While I wait for the ice cream maker to chill in the freezer so that I can indulge my gluttonous side, I thought I’d write down my thoughts from today. (Edit: I typed this up this Sunday afternoon, bear in mind for the following. [And as a side note, I did make my ice cream. It was delicious.])
We’re looking for a new church home up here, and so we’re visiting new churches every week. This morning, we tried a new place, and I’ve been reflecting on the message all day.
A part of the message talked about the life of James and John, sons of Zebedee, of how they were called to give up everything they owned to follow Christ. The pastor spoke a little bit on the cost of serving Him, which is something I always enjoy hearing or reading about, even if it’s a concept that I’m well familiar with. I always marvel at the obedience of the disciples when they were first called. The twelve didn’t ask questions, they didn’t complain, they didn’t refuse, and they didn’t ignore. They “simply” obeyed when He spoke to them, saying “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They left their homes. They left their families. They left their friends, their job, and their whole world, to follow someone who was considered a lunatic. This was a life – changing choice. Things would never be the same, and they had to know that going into it. They didn’t blindly follow this crazy miracle worker and just hope things were going to turn out all right. They had an insane amount of faith in Jesus when they cast aside everything they had known for their entire lives to follow Him and not go back.
I have to wonder what it would be like for me, if I had been one of those disciples. What would I have done? I’d like to say the common, cliché Christian answer, “Oh yes, I would have given up my whole world in a heartbeat to follow Jesus.” Really? I can’t honesty say that. And I don’t think you honestly could, either. We like to give ourselves so much strength because we bear the Christian label. Being a Christian does not automatically make us unsusceptible to weakness and fleshly struggles. True, we have a hope and a cause worth dying for, but that doesn’t mean that we’re so strong that we would gladly toss our lives to the wind to follow Him in every way, shape, and form. You don’t ever hear about the stories of Christians who failed; you only hear about the martyrs, the missionaries who have resounding testimonies across the world. You only hear the successes, not the losses to the kingdom of God. We’re humans, and we have a sinful nature – we fail sometimes. A lot.
“But Lauren,” I hear you cry, “God does call us to surrender our lives, to throw aside the world as we know it, so we can whole – heartedly follow Him!” Yeah, I’m not saying that’s not true. But how honestly can you say that our generation of Christians here in America have the same value on faith as the disciples did then? We’re perfectly fine living in our comfortable homes, with our comfortable lifestyles, paychecks, and sports cars. We like our life just as it is, with the occasional helping in a ministry downtown, or handing out food packages to the homeless one Saturday a month. We’ll give money to the charities, and the organizations. We’re good people, leading good lives. Right? So why would we have to give anything up when we’re already doing a good job with what we already have?
We don’t take our faith seriously anymore. We don’t have the life – or – death view of Christianity. Christianity is just a label now, just an act we put on every Sunday. How many people do you know who take their faith literally, who would really give up their life to follow Him? How many people do you know who care about pleasing Him and living a life according to His will? How many people do you know who view Christianity as their life instead of an aspect to their life?
So would we honestly be willing to pay the price, to bear the cost of truly, whole – heartedly following Him? Would you be willing to give up your friends, your popularity, your respect from man, your job (subject to change depending on readers), your family, your dreams, your goals, your future, even your physical life to follow Him?
What does following Him even look like? I admit, I had to stop typing and think when I reached this point. Following Him is a deeper concept than we realize. Looking at the life of the disciples as an example, I found a few things that I think come as a part of following Him.
- These disciples surrenderedthemselves to submit themselves to their master. They were giving their lives over to be controlled by someone greater than themselves. They had to rely on Him for everything, every aspect of their life. They didn’t belong to themselves anymore. They were willing to surrender their dreams, their family, their job, their life, everything, to be mastered by Jesus.
- They had a love so strong, it surpassed the love for their family, their jobs, their life. They had a love that was sincere and centered on what should be first; not focused on other aspects of life that will fade away without eternal value. They had a deep love for their Savior, and that came before anything else.
- They had a willing spirit. They weren’t grudging or bitter, they didn’t ignore or refuse. They didn’t plead or grovel. They willingly put everything aside to pick up their cross and follow Him. They were willing to accept this change in life to obey the calling of the Lord.
- They weren’t satisfied with simply trotting beside Jesus and watching Him perform these miracles and works of wonder. They wanted to know more; they asked Him questions. They weren’t satisfied with the simple kind of Christianity – they wanted to know more about their Savior. They were at His side constantly.
- They didn’t back out because it was “too hard”. They didn’t have a job with steady income, ways to promote a service for money, or constant provisions. They had to rely on the generosity and hospitality of others, without knowing what the next day would hold. It was hard. But they didn’t back out. They stayed with Him, and remained true when answering His calling. They weren’t cowards. They had courage.
- They didn’t view Jesus as a cruel overlord. They loved Him deeply. Even though Peter denied Him, he wept bitterly at what he had done. They were close to Him. They didn’t see Him as an evil master to whom they were sold into slavery. Yes, they were slaves to their master – but they didn’t view Him as a tyrant. They saw Him as a friend, someone to whom they would owe their life.
- They trusted Him with their lives. They trusted Him to provide for their needs, physically and spiritually. They had such an intimate, sincere trust in Him.
I guess those few points kind of look like keys to having a good relationship with Christ. I suppose they could be used as such, but that’s not what I was trying to get at. These things come with following Christ. When we follow Him, the points above are required. Apart from that, there is no whole – heartedly following Him. Of course there will be aspects that I missed. Those were some key things I saw that stood out to me. If you see anything else, I would LOVE for you to mention it!
I don’t believe in this day and age here, in America, we’re truly following Christ. We’re simply living the epitome of rock bottom Christianity, the lowest you can get and still call yourself a Christian. We fulfill the obligatory requirements of going to church weekly, going to youth group (which I don’t, and I have my particular reasons for not doing so), volunteering in ministry from time to time, going on those mission trips to Seattle, and giving 5 bucks to the guy under the bridge every once in a while. Are these things bad? No! But is this the utmost of Christianity? Is this how Jesus has called us to live solely for Him? I don’t have the exact answer for how He calls each of us to live; I believe that there is a certain personal conviction to that area. But I know that there is so much more than giving money to the homeless under the bridge. I’m not saying you have to die a martyrs death in China to truly live Christianity. But isn’t there more to Christianity than how we live our lives now? Aren’t we just ignoring His still and small, “Follow Me”? It’s too uncomfortable, isn’t it?
I think of the passage from Luke, vs. 9:57-62:
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow Me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
I personally instantly feel for the second and third people in this passage. I mean, the guy only wants to bury his father! Apparently, his father had just died; he had to be grieving and feeling a lot of pain. That had to be the thing on his mind the most. The second guy only wanted to say goodbye to his family. But they valued this over Jesus Christ, and were not fit for service in the kingdom of God. Honestly, that makes me evaluate my own fitness for service. Am I willing to forgo my family in order to serve Christ? Am I willing to just leave them in the dirt as I serve Him? It doesn’t make sense. But then again, when did Christianity ever make 100% sense?
I would like to think that I’m ready to serve the Lord. I’d like to think that I’m ready to go wherever He calls me with no exceptions, no limitations, no standards or expectations. But it’s HARD. It takes courage, bravery, strength, trust, love… it takes a lot from our end. But is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. In the end, which has more eternal value: my dreams and goals, or abandoning all to serve in His kingdom? My friends and family, or my Father and King? Following Him truly and whole – heartedly is a huge leap of faith that I’m going to have to decide to do, to set my mind to it. It’s not going to be something that comes naturally, and certainly not easily in the least. But will it be worth it all in the end? Yes!
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciples. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)