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I'm sure you've probably heard this story before from a history class. In 1519, Spanish conquistedor Hernando Cortés, in the beginning stages of his conquest of the Aztec Empire, ordered that all of his expedition's ships be burned. The reason for this insane scuttling of his fleet - to insure that there was no escape plan. They were going to either be victorious in battle or killed in the process. There was no way to cut and run if the situation got bad.
You know, today we live in a culture that wants to be "half in" a whole bunch of stuff. We see it in marriages, families, corporations, schools, the community, and churches. People want to have one foot in and one foot out in case things don't go according to plan. Then, they can quickly and easily slide out of any commitment situation. I know I've done it, and I'm sure you have too.
Being fully and completely devoted to anything is challenging. When you come to the point in your marriage, family, your career, your calling, your education, and your church when you've "burned the ships" so to speak, and you're fully invested in whatever you have been called to do, there is a strange kind of freedom in being "all in."
Give Me Everything
In Matthew 19:16-30, we read the story about a rich young ruler that approached Jesus regarding the important question about how he could receive eternal life. After a discussion of obeying the Ten Commandments, Jesus told the young man that he needed to give all of his wealth to the poor and then come follow Him. Unfortunately, this young man couldn't handle the thought of giving all of his wealth to the poor. The Bible says that he just sadly walked away because he owned a lot of stuff.
Have you ever read this story about the rich young ruler, scratched your head, and wondered why this guy didn’t listen and do what Jesus asked him to do and then follow Him? Here we are 2,000 years further along in history, and we Christians in the 21st century may find it easy to pass judgment on this rich, young leader from the 1st century. We’re up in our Christian ivory tower thinking we’re so much more spiritually mature than this rich guy. Hey, we’re giving, we’re sacrificing, we’re putting in the time, and we’re using our talents for God and His church.
I have a convicting thought for all of us to consider today. Could it be, perhaps, that we Christian believers in the American Church are exactly like the rich young ruler of the gospels? We live in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known. We not only have the majority of our basic needs meet (such as food, shelter, clothing, and transportation), but some of us can also get caught up in the pursuit of “luxury” desires too.
According to everything we read in the New Testament, the call to follow Christ is not an easy one. Yet, we in the American Church have created an “Easy Button” type of faith culture that says such things as: “hey, don’t really feel like coming to church this Sunday, then maybe you can catch the webcast if you sorta kinda feel like it.” Or ,“only gotta few bucks left over from an expensive holiday spending spree? Then maybe you could give your leftovers to the church to help out in ministry.” Or, “don’t feel like talking to your friends about Jesus? Well, just try to get them to a church service, and we’ll witness to them.” Unfortunately, I think that we as church leaders have failed those we shepherd, because we have attempted to make a life of following Christ easier than it really is. Being a disciple of Christ is not going to be an easy journey this side of eternity.
What Have You Been Called To Give Up?
Jesus never gave people easy options when it came to following Him. It was an all or nothing kind of devotion to be His disciple. For the rich young ruler, Jesus knew this guy had a love for money and stuff, so He called this guy out on the true “god” in his life. Jesus asked him to give all of his possessions to the poor, and then to come and follow Him. The sad part is that this rich guy couldn’t do it. He couldn’t part with his stuff in order to be Jesus’ disciple. And now, 2,000 years later, are we in the universal American Church that much different than this rich young ruler?
If you were to stand face-to-face with Jesus today, what would He ask you to give up in order to follow Him with your complete and undivided devotion? And then, here’s an even bigger question to ponder, today: are you actually willing to do what He is asking you to do in order to follow Him with your whole heart?
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