Following Jesus means giving up EVERYTHING

Luke 5 records Jesus calling his first disciples. In both instances, in the calling of Simon Peter and Levi the tax collector, Luke notes they “left everything and followed him.” That jumped off the page when I read it. Jesus extends them an invitation to follow him, and they drop everything and follow. Right there, on the spot. It is recorded in another place in Luke’s gospel that others wanted to take care of their affairs before they followed Jesus and Jesus basically told them they could take care of those things or follow him. But they couldn’t do both. And they weren’t insignificant things. It wasn’t like they wanted to go check Facebook one last time. No, one person wanted to bury their father, and the other wanted to say good-bye to their family.

But Simon Peter and Levi dropped everything.

Everything.

Most of the time when we read that they dropped everything to follow Jesus we picture them leaving their boats, their nets, their tax collector booth, and their other possessions. And that’s all true. But they also left their families, their houses, and their careers. That doesn’t mean they never saw their families again. We know they stayed at Simon’s house as Jesus healed his mother-in-law. But they were willing to. Those who followed Jesus turned their lives upside down for three years to be near him and learn from him.

Those who followed Jesus gave up everything.

Everything.

They gave up their expectations, understanding, and hopes about what the Messiah would do. We see them struggle with this even after the death and resurrection. In Acts 1, after spending time with the resurrected Jesus they ask, “Are you now going to establish your kingdom?” They still believed Jesus was going to build an earthly kingdom like they had grown up believing. But they had to give this up to really follow Jesus. In order to live into the mandate they were given to make disciples, they needed to give up trying to build an earthly kingdom.

The disciples had to give up their desires for success. We see an argument between James and John about who is greater and who will sit at the right hand of Jesus. When Jesus confronts them about this conversation, he turns their understanding of recognition and privilege upside down by saying the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

Over and over again the disciples had to give up their prejudices. Prejudices against the poor, the righteous, the Samaritans, children, prostitutes, religious leaders and themselves. When we follow Jesus we are called to give up everything.

Following Jesus is one of the most difficult things I have done with my life. And the reason it is so difficult is precisely this idea of giving up everything. It is one thing to give up possessions, but giving up the prominence my family gets in my life is difficult. Many in ministry make a commitment, and rightly so, to not sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry. Far too many families have suffered from being treated as second fiddle to a pastor’s ministry. But at the same time, to follow Jesus, and to be willing to leave family means that one cannot sacrifice following Jesus on the altar of family. Personally, I find this a difficult, but good, tension to live in.

Many of us have worldviews that are based more on political ideologies than the teachings of Jesus. Many of us live our of our self-protections rather than our trust in a sovereign God. Too many decisions are made because of idols we cling tightly to rather than making decisions out of a decision to follow Jesus with everything. But following Jesus means we give up everything. It means we give up our world views, our ideologies, our desires, our idols, our insecurities, and whatever else we give authority to in our life. If we are to become like Jesus, which is what following Jesus is all about, then we must give up everything.

Everything.

So what are you holding on to?

What have you not given up to follow Jesus more closely?

Content

I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing. I’ve got a perfectly brewed cup of coffee to my right. A beautiful balance of earthy aroma dancing with a sweet acidity that makes me relish the warmth hitting my stomach. I’ve got music playing in my earphones, but not loud enough to drown out the ambient noise of conversations and the coffee machine. I just turned on my phone to check the time and saw the picture of my family on the home screen. God, their beautiful.

I’m feeling one thing…

Gratitude.

Gratitude for the life I live. Gratitude for the family I have. Gratitude I have for the comforts I am afforded. Gratitude for the abilities I have. Gratitude for the work I am called to. Gratitude for the grace extended me to experience all this right now.

Gratitude.

We move fast. Furiously fast. Fast enough to never be content. As I slow myself down a bit today, I can’t help but wonder, “Does contentment escape our grasp because we move too fast to catch it? Can contentment only be obtained when one slows down enough to grab hold of it?”

I think of all things I am trying to grab hold of. Some of them are honorable, others, not so much. I’m not sure the couch that makes bacon at the press of a button is an honorable desire, but it would be awesome. But all of the things I chase after are things I believe will bring me contentment. If I just get this….If I just obtain this….If I just get to this point…. The reality is grasping for another thing will not bring me contentment. To grasp contentment I need to grasp for contentment. Not another thing. Not another recognition. Contentment.

Which means looking at what I have to drink deep of those things now. My life is filled with good things and, unfortunately, I do a half-assed job of enjoying them. No wonder I am not content! I don’t even fully enjoy the things I have!

But here’s the insidious thing. To not be content is to not live in the present. Presently there are beautiful things in front me. And I could miss out on this, not even noticing the beautiful taste of this cup of coffee I am drinking, if I am thinking about what is next. Discontentment is simply a sign that we are not fully present to what is in front of us right now. In this moment.

This song.

This cup of coffee.

This conversation.

This person.

This grace.

Fully present, deeply enjoying these things, I am grateful.

And content.