Jesus called fishermen to follow Him. They left their nets, their livelihood, their security, and followed Him. Jesus called a tax collector to follow Him. He left his business, his livelihood, his security, and followed Him. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
I often wonder what my response would be to such a call. Salvation is free, but following Jesus is costly. I like free … or at least cheap. I don’t like costly.
As an American I am trained not to deny myself. This culture molds us into consumers. Deny self? It’s more like indulge self.
We don’t physically crucify people today, so the cross thing loses its meaning. To see a man carrying a cross meant he was a dead man walking. His death was certain. To take up our cross is to die to our desires – giving up what we want, what we dream, what we desire and to embrace a new agenda, a Kingdom agenda. But…I like my agenda! Hey, what if Jesus morphed Himself to adopt my goals and dreams? Probably not likely.
After denial and cross-bearing, following Jesus seems like the easy part – except that following Him means we have to alter our course to suit His direction. He may want to go places we’d rather not go. I’m not sure He wants to pull up a recliner beside me and watch sports all day. Jesus associated with people that I might not want to rub elbows with. Jesus entered into people’s pain. Jesus risks rejection and bodily injury. Jesus confronted societal evil. Do I really want to go there?
I’m not sure that Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew and all those others who dropped everything to follow Jesus knew fully what they were getting into. This, however, they knew: Jesus’ call compelled them from within to follow – Jesus’ call was worth whatever following Him might cost – Jesus’ call was greater than anything this world had to offer.
What this world needs is not more people on the rolls of churches, but more followers of Jesus. Showing up every other Sunday morning is one thing; denying ourselves for the sake of the hurting and hopeless is something else entirely. Putting a few bucks in the offering basket is one thing; dying to self in order to live for Christ is infinitely beyond that. 83% of Americans label themselves as “Christian” (thanks, George Barna), but how many follow Jesus?
Perhaps today I could choose to follow Jesus without reserve and just see where that takes me…