Saturday, August 22, 2015

Above All Others

     Having grown up in conservative Baptist churches my whole life, I am well-acquainted with the end of the service, conviction invitation. The pastor usually ends his sermon with the topic of salvation and your eternal security, then his sermon is followed by about 500 verses of "I Surrender All" or "All to Jesus". The pastor and possibly the elders stand at the front and convicted or possibly just dutiful church members move to the front of the church to bow at the stage and pray publicly.

    Having seen a lot of these over the last 12 years I've spent in church, I've learned to recognize the "salvation sales pitch" at the end of the service. We've all heard it before, when the pastor begins speaking of how easy it is to get saved. "All you have to do is pray this prayer after me, and you'll be saved..."

    However, even a cursory glance at the Jesus of the gospels should cue us in on the fact that following Jesus will not necessarily be quite so simple as it is so nicely laid out during the infamous altar call. And Jesus is quite clear on that count. Deciding to follow Him should not be a half-hearted decision, and should not be a flippantly made, momentary choice.

    In Lk. 14, Jesus takes the time to explain to the multitudes what it means to follow Him, and He makes it clear that He wants no spontaneous, emotional decision made spur of the moment to follow Him. He wants a clearly thought out, reasoned out acceptance of His demands on the lives of His followers.

    "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

     Jesus used none of the "emotion of the moment" conversion tactics we use today. He instead emphasized rationally thinking through the cost of what it would mean to follow Him. It was no secret in Jesus' messages that following Him was going to be uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous, and always hard.

    Following Jesus involves, as Jesus clearly points out in v. 33, a radical clinging to Jesus Christ above everything else. "So likewise, whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." There's no question in that call. Either you follow Jesus, above everything, or you don't. It's that simple.

    There are a couple of aspects to that verse that are uncomfortable to our American systems of thought and accepted cultural norms. That verse up top, v. 26, contains one of the most missed concepts of Christian life in traditional Christ circles.

    Jesus calls us to follow Him above our family. Yes, our allegiance to the leading of Christ is more important than the pressure of our family's thoughts, opinions, preferences, tastes, etc. If we claim to be followers of Jesus, our ultimate master is Jesus Christ, no longer my family. My parents, my friends, my siblings all hold second place to a new master, who controls my every decision.

    Jesus Christ is a God who demands supremacy, who demands glory, adoration, praise, and obedience above all other calls and masters. Half-way allegiance, part-time following, and lukewarm commitment are not options in His service. He demands a place above all others!

    In our pursuit of Christ, He must be our everything. He must be above all else our prize and our aim. "I count all as rubbish, that I may win Christ." These words by Paul really give a great example of how a Christian should think. Christ should rank above everything else in our minds and attention in order that we may know Him better.

    He calls us to follow Him above everything. His call is a call deeper than just a request for a sinner's prayer, but instead is a call for full life surrender and occupational abandonment. He demands all or nothing.

    And the prize He guarantees is above all others, Himself. While is call is difficult, His prize is perfect. He offers us Himself. So if we intend to pursue Christ, then our goal is to know Him, and our path is through surrender to Him.



  1. Yay! You changed your picture! Wait... Did I just say that out loud. :p

    Thank you Taylor for writing this post.
    I really liked what you had to say on this! It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite books "not a fan"!

    1. Ha, ha, the old one couldn't have been that bad! Well, maybe it could have been... I guess the multiple friends telling me I needed to change my pic should have cued me in, but I'm just a bit stubborn. :)

      I'm glad you were blessed!

  2. Wellll.. It probably wasn't your worst picture .. But it could've been better.
    Ya know~ your friends mostly just want what's best for you :p

    1. :) Thus the change. When friend number three remarked about it, I thought maybe I should take the advice. Then friend four (you) remarked about it, I'm pretty sure it was a good call. :P