Following Jesus: Why It’s Worth Giving Up All Else
“And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” –Luke 5:10b-11
I have often wondered what it was about that first encounter with Jesus that caused each disciple to abandon it all and follow his Lord. What must that moment have looked like? Under the steady gaze of Christ, each disciple counted this new life of following far more worthy than everything he possessed. This radical abandonment is so averse to our culture that praises the self-made man. More than that, it is so terribly antagonistic toward our own natural inclinations.
The Christian’s call to follow is to the outside world a conundrum because giving up self-pursuit is not natural. No matter how many ways we stare it down, complete self-abandonment will never make sense unless the Lord gives us a new set of eyes. With those new eyes, living for this world will become even more absurd than abandonment formerly appeared.
And yet, we as believers in Christ can so often forget why we are called to abandon self. It is the why of the matter that reminds us that a holy pursuit is for the Lord’s glory and for our good. Jesus Himself demonstrated so beautifully His own divine purpose: He set aside the splendor of heaven and His rightful place on the throne and became flesh. He lived out His life as a servant and then He died as a sacrifice. He rose again victoriously, bequeathing to His followers an abundant and eternal life in His presence.
Then, He called us to follow Him – to live like Him.
That call is nothing short of an incredible honor. An encounter with Jesus is indescribable in its beauty. One must stand in awe of who He is. There is nothing more humbling to know Christ and understand that after that encounter, we are robed in His righteousness and His calling. To consider that we are called to lay down our lives because He laid down His for us should radically shift our perspective of what it means to abandon self.
At this point, we must consider the obvious. We are called to give of everything we have, everything we are. We desire to do this because we love Jesus. We want to follow Him. But in and of ourselves, we are incapable of doing so.
John 13-16 offers some truly remarkable promises. In these chapters, we find Jesus preparing His disciples for His crucifixion and resurrection. These are precious chapters filled with His final lessons while on earth. In them, He offers this incredible commitment to His followers:
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:25&26
This last Christmas, my family of twelve sat around in a circle of couches and answered the question, “If you could be there for one biblical event, which one would you choose?” The conversation went on for quite some time, each person sharing tender insight and calling to remembrance so many events within Scripture that stirred our desire to be in the presence of Jesus.
If only I could be in there when He fed the 5,000.
What I wouldn’t give to see Him with the woman at the well.
I would do anything to be there when He raised Lazarus from the dead.
Oh to be there in the upper room, breaking bread and sharing in the first communion.
Indeed, to be able to walk with Jesus would be remarkable. But as believers, we are walking with Jesus daily. Look at how Paul identifies the Holy Spirit in Galatians 4:6.
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”
The Spirit of Jesus dwells within the heart of the believer! What’s more, His Spirit calls us to intimately encounter our Abba Father. That precious term is that of a child’s call for his dad. To think that Christ invites us to cry out before Him is spectacular. It is this cry that beckons us to obey our Father who so radically loved us that He gave His Son in order that we might live abundantly.
When we believe that we are incapable of self-abandonment, we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Look at His prayer when we find Him in the garden right before His arrest.
And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” – Mark 14:36
In the aftermath of that prayer, Jesus went to the cross and gave His very life. The same cry of Jesus that preceded His death is the same cry He sends into our hearts that enable us to do the same.
Not what I will, but what you will.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:15-18
Because we love Jesus, we follow Him.
We abandon these human shells in exchange for the glory that is the call to follow in the steps of One so precious. We sell all that we own to buy the field with hidden treasure and we do so joyfully (Matthew 13:44). We follow in the steps of Jesus and die with Him so that He might live in us (Galatians 2:20).
Giving anything less is foolishness.