Sadly, in North America many of us Christians have been deceived in what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
We’re taught that if we repeat a prayer asking “Jesus into our hearts” and say we’re sorry for the wrong we’ve done, then we have magically become a Christian and our eternity in heaven is secure.
While the intent might be good, in actuality, we’ve completely missed the boat!
No where in the Bible does Jesus say, “Want to be my disciple? Want to spend eternity with me? Then sit down and repeat after me.”
Let’s paint a modern day comparison.
Let’s say you wanted to be friends with Jesus. You’ve heard people talk about him like he’s a pretty cool person; some people even rave about him, exclaiming he’s the coolest person they’ve ever met. You want to meet this man you’ve heard so much about, so you start by looking him up on facebook. [Common, admit it. You do this too!]
While creeping his profile you discover he appears to be everything people are saying about him. You too want to get to know him for youself, so you take the first step and send him a friend request.
Your palms get clammy. Your desire to get to know him is earnest and you picture yourselves hanging out on Saturday nights. What if you became best friends one day? Texting each other on the hard days and being the first person you each call when life bears exciting news.
But as you start to imagine it, your mind jumps to the reality that he’ll likely click on your profile before accepting your friend request. What will he think when he scrolls down your page? What will he make of your statuses, your photos and the things you’ve liked and shared? Frantically, you run to your profile, reviewing everything through the eyes of someone who doesn’t yet know you.
You start deleting and hiding things you don’t want to sway his first impression. Pretty soon all thats left is a clean cut profile of your alter ego. It looks good on the outside, but it’s a white lie. A half truth. In reality, it’s a sham.
A notification pops up. “Jesus has accepted your friend request. Write something on his wall.”
Your heart pounds and your feeling a little nervous if you’re honest with yourself. Too afraid to go any further, you decide not to pursue anything, because the minute he meets you, he’ll discover you’re not who you portray yourself to be.
Perhaps you’ll play it slow- just see what pops up of his on your news feed – like or comment now and again. Maybe that’ll open the gates for something more to form eventually.
But sadly, like many others you’ve “befriended”, days, weeks and years go by and you’re nothing more than on lookers/ creepers into each others lives. Sure you know of each other, you might even glean an idea of each others personalities, interest and likes. Heck, you even know what each other did last weekend with your families, but you never truly knew each other, nor did you ever finally meet face to face.
When Jesus finally dies and RIP status start flying, would you be invited to his funeral? Of course not… he never truly knew you.
“Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ Matthew 7:21-23 MSG
Sadly, this is how we North Americans live out our Christian faith. Simply on-lookers who acknowledge Jesus’ existence, work “for him” and even profess to be his friends ie: followers, but we’ve never truly known him or followed his commands.
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
In Jesus’ day, these men whom he was speaking to would have understood the cross to be an instrument [weapon] of torture, torement and ultimately death, used by the government for power. So in essence Jesus is saying that in order to follow him, we must die to ourselves – our lives, our ambitions, our desires, our dreams, our to-do’s, our everything. “Slay yourselves,” is what he’s commanding.
Let’s take this analogy even further….
Go back to the moment you were frantically deleting everything off your facebook page in hopes of creating a clean slate that your new potential friend would look on fondly. Do you honestly believe that information is permanently gone? Can Mark Zuckerberg in all his facebook controlling glory not bring it all back if he really wanted to? Of course he can because nothings truly erased from it’s history!
Mark is God in this analogy.
God in all his infinite power and glory tells us, that in our own strength and efforts, we can make nothing good or lasting in and of ourselves. We can try all we want to earn his “like” or make him want to “accept our friend request” but he see all the things we try to hide. Nothing is lost from our profiles or erased from the history of own accounts. He can at any point in time control our [online] existence and/or bring back that which we thought we had deleted.
The only way to start over is to abandon our current account [life] and start over with a completely new one [that which he offers us through Christ].
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17
But we can’t keep both! We can’t keep active on our old profiles after we’ve set up and are active on a new one. We’d be living a double life; a Sham.
How is it then, that as Christians, we believe we can follow Jesus, living as a new person, when our lives look no different then they did before we knew him? How did we die to ourselves, when nothing has changed?
Jesus calls us to drop everything, pick up our cross and follow him.
So as his friends and followers then, our lives should mirror his very own. But they don’t. Most Christians days, priorities, ambitions, habits and lives look NO DIFFERENT then those of non-believers. How can that be?! We are missing it, my friends.
We love our pretty little lives [our dreams and ambitions too] and all this world offers [it's pleasures and its comforts] more than we love it’s creator, our father and his son. It’s like being content to build sandcastles in mud, when someones offering us the beach!
I fear that on that day, many [including myself] who have spent their entire lives thinking they knew Jesus and that their place in heaven was secured, will stand before him, and instead of hearing “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” will hear, “Away from me;I never knew you,” and spend eternity in separation from the one who loves us and pursued us most.
God tell us to die to our old lives in exchange for a new one as his child, which he bought with a price, through the death and resurrection of his son. That makes us his possession.
But you are a chosen race….. a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
So now I ask you. Go back and re-read the intro paragraph- the lie we’ve all believed for so along- about how to become a follower of Jesus and what it means to live a Christian life.
Make no mistake. The costs are high and becoming a friend of Jesus isn’t rainbows and fairytales.
“Because In a world where everything revolves around self – protect yourself, promote yourself, take care of yourself- Jesus said “slay” yourself. Whether we live in North America, or Ethiopia, to become a Christian mean to loose our lives completely; abandon it immediately and follow him.” David Platt
Then you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven. Ephesians 2:19