Consumer vs. Follower

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:

  1. I prayed to God because I need to pass an exam or rush a requirement.
  2. I used to go to church only on my birthdays to lay down a “wish list” for the coming year.
  3. I told God that I’d follow Him as long as He’s in agreement with my plans and ambitions.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Preach it, Kiddo!

Apraxia of speech, also known as verbal apraxia or dyspraxia, is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently. It is not due to weakness or paralysis of the speech muscles (the muscles of the face, tongue, and lips). The severity of apraxia of speech can range from mild to severe.” (National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders)

A 5-year-old kid, whom I’ve been seeing for almost a year now, has this difficulty.  By God’s grace, he has improved significantly. He has benefited much from therapeutic intervention and even more from his loving family’s involvement in the entire process.  His words were hardly intelligible at the onset, but gradually, we’ve witnessed his development as we began to understand the thoughts he’ve been trying to convey.

And today, his very words rocked my world to the core.  And that’s what I want to share.

We were working on an obstacle course, and then out of the blue, he pointed at his shirt with a mark of a small red cross.  Afterwards, he stated so clearly: “It’s Jesus.  It’s His blood.”  He uttered these lines with his arms wide open.  It’s as if my jaw dropped at that moment.  If I’m not mistaken, it took about a 3- to 5-second lapse prior to formulating a coherent response.  I gasped for words, and all I could say was, “Wow, that’s correct.  That’s very true.”  But in my heart, I knew I was hit to the core.

His very words got into me the entire morning, and I just couldn’t shake it off.  It may seem simple and commonplace for some, but the fact that it was said by a kid with a communication problem creates an entirely different category.  God can really use any person of any age, any background, any size, any race, and of any condition.  The good news could not be stopped!

It was a timely reminder from a kid, who gropes for words in every communication exchange, that it is because of Jesus who made it possible for a sinner  (which pertains basically to all of us!) to come into an intimate relationship with God (whom the world always thought was so distant).

It is blood-bought grace, life, and freedom that’s being offered to you every waking moment.  The only thing you need to do is to come before Him in wholehearted, repentant faith to the finished work of Christ.  It is the most important decision that you could make in this lifetime, my friend.

I recount:  “It’s Jesus.  It’s His blood.”

I practically don’t know how he learned to utter these words, but it’s a far cry from being an accident.

If you’re reading this now, this is equally far from just a coincidence too.  It may be  for you to come to the saving knowledge of Christ; or it may be a message for a Christ-follower to stop hiding and begin boldly living out your faith.

To my dear student, I am humbled and am eternally thankful for your life.  Your very words you’ve preached about this morning, are definitely the ones worth telling.