THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS – A Question of Allegiance

Hating father and mother? Didn’t the Lord say that we were to honor our father and  our mother (Exodus 20:12)? Hating wife and children? Doesn’t Paul tell husbands to love their wives–the way that Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25)? The Lord is not sending us mixed messages or issuing  conflicting commands. Rather Jesus’ intentionally provocative language here highlights a key aspect of discipleship. Discipleship is a question of allegiance. If our ultimate allegiance is not to the Lord Jesus, we are not really His disciples. 

We find this same language of loving versus hating in Romans 9:13 (quoting from Malachi 1:2-3). How is it that God hated Esau? In this sense: He chose Jacob instead of him. We must choose Jesus over everyone and everything else. Even our closest family members if need be. 

Kevin DeYoung, one of my favorite modern day theologians, frames the question of our ultimate allegiance(s) in terms of the first commandment versus idolatry. Here is a quote from his blog: “What must we leave behind if we are to follow Christ? The simplest answer is that we must leave behind idolatry. That’s the very first commandment–you shall have no other gods before me. They don’t have to be obvious representations of the divine; they don’t have to be stone or wood or marble. There are all sorts of gods:  education, athletics, marriage, choice, power, self-expression, beauty, achievement. Whatever you give your whole life for, there’s your idol. If only I had ______ then I would be happy. If only I had ______ I’d be worth something. If only I had ______ I could truly live a fulfilled life. Whatever you put in the blank, that’s your god. That’s what you are living for. That’s what you worship.  Marriage may be in your blank, or your dream job, or better parents, or better kids, or fewer pounds, or more influence. Many of these are good desires, but they must not be ultimate. They are not meant to be gods.”

Lord, in light of all of this, I want to take a moment now to ask you to help me see what I might to need to lay down. What do I need to leave behind so that I can pick up my cross and follow Jesus in fully devoted discipleship? Please open my eyes and then please give me your tender grace and the strength that I need to obey.

I would like to suggest a few additional ways to discern if there are idols in your life–or things that are becoming idols. Here are a few questions you might find helpful to ask yourself. Then take what you discover to the Lord in prayer.

One good way to discover an idol hidden in the corner of your heart is to observe where your thoughts go by default…when you are driving in the car, standing in the shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or waiting in the checkout or carpool line. What consumes or preoccupies much of your thinking? What “goal” or “dream” or “outcome” is always in the back of your mind? I know women and men who focus on their spouse, or their own spiritual condition, or on their own most recent offense. When anything consumes too much of your thinking it is out of place and taking the place of the Lord. Even if it seems to be “spiritual.”

You may also ask yourself…is there anything that you “need” to have during the day such as food, wine, beer, T.V., shopping, etc.? For example, what would you do if you were asked to not shop at all for a year, or to eat only half-portions of food, or to eat only twice a day with no snacking or desserts, or to not drink any alcohol, or to not watch any T.V., or… ?

Additional questions include… Is there a certain person’s approval you are seeking? Is there a group you want to be a part of and accepted by…no matter the cost? How important to you are the ways you do things? For example, how clean does your car or house or office have to be? Who or what do you seek to control, fix, or make better? Perhaps you have your own questions to ask. 

Bring all of the things that have come up before the Lord. Make a list if necessary. Ask Him what you need to lay down and leave behind so that you can pick up your cross and follow Jesus in fully devoted discipleship. Trust in Him and in His grace to help you do the impossible.

Lord Jesus, I want to find all of my hope and satisfaction in you. Please show me where I am turning to earthly things for comfort instead of turning to you. Help me see what I cannot see. Help me love you and enjoy you above all things.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Categories: christianity, english

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