SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Following Jesus Requires Giving Your All
Key Verse: [Jesus] said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Mark
This teaching of Jesus reminds us that it is not easy to live as a true follower of our Lord. When Jesus said these words, he was dividing the men from the boys, so to speak. He was making it clear that real discipleship is costly, and only those willing to pay the price need apply for service.
The concept of costly discipleship makes no sense to us when we are children. We can easily embrace Jesus as our Friend or Shepherd when we are young. As we mature, however, there comes a shining moment when it dawns on us that following Jesus is not a game but a way of life. More than that, we realize that it is all sham and pretense unless we are willing to make a total commitment of our lives to Jesus.
It was like that for me. I grew up in the church. My kindergarten teacher pinned a little lamb on the calendar on each Sunday I was present. I felt good about Jesus. He was my Friend. He was kind and loving to people and he wanted me to treat others as he did. Being a Christian seemed like a wonderful way to live, and I wanted to be one.
Then in my teen years I began to realize my sinful nature. I wanted to be a Christian on my own terms. I realized I was not fully surrendered to Jesus, nor was I ready to take that step. I wanted people to think that I was a true Christian but in my heart I knew the cold truth. I wanted control of my life.
This led to several years of inner struggle. I did not share my feelings with anyone, but inwardly I was tormented by doubt. Perhaps the stories of Jesus were mostly myth. Perhaps he was indeed crucified, but the resurrection of a dead man from a grave seemed most unlikely. Perhaps the best that Christianity can offer us are ethical principles, based on the teachings of Jesus that can help us a “way of life” that is called Christian.
I heard other people talk of “knowing Jesus” personally, but my own experience was mostly head knowledge. Jesus was not a real person to me but a historical figure, much like Moses, David, or Jeremiah. I had no sense of his actually being “with” me.
Then there came a moment that changed all that. No words can better describe what happened to me than Wesley’s words: “I felt my heart strangely warmed”! In a moment of time, I believed, and Christ became real for me. I invited him to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart, and for the first time, I felt the assurance that he had done exactly that. My doubts melted away, and the reality of the living Christ flooded my whole being.
Peter must have struggled with doubt. As he followed Jesus in the early days of his ministry, Peter must have wondered, “Who is this man? Is he only a man, or is he more than a man? Can he possibly be the Messiah?” Then that shining moment came for Peter on the day Jesus asked the question, “But who do you say that I am?” It must have seemed like the sky suddenly had parted and Peter knew, beyond any doubt, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah!
Clearly Peter had more to learn. No sooner had he expressed his conviction that Jesus was the Messiah than he failed to understand the need for Jesus to die upon the cross. But are we not all like Peter in that? We make the great discovery that Jesus is all that the Bible says he is, but we still have much to learn!
At first what we want are the benefits of being a Christian – the forgiveness of our sins, peace with God, and the respect of others. Then our casual attitude is jolted by the discovery that what Jesus wants of us is everything we are and have. He will settle for nothing less than total surrender. We can follow him only by giving our all, by taking up our cross, whatever it is, and denying ourselves the comforts we thought we deserved.
The more I share the companionship of Christ on life’s journey, the more I realize that I can only get home by the way of the cross. I must continue to give up “my rights” and value nothing only so far as it can be used to honor Christ.
It meant a lot to me that my dad and mother were proud of me. I want very much for my family to proud of me, to feel good about calling me their Dad or Granddad. But more than anything, I want to live my life so that God my Father will never be ashamed of the investment He has made in my life. I was never ashamed to be the son of Walter Albritton Sr. and now I want never to be ashamed to be known as a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
For that to be a reality, I know that every day I must become a little more willing to lose my life for Christ. I must be willing to pay whatever price he asks of me, giving my all and not holding anything back so that he can gain glory from my life. The people I admire the most are the ordinary people who have given their all in absolute surrender to Jesus.
The bottom line is clearly this – I can only save my life by giving it away in the service of Christ. That is never easy no matter how long we have walked with the Master, but it remains for all of us the costly price of genuine discipleship. Ponder this question: What is it costing me to follow Jesus? + + + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)