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Following Christ is a conscious choice

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By Can Grace Kaiso

Jesus noticed that many people were following Him and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-26).

These verses constitute one of the hard sayings of Jesus to His would-be followers.

Jesus had become very popular, and many people chose to associate with Him often for selfish and superficial reasons.
Some were beneficiaries of His healing ministry, others were just intrigued and attracted by the freshness of His message and the hope it represented (Luke 4:31-44).

A number were looking for any fringe benefits including the prestige of being in company of a popular figure, and the occasional feeding at gatherings or seeking to be healed.

There were others, who on behalf of the religious establishment, were gathering evidence against Him so as to check His growing influence (Matthew 27:1-2, 11-26).

Perhaps each one of us today would fit into one of those categories.

Jesus seeks to clarify to people that following Him is not a ‘laissez-faire’ affair; it is a decision that must be taken consciously, with an acute awareness of the sacrifices and the unwavering commitment it demands.

Sell all your possession
Jesus’ encounter with the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-30 gives us deeper insight of this command.

The rich ruler had obeyed all the commandments right from childhood, and Jesus asked him to sell all his belongings and give to the poor.

This was the condition he had to fulfil to be able to follow Jesus. Sadly, he failed because he valued his riches more than the call to follow Christ.

Jesus is calling for singlemindedness on this mission and not to give space to distractions.

While there are many equally important tasks that deserve our attention, if they come in the way of pursuing Christ, they are rendered irrelevant.

Life settles us in various professions, ways of earning a living and certain aspirations.

However, the call to follow Christ might upset our well-known routine, set goals and priorities.

The decision point for Peter and his brothers was to abandon their profession as fishermen to join ‘the enterprise of Jesus’ which was ‘fishing people’ (Matthew 4:18-22).

Jesus, in calling for detachment from things and people who are closest to us, is underlining the importance in the decision to follow Him.

He is not calling us to hate others or our relatives, but to love Him much more than we love anyone else.

This commitment as proved over several generations, is enabled by the realisation that God is before and above everything. For in Him we live, and move and exist (Acts 17:28).

Jesus the ultimate example
In Jesus Christ we have the ultimate example. He emptied Himself of the heavenly glory and took on human form with all its limitations in order to fulfil His Father’s mission of redeeming us.

Even at the crisis moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, He chose to honour God’s will (Mark 14:36).

Having a Christian name, Christian background, being a member of the choir or various fellowship groups, the amount of tithe we give, our eloquence in preaching is not what makes us Christian.

Our choice to consciously follow Christ does. It is possible that one can accept the salvation of Christ, but fail to follow Him as Lord.

One confesses Christ as his saviour, but has never surrendered or allowed Christ to take lordship over his life.

When a disciple seeks to grow in obedience to Christ, there must be a progressive yielding to the will of Christ in all aspects of life. This process is not easy.

Jesus compares it to the experience of His crucifixion. His death on the Cross was slow, painful and torturous. A disciple will experience the same anguish in the process of daily death to selfish desires and in bearing reproach for Christ’s sake.

We all share in this struggle in our daily walk with Christ. It is in this sense that each Christian bears their cross (Luke 14:27).

What keeps us going is consciousness of the preciousness of following Him; the awareness of God as the source of our being and the Alpha and Omega.

Our future resurrection is guaranteed. In this way, this relationship becomes supreme.

Maintaining this relationship, however, will always be a challenge because it demands singleness of mind on our part.
But it is also very much made possible by the faithfulness of God to uphold a determined individual to stand. David is a good example in this regard.

Even before he became King, God had noted that he had a deep commitment to serve Him (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).

We all know the many times David failed God, but God knew him as one who had a heart of devotion to Him and for this, whenever he repented, he was restored.

Similarly, Peter failed Jesus and even denied Him, but God had recognised his resoluteness to serve Him and he was restored after his fall.

As the popular Gospel song goes, ‘Mukama akebeera mutima’, God, indeed, searches the heart.

In concentrating on external piety, we are deceiving and cheating ourselves, because all Christ wants is a submissive and loyal heart.

Faith in Christ and allegiance to Him are what will determine the fate of people at the last judgement.

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