Following Jesus requires sacrifice. We must beware of any teaching that disregards this reality. Therefore, we must consider the question, “What has it cost me to follow Jesus?” And what are some things in life that could hold us back from truly being a follower of Jesus?
As I’ve been spending time the last few weeks reading over Paul’s last letter to Timothy, I’ve been humbled and convicted and challenged by the tone in Paul’s voice and how he’s pleading with Timothy to not compromise his commitment to Jesus. To be honest, I’ve struggled with what’s being said in this letter because it just seems so far away from my own experience and my own commitment to Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we should never give people a reason to criticize us, but we shouldn’t compromise our commitment to Jesus in order to avoid criticism either. We should not be ashamed to be associated with Jesus.
This is an astounding description of God’s love for man and a beautiful promise to those who love Him back. This is perhaps one of the most awesome sentences in all of Scripture. However, I often fear that this summary statement made by Jesus has been hijacked at times to promote a distorted gospel message.
In what was considered his most famous time of teaching, Jesus taught a large crowd the principles of living as citizens of God’s Kingdom. In that teaching, he begins to address the nature of true spirituality in everyday life. Many of us try to divide life into the spiritual and material, but Jesus never made that kind of distinction.
What happens to you when you begin to get so hungry that you can hardly stand it? For most of us, we begin to lose focus on what we’re doing, and the thought of getting some food begins to consume our mind. We may even get a little quick-tempered and become susceptible to making rash decisions. Hunger has a way of messing with our heads and weakening our hearts.
It never ceases to amaze me how God can constantly use the persecution of His people for the benefit of His people and the advancement of His Kingdom. The suffering of God's people can seem cruel and unjust to those of us foolishly fixated on this temporary life and dwelling. However, so can formal army training in the midst of boot camp unless soldiers remember that the end result is them becoming a more perfected soldier properly equipped for the greater battle.
Many of us have viewed religious persecution as something that takes place across the ocean and far away from our daily lives here in America. However, the targeting of Christians is beginning to pop up in our own backyard, and the rapid rate at which our culture is degenerating has increased the likelihood that most of us (and especially our children) will live and serve our Lord during a time of increasing hostility towards our faith.
It’s hard to not look at the boldness and bravery of the disciples and simply place them in a category of faith above and beyond anything that we can exhibit or experience in our own lives. However, we must not forget that these same disciples ran scared after our Lord's crucifixion, and it was this same Peter who on three different occasions denied even knowing who Jesus was shortly after He was taken into custody.