“Follow me.” What a simple statement by Jesus, but the implications of following or not following are immense and eternal.
To follow Jesus means we not only receive Him as Savior but also as Lord. We relinquish control of our lives. In fact, our lives are no longer our own. As Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” And in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we read, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” The call to follow Jesus is a call to surrender yourself to Him.
When we say “yes” to the call of Jesus to follow Him, there are consequences. Through faith we become His. We are forgiven through the completed work of Jesus on the cross. His righteousness becomes ours because He took our sins on Himself. And we have the hope of an eternity with Him. All these are good things and very desirable, but not all the consequences are to our liking.
When we identify ourselves with Jesus, there are people who will criticize us. There are those who will look for any and every mistake as an opportunity to label us a hypocrite. We may be condemned for taking an ethical stance based on God’s Word. In some countries, to choose to follow Jesus is to risk life and property. To follow Jesus means that we must daily say “no” to self in order to say “yes” to Him. It is perhaps this last challenge that causes so many to choose not to follow Jesus.
Peter, Matthew and many others left everything to follow Jesus, but there were many who chose to walk away. We can think of the rich young ruler who preferred prestige, power and wealth (Mark 10:17-22) or the masses who found Jesus’ teachings to hard and “turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).
We can choose to say “no” to the call of Jesus to follow Him, but this, too, has consequences. We may enjoy making our own decisions without regard to God’s will for us. Some people do quite well for themselves taking this route. They may end up rich or famous or powerful or all three. But the Bible reminds us frequently that life on this early is both fragile and brief. There will come a time when we can no longer enjoy the possessions or pleasures this life has to offer. It is at this time that those who neglected to follow Jesus or rejected Him outright will hear the saddest words of all time spoken by Jesus Himself, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23)
Many of you have heard the call of Jesus to follow. Some of you have said “yes” and begun a journey that will end up on streets of gold. Some of you have said “no” and your destination will not be so pleasant. And then there are those who are sitting on the fence biding their time seeing neither the urgency nor the importance in Jesus’s call. My prayer is that as you, my fence-straddling friend, will come to understand how short this life is and how long eternity is. Even more, I pray that you will come to know the depth of God’s love for you that He would send His Son to die for your sins so that you might have life with Him forever. Jesus calls you to follow. Climb down off your fence and say “yes.”