Follow Me. Such simple words, and yet so powerful a statement. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, our lives are forever transformed. When we are re-birthed from the old man into the new (2 Corinthians 5:17), life does not get any easier. In fact, one could argue that it actually gets much harder and more painful. I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best when he stated, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die”. When we listen to Christ’s voice and follow Him, He requires us to be willing to completely surrender in three ways in order that we may wholeheartedly serve Him:
The first aspect we must be willing to give up is our possessions. We must not allow the material, worldly provisions in our lives to have precedence. We must learn to be content in any circumstance-whether we have much or little (Philippians 4:11). We are storing up treasures in heaven that neither moth nor rust can destroy (Matthew 6:19-21). If God knows when a little sparrow falls, how much more so does He know what our needs are? We are not to worry about what we do or do not have. God will sustain us spiritually even when we are physically limited.
Second, we must be willing to forsake family and friends. While this may seem extreme, our sole purpose is to be obedient to His Word and Calling. Jesus said that he who loves mother or father or brother or sister more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:34-39). We must never compromise our convictions or what He has asked us to do. Our faith must be firmly rooted in His Word and our lives need to reflect this. Unfortunately, there is much controversy within and without the church as to how we should follow Him. Ultimately, we are to answer to the Word of God and nothing else. Not man made rules or any other influence outside of scriptural context. Religion destroys relationships. Only Jesus can bring them closer together. Unity amongst the brethren is a blessing and should never be taken for granted, yet we must never put anyone or anything before Him.
Third, we must be willing to lay our lives down for the sake of the gospel. Over the last several decades, believers in the West have never really pondered this reality. However, we are rapidly turning into a society in which obedience to God and standing for truth is considered a hate crime. In recent weeks, we have seen churches attacked in ways which many would never have believed to be possible. People everywhere have a growing genuine hatred for anyone who dares to go against their agenda. Persecution is coming to places it has not yet been, and it will grow even more in areas where it is already taking place. There is a paradigm shift in the world and it is not good. Every believer needs to be examining their hearts and prayerfully consider the following: Am I willing to suffer for the truth? Am I willing to die for the sake of the Gospel? What am I willing to die for?
In conclusion, the aspect of giving up possessions, family and friends is not a one time deal. It is a never ending, recurring sacrifice over the course of our lives. The only thing you can give once is your physical life. Following Jesus is a commitment to daily die to oneself. Emptying ourselves of all worldly, finite desires. Regardless of the circumstances, our priority is to follow His heart-even when the path is dangerous and weary. He is the One who fills us with His love, peace and joy in over abundance. It is this fullness of grace that gives us the strength and courage to pursue Him wholeheartedly and, if need be, gladly lay our lives down for Him.