This morning I was reading the first couple chapters of Mark and God brought something to my heart that I had never noticed or thought about this way before. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He was always going around, finding people where they were, doing whatever they were doing and saying simply, “Come follow Me.” You know what’s crazy? Many of them actually did.
I wonder, what is different between them and us? They had families, jobs, and responsibilities. I am afraid that the Church that we know today in the Western world has so watered down the call of Christ to follow Him that many believe that the Christian faith has become irrelevant. And they would be right. The version that we believe requires us maybe to go to a service for a couple hours on Sunday, and the really holy ones go on Wednesday night and Sunday night and give their tithe to the congregation. Our faith, in essence, becomes something that we add to our schedule rather than a passion that consumes every aspect of our lives.
I wonder, what have we left behind for Christ? We who call ourselves Christians and who say that we long for those who don’t know Him to come to love Him and follow Him…what have we given up? If my faith is simply a belief system through which I filter the things that happen to me, is it really faith? Can I truly walk around doing the same things that I did before with a few added service projects to ease my conscience and call myself a follower of Christ? When Jesus walked up to someone and said, “Come follow me,” He wasn’t just meaning, “Believe that I am the Son of God and tell other people that I am the Son of God.” He was calling people to get up from whatever they were doing, leave the boat and the tax collection booth behind, and give Him every part of their lives. He made no bones about it: it would cost them everything. And they stood up, left it all behind, and followed Him.
You see, being a follower of Christ isn’t a call to simply be a good person or to do good things. It is a call to total surrender. Right now, for me, I am selling basically everything I own, I quit my job, and I am moving to South America. People look at me like I’m either a lunatic or some fantastical person of faith, but the truth is, there is no other option in my life than to give everything for Christ. I have come to understand that the faith I had before was wimpy. It had no power and no relevance. It basically served as a way to occupy my time and wear me out. True faith in Christ doesn’t leave you wondering at the end of the day if there is something more. It doesn’t drain you dry and leave you empty. True faith in Christ is a deep and constantly renewing joy. It is a well that never runs dry.
The truth is, the more I surrender to Christ and the more time in my days that I give to building my relationship with Him, the more I discover an incredible adventure that I had been missing out on. I had been holding onto so many meaningless things, thinking they were so important. I had been hiding in insecurity and fear…and it was at this place that Jesus stepped into my life and said, “Come follow Me.” “But Jesus,” I said, “I am not good enough for you. I love the life that I have. What You’re asking me to do is so impossible!” “Come follow Me.” “But Jesus,” I continued, “You’re asking me to give so much. This hurts! You want me to leave everything that is safe and familiar and to do something that I don’t have the money for?” “Come follow Me.” “You mean that you want me to give up the things I own, my family, my job, my country, my language, my entire understanding of how the world works and who You are…just leave it all behind and chase after You?” “Yep.” “Awesome.”
Some people tell me that I have the type of relationship with God that they wish they had. Honestly, I do not have an extra dose of faith nor have I been given a special talent that others do not have. I simply have heard the call of Jesus, “Come follow Me,” and I said yes. I got up from my rotting boat, laid my stinky nets down, and ran after this curious guy that captured my heart in a single moment. What have we as the Western Church been missing that has caused our young people to leave in droves and look elsewhere for truth? I honestly believe it is because we have made Christianity a drive thru coffee shop on the way to work. We have placed ourselves in the middle of the world, not to meet people where they are at, but rather to be more convenient for those who have busy and complicated lives. We are afraid to ask too much of others or even of ourselves. The thing about Jesus that is so convicting to me, is that He could care less what He found people doing as He walked through the streets. He met them, saw them, and challenged them, “Come follow Me.” He didn’t say, “Meet me at the synagogue at 7 every Wednesday night for prayer meeting.” He didn’t even say, “Feed the homeless once a week down at the mission.” He said, “Come follow Me. Give me everything. Give me you.” Then He went on His way and in a flash came the choice: do I stay where I am or do I follow Him? Nothing has changed from then until now. The choice is still the same and there is no middle ground: do we stay where we are or do we follow Him? Don’t take too long thinking about it, because He is on His way down the road. You don’t want to lose Him in the crowd.
God makes it clear in Scripture how He feels about lukewarm people. These aren’t the people who don’t believe in Him. These are the people who do believe in Him, but have carefully fit Him into the cracks and crevices of their lives and schedules. They feel like God should thank them because they have made sure that He has a spot on the day planner. They don’t drink, smoke, or hang with boys who do. They even save sex for marriage and stay away from parties with loud music. They lead Bible studies and teach Sunday School and sing on the worship team. They are nursery directors, pastors, and even missionaries. Look at all these things that we do for you, Jesus! Look at us. Check out our holiness!
There is one thing that I am finding out about the true and undiluted call of Jesus to follow Him: there is no room for a lot of things. There is no room for pride, selfishness, or sin. There is no room for comfort. There is no option to hang onto anything that is not of Him. When He says that this call will cost everything, it does not simply apply to one or two categories of life. He means everything. Although it may seem like total submission and surrender to Him is an enslaving concept, there is nothing in the world that is more life-giving and liberating. In Him, I have the freedom to not be concerned about things that don’t matter. Every moment I live and everything that He calls me to do have eternal meaning and significance. He has brought me out of fear and insecurity and has given me a new name. He has made me His and His love has so filled me that I cannot imagine living any other way.
I share these things from my life not that you will think more of me. Truth is, probably most people I know will think that I am being ridiculous and radical. That’s ok. They can think that. I share these things in order to say, “There is nothing hidden in my life. I desire for there to be no darkness in my life, but only light. As I live my life in total surrender to Christ, I want to be an example to others of what it looks like. This is my journey, and perhaps God will use it to impact your journey too.”
Lately, there have been many “of course” moments. If God so loved the world that He gave His life, of course I should do the same. If He calls me to sell everything I have and move to another country, of course I will. If He asks me to give up my lunch today to pour out my heart in prayer for the people of Ecuador, asking Him to give me a love and passion for these people for whom I will soon be living with, then of course I will do it. There is no area of my life that He does not have access to. My entire being is His. I have made my decision: I am ALL IN. This following Jesus thing is a pretty radical call. He has stepped into my life and said, “Come follow Me.” Of course I will, Jesus.
Could it be that we have been so flaky with our faith that it has lost its meaning? We are afraid to ask people for too much, when in reality we are wired to desire a life of complete devotion to God. Anything less seems fake. Anything less is fake. Our generation more than any other is longing for and searching for something REAL. We hold in our hearts the greatest reality and truth that could ever exist. We live for and serve a God who is so passionately in love with people that He would do anything to reach them. He would go to any length and give anything to see His creation come to know Him and understand His love for them. He has proven this in so many ways. Why would we, who claim to love Him and who have been called to follow Him do anything less than everything that is necessary as well? Drop everything and follow You, Jesus? Of course I will! How could I do anything else? How could I possibly give You anything less than all of me?
Jesus has said to you, “Come follow Me.” How will YOU respond?