The gospel is a call to people of the world to enter the kingdom of Jesus. We Christians tend to emphasize the wonderful benefits of becoming a follower of Jesus—forgiveness of sins, freedom from guilt, wisdom for life, hope of Heaven. This isn’t a sales tactic; it’s where the Bible itself places the emphasis. In fact, even the word “evangelist” means “proclaimer of good news.”
The Bible is careful to remind us, from time to time, of the obligations incurred by entering into the Christian family.
I probably should clarify what I mean. The Bible is not reluctantly disclosing the hidden downside of living in Christ, like a car salesman forced to admit there’s an oil leak. Instead, the Bible is pointing out that living in Christ will require single-minded devotion, like a coach inspiring an athlete to train hard for the joy of winning the Olympics. Living as a Christ is the most fulfilling, glorious, uplifting life there is, and therefore is worth reevaluating every facet of that life accordingly!
You Need to be Willing to Put Jesus First and Self Last
In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus challenged the “large crowds” that were following Him:
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 carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”… So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Christ is the King, the Savior, the priority. Every other thing must slide down to make room. This may require us to choose Christ over family, Christ over baseball, Christ over salary.
You Need to Be Willing to Handle some Challenging Truths
In John 6, Jesus was popular. “A large crowd followed Him” (6:2) and He fed them miraculously. Many said, “this is truly the Prophet” (6:14) and there were some ready to enthrone Him (6:15). Rather than bask in the attention, Jesus challenged their motives. He said, “you seek Me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (6:26). He claimed to be the true bread, the bread of eternal life, and demanded they eat His flesh and drink His blood. This perplexed the crowds and caused many to grumble (6:41, 52) including His disciples (6:60).
As a result of this, many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (6:66-69).
It’s a pleasure to sit at the feet of Jesus. But some days, we learn a challenging truth which demands repentance. Or we hear a command to work harder in the kingdom. It’s tempting to quit. We must remember He is the King and prove ourselves steady followers! Salvation has always been of the faithful remnant (1 Peter 4:17).
You Need to Be Willing to Suffer in Love
Saul stumbled into Damascus blind from his encounter with the resurrected Jesus. God called to Ananias and instructed him to preach to Saul, saying:
He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).
I can’t imagine a less-inviting invitation: “This will hurt. A lot. Are you with Me?” Paul didn’t make it many days into his new life as a Christian before “the Jews plotted together to do away with him” (9:23). Persecution followed from then on!
But as Paul matured, he realized the privilege of suffering for the name of Jesus. In a way, it’s only fair, since He died for us. But much more to the point, suffering is the proof that one has put aside the cares of the world and learned to love as selflessly as Jesus. Paul said, “even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all” (Philippians 2:17). We don’t suffer to repay Jesus; we suffer to reenact Jesus.
Few of us will endure beatings and death for Jesus. But all true children of God will learn through personal sacrifice in one form or another, that following Jesus means a complete abandonment of self and body for the will of Christ. “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8). —John Guzzetta