Why do only a few people follow Christ for a lifetime?
Why do some appear to follow for a time and then fall away?
What prevents us from following Jesus wholeheartedly?
Why do many of us prefer to build on the sand rather than the rock?
It can’t be that we don’t know about Him. With all the technology available today, the archaeological research confirming the people and places of the Bible, the immense volumes of writings of believers explaining their faith, and the exegetical study of the words of the Bible – it’s as if we know so much, yet believe so little.
The difficulty does not appear to be WHAT we know, but rather DOING what we know.
What keeps us from following Jesus wholeheartedly?
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
- We want security: home, job, marriage, family.
- We want personal pleasure and comfort: an easy life, no conflict, to get along with everyone (compromise).
- We want earthly rewards: prosperity, popularity, friendships, leisure time.
- We want to be happy.
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man 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 good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:57-62]
- Some follow only with ‘conditions’. Jesus, however, wants complete loyalty with no conditions. Total dedication, not halfhearted commitment. We can’t pick and choose among Jesus’ ideas and follow him selectively. Jesus did not appoint us to be editors who select the portions of Jesus’ teaching which we “think” are irrelevant.This man said in Luke 9:57-62, he first wanted to bury his father. It’s likely the father was not yet dead and the man wanted to wait until he died.
- Our priorities do not place Jesus at the top.
- Some have one foot in heaven and one foot in this life. They cannot let go of the things of this earth.
- They say, “Let me take care of important family matters first.”
- “Let me take care of my financial situation first.”
The Abandoned Life
We must be willing to abandon everything else that has given us security and not allow anything to distract us from the calling He has made in our lives.
I am amazed at the degree of faith some Iranian women have, as shown in the film, “Sheep Among Wolves“. Their declaration of faith in the midst of unthinkable cruelty and persecution gave new meaning for me of the words: “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” [Romans 12:1].
What are you willing to give up in order to follow Christ?
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. [Mark 1:16-20]
Simon and Andrew left their sole livelihood, their job to respond to Jesus’ call.
James and John left their job and their father to follow Jesus.
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Mark 2:13-17]
Levi, renamed Matthew by Jesus, gave up his job as a tax-collector which likely included great wealth and power.
The Pharisees were uncomfortable with Jesus’ life-style and attitude that allowed Him to be willing to associate with those whom the Pharisees had judged as evil people, those who did not follow the Mosaic law: tax collectors, adulterers, robbers and the like.
Many churches tend to treat people like this by rejecting them or demanding they change first. Other churches expect the convert to demonstrate “signs and wonders” proving their allegiance to Christ.
Then, there is the double standard within some Christian churches. Christian leaders point their finger at cults and cult leaders and accuse them of deceiving their members. At the same time they are guilty of sinning and not following the ten commandments themselves.
Perhaps we need to examine our own history as Christians believers.
How many Christians today are guilty of the same sins? Too often our Christianity is in our mouths and not in our minds. Often the outsider can see through our facades; he calls it hypocrisy. He has heard the stories of Christian churches that have been divided by anger and hatred. He knows about the deacon who left his wife to run away with the church organist. He knows how some of the Sunday morning faithful spend Saturday night.
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. [John 1:43-47]
The first thing Philip did after he followed Jesus was he told someone else: evangelism. Nathanael response was at first skepticism. What about Christ stirs skepticism today? What stereotypes about Christ prevent people from trusting Him today? We must set aside all our preconceived ideas about Christ and allow Him to fill our hearts and minds with the true Spirit.
Many today respond to Jesus with a lack of commitment. They believe with their mind, but not their heart. They are skeptical about who He is. They are not willing to give up themselves to follow him. They are willing to follow some of His commands, but not willing to sacrifice their own needs. They may hold on to parents, siblings, or children.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters … he cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14.26]
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate … — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14.26
Whose goals and aspirations direct your daily living? God’s or your own carnal, self-centered desires?
There is a flow of obedience in our lives – a flow that springs from the motives of the heart.
Legal obedience – a cold, technical formality, based on fear of consequences. They obey because they are afraid to go to hell. They fear the Fathers wrath. Their obedience is “legal” only – they have no genuine desire to please Him. They do not obey out of pleasure or because they love Jesus – on the contrary they are angry at him for restricting their freedom and life-style.
These people will stand before God’s throne someday and say, “Lord, in You name we cast out devils, we healed the sick, we did many wonderful works for You.” But they built their houses on sand. They cried, “Lord, Lord!” throughout their lives – coming to Him for relief, for power, for rewards. But they never stopped long enough in His presence to get to know Him. They were busy for Him – but they don’t obey Him with a love that flows from a totally abandoned heart.
Loving obedience – “I do it because I want to please my Lord – to bring Him great pleasure.” These people don’t need the “law” because they wouldn’t do things that would hurt their Father because of their love for Him. Their every action and desire is to please God and willingly forsake the world and its lusts.
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). [John 1:35-42]
The first thing Andrew did after he had followed Jesus was to tell someone else. He told Simon Peter who later was to become a pillar of the church.
Have you told anyone about Jesus today? This week? This month? This year? Ever?
What does it mean then, to follow Jesus?
Clearly, we must step out of our comfort zone. We’re not to be sitting in church but reaching out to the lost and the needy. We’re to be telling others about the Savior! It’s a life of evangelism and sacrifice of self.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” [Matt. 28:19-20].
We are told in Scripture that men will reject three things:
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this `coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. [2Peter 3:3-7]
- God created the world, which at first was covered with water (which means that its surface was cool at the beginning, not a molten blob as evolutionists teach).
- God once judged this world with a global, cataclysmic flood at the time of Noah.
- God is going to judge this world again, but the next time it will be by fire.
The scoffers skepticism is based upon their evil desires, which lead them to prefer a view of the future in which there is no divine judgment. The scoffers maintain that everything in the world goes on without divine intervention.
Notice that the emphasis here is on a deliberate rejection, or as some translations put it, a “willing ignorance.” Thus, it is a deliberate action on a person’s part not to believe. People refuse to believe these things even when presented with evidence -people simply do not want to be convinced. Ignoring the flood as a divine intervention was not an oversight; it was deliberate.
We read in Romans 1:20 that there is enough evidence to convince everyone that God is Creator, so much so that we are condemned if we do not believe. Furthermore, Romans 1:18 tells us that men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
It is not a matter of lack of evidence to convince people that the Bible is true; the problem is that they do not want to believe the Bible. The reason for this is obvious. If people believed in the God of the Bible, they would have to acknowledge His authority and obey the rules He has laid down.
What does Christ expect you to give up to follow Him?
What are you willing to give up in order to follow Christ?
What does Jesus ask all of us to do?