Christians are sometimes criticized for claiming our religion is exclusive when we are adamant that Jesus Christ is the only avenue to eternal life. That is why I am evangelistic about my faith in Christ; it is not that I take pleasure in someone being excluded but rather I have strongly held beliefs about Jesus Christ. The invitation to follow Jesus is inclusive, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13 NKJV).
There is inclusiveness to the invitation from Jesus Himself. I encourage people to follow Jesus but greater than my second-hand invitation is a personal invitation from Jesus, He says, “Follow Me”. I could paint a poetic picture about the wonder and greatness of following Jesus but it would not matter until an individual receives the urge of the Spirit to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus is a serious commitment and not to be taken lightly. “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” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV). Following Jesus is not a book club, a civic membership, or a fraternal order of some sort. It is an invitation from the Eternal God to His creative beings to leave the confines of an earthly subsistence and to be joined in the eternal plan of God.
Following Jesus is not a plan to be the best “you” but to be in Him. Our best is filthy rags and He calls us beyond the filthiness of normal carnality. He calls us into a spiritual journey that overshadows the fallen-ness of earth while not discounting its reality. When we follow Jesus there is a surrender to Him that is inward to outward; He does not make the outside better but rebirths the inside that in turn changes the outside.
Following Jesus is not just a new plan for my life but a new life. The old man must die so a new man can be born anew. There is no following Jesus without surrender—it is not possible. You cannot truly follow Jesus and then live the life of the man who died.
We cannot deny ourselves without dying to ourselves. We cannot take up a cross without dying on that cross. Crosses are not made for transport or display but for dying. A cross is an “I” (meaning me) with a beam nailed across it where men die. Following Jesus is not a renovation but a resurrection.
The invitation is given. Will we deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus? The Holy Spirit has delivered the invitation and is waiting for the denouncement of ourselves and the embrace of faith in Christ. It does not look appealing to the natural man but to those who are called it is life beyond explanation. Die to the temporal so you can live in the eternal, beginning now into forever.
Harry L. Whitt