The Compelling Cause
Since the beginning of time people have followed charismatic leaders. These leaders were followed because they promised revolution, riches, prominence, land, or an ideological reform. Jesus was and is no ordinary leader. He is the compelling Christ, and He demands that those who would follow Him take up His compelling cause.
What is that cause?
The compelling cause of Christ is to proclaim the gospel of Christ and man's need to repent and believe that gospel. When Jesus bid Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him He promised that they would become "fishers of men". Let it be clearly stated that Christ calls men and women, first and foremost, to follow Him. Naturally, to follow Christ means to go where He is leading.
While passing through Jericho Christ led His followers to the base of a tree up which a small scoundrel named Zacchaeus had scampered. Looking up and speaking to this crooked bureaucrat Jesus said, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Near the end of His earthly ministry Jesus plainly told His followers, after they had been arguing about "place" and "prominence", "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
Followers of Christ will be fishers of men. That does not guarantee a large haul for every follower, but it does demand that nets are continually cast and mended. Followers of Jesus Christ will be committed to the compelling cause that drove Christ to the cross. God the Son was sent by God the Father to preach, to die, and be raised for the purpose of redeeming man from his sins to the glory of God. Christ said to the Pharisee Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17)
The compelling cause of Christ is not to win fame, fortune, or on fields of battle. The compelling cause of Christ is not one of safety and ease. The call of Christ is not to your best life now. In fact, Christ did not then and does not now call followers to safety. His is a call to service.
Must everyone who seeks to follow Christ quit their jobs like Peter and the gang? In order to serve the cause of Christ some may be called to leave behind a comfortable career and a certain retirement. The fact is that not everyone will be called to literally leave their jobs, but a follower but understand that his career is not his calling; instead it is where his calling is fulfilled. There should be a distinct difference expressed in the follower's work and play. How distinct? How distinct was Jesus?
Followers who embrace this compelling cause see everything that is under their control as an instrument to impact their world. Therefore, the primary role of parents is not just to ensure their kids are fed, clothed, and educated. As important and essential as those things are, the primary role of parents is to communicate the reality of Christ to their children! Children are not just little copies of their parents, they are real people who can become followers of Christ and impact their world for Him.
"The liberating reality of all this is that nothing in life is more important than Christ and His cause. All of life's decisions and attitudes are formed by this dynamic. Everything of value in our treasure chest – whether it is money, career, friends, possessions, or property – is all there for the cause. Every thing within our grasp is a means to reflect the compelling Christ to those who need Him. The early disciples not only saw Christ as a compelling person worthy of their full devotion but also heard Him call them to a compelling cause."
The Complete Cost
Christ freely offers salvation to all who will repent and believe the gospel, but there is a cost involved. Christ had to be crucified in the sinner's place. Salvation cost the Son His life; which He freely offered, and the Son says that the would-be follower must count the cost before following Him.
"And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
People will follow a leader who provides food for their belly; a leader who can heal the sick, make the blind to see, the lame to walk, the mute to speak, and the deaf to hear. Who wouldn't want to follow that guy? There are many people who will follow someone or something as long as they are getting what they want. Show me how to have my best life now and I'll be behind you 100%!
At the beginning of Christ's ministry the response was overwhelmingly positive…but uncommitted. The majority of people would stick around as long as Jesus was feeding 5,000 men with only five barley loves and two small fishes! But when He began to teach that He was "the bread of life…came down from heaven" then the crowd began to murmur. When He said "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." They became perplexed and started to quarrel, and "When they had heard this, said, 'This is an hard saying; who can hear it?'" Beginning with His "Bread of Life" sermon "many if His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him" (John 6:35-38, 51-52, 60, 66).
There is a cost involved in following Jesus. Peter and Andrew dropped their nets to follow Christ. James and John walked away from their father Zebedee who was in the boat mending the nets with them. Followership demands that the follower be willing to forsake everything for Christ. The follower's love for Christ must be supreme; even more than his love for his own family. The word "hate" from Luke 14:26 does not suggest animosity. It simply means that the follower's love for Christ must be so intense that all other love looks like hatred in comparison.
That is a high cost. That is what Christ demands of those who would follow Him.
When Christ passed by those four fishermen on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee He interrupted their routines and disrupted their careers. If they were to follow Christ then they would have to drop their nets, because followers are netless believers. What are nets? A net is anything that inhibits or prohibits our non-negotiated commitment to follow Christ.
Anything? Anything! Everyone recognizes that siren calls of alcohol, lust, greed, and the like are serious nets, but the net that entangle would be followers are not always sinful or shameful. The call to followership is costly because it is a call to complete surrender. The Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in pieces of you. He is after the whole package! Christ desires to be the primary focus of your life, not just your Sunday mornings. He seeks to be your primary concern in all of your existence, not just "spiritual" matters.
What is in your hands? To follow Christ your hands have to be empty. Your pockets don't have to be empty. Your mind doesn't have to be empty. Your heart doesn't have to be empty. Just your hands. A fully devoted follower must have empty hands. Is there something you refuse to let loose? Are your hands bloodied from rope burns where you've tried to follow Jesus while holding onto the net? Do you value your nets more than Christ?
The compelling Christ calls you to take up His cause, but there is a cost. The hymn writer Judson Van de Venter phrases it perfectly:
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.