Following Jesus Behind The Narrow Gateway (Part 5 of a 5-Part Series on Truths About Life Behind The Narrow Gateway)
Our Feature Bible Passage: Matthew 10:37-39 “He who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
Meditate on Broader Context: Matthew 10:34-39.
Welcome to This Week’s Truth Turn Up! As you would know, we have been running a series titled Truths About Life Behind the Narrow Gateway, and we anchored this series in Matthew 16:24 where Jesus gave His disciples criteria for following Him. He said, if you desire to come after Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. We spent time speaking about the fact that it all begins with desire, a deep and authentic hunger for more of the Lord, and for His presence, and from there, flows a willingness to “turn yourself down”, that is to surrender to the God-Way and the God-life.
Over the next few weeks, we will sink our hearts into the topic, ‘Following Jesus, Behind the Narrow Gateway’. We want to consider what a life of following Christ looks like, now that it is confirmed that we do indeed desire Him, and are willing to surrender to Him. Let’s explore this by distinguishing between 4 types of people who have chosen to believe in Jesus. I believe I have introduced these people to you in previous devotionals and blog posts.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to meet *drumroll* Mr Spectator, Mr Commentator, Mr Fan and Mr Follower. Mr Spectator is the kind of guy we call “Lookie Lookie” in Nigeria. He is always present, always watching, always observing. He sees the God-life and the Christ-way as something of a spectacle, and himself as a member of an audience. But beyond that line, he does not cross. Then we have Mr Commentator. I found a definition online that said, “A commentator is a person who analyzes and discusses topics. If you want to hear opinions on the news rather than the news itself, listen to commentators.” I found that to be rather tongue-in-cheek, yet so helpful! A commentator in this context is basically a person who is full of personal opinions about Christ and Christianity. In fact, the person is full of personal opinions about his own personal opinions, and that of others! But the meat of the Word, the heart of the Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the surrender to the miraculous? The person is just not keyed in to the real deal. Mr Commentator may even have an official (and possibly even revered) seat on the sidelines. He’s a celebrity in his own rights because people love to hear his comments about Christ, because he comes off as authoritative. Mr commentator passes non-stop comments about what those who are in the game, should be doing, but he himself never gets up, takes the gloves off and steps into the game.
And then we have Mr Fan. This is where so many of us get stuck, and I think that is because many of us have never been taught that there is much more to Christianity than being a fan of Jesus Christ. If you are like Mr Fan, then it means you like Jesus Christ… very much! You think He is so cool and interesting, or maybe you think He is so holy and good! And so you make sure that if you hear that He is going to be showing up somewhere, you are there! If you hear that some preacher or prophet has a direct line to Him, you are there! If you hear that Jesus wrote a book, or a song, off you go to the nearest book and music store the very next chance you get! You even have pictures of Him on your wall and mementos that you are sure will be worth a penny sometime in the future! That is a fan; someone that latches on enthusiastically to the one they admire, and thinks the world of them. It sounds great doesn’t it? In fact, it really doesn’t sound like being a fan is a bad idea at all. In our modern world of celebrities, we understand this concept so well. And social media has made it even easier for fans to “follow” their beloved celebrities in realtime! But how many fans are willing to be true followers. How many fans are willing to do more than troll their beloved icons on Twitter and Instagram, and click like and love a million times a day? How many fans would actually be able (not just willing) to step into the shoes of those they admire if they knew what that life actually entailed? Now before you say, “of course we are!” think about it. How many soccer fans are willing to live the life of a soccer legend like maybe Ricky Kaka for one week. The crazy work schedule, the strict approach to food and nutrition, the ridiculous exercise regimen, the lack of personal privacy…Yes, we may want the fame, the money and the power, but how many of us are willing to commit to all of what it means to be Ricky Kaka? How about a political or religious figure that everyone admires? Like the president of a country, or the pope. How many of us would be willing to live lives that are basically driven first and foremost by the circumstances of the nation, or group of people you serve? Yes we may want the power, and fame, but are we open to the whole of what it is to be a follower? Can we walk in their shoes for a week, and put on the razor-sharp and focused dedication to excellence, perfection and self-sacrifice that they have committed themselves to?
In today’s text, Jesus was speaking to His disciples. Now they had already made a commitment to following Him. Yet He was telling them that true followership meant that they would need to love Him and pursue Him above all else. He would need to be the most dear thing to them. Jesus coupled this with a promise, that he who chooses to “lose his life” for the sake of following Christ, will find it, that is “the excellent and glorious God-life”. Or, referring back to the celebrity analogy I used earlier, he who is willing to make Christ his most precious pursuit in life, will attain “the celebrity life”! If I dare say so. Now if there ever was a celebrity worth following, it would be Jesus Christ, wouldn’t it? And the life He wants for every human being is one in which we have the same intimacy with the Father that He does, the same passion for the lost, and broken and dying, like He does, and the same (even greater) power to do the impossible here on earth, like Christ did! (John 14:12-14). He literally wants us to step into His shoes and then go above and beyond what He did while He was on earth! But with the power and glory comes surrender, discipline, humility, and a whole lot of other values that God imparts to us through grace, and yes, often through life’s hard experiences.
So which one are you? Are you Mr Spectator? Mr Commentator? Mr Fan? Or Mr Follower? Or are you a mishmash of all four? Well here at the Narrow Gateway, our hearts desire to be 100% Mr Follower.
We want to walk in the fullness of who Christ is. We want to be His hands and His feet, and literally walk in the footprints that He left behind while He was on earth.
May we be willing to go all the way, and put in the passion and commitment that this requires, as we do life behind the Narrow Gateway. Please click here to sing along with This Week’s Heartsong, a golden oldie with words that I know will light your heart’s fire for loving and following Jesus! “My Jesus I love thee” sung by Paul Baloche.
Let Us Pray:
Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for clarifying to me that it is Your desire for me to walk in Your footprints on this earth and to do greater works than You did. I desire this too Lord! I want to see Your power! I want to know You intimately and be familiar with Your Presence. But Lord, I struggle when it comes to embracing the fullness of what it means to follow You. Help me with this Lord. Help me to transition from being a mere spectator, or a person full of opinions and high praises, but lacking substance. Help me to transition to being a true follower of Christ. I love You Jesus. Again, today, I choose the God-life and the God-way. Please help me to accept and embrace what this means for me practically. In Jesus name. Amen.
Let us have a last word:
I asked you earlier, which one are you? A spectator? A commentator? A fan or a follower? I would honestly love for you to answer this question for yourself and then write down what you feel has held you back from full commitment to following Jesus Christ. Is it lack of understanding; perhaps you just didn’t know better? I know that many people have never really been taught that following Christ is more than being a fan of Christ. Or is it fear or lack of faith? Many people feel that a commitment to 100% followership will cost them too much, and they do not trust that indeed God is no man’s debtor and anything that we lay down for Him, we will receive in glorious rewards in this life and in the one to come. Whatever your reason for hanging back, please write it down in your journal, and pray about it daily, using the prayer I shared above. If you feel comfortable to do so, please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org to share your reasons for hanging back, and your thoughts. My aim is to consider all of these issues over the next few weeks so that we can all move forward together, doing life in full followership, behind the Narrow Gateway.
Critically, I end this by saying, I am Toyin, fully convicted by my own words and very much still under construction in the hands of the Father. Till next time…
Written by Toyin Oladiran (www.thenarrowgateway.com)