This topic is something I'm fairly passionate about. Even long before I became more passionate about growing my own faith, I noticed how little Christianity seems to mean to so many people today. I often equate it to being part of a club or simply a box you check off on a form. You raise your hand and say "yep, I'm a Christian..." and, that appears to be the extent of many people's "faith."
The church needs to be awakened and renewed... we NEED revival. That's another topic really but, revival isn't something you go to church for or is caused by an organized and premeditated gathering. Revival is something that happens in YOUR heart when you turn it over to God.
I don't want to go all over the place with this so, back on track...
I was listening to a song that many Christians know quite well... "I have decided to follow Jesus..."
Like many, many Christian songs out there, I hear a lot of people singing them but not living them. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet" is sung by SO many but... how many people study the bible SO much that those words literally guide every step they take?
I hope I'm stepping on toes and convicting hearts here today. This is something we all need to take seriously.
But back to the song I started out with... It's a pretty short and simple song but, what it can imply, what it says can be profound if we were to all actually live by it.
I have decided to follow Jesus....(repeated a few times)
Many of us make that "decision" but, where do we go after that? I can decide to follow Him, and still NOT follow Him. You see, BELIEVING in Jesus and enjoying some of those bible verses that make us feel good about our future is not following Him. What does it mean to follow Jesus? Is it going to church? Maybe a bible study with friends once a week? What does it mean?
When Jesus first came onto the scene in the New Testament, He went around seeking a group of men to do just that... follow Him.
When He came to them, He told them to put aside EVERYTHING to follow Him. They, in heart, mind, AND body LITERALLY followed Him. Some of them put their fishing rods down and walked away to follow...
They followed Him everywhere. They walked with Him... hung out with Him. Ate with Him. They gave their all to Him and listened to His word DAILY. Hey, another one of those famous lines we're all familiar with... "give us this day our DAILY bread..."
Following Jesus is not a part time gig. It's not a once or twice a week commitment. And it's definitely not a social club. The "body" is there for each other in powerful ways but, the point of it is definitely not to just go, hang out and have fun.
Where did Jesus go? WHERE do we follow Him? It starts by following Him through His word... Daily. There's a LOT in that book that will show you where Jesus is leading you. You can't follow Him and His guidance if you're not IN that word.
There's SO much in there... Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength... Love your neighbor... feed His sheep... there's a LOT in there to follow but, we can't follow it if we're not ACTIVELY seeking out His will through His word.
It's such a powerful thing and yet, so simple.
Have you committed your life to follow Jesus? When you sing those words "I have decided to follow Jesus" do you mean them? I urge you to pray about this and allow God to guide you back to Him.
I challenge you to not just believe but to actually FOLLOW Jesus...
Though none go with me, still I will follow...
Many of us also make this commitment in our hearts... Hey, it doesn't matter who else is doing it, I'll still follow Jesus.
But, is this true? I'd like to quote another song here... from "this little light of mind..." how about... "hide it under a bushel? NO! I'm gonna let it shine..."
Is this true?
The truth is, people are like sheep. The bible refers to us in this way several times, and for good reason.
How many people today are really, really following Jesus? I promise you, if you ever make such a serious commitment to allow Jesus to literally lead you each day... you'll find yourself feeling quite alone in this world. We go to church and hang out with other people that believe similar things to us and we feel comfortable. But then we step outside of that building... If we still feel that same comfortability and we don't feel alone at times, chances are we're not REALLY following Jesus so closely.
There's another song... "What would people think if they knew that I'm a Jesus freak?"
What would they think? And, do they know?
There are MANY times in my walk where I feel quite alone. So many of my friends and family that claim to believe in Jesus live their lives in such a way that, nobody knows. A different subject that I've written about before is the pagan origins of so many of our "christian" holidays. I don't want to turn this into a discussion about that but... let's just say, how I feel about God and what He did for me and how honestly ugly some of the origins of our "traditions" are... I FIRMLY believe that many of those traditions are quite worldly and should have no part of Christianity. I believe that SO firmly, I'm willing to stand for it no matter what. I've had MANY friends and even close family members question this... some even get mad. Yes, even fellow Christians telling me I was wrong about such beliefs. Again, this is another subject... but, it's an example of how we should all live our faith. We don't have to agree on that one topic, but this is what it means when we say "though none go with me, still I will follow..."
Though NONE go with me....... NONE. Think about it.
Look around. The "church" is becoming more and more secularized. It's something we should be resisting. Are we? Or are we going along enjoying each others' company?
To wrap all of it up? Are we willing to walk this alone? Completely alone? Though NONE go with you... will you still follow?
If you struggle with this idea at all, please go back to the first verse and focus on that. Do you REALLY "follow" Jesus? If you're struggling with that one, this and the next will be difficult to understand and live by.
The world behind me, the cross before me...
This one SHOULD be self-explanatory and easy... but, is it?
I could write a lot about leaving the world behind me but, the bible does that quite a bit on its own.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I could go on... as this subject is talked about in several places. And, most of us UNDERSTAND the idea... but in truth, few of us actually live it. We're taught we are to be in this world but not "of" it.
How about the story about the rich man that approached Jesus? This man wanted to know what he needed to do to follow Jesus. In conversation, the man said that he has followed ALL of the commands, ever since he was a boy. That's a lot of commands that, typically speaking, we all fall short of. This man was there saying how holy and good he's been... I dare say, better than most of us. But, that wasn't enough. Jesus told him he lacked one thing... that he had to sell EVERYTHING he owned and give it to the poor. This man had a LOT of stuff... a lot of possessions... and so, he hung his head and walked away because, that was just too painful.
The world BEHIND me... the cross before me. We are to put EVERYTHING else in life... and I do mean EVERYTHING else, second to Jesus.
Jesus told His followers that if they loved the world, they hated Him. That's pretty strong language. But the truth is, we can't love both.
We can love the world in the sense that, like Jesus, we want to save them. In fact, Jesus told His disciples to go out into the world.
We have no choice but to live here. This is where God put us.
But, in our daily walk... we should constantly be moving in the direction of the cross. Meaning, we should be following Jesus.
If we're out partying, drinking, smoking, and Literally living with the world.. we're not following Jesus.
There was a guy I knew that had a Christian band. At the beginning, it was only Christians in the band. After some time, members came and went... eventually, it was just whomever seemed a good fit regardless of their faith... meaning, non-Christians became part of the band... gigs now included VERY secular places.
Some people choose to not call themselves Christians or do Christian things with this notion that, their "good" messages can reach the lost. We can't quite do both. This man I knew changed over the years and the last time I talked to him, I heard a LOT of swears... from someone I had never heard swear before.
The point of this little story is not to discuss swearing... but to state one simple truth. What you put your time and effort into... what you do with yourself EVERY day is going to shape who you are... It's going to change and mold you. For good and bad... or, good or bad.
We need to be out in the world preaching the gospel of Christ. That is the relationship we should have with the world. But if we're out there in the world, being part of them, doing all the things that they do... we're not REALLY following Christ or looking to the cross.
In short... from the moment we wake up in the morning... til the time we close our eyes at night... we should be looking to Him. We should be studying Him, praying to Him... Seeking to do His will.
If we spend 8 hours sleeping, 8 hours at work thinking only of work, and MOST of the rest of our day just enjoying life by hanging out with people, watching movies, playing games, and just doing what EVERYONE in the world does every day... How much of our time goes to Him?
The answer to that question shows us just who we love. The truth is, we are by nature selfish people. That is literally our human nature. To want to serve ourselves. And, following the world and going out and having fun just seems like more fun and it seems easier.
I feel like I could keep writing on this subject as I think it's a difficult one... one that many don't fully understand or relate to. But, one that NEEDS to be taken more seriously today.
Have you decided to follow Jesus?
Are you ready to walk the walk alone?
Are you ready to leave the world and all its trappings behind you?
This is my desire for myself as well as all of you. Though I stumble at times, I have committed my life to Him... and for me, there is no turning back.
Dear Jesus, show me what it means to really follow you. Help me endure the trials and hardships and give me the courage and strength to carry on even when nobody walks with me. And please help me to loosen any grip this world has on me. Help me turn more and more of my life over to you.
I thank you for all that You have done for me... Help me remember that you love and will for me is for my own good. Thank you for loving me enough to teach me the way that is right. And I pray, Lord, that many of your people will read this and be moved today. I pray that anyone reading this will allow you to transform them and that more people would strive to follow you each day. I pray that more people would be on fire to see the body of Christ re-awakened today.
I pray that more and more of us would hear your words through teaching, studies, and even Christian music... and really take them to heart. I pray that more and more people would allow words to convict them. I pray that more words would convict me. Study my heart Lord... Find what needs to be healed and lead me towards your peace and healing. Open my eyes, my ears, and my heart Lord. Draw me closer and closer to you.
One more thought on closing... What does the bible say about the COST of following Jesus?
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Sobering thoughts if you ask me. But in truth, Jesus and what He did for us should mean THAT much to us.