I am the last person in the world who wants to be negative, or always pointing out the faults, but we really suck at being followers of Jesus. Sometimes I can identify with John the Baptist, crying out to the Church from the desert to repent because the Kingdom of God is near. You realize that John was preaching to those who were already worshipers. They were worshipers but their hearts were not right. We can see this in John's preaching and in the reaction of the people to that preaching. We need a lot of prophets like that today or at least an open heart so that the Spirit can bring conviction to us.
We have to stop being double minded. I have no idea where we got this idea that we can have the best of both worlds or that we are here for our own pleasure, because Jesus made it very clear in his teaching that following him would cost us everything. Perhaps people have not read these words:
... anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)
Jesus repeated himself on this crucial matter of understanding:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)
There is a choice here and then there is no choice. Where we have a choice is in deciding to follow. Jesus uses the words "If you would"; if you make the decision; if you desire; if you choose. But once we make that choice all other choices are cast aside and we are then left with only one way: "he must". What must we do to follow Jesus?
First of all we must deny ourselves. This means we die to ourselves. All of our desires, longings, dreams, opinions, thoughts, laziness, and attitudes we submit to Jesus. Remember, we "must". We deny ourselves our rights to revenge, complaining, gossiping, and bad moods. We deny ourselves the rights to waist our lives or even to make something of ourselves. We deny ourselves of the right to make decisions that are not from the Spirit and we do not consider that our intelligence is enough to carry the day. We cast away the thought that Jesus told us to go and then left us to our own devices. He told us to go but that he would go with us. Jesus is in charge. We must deny ourselves of the life we had panned.
We must take up out cross. Some people see this as our "burden", as if God has created us to bear some illness or deformity. I have heard so many descriptions of what Jesus meant by the "cross" but we have to stop and consider what the cross was to Jesus. The cross was Jesus' destiny, his purpose, his means of fulfilling the Father's will. If was because of the cross that Jesus came so when he speaks of the "cross" to us he is referring to our purpose, our mission. What did Jesus tell us is our mission? To go out into the world and make disciples. That is the cross we carry, the mission we must pour our hearts and minds into. Not making churches but making disciples. If we concentrate on making disciples then the churches will grow naturally.
We must follow Jesus. I don't mean in words only but live the example he set for us. He set aside everything to do the will of the Father, to serve mankind. He had everything and he gave it up to be a servant. Remember the rich young ruler. He came to Jesus because he wanted to know how to receive eternity. This man was doing something right because Jesus looked at him and loved him. He must have had a heart receptive to God. But Jesus saw a stronghold in his life, and that was his money. Jesus told him to go sell everything and give it to the poor and then come follow him. Jesus was inviting the man to get rid of that stronghold and then become one of his disciples. It says the man went away sad because this was the stronghold in his life, they one thing he was finding hard to let go of.
In North America we have too many things we have a hard time letting go of that distract us from carrying our cross. These things hold us back from giving our all, our 100% to Jesus and the mission. Television and the internet are only two in a long list of things. We call ourselves followers of Jesus but we don`t have two clues as to what it means to deny ourselves. We have been called to a life of selflessness and service. We can`t just believe in Jesus, he has called us to follow him. I am afraid that 99% of us walk away sad but convince ourselves that we are following when in truth we are not. If we were following Jesus our cities would not be in the mess they are in and our society would be shaped much differently. We don't know the Word, we aren't praying and when we do it isn't effective because we don't know how to pray, and we aren't serving. We are filling our life with us and all the things we enjoy. We have a 10% mentality with God. We give him 10% of everything and the rest is ours. But Jesus bought us, 100% of us; we are his, if we claim to be his followers. He called us to have an impact on this world but the only impact we are having is on our sofas and beds.
Here I stand, shouting out from the desert: Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand. Only you can answer the question: Is this message meant for you?