There I sat. Pen in hand. Contract before me. All I had to do was sign my name my whole life would radically change forever. If I signed, minutes later I would be ushered into a room with others who also signed up, and I would be sworn in to the United States Air Force.
What does my story have to do with being a Christian? We hear a lot about following Jesus. But what exactly does that mean? And what does it cost us? What of ourselves do we get to keep versus what is offered to him? much we really give up everything. If so, why? We’ll talk about it next, on Grace and Peace Radio.
Welcome to Grace and Peace Radio. Grace and Peace Radio is a Christian living blog and podcast dedicated to engaging conversations about applying God’s Word to everyday life. Thanks for joining us for today’s episode. I’m your host, Anthony Russo. And it’s my hope that you will be encouraged and God will be glorified. And with that, let’s start the show.
My Air Force Story
I was 19 years old.
I was working in the mailroom at a software company. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. So I talked to an Air Force recruiter. Next thing I know I’m up there and I go through the physicals and I do all that stuff. It was a whole overnight thing. And the moment comes the contracts in front of me. It required everything of me for four years. In exchange, they give me food, clothing, health care, education, benefits, direction, etc. But it would cost me four years of my life.
I stared at that paper and I couldn’t sign and I told the recruiter, I’m really, really sorry, but I just can’t do this. Now looking back, I do regret not having done that, for years would have passed in a heartbeat. But to a 19 year old guy, to me anyway, it seemed like an eternity. I mean, it was after all 25% of the life I’d already lived!
Following Jesus According to American Christianity
Too often in American Christianity, we’re invited to follow Jesus. And it’s kind of the same thing. It’s, it’s almost baited by the many same kinds of incentives. God will take care of us. There are all these benefits to it. There’s direction and all these sorts of things. And nowadays also in churches, we hear about prosperity and health and peace and so on.
Many people find out after the fact that following Jesus requires much much more of them than they were ever honestly told. And like the crowd to eventually cooled on their enthusiasm for Jesus and His earthly ministry. Many today walk away like I did from the US Air Force.
So what does it really mean to follow Jesus? What are some ways the Bible explains it? What is to be our guiding motivation? Well, we’ll talk about it after the break.
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What Does It Mean to Follow Jesus?
What does it mean to follow Jesus? Here are some thoughts that I had about this. I was just kind of thinking back on that and if I had to tell myself 15 years ago when I became a Christian, what all it would encompass? We could only cover just a little bit here.
Take Mary’s Advice
I think of Mary’s statement to the servants and caner at the wedding when they needed more wine. And Mary said to them, Do whatever he tells you. And really, that’s the crux of what it is to follow Jesus, we do whatever he tells us.
What Jesus’ Rebuke Teaches Us about Following Jesus
I think of Jesus, his rebuke to Peter and Matthew 16:23, Jesus turned to Peter and say, “Get behind Me, Satan, you are a stumbling block to me. You do not have in mind things of God, but the things of men.” Following Jesus is to have in mind the things of God.”
Denial and a Cross
And even in the next verses, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life For me, we’ll find it.”
Listen to Him!
And then a little while later at the Transfiguration, we hear the father saying, “This is my son, whom I love with him, I am well pleased, listen to him!” And so again following Jesus is listening to him.
It’s a moment by moment reorienting of one’s mind and one’s affections on Christ and His will.
Or it’s the way Paul talks about how he disciplined himself and body and mind to follow after Christ. in 1 Corinthians 9:26 he says, “Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly, do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it a slave so that after I’ve preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Real World Examples of Following Jesus
It is fighting against our flesh. I want to snap back at that person. I want to be I want to unload my anger on that person for what they did. How they hurt me. I don’t want to do the dishes that are in the sink. I don’t want to take out the trash that’s ready to be taken out, if I leave that someone else will get it. But it’s countering all that and doing those things because that’s what the Lord would have us do.
It is devotion, its uncompromising loyalty. Its commands to do, but also commands to not do, right. It’s always asking what action or reaction would be most pleasing to my Lord for this situation. It’s humbling ourselves like a child like Jesus said.
Ultimately, following Jesus affects every area of our lives, our time, our money, how we do our work. You know, I’ve had jobs where they have contests and so you you’re automatically part of this contest. I know for a little while when I was selling insurance, we had contests. The thing is the contest never motivated me. I could never really care about winning a gift card or whatever. It didn’t motivate me. What motivated me was, this is the job that God has put me in. I’m to be faithful here I need to be a witness and an ambassador for him. And so it is incumbent upon me to do the very, you know, very best that I can to please my earthly Master, but also my heavenly Master.
Following Jesus, it affects our relationships and how we we take care of those, what we watch what we read, what we listened to. Every area of our lives is under the Lordship of Christ when we are following him.
Final Thoughts about What It Means to Follow Jesus
Following Jesus is Our Duty
Now, a couple of final points on this: There is a duty in following Christ, every single one of us should be following Christ. Why because he is God. And we’re not He is worthy. He commands it. So for those reasons sins alone, every single one of us ought to be following Christ.
Want to be “Selfish”? Follow Jesus!
But also it is for our present and eternal good. In fact, if you think about it, think about this for a second. Even if we only love ourselves, if we’re only living for ourselves, you know, what’s the best for me? If that’s the whole driving motivation of our lives, then the irony is that this supreme desire to watch out for only ourselves means that the greatest good we could possibly do for ourselves would be to surrender and follow Christ. Think about that. So yeah, so there’s definitely a duty to following the Lord.
Following Jesus from Love and Gratitude
But also, it’s about love and gratitude. I mean, this isn’t mere asceticism. This is certainly not about trying to earn God’s favor or God’s attention or earn salvation, but it’s out of love and gratitude for what he’s already freely given us and what we freely received in Christ at the point of salvation.
Did God Buy Your Lunch or Save You from Drowning?
You know, it’s an example I’ve used many times when I try to explain to people the difference between American Christianity as it’s so often explained, and biblical Christianity. I ask people: Did God buy your lunch, or did he save you from drowning? Because a lot of times, we as Christians, we treat God like, he just bought our lunch.
You know, if you bought me lunch, I would say, Hey, thank you very much. I really enjoyed the time. Thanks for picking up the check. And I’d kind of go on my merry way. And I might tell somebody might tell my wife Oh, I had lunch with so and so today and they were nice. They bought my lunch. But I certainly wouldn’t lay myself at your feet and declare my undying allegiance to you because you bought my lunch. In fact, that’d be kind of weird.
But if while we were having lunch, I start choking. And I’m dying, and I can’t breathe. I’m about to die, and you come around and you give me the Heimlich maneuver and you save my life. Then Yeah, I’m going to tell everybody and I never ever, ever gonna forget, you saved my life. When I’m out in public with you.
I’m going to tell people, Hey, come here, you, man. Let me introduce you to this to my friend here, my friends, this person saved my life. And I’m going to want to live my life in total gratitude for what you did for me. And it’s that kind of love and gratitude that motivates us, or should motivate us to follow Christ.
Following Jesus Does Not Guarantee an Easy Life
It’s joyfully because the more we live, as Jesus tells us also, the more our life goes well. Even when we’re despairing being alive. It’s just such a trial. There is a point where we say like Habakkuk says at the end of his book, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food. Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will be joyful in God my Savior.“
And so that’s really what it comes down to for us as following after God.
Or even, I think what was it, Job, where he says, “though he slay me, I will trust him.”
Is Following Jesus Worth It?
So now the last thing that I want to mention is, is it all worth it?
My Own Experience
You know, ultimately, at that point in my life, I decided it wasn’t worth it. To me. It wasn’t worth joining the Air Force and giving up four years of my life for all those benefits. So is it worth it? Is it worth following Jesus? And my answer to you is a thousand times Yes. I’ve been following the Lord for 15 years. And before that I was a false convert, just like we have many of them in American Christianity. I was a false convert for 20 years. So yes, for my own personal experience, absolutely.
My answer is: a thousand times, YES.
2000 Years of Christian History
How about from a experience of 2000 years of Christians, even martyrs? Think about that. for 2000 years people have been following Christ. Some of them have lost everything in life, even their families, even their own lives.
Consider some of the final words of Polycarp, who was the Bishop of Smyrna and modern day Turkey, before he was burned alive at the stake for his faith on February 23. At 156 when he was pressed to recant and reject Christ, he famously said, “Eighty and six years have I’ve seen served him and he has done me no wrong How then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?” Now that is a testimony about following Christ!
Are You Following Jesus?
I hope today you’re following Christ. I hope you have given him everything, every area of your life because He is worthy, because he is God because He is sovereign. And also out of love and gratitude because you see that there’s just no other way in this life. There’s nothing that’s worth holding onto your life for when Jesus when you can have Jesus.
Well, with that, let me close us in prayer today.
Lord Jesus, you deserve our complete allegiance because you are worthy. You are God. You are creator. You give us everything. For those reasons alone. You deserve our full obedience. But also you gave yourself, you died that we might be saved. So all the more out of love and gratitude, we not only ought to follow you, we get to follow you. And in all your commandments there is goodness and life. May we grow in love and gratitude every day, and with the spirits help follow you all the more in the days and years ahead. Amen.
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Well, that wraps up our show for today. Be sure to join us next time as we dig deeper into God’s word. Apply it to our lives. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please tell others you can visit our facebook.com/GraceandPeaceRadio or you can visit us on the web at GraceandPeaceRadio.com.
Till next time, I’m your host Anthony Russo, and Jesus changed my life.
Thanks for listening!
Grace and Peace,
Anthony & Amy
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