About two weeks ago, I was listening to one of North Point Community Church’s sermon podcasts while going to work. Andy Stanley (NPCC’s senior pastor) gave a very timely message/sermon on being a follower of Jesus. If you’ve read my blog posts in the past, you’d probably observe by now that discipleship is really, really close to my heart.
Anyway, going back to the said podcast’s point, what’s even interesting to note there was how Andy highlighted the fact that a lot of those who claim to believe in Jesus may sadly fall more into the category of being consumers rather than followers.
So, here’s a question for you. What is a consumer? The lexical definition of the term is a “person who purchases goods and services for personal use.” To put it in a church/religious context, you may say that more and more people want to be associated with Jesus because of the “benefits” that come along with having a relationship with Him.
“Could that even be possible?” You might wonder. “Isn’t that too harsh?”
Well, I believe that is possible, because I used to think that way too. I could take myself as an example. I guess my life would be the best evidence that I could give as of the moment. Here are just some things I used to embrace:
- I prayed to God because I need to pass an exam or rush a requirement.
- I used to go to church only on my birthdays to lay down a “wish list” for the coming year.
- I told God that I’d follow Him as long as He’s in agreement with my plans and ambitions.
- I pledged to serve Him. But to go on a mission trip or share the Gospel to a stranger? Hmm… Maybe next time – when I’m ready.
- I asked Jesus to come into my life to give me inward peace and to save me from going to hell.
Peace. Good results. Healthy family. Financial provisions. Smooth “love life”. Heaven.
Let’s think about the abovementioned items first.
Are they inherently bad? OF COURSE NOT.
Are they legitimate desires? YES.
Should they be at the top of our priority list? NO. (Pardon me for being straightforward.)
At this point, let’s check Luke 14: 25-27 (ESV).
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
A while ago, we described what a consumer is. Now, we’re going to clarify what a follower is.
To follow Jesus means you have to seriously put Him on top of all things. Based from the passage, it doesn’t outright mean that you have to hate those you hold dear. It simply means we ought to love Him – follow Him – to the point that all else will just fall second.
Yes, the gift of salvation is free. But it only begins there, because the cost of being a God-follower (a disciple) is extremely high. Here, you would know that salvation involve a change of status (from sinner to being a child of God), an infusion of new life, a change of heart, a change of mind, and a progressive pursuit towards Christlikeness.
Nothing mystical occurred. Yet everything just transformed when I started to grasp this profound truth.
Taking a peek using God’s spiritual lens, I gradually understood that following God would involve so much risk and would not exempt me from deep hurt. Furthermore, to be a follower is not equivalent to a pain-free life. But… But! But to daily decide to follow Jesus (my personal Lord and Savior) gives me inexplicable joy, drives me to love others like He does, and creates in me a deep inward anticipation of the glory that awaits me at the end of my earthly journey.
I realized that I don’t want to miss the whole point. Now, I can only reckon that my relationship with Him far outweighs all the treasures, all the glory, all the light momentary trials I’m experiencing and will be experiencing in the years to come.
I chose and will forever choose to be follower, by God’s grace. I follow Him because He first loved me.
I want to challenge your thinking, friends.
Are you consumer? Or, are you a follower?
*You may view Andy Stanley’s message here – http://www.northpoint.org/messages/trading-up