The mission is simple: “Follow Me”. This is the invitation Jesus holds out to every human being [John 15:16]. It’s a call to journey through life with Him. His reason? He desires everyone, not just a select few, to live fruitful and abundant lives to the glory of His Father [John 15:8, Isaiah 43:7]. This is the Christian life reduced to first principles. We come at His invitation, so we’re never at liberty to dictate the terms of the journey. We’re simply following the ancient paths already laid out for us [Jeremiah 6:16, Psalm 139:24]. This makes our obedience to His directions paramount. Obedience is often challenging because we naturally want to be masters of our destinies. Consequently, total surrender to the lordship of Jesus is a non-negotiable prerequisite of accepting His invitation [Romans 10:9].
Reflecting on this led me to reconsider the lives of the first people Jesus called to follow Him. They were exceedingly ordinary – a bunch of nobodies. Some were illiterate, and some were outcasts, yet Jesus chose them to continue His nascent ministry after His departure. This is an example of how God’s wisdom confounds the wise [1 Corinthians 1:27]. Maybe their lowly position in society made it less challenging for them to follow Jesus, but we know it wasn’t easy for these disciples because they wanted assurances [Matthew 19:27]. However, Jesus didn’t scold them for it. Instead, He promised them a reward [Matthew 19:28-30]. I find this comforting because although following Jesus will be costly, the rewards for obediently accepting His invitation disproportionately outweigh whatever sacrifices I make to follow Him.
I seldom hear sermons on the cost of following Jesus, probably because Jesus’s words on becoming His disciple make for uncomfortable reading [Matthew 10:37-39, Luke 9:57-62]. Nevertheless, He wanted us to be fully aware of the implications of following Him. Lest we forget, Scripture provides numerous examples of many patriarchs who made enormous sacrifices because they decided to follow God. For instance, Abraham was willing to give up everything he had, including his only child, to demonstrate his allegiance to God. God blessed him marvellously for doing so. Today, many of us claim the blessings of Abraham, but are we equally willing to embrace the sacrifices he made? Our spiritual ancestors entered into covenants with God through their sacrifices [Psalm 50:5]. Are we willing to do the same? In God’s kingdom, there is no crown without a cross. So, we must expect the cross if we’re serious about following Jesus [Luke 9:23].
Once we accept Jesus’s call, the next part of our journey is instruction so that we can learn the ways of God’s kingdom detailed in His word [Psalm 86:11]. His word sets apart [John 17:17]. Instruction results in us unlearning the ways of the world as our minds become transformed so that we can discern God’s will [Romans 12:1-2]. The first disciples spent about three years living and travelling with Jesus. In that time, Jesus methodically taught them about God’s kingdom because He was grooming them (and us) to become its ambassadors [John 17, Ephesians 2:10]. Where the word of a king is, there’s power [Ecclesiastes 8:4]. So, like Timothy, we must study Scripture to show ourselves approved, as unashamed workmen, able to accurately interpret and apply God’s word [2 Timothy 2:15]. As ambassadors, we must understand our mission and learn how to behave in a foreign land. Additionally, we must also learn how to appropriate the rights and powers given to us by our home country. Consequently, serious disciples cannot be ignorant of the Scriptures.
Jesus, having fulfilled His purpose, returned to heaven and handed His ministry over to His disciples. But before He left, Jesus commanded His disciples to wait for empowerment [Acts 1:8]. They were to become His witnesses throughout the world. But they weren’t going to undertake that assignment by themselves. They would need supernatural power. Often, we try to serve God in our strength and unsurprisingly fail because our strength is insufficient. We must remember that it was never God’s intention for us to advance His kingdom in our might. How would that glorify Him? But, when nobodies demonstrate God’s power with signs and wonders as they declare His message with authority, everyone pays attention because it’s a marvellous sight [Psalm 118:23]. As Daniel prophesied, they who know their God will do mighty exploits [Daniel 11:32].
Where are you on this journey? Have you accepted the invitation yet? If so, have you surrendered to the lordship of Jesus? Or are you trying to dictate the terms of your allegiance to Him? Have you demonstrated diligence and consistency in studying and applying God’s word to your life? Are you trying to undertake mighty exploits without empowerment because that didn’t work well for the disciples [Matthew 17:16]? God is a God of patterns, and His glory is evident when we obediently adhere to His patterns [Exodus 25:40, Exodus 40:33-35]. However, as I assess my life, I find that the results evident in the lives of the first disciples aren’t demonstrable in mine, and they should be [John 14:12]. So, I’m missing something because my life isn’t glorifying God to the utmost extent.
In these last days, being able to articulate the gospel with clever speech isn’t sufficient. There are too many people with counter ideologies who can match our eloquence. Consequently, beyond eloquence, we need a tangible demonstration of God’s power in partnership with the Holy Spirit as we bring the gospel to this broken world [1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:5]. Are you willing to take the journey that culminates with being trusted with such responsibility?