Imagine that I stopped by your house one evening and rang the doorbell. Maybe I stopped by a little unexpectedly or perhaps you had extended an invitation. Either way, there I stand on your doorstep, …
Imagine that I stopped by your house one evening and rang the doorbell. Maybe I stopped by a little unexpectedly or perhaps you had extended an invitation. Either way, there I stand on your doorstep, hoping that I am at the right place and that you will be pleased to see me. Let’s say that you smile warmly and invite me to step inside. As I move to cross the threshold, you suddenly stop me. “Oh, wait, I’m sorry. Seth, you may come in, but Carter, please stay outside. You aren’t wanted here.”
“Eh … what?” I would respond in confusion.
Then I realize the truth; there is something about my identity that you don’t quite understand. Seth — the acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor — is someone you are willing to associate with, but the rest of my identity—my family name or my origin story if you will — is less desirable.
In Luke’s Gospel in the New Testament of the Bible, we can see some people treating their relationship with Jesus in this way.
Chapter nine ends with Jesus interacting with at least three people.
We don’t know how any of these stories end, but in the retelling of these encounters, we become aware of the reality that they — and we — need to consider the cost of what it may mean to associate or identify with Jesus.
At some point, many people decide to “try’’ church or religion or even Jesus. A person may try Jesus out like they would test drive a car or try on a shirt at JCPenney. The line of questioning that follows goes like: How do I look? Is it comfortable? Does it fit my personality? Is it my color?
Jesus’ responses in Luke 9:57-62 challenge attempts at this kind of image management. When one person insists, “I will follow you anywhere,” Jesus replies, “You should know that I don’t even know where I might be sleeping tonight.” When Jesus invites one man to follow, he hesitates, essentially saying, “Lord, first I want to wait until my father passes away and I can tie up loose ends and claim my inheritance.” Jesus challenges him to forget the things of the world and “proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”
What about you? How do you finish this sentence: “Lord I will follow you, but first …”
Maybe like me, you’ve said something like, “I will start getting up earlier and doing daily Bible study when I …” or “I will share about the good news and love of Jesus with that person at work eventually but first …” or “I really do want to help someone grow in their knowledge of God and disciple them but first …”
First what? What is “first” for you?
You cannot invite “Jesus” to be a part of your life and not “Christ.” You can’t have him as your savior and not your Lord or boss, just like “Seth” can’t come into your house and leave “Carter” on the doorstep.
So the next question that must be asked is, “Why?” Why would anyone be willing to give this kind of commitment, to die to themselves for the sake of Jesus?
People will be motivated by fear or by love. Love is a more powerful motivator, though perhaps more costly. It’s comparatively easier to live under a system of law, following the rules, checking the boxes and working hard, whether a person seems to be working for themselves or a religious order. Religion will only require that you work hard and follow the code and ultimately it maximizes the participant, attempting to bring glory to themselves, and minimizes any role of God in their life. It is being motivated by fear; fear of man, fear of God or fear of losing reputation or status.
To be motivated by love however, is a recognition that you are insufficient on your own and that Jesus loved you so much that he takes your place and receives the judgment of God. It minimizes the participant and maximizes Jesus. A person in this state of mind will be motivated by a powerful love and devotion with nothing to lose but that love.
This is what is meant by the grace of God, that he has made the way forward for us when there was no way that we could do it. When a person understands and receives that grace, they will come into a relationship with Jesus and desire to serve the most loving king, boss or ruler imaginable, not because of fear, but because of awe and devotion.
I hope that today you will choose to receive Jesus’ love and friendship as well as his Lordship in your life.
(Seth Carter is director of Campus Ventures.)