not easily intimidated. It means you're willing to go where you've never been, willing to try what you've never tried, and willing to trust what you've never trusted. Boldness is quiet, not noisy. Jesus' boldness in front of Pilate was his silence ... and Pilate was blown away by it. Being bold is remaining firm when everyone around you yells at you to give in. Boldness is telling people what you believe even when your beliefs earn you ridicule.

Boldness is a secret strength that others respect even when they act like they don't. When you decide to follow God instead of following your friends, you are being bold. When you say no to your girlfriend or boyfriend because you are saying yes to God, you're being bold. Boldness isn't something you're born with; you either choose it or you don't.

Acts 4:23–31

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the you don't have to be PERFECT to follow Jesus elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

"'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.'

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Today's Top 10

Make a list of the top ten "boldest" people you know (you can include yourself if you want to).

Journal Entry

Start here. Okay, so if going down this path with Jesus could get me hurt and get me in trouble, why do it? I'm going to do it because ...

Someone Just Like You

LeAnne was excited. What a surprise this would be for her mom and dad! While finishing her senior year at high school she'd written to Youth With a Mission and been accepted for discipleship training with its Ship Equipped Ministries, which had a boat docked near Somalia. She would spend the summer raising the $6,000 needed to fly to Somalia in September. Yes, she'd have to delay college for a few months, but YWAM and South Africa seemed like where God wanted LeAnne. Of course her parents would support her decision.

She couldn't have been more wrong. Her parents were hurt because she hadn't told them earlier about her plans. They were outraged that she was delaying going to college "after all they had done." Going to a nation with a history of political instability and racial conflict, they argued, was just plain dangerous. LeAnne's mom and dad made it very clear: Somalia was simply out of the question. Not an option. School was the only option. And frankly, they added, they had serious questions about the church LeAnne was attending and any youth program that would encourage such insanity.

Never in her eighteen years had LeAnne felt so distant from her parents. They had always been supportive of everything she'd done. They loved her youth group, loved her church. She was shocked, surprised, and shaken—and yet, she felt strangely calm inside. She heard herself saying, "Mom and Dad. I know you love me, and I love you. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I also know God has called me to his mission. I'm sorry you don't see it the way I do ... I'm going to Somalia."


Put yourself in LeAnne's mother's shoes ... what would be the next thing you'd say to her?




Called is a strange word. You don't hear it much. You hear career; you hear job; you hear interest. People usually ask you about what you do, not what your calling is. But a calling is more than a job or career or something you do. A calling has to do with who you are. When God said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you," he was talking about a calling (Jeremiah 1:5). A calling has to do with how we're made (read Psalm 139 for more on that). A calling is the place where your gifts, abilities, desires, and feelings of worth all meet. When you follow your calling, you feel at home, at peace—you feel as though you're where you're meant to be.

A calling is always accompanied by passion. When you discover your calling, you'll be filled with joy, gratitude, and often tears. Your calling is the brand of God on your soul, the source of energy, renewal, and life. Disciples are more than people who believe in Jesus—they're people who follow him by listening to how they're made. A bunch of rugged fishermen with calloused hands that stunk of fish discovered that they were made for more than netting fish. They were made to fish for men and women.

Matthew 4:18–22

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Journal Entry

Imagine you have a dream and Jesus comes and sits with you at a diner and says, "I've been taking a look at your life, and I'm really pleased so far. Based on the gifts I've given you and what I need done in the world, I think I'd like you to ..."

Today's Top 10

Make a list of the top ten things you do, not because you enjoy doing them, but because you feel most like whom you were created to be when you do them. (These can be as simple as baking a cake or as complex as going on a difficult mission trip.)

Someone Just Like You

"What are you going to major in?" is a question Curt's dad asked again and again, each time with more intensity. "Look, Curt," his dad said firmly, "You can't keep floundering around trying to figure out what you're going to do with your life."

"I know, Dad. We've gone over the same ground all summer long. I just don't know what I want to do. All I know is that I want to do something for God, and I think that something is writing."

"Look, Curt, writing for God is fine. But you have to get your head out of the clouds and into the real world. I can make it easy for you to join my law firm. You can control the amount of hours you want to work in the practice, and the rest of the time you can write."

"Thanks, Dad. I mean, it all sounds sensible and reasonable, but sometimes God doesn't work sensibly and reasonably. Anyway, I don't need to decide right now. I don't have my head in the clouds. I'm just listening to my soul, to the way I'm made. You're good with words, Mom is an English teacher, and I only want to be what both of you made me to be—what God made me to be."

"Your mother and I did not make you a bum and neither did God, and that's what will happen to you if you keep being so fanatical."

"I am not a fanatic, Dad. I'm a Christian. I'm trying to follow Christ, just like you and Mom. At least that's why I you don't have to be PERFECT to follow Jesus thought you made sure I went to church. I can't believe you think I'm a fanatic."


Excerpted from You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Follow Jesus by Mike Yaconelli. Copyright © 2013 Mike Yaconelli. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Day 1 Aliens, 7,
Day 2 Authority, 11,
Day 3 Boldness, 15,
Day 4 Called, 19,
Day 5 Clueless, 23,
Day 6 Confusion, 27,
Day 7 Daring, 31,
Day 8 Discouragement, 35,
Day 9 Doubt, 39,
Day 10 Emotional, 43,
Day 11 Fear, 47,
Day 12 Friendliness, 51,
Day 13 Generosity, 55,
Day 14 Hatred, 59,
Day 15 Humanity, 63,
Day 16 Hunger, 67,
Day 17 Immaturity, 71,
Day 18 Incapable, 75,
Day 19 Independent, 79,
Day 20 Maturity, 83,
Day 21 Ordinary, 87,
Day 22 Overconfidence, 91,
Day 23 Practical, 95,
Day 24 Preparation, 99,
Day 25 Seeking, 103,
Day 26 Sensitivity, 107,
Day 27 Servant-like, 111,
Day 28 Shrewdness, 115,
Day 29 Strength, 119,
Day 30 Weakness, 123,

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