23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you; it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you; it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24 NIV
Jesus is giving the disciples another lesson in the high cost or economics of following Him. He had just been asked by a rich young man and “want to be” Jesus follower; “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response to this young man was to “sell everything that he owned”, to give up everything to follow Him. The cost of following Jesus was just too high, and he walked away. The disciples already understood the cost of following Jesus. They gave up their jobs, possessions, families, and would eventually give up their lives to follow Jesus. While some may paint a pretty picture of following Jesus, it’s not all hearts and flowers. Read these verses.
“22You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22 NIV
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. John 16:24 NIV
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6 NIV
“7Now to you who believe, this stone (Jesus) is precious, but to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” 1 Peter 2:7-9 NIV
9Therefore God exalted him (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue acknowledge (confess) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 4:9-11 NIV
“18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20 NIV
There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but according to Jesus there is only one way to heaven, and that’s through Him. “One way, really? Isn’t salvation universal? I thought it didn’t matter what you believed as long as you believed in something.”
The verses above, all from the New Testament, are just a few of the roadblocks or stumbling blocks (1 Peter 2:8) found in God’s word that either slow us down, stop us in our tracks, or completely derail our capacity to follow God/Jesus. The Bible is filled with “messages from God” that aren’t just difficult to understand, accept or believe, some of them are downright offensive and hated by the world. In fact, we have to work really hard to avoid all the things in the Bible that people don’t like. We don’t like the rules, commandments, and requirements. We don’t want a Lord and Master. We want to be in control. Our culture and some churches try to find a way around it by watering down the message to the point where it’s doable, believable, acceptable, palatable, more friendly, fits into our own substitutionary ideology, or is less costly; but choosing to bypass it or ignore it doesn’t make the Bible, the word of God, untrue or irrelevant. It’s really about what we’re willing to believe or accept, and for many the word of God is unacceptable. Unfortunately, we miss the point and think that what we are giving up or denying ourselves is greater than what God can give us, so we change the rules to fit our own reality. Again, we want control.
Nebuchadnezzar was accustomed to being “Lord and Master”, being in control, defining and determining his own reality. His subjects and slaves obeyed or died. He always got his way, until God showed up. While Nebuchadnezzar was impressed and entertained by all of God’s signs and wonders, he wasn’t ready to give up his lordship and mastery of all that he surveyed. He wasn’t ready to surrender or give God control over his life.
“25You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Daniel 4:25-27 NIV
This is the third and final round of God’s test of Nebuchadnezzar. God gives him one last opportunity to acknowledge-confess that the “Most High” alone is the sovereign supreme ruler of all things, the Lord and Master. Along with this acknowledgement the king would also have to deny himself, repent of or renounce his sins by doing what is right, to be righteous and holy. Nebuchadnezzar would have to change, conform, or transform into what God wanted. God wasn’t negotiating terms. He was dictating them. God doesn’t surrender to our will. We surrender to His.
In Philippians 4:9-11 (Above), the Apostle Paul says, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue acknowledge (confess) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The word “Lord” in this passage comes from the Greek word κύριος(Kyrios) meaning “lord and master”. The Apostle Paul throughout his letters refers to himself as a slave of Christ, but that doesn’t mean that God is an unfair or cruel slave master like Nebuchadnezzar, even though our culture would like for us to think that. What God has to offer us is “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). He wants to give us the “desires of our hearts” (Psalm 34:7). Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that if he acknowledges God and renounces his sins, he’ll get to keep his kingdom, but he refuses. Nebuchadnezzar still wants to be the Lord and Master, to be in control of his own fate.
When Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” in Matthew 22:37 (The Greatest Commandment), He means everything, “ALL”. We surrender everything to follow Him, our whole being and identity. We are no longer our own. This is “the kicker” of following Christ. “The kicker” is an expression that means “an unexpected and often unpleasant discovery or turn of events.” When Jesus told the rich young man in Matthew 10 that he would have to sell everything he owned to follow Him, it was an unexpected and unpleasant discovery. If we read the Bible, we will discover that there are rules, commandments, and requirements. There is a cost. It’s unavoidable, but there is so much more, infinitely and eternally more. While obedience to God’s commands and self-denial may sound unpleasant, it is ultimately what will deliver the life of abundance and freedom that we’re searching for. Yes, there is freedom in obedience. We may have to give up some or everything to follow Jesus, but we gain so much more in return. Sin or getting our own way may promise freedom, but it only lasts for a season and then we’re stuck with pain, loneliness, fear, uncertainty, guilt, shame, suffering, and collateral damage, which will cost us a lot more in the long run.
9If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 NIV
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC