Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cheerleaders or Disciples?

We spend quite a bit of time talking about the men (and women?) who readily left everything to follow Jesus when He called, but other folks came to Jesus thinking they wanted to go with Him, but often walked away without making a commitment.  Why was that, do you think?

Several articles I read recently framed these events as Jesus weeding out the weak ones ahead of time so they wouldn't hold Him back.  I really am not comfortable with that scenario, though, because if He was going to weed out anybody, it would have had to have been Judas, right?  Plus, I'm not comfortable with the thought of Jesus rejecting people who come to Him, are you?

When we look at the stories of the scribe, the rich young ruler, Nicodemus and the others who came to Jesus, we do see Jesus saying some tough things to these guys even though they really sound sincere.  The scribe comes up to Jesus and tells Him that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes.  But when Jesus explains to him that He is essentially homeless, the scribe vanishes.  In his study guide called “What Keeps Men from Christ?”, John MacArthur quotes Bible commentator Lenski when he compares the scribe to someone who sees a military parade: “He sees the soldiers on parade, he sees the fine uniforms, he sees the glittering arms, and is eager to join, forgetting the exhausting marches, the bloody battles, the graves, perhaps unmarked.”  This is a man who is essentially saying, “My life is great, but I'd like to add Jesus in as well.”  I liked what MacArthur said when the scribe isn't mentioned again. “He probably  wasn't around.  He left in the white space between verses 20 and 21.”

Others offered Jesus part of their lives, maybe later, maybe in my spare time, if I can fit You into my busy schedule, if my wife, husband, mom, dad, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend will come with me, if I don't have to do anything too uncomfortable or too hard or that I don't want to do...they wanted to be part of the show, close to the power, but not have to get in the middle of things.

I read an article called “Disciples, Followers, and Cheerleaders” by Gary North, which, oddly enough had almost nothing to do with Christianity.  It did, however, talk about the kind of commitment the would-be disciples had in mind.  They wanted to be groupies or cheerleaders.  North pointed out something that I had really never thought about before, and it came as a small shock to me.  Maybe you're way ahead of me here, but check it out:
“A cheerleader seeks attention.  He (or she) wants to be seen. ... He wants to be seen on the winning side.
“Cheerleading is an American institution. It serves no useful purpose, but it is always there at high school and college [and pro] football and basketball games.  Where there is a large crowd to see the team, there will be cheerleaders.  With sports where there is no crowd, there are no cheerleaders.
“Cheerleaders pretend that they control the crowd.  The crowd pretends that their organized cheers in some way help their team or thwart the opposing team.  They stand, they sit, they cheer in an organized way. ...These efforts have no effect.  The team pays no attention.  The outcome of the game is not influenced by the organized cheers. ...The cheerleader thinks of himself as part of the team effort.  He isn't.
“Cheerleaders want to bask in the glory of the team.  They want to think that the public recognition accorded to team members will be accorded to them....”
That might have been what the would-be disciples were wanting; to be on what looked like it was going to be the winning side, to be seen near the center of an important long as it wasn't too uncomfortable or expensive.  But not one of these people was turned away or rejected by Jesus.  Jesus explained the type of commitment needed to walk with Him and let each person make his (or her) own decision.  My personal feeling is that Jesus would have gladly accepted anyone who was willing to give up his life to follow Him.

One author in an article called, “Christ's Call to Suffering”, put it like this: “There is no place in [Jesus'] band for those who are not willing to accept inconvenience, sufferings and uncertainty.”

That'll make ya stop and think, won't it?

Am I willing to follow Jesus even if He asks me to do something I really don't want to do?  The rich young ruler wasn't.  He didn't want to give up all his money and the things that went with it.  He was like the others who came to Jesus; he wanted to go with Jesus, but... And a commitment with a 'but' is not really a commitment at all, is it.
Have you ever said to yourself, “But what if Jesus makes me go off to some poor third world country to serve Him?”  And so you've held back that part of your life from Him.  Yeah, I know, you can't fool me, because I've said the same thing to myself.  But do you know what I've learned?  Jesus doesn't MAKE anybody do anything.  He puts the option out there and it's up to you and me to make our own choice.  The rich young ruler could have surrendered his heart to Jesus and then selling everything and giving all the money to the poor would have been the one thing he most wanted to do and nobody could have talked him out of it.  And, who knows, maybe he thought it over and did decide to give it all to Jesus.  Maybe we'll get to see him in Heaven; wouldn't that be awesome?

I mean, when you think about him, the rich young ruler was the picture of what we would call a “nice young man”.  He was polite, religious, nice to children and pets, respected his elders, etc.  But when it came to sacrificing –really sacrificing, not just tossing a few bucks into the offering plate—he couldn't do it.  And I think that's where I am a whole lot more like him than I want to admit.  As Sari Fordham said in her article for Adventist Missions said, “I can give without really sacrificing anything.  Sadly enough, I have to admit that that's the way I like my good deeds.  Simple, affordable, fast.
“...I get scared of the very implications that the word 'sacrifice' holds.  Sacrifice means giving up everything.  How much is everything?  I don't think I even want to know.  The word terrifies me.  And I don't even have much.
“...Ultimately, that's what sacrifice calls for.  It calls for going out of your way.  It calls for stretching yourself in ways you never thought you could.  Sacrifice is drastic; it's life-changing.  It's what Jesus asked for; it's what Jesus did.”
“When Christ gave to His disciples the conditions of salvation, He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Self-denial and crosses lie directly in the path of every soul who will follow Jesus.”  E.G. White, To Be Like Jesus (2004) page 47.
Ya know, I don't believe we can be half-way or part-time disciples.  We have to set aside our fear and reluctance and realize that once we give our hearts to Jesus, anything He asks us to do, we will do it, even if it's uncomfortable and unpopular, not because doing that thing will save us, but because Jesus has saved us.
“To follow Jesus is to dare to keep going even when we can see on the horizon a cross...that is the cost of discipleship.”  Dr. W. Robert Abstein “Two Would-Be Disciples: A Picture of Judgment”
Ask yourself:  “Do I want to be a cheerleader or a disciple?”

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