Following Jesus with No Options:
I hate picking out colors of paint because there are just too many options. Some foreign restaurants I have eaten in, only give you a choice of available meat and you have no option with the side dishes; you get what they usually serve. When it comes to the side dishes, you either eat it or leave it. Of course, I usually eat it!
When it comes to being a true disciple of Jesus Christ, why do some folks think they have options?
The disciples who followed Jesus in the New Testament had two options, following or not following; then no options remained. One scripture that illustrates this is in John chapter 11. Jesus had been discussing Lazarus’ sickness and death with His disciples and stated they were going to where he was in Bethany near Jerusalem. Since Jesus had great opposition in Jerusalem, Thomas replied, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16 NKJV). Thomas basically said, “If we’re going to follow Him, we have to follow even if it means death” (my loose translation). By the way, it is believed that Thomas was martyred in India for preaching Jesus—I think he got past the doubting part…
Very few are presented with such a hard decision of life or death but why do we think we can pick and choose on so many other points of following Jesus? I have even talked with “professing Christians” who thought they had an option whether to be part of a local church or not! Really??
Then some act as though the basic aspects of following Jesus such as regular church attendance, studying the Word of God, consistent praying, giving, and being involved in a small group are all optional components. Really, all these are options? It is so sad, that some people view these disciplines as optional. Does anyone seriously believe Jesus views these as optional? This is the easy stuff!
When you talk like this, someone will eventually accuse you of being legalistic. I don’t like legalism either; from a religious standpoint, it is the rules forced upon people without any true biblical basis. Unfortunately, some folks like to throw the term around when they want to satisfy their carnal desires with no accountability. It is sad but many civic organizations have better adherence to the norms than churches regarding membership, dues, attendance, and participation. Remember, no options—if you belong you participate.
I agree Christians need to follow Jesus willing in their own hearts without being coerced. I also realize new born Christians will crawl before they walk. It is also understood that seekers will ease into the water before they swim by faith. But should not true Christians, who have had a full season to grow, possess a Holy Spirit planted desire in their hearts to follow Jesus in a meaningful way?
The question needs to be asked, if we are not willing then why? Why do some use the excuse they have no money to give but their life is consumed with expensive pleasures? Others may argue, “I don’t have time to pray or read my Bible!” but they have plenty of time to watch television, and consume hours on Facebook. What about those who say, “I can’t attend church because the seats are uncomfortable, the service is too long, and I don’t handle crowds too well” yet they will sit on hard bleachers, in the cold rain watching a football game in overtime? It would be funny if it wasn’t sad and true.
“But it’s my life and I can do with it what I want!”, cries the “Christian” who does little to follow Jesus but claims His name. I ask, so we have options? Where in the Bible does it read that we have options once we begin our journey following Jesus. Please ask some of the characters in the Bible. Ask the ‘Rich Young Ruler’, if he could have disobeyed Jesus’ command to sell all and still follow. Ask the ‘Woman Caught in Adultery’, if she could continue to be an adulteress and continue to follow Jesus when He said, “Go and sin no more.” Ask Paul, if he had the option to quit preaching after his third beating with rods, first time to be stoned, and his third shipwreck. What about Peter after many people stopped following Jesus, “Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ / But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’” (John 6:67-68 NKJV). NO OPTIONS!!
Yes, we have two options—be obedience or disobedient. True followers of Jesus are obedient followers of Jesus. No, we are not perfect but our lives are characterized by obedience and we bear the fruit of one, who is connected to the Vine.
These are the easy things, we haven’t even talked about the real hard stuff such as serving, forgiving others, putting others first, laying our lives down for His purpose, loving the unlovable, being beaten for Jesus sake, persecuted, even killed for the cause of Christ. We erroneously think only Christian giants do such things. Those who appear as sainted giants are first and always humble followers of Jesus with no options left except to follow Him and obey.
The martyr who gives his life, first followed Jesus to fellowship with other believers, prayed, read his Bible, forgave his brother, fed the hungry, and washed a leper’s feet. He laid down his life at the feet of Jesus before it was literally taken from him by an angry mob. We will never truly stand for Jesus until we lay our lives before Him with no options left in our heart or hands. I am out of options because I follow the ONE!
Scripture: Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV
(24) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (25) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (26) For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
My prayer: Oh, Lord Jesus! I want to follow you. I give up my options to do anything other than to follow you. Nothing else makes any sense to me. I am out of options because I follow the You. Cleanse me of any waywardness and help me to be focused on following you in obedience. Please empower me with Holy Spirit so I can follow by Your power.
**Help any who read this not to be offended but be encouraged to truly follow the only One who leads to life here and in eternity.
–Harry L. Whitt