Monday, February 21, 2011

Choosing to Follow

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.  Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man* has no place even to lay his head.”

Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”  But Jesus told him, ”Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”.  (Matthew 8:18-22)  NLT

There are many who are still trying to figure out the whole Jesus thing.  Maybe you’re in that camp, trying to make sense of the claim that a man went walking around after he died and later just floated on up to heaven.  We want to figure it out intellectually before we can follow and be engaged at the heart level.   Others of us aren’t ready to follow Jesus because there’s still too much fun to be had.  “I don’t have time to follow Jesus.  Spring break is coming up.”  We build timelines in our head about when an appropriate time would be to follow Jesus.  Maybe you want to follow Jesus after you’ve reached a certain age or stage of life.  All the while, Jesus continues to knock and wait… knock and wait…

In this passage from Matthew, we get two insights from Jesus about choosing to be a follower of Christ.  The first one I would paraphrase as “don’t choose lightly.”  We forget sometimes that followers of Jesus are not promised an easy road here in this life.  In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.  Jesus told us pretty clearly that we would be despised by the world.  Because they persecuted him, they will persecute us as well.  We will suffer sometimes because God disciplines those he loves when they do things they shouldn’t.  We suffer other times because God wants to show up and shine through us during our suffering and to produce a dependency on Him (1 Corinthians 11:24-32).  We should not look to follow Jesus with the expectation that our lives will be easier here in this life.  Our reward is not here in this life but in what’s after all this.  We need to understand what we’re signing up for so that our faith will not be shaken later on. 

The second insight is “don’t delay.”  When Jesus said “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead”, this was not a reply born out of sensitivity training.  Jesus looked at these men and communicated great urgency.  Don’t wait until after you’ve gotten your personal affairs together.  Even a funeral should not be important enough to prevent you from following Jesus right now.  When we look at that, we might think He is being incredibly insensitive until we stop and consider that this was God talking.  Jesus saw things from an eternal perspective that we often fail to see.  Our eternal future literally hangs in the balance of our decision to follow.  We know instinctively (though we don’t like to think about it) that we aren’t guaranteed to be alive in a week.  Every time we get behind the wheel of the car, we are at some level at the mercy of the people who are driving around us.  Jesus’ sense of urgency should be ours as well. 

If we truly realize what our predicament would be without the cross, we will recognize that we are fully indebted to Him and could never repay that debt in a thousand lifetimes.  If we truly understand how narrowly we escaped disaster, we will make it our mission to do our best to lead those around us to Jesus.  The persecution we receive for being a Jesus follower is nothing compared to the love and compassion He has shown us.  In light of His love and mercy and in light of the potential consequence of delay, we should run (not walk) into the open arms of our savior.  With every day that we wait, it's like the door to heaven closes a little further.  Every day that we wait, the odds of our choosing to follow becomes more and more slim.  Do you hear Him knocking?  Why not answer the door?

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