...Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:27-28 NIV)
I find myself challenged by my own teaching/preaching yesterday. Francis Chan has forced me and, through me, our part of His Body to truly count the cost of following God. Truth be known, I've been challenged by this truth for a long time now. Chapter 4 of Chan's book, Crazy Love, simply gave me an opportunity to talk about it.
I care about people. I love them more than I'm sure they will ever realize. That's why, at times, ministry is so hard for me. I've spent enough time in God's Word to have a pretty good understanding of His Design for things and how we fit into His overall Plan. I've also learned the blessings that come from walking with Him and the problems that arise from leaving Him. The contrast is stark.
When I try to explain all this to people, I find so many who want to know the "bare minimum" necessary to escape punishment and receive blessings. But it just doesn't work like that. Every place in our lives where we walk with God, we receive the blessings that go along with that place of obedience. Every place where we leave Him or work against Him, that is a place where we will struggle. Things in life seem "grey" because we choose to follow Him in some areas and not to follow Him in others - not because life has "grey areas" to God. We're either with Him or against Him. There's no half way in between.
Becoming a Christian, then is not about believing. It's about leaving. We have to leave our sins. We have to leave our trust in people who do not follow Christ. We have to leave our old ways of thinking and acting and living. We have to be willing to leave everything behind and start painting a new picture of ourselves, our relationships, our livelihoods, and even our very lives. Walking with God is not an addition to our current state of being. It's a total replacement of everything we are. We cannot make such a move half way. We simply have to leave everything...and follow Him.
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 19:27-30 NIV)