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Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy

Dedicated Christians understand commitment

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Posted: February 8, 2008 9:30 p.m.
Updated: February 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    In the joy and excitement of becoming followers of Jesus, new Christians may not understand the nature of their commitment to God. It is important that those who teach others the way of the Lord try to help them grasp the fact that they are beginning a journey that will involve temptation and even suffering. An informed faith, although perhaps inexperienced, involves more than the hasty promise to Jesus: "I will follow you wherever you go." (Compare Matthew 8:19) It requires an understanding of the self-sacrificing nature of Christianity, and a willingness to follow God when other concerns compete. In response to this Jewish teacher’s perhaps sincere but rash affirmation of loyalty to him, Jesus gave the surprising admonition that “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus insists that we take into account the losses we must take if we are to walk with him along the way.
    And yet, it’s doubtful that all Christians - especially new ones - understand the scope of what is be involved in following Jesus faithfully. Matthew follows Jesus’ comment about the difficulties of discipleship with the surprising refusal to allow even the burial of a beloved parent. “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21, 22). At first thought, Jesus seems callous and uncaring about the most heart wrenching of emotional losses.          But we know that Jesus was – and continues to be – concerned about the pain we feel at such times. “Jesus wept” at the death of his dear friend Lazarus (John 11:35), not only for his own loss, but the pain felt by Mary and Martha as well.  
    But when it comes to making a commitment to follow Jesus, the Lord wants us to grasp something of the true concept of uncompromising devotion to him.  This is why we are denied even the option of choosing loyalty to family over faithfulness to him (Matthew 10:21, 37).  This is why Paul could “consider loss for the sake of Christ” everything he had viewed as worthwhile before that decisive day outside the city of Damascus (Acts 8).
    Matthew, Mark and Luke – men inspired by the Holy Spirit – tell us about a young man with great wealth who came to Jesus and wanted to know what he needed to do to have eternal life. (See, for example, Matthew 19:16-22.) Jesus told him, in spite of his faithfulness to the Law of Moses, that he lacked something. His deficiency was revealed as a spirit of greed and selfishness. He wanted to follow the Lord, but not enough to give up what was really of greatest importance to him.
    The modern world, like that of Jesus’ day, often makes discipleship simply a matter of choosing between good and evil. Our commitment may also require of us the willingness to position in second place anyone or anything, if they compete with his claim on our loyalty.
    Larry Sheehy is the preaching minister at Statesboro Church of Christ. He can be reached at (912) 764-5269 or sborococ@frontiernet.net
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