"Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome." -Matthew 26:57-58
Just a few verses prior, we hear Peter make an audacious claim. He boasts that "even if all fall away on account of you, I never will" (Matthew 26:33). But as the guards led Jesus away to be crucified, Peter simply "followed him at a distance." Instead of being all in for his Lord and risking his life to testify for Jesus, he was content to follow at a distance. He was interested, but not fully committed. Curious to see what would happen, but not willing to lay down his life. How many of us, along with Peter, spend our lives following Jesus at a distance? We know He's the truth and we know He's the Son of God, but something stops us from fully committing ourselves to Christ no matter the cost. We're interested in Christ and who He is, but we don't take the next step. We're curious about God and His will for our lives, but in all honesty, we're content to simply follow at a distance. Like Peter, we aren't willing to lay down our agendas, our plans, and ultimately our lives for the name of Jesus. We'd much rather lead comfortable lives that watch Jesus being taken to the cross, but refuse to be nailed to that cross with Him. We want to live safe lives that don't cost us anything, but if we don't step out and testify to the truth, then we'll miss the experience of sharing in Christ's sufferings. We'll miss true union with Christ if we choose the comforts of this world over radical obedience to Him. Radical obedience to Christ will cost us:
“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy... It's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” -David Platt
Following Jesus, truly following Him, is not going to be easy in this world. But Christ is so precious, so worth it! For Peter, Christ was worth more than his very life! But what happened to the Peter that stood silent and kept his distance when Jesus was lead away to the cross? He witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this gave him incredible boldness and assurance. The resurrection confirmed Jesus as the truth, and that was enough for Peter. He poured his entire life into knowing, teaching, and living the gospel of Christ. In order to follow Jesus in this world, we have to be convinced that it's going to be worth it. Here in America, we see Christians who claim to know God, but put little to no worth on the name of Jesus. We may sing to God in church and read the Bible every now and then, but is Christ really worth anything to us? We throw our faith around like it's nothing, but in reality, around the world right now, faith in Christ is costing people their lives. According to Open Doors USA, 322 Christians are killed for their faith each month. True faith in Christ is costly, and we need to follow the example of our brothers and sisters around the world who are standing firm, even in the face of death.
If our Christianity doesn't cost us anything, then what's it really worth? More often than not, the things that are worth the most in our lives are the things that cost us the most. So we can see how much worth we're putting on Jesus by asking ourselves how much it really costs us to follow Him. As American Christians, we get to choose whether or not we're going to give everything to Christ. In other words, we can get away with calling ourselves Christians in America without really surrendering everything to Christ. But in restricted nations where it's illegal to own a Bible, attend church, and evangelize, Christians must give their entire lives to Christ or they can't even, at least publicly, be Christians.
"In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." Before Christ ascended into heaven, he had to go through the cross. And he invites anyone who's willing to join him on his journey to the cross. It won't be easy. It won't painless. But it will be worth it because, in the end, we will be with Christ! Right now in America, we aren't threatened with imprisonment, torture, and death for being Christians. But true Christians are always persecuted in one way or another. Our American culture is becoming increasingly intolerant of the Christian worldview. People are publicly mocked and ridiculed for standing with Christ, and others lose acceptance and popularity for bearing the Lord's name. Christians are considered narrow-minded and intolerant for professing the belief that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Teachings relating to God, the Bible, and creation are not allowed in our public schools while the religion of atheism and the theory of evolution are forced upon students. Not only is sin becoming more rampant in our world, but the acceptance of sin is becoming even more widespread than ever before. As Christ followers, our beliefs are looked down upon by the world, but just look at what they did to Jesus, our King! As Jesus Himself says, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). If we, as Christians, aren't being persecuted by the world, then something is wrong. As 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." I'll be bold and say that if we're not being opposed and rejected on a daily basis, we aren't preaching and living the gospel of Christ. We can't share the gospel and not taste rejection. The Bible promises this. Paul writes, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him" (Philippians 1:29). When we put our faith in Christ, we start a journey on a narrow path as we suffer the same things Jesus did. But as we reject the world and all it has to offer, we choose to be united with Christ, one with Him! No one can take Christ away from us. And He's all we need.
In this life, we have to ultimately decide who we're living to please. Are we living to please God, or people? We can't keep going back and forth between two gods. As Elijah says, "How long will you not decide between two choices? If the is the true God, follow him" (1 Kings 18:21). If we live our lives trying to please both God and people, then who are we? We're living a double life, and this certainly isn't glorifying to God. Paul writes, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I still trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). We can't be servants of Christ and live to gain the approval of others at the same time. If we genuinely want to follow Jesus closely in this world, we have to be obsessed with pleasing Him and letting His will reign supreme in our lives. This means that obeying God is the most important thing to us, even when it's risky and uncomfortable. We've made gods out of comfort and acceptance, and these idols are stopping the American church (myself included) from rising up and sharing the truth that can set the world free. We need to surrender everything to Christ. Then the world will see Jesus. I can just hear Him screaming from the cross, "I'm not calling you to a life of comfort and easy living. I'm calling you into fellowship with Me, which includes sharing in my sufferings. I am inviting you to walk in complete obedience to Me. The world will hate you for it, but I will be with you. You will be united with Me, and you will experience true peace, joy, and satisfaction. Follow me. Die with me. Experience the life I want to give you." Be challenged to live a life of surrender to God and dependence on God. This is what He's calling you to.
"On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts." -1 Thessalonians 2:4
But is Christ even worth following? Is He worth obeying? Is He worth our everything? Before we try to answer these questions, lets attempt to see and understand the worth and value that God has placed on us. In God's eyes, we are worth His everything. We are worth the death of His Son. We are worth the blood of Christ! Peter writes, "we were created to live. Christ gave up everything to save us, and He asks us to give our lives back to Him so He can truly give us life to the fullest. As Christians, we have a choice to make. We can keep living our lives with one foot in the world and one foot in God's will, or we can jump wholeheartedly into all God has for us. I encourage you to choose the life that Christ paid for with His blood! God went to great lengths to redeem us and to make it possible to live according to His will. Through Christ, we "may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption of the world" (2 Peter 1:4). How incredible is that? We, though sinners, can partake in what God's doing as we participate in the divine nature! What an indescribable gift this is! We would be utter fools if we continued in our sinful ways, stubbornly refusing the gift of participation in God's nature and the blessing of being conformed into the image of Christ. But this is what many of us do. We trample the Son of God underfoot as we cheapen and insult His grace by continuing to live as if God isn't even real. Many Christians, perhaps unknowingly, deny God's very existence by the way they live their lives. This is a heartbreaking reality, and it used to be a reality in my life. Brennan Manning writes, "The single greatest cause of atheism is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." But thanks be to God! It's never too late to change. God wants to take us on an adventure! He has entrusted us with His most precious gospel of truth, and He has commanded us to take it to the ends of the earth. If we're truly convinced that Jesus is the truth, and that through Him heaven is possible, we would be ignorant fools for not telling the world about Him. I know these are harsh, possibly even offensive words, but I think they're needed. Don't be afraid to take a stand and proclaim the gospel! "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). Seek God with all your heart, and He will reveal Himself to you. Step out of your comfort zone and obey God! Fear God more than you fear people. Surrender your all to Christ each day. Yield to the Spirit and His direction. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel and boldly declare the truth. Shine Christ's light in the darkest places, and don't be afraid to engage the culture around you. Don't be ashamed of the gospel! Give God everything you have, and watch Him use you to change your world! May God's grace be with you as you learn to live out Christ's call to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Be challenged. Amen.
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."