“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.” – Deuteronomy 10:12.
It is fairly easy for us as Christians today to lean toward the receiving end in our relationship with God. We reason that God loves us and will bless us and help us through life. But we should also recognize that there is a giving end as well. In a quiet reflective time ask God: “Lord, what do you want from me?” Jesus put it plainly: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) And Luke 9:24 adds, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
The implication is clear – there will be sacrifices. Doing the will of God will mean we have to count the cost. And that’s what we see everywhere we turn in the New Testament, following Jesus calls for sacrifice. People left behind businesses, homes, families, wealth, position, status and power. They sacrificed security, comfort and control in order to walk into a completely uncertain and unknown future.
Look at Peter, Andrew James and John: The Bible says they left behind their boats which meant their livelihood and business. Following Jesus could not have been easy for them and again, they had no idea where they were going or what they were getting themselves in to. They didn’t know what the future held for Jesus or for them so part of the sacrifice was giving up control. Matthew was a tax collector which meant he had a lot of financial security. Matthew would have been comfortable because working for the Romans came with connections, status and power. But like Peter, Andrew, James and John, Matthew was leaving behind a lot. He was sacrificing a lot.
Following Jesus means sacrifice and so the question we have to ask ourselves is what have we sacrificed in order to follow Jesus? What have we left behind in order to follow Jesus? When I asked myself that question this week and looked back at my own life, I realized that I’m not sure I have really sacrificed much or left much behind to follow Jesus. I left a promising career to attend seminary. When I stepped out to become a pastor and came back to Panama City it was a step of faith but not into a completely unknown situation. So looking back I’m not sure I have had to sacrifice very much which makes we wonder if we make following Jesus too easy? Have I not pushed myself enough? Have I not given enough? Have I not stepped out in faith more? Have I not trusted God more in situations where he has been calling me to follow him? The answer to all of those questions is probably yes and what it tells me is that I need to think about what God might be calling me to let go of so I can more faithfully follow him. If at its core following Jesus calls for sacrifice, then I need to ask myself am I sacrificing and giving all that God is asking me to give?
Following Jesus is not like following someone on Twitter because at its very core it means leaving behind one way of life to live differently. It means sacrificing some of those things the first followers of Jesus sacrificed like security, comfort, control, family, friends, finances and even our future. What sacrifice will we make? What sacrifice will you make? What sacrifice will I make?
- What sacrifices have you made in following Jesus?
- What sacrifice is God asking you to make today in order to follow Jesus?
- Christians around the world are sacrificing everything to follow Jesus. Spend some time in prayer for those who are being persecuted and find ways to support them.