On Easter morning we began a new series entitled Giants. A few thousand years ago, giants lived on this Earth (Numbers 13:31-34). When Moses sent spies to scout the land of Canaan before the Israelites would enter into it, they saw giants living there. Fast forward to today and life is still bringing or will bring some giants into our lives that will shape us, mold us, make us or break us in every season of our lives. We are addressing some of those giants in the current Northstar teaching series.
But I would like to use my blog to look at something that would probably not be on anyone’s list of the “giants” we face in life on a daily basis – the responsibility to follow Jesus and to become an authentically Christ-like person. It does not seem to qualify as a giant. It is nothing like fear, failure, religion, temptation, or depression. But, in my opinion, it does qualify as a giant because of the gap between our perceptions and the reality of being a follower of Jesus. Let me explain what I mean by that.
If you went out into the streets of Panama City and asked Christians for their views on being a follower of Jesus, you would probably get some answers like this:
“Being a follower of Jesus means knowing the lingo and the rules (help those around you, turn the other cheek, put some money in the offering plate, don’t gossip. etc) and have a working knowledge of Jesus and the Bible.”
But, is that enough to qualify as being a follower of Jesus. The short answer is no. Being a follower of jesus is more than lip service no matter how articulate you may be. Jesus is interested in the heart. It is entirely possible to look or appear to be Godly on the outside, while facing giants on the inside. People can go through the motions of prayer, worshiping God, and reading in the Word. They can claim to love Jesus, but in reality what they really want is a no strings attached arrangement. Yes, I want to connect to God for the benefits, but I really don’t want Jesus interfering with my life.
That is not following the Jesus of Scripture. That is following our own comfortable creation. A version that didn’t demand too much, expect too much out of me, or expect total, unconditional surrender. It is easy to think we can have Christ and our own way at the same time. So, when we claim that Jesus is Lord of my life, what we really mean is that I want to share the throne of my life with Jesus.
So what does being a follower of Jesus entail? In Luke 9:23 Jesus put it this way “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
And that does not mean when it is convenient. We read in Matthew 8 about several disciples wishing to follow Jesus. One of them in Matthew 8:21 says “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” We don’t know, but maybe he really did not want to follow Jesus, but just not at that moment. Now isn’t a good time. We treat our relationship with Jesus like the diet or exercise program we want to start. I’ll start it tomorrow…when I’m out of college…when I get married…when we have kids…when I get a less demanding job. In the interim, I’ll just hit the snooze alarm – just 10 more minutes we tell ourselves.
I think there are people who have chosen to “follow Christ” with little or no consideration of the cost. Following Christ is about much more than just a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. It involves sacrifice, dying to self, and surrendering everything to Him. He may not ask us to give up everything, but a true follower is willing to do so if He does ask.
So the question is this: Am I afraid of following Jesus? There are other giants instilling fear in me, and exercising control over my life. Are they preventing me from following Jesus? I think if we take the time to look deeply at our lives, with uncompromising honesty, and identify the giants in ours, we will see the cross as the solution. I think as we progress through this series, that fact will be obvious.
Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow Him. Lose yourself to find yourself. These are incredibly deep, powerful, challenging words. Of course, to do that, we must first overcome our giants. And that is my prayer. That we may overcome our giants, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.