At some point, you have to decide whether you want to walk with Jesus or walk with the world. Jesus walked nearly everywhere he went during his ministry years, and nearly every step he took, he was followed by his disciples and other assorted hangers-on. Crowds pressed in on him from every side wherever he preached, but few people actually made the commitment to walk with him day in and day out. Some walked with him for a little while and then fell away. Some walked with him for a little longer before falling away. Very, very few made it all the way to his resurrection and beyond.
Following Jesus is not a part-time leisure activity. It’s a full-time commitment. When I called the 40-day Bible read-through back in July, a lot of people told me they intended to do it, but I’m not sure how many actually did. It only involved an hour or two a day for less than six weeks, and even that was too much for some.
As paradoxical as it sounds, most Christians haven’t made the commitment yet to follow Jesus. They’ve made a conditional commitment (IF I have time, IF I’m not too busy, IF I can find someone to look after the kids, etc.), but they haven’t made the kind of full-time, unconditional, no-holds-barred, life-long commitment that’s required if you’re going to make it all the way to the end.
You won’t win a marathon race if your only training is running for the bus. Yet most Christians think they’ve got a guaranteed ticket to Heaven just for showing up at church. They think that’s the extent of what it means to be a Christian, because that’s what they see other Christians do. They follow the worldly herd instead of following Jesus.
We know, from Jesus, that the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. You don’t follow Jesus because it’s a law or you feel obligated to; you follow Jesus because you need to, just like you take a day of rest because you need one. Being a Christian isn’t an obligation; it’s a need, because it’s the only way you’re going to get home. Jesus says that no-one comes to the Father except through him.
The world is the realm of tests and temptations. When you spend all of your time and energy catering to worldly obligations and chasing worldly temptations, you show where your heart is. We’re expected to keep earning our daily bread even as we do ministry work, but our priority should always be the Kingdom. If earning our daily bread interferes with our work for the Kingdom, we need to find another way to make money. Jesus completely gave up his carpentry business and his disciples also quit their jobs, but Paul made tents so that he wouldn’t be dependent on hand-outs. He quit his day job, but he kept doing manual labour so as not to be a burden to anyone. Even so, his tent-making never interfered with his ministry work.
God doesn’t command you to make a commitment to him or to Jesus. These are free-will choices that you make of your own volition. But once you make the commitment, you need to clear out of your life everything that may interfere with it, and that includes relationships. The more you give to God and Jesus, the more you get in return. The less you give, the less you get.
This is very much an “I set before you life and death; choose life” scenario. If you’re born-again, following Jesus is not something you do on the side: It’s your life. Anything that interferes with that has to go.
One of the reasons why Jesus started his ministry work with a 40-day fast in the wilderness was to get rid of all the worldly obligations and habits he’d accumulated. He did a total life reset. He went into the desert Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph, and came out of the desert Jesus the Christ, son of God.
As Paul says, we only have one life, one shot at getting it right, and then comes the judgement. If you think you need to do a reset to become who you need to be to follow Jesus, then now’s the time. You might not get time later if the thief comes already tonight.
Even if you’ve made the commitment to follow Jesus, it’s still a good idea to take stock of how things are going in your life, to see whether you’re still putting God first in everything or if something (or someone) else is taking his place. It’s good to take stock every now and then. It’s like spiritual house-cleaning or a mini-reset. Jesus did little mini-resets during his ministry years, going off by himself to the mountain to pray. If even Jesus needed to step back from the world occasionally to refocus and renew his commitment, how much more we need to do those things.
I hope you take some time today to either make a commitment to follow Jesus or to renew your commitment. God will help you with that, and bless your efforts.