Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” –Matthew 16:24
Kyle Idleman, the author of Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, writes an excellent challenge which fits nicely with the way our first study of Matthew 16:24-28 ended last Sunday. Focusing on Jesus’ words from His teaching in Matthew 16:24 (also in Mark 8:34 & Luke 9:23), he draws attention to the word “anyone”:
See, when Jesus invites anyone to follow him, He doesn’t just break down the barriers that keep so many people from learning more about God. He also gets rid of all the excuses different people were hiding behind. So now the tradesmen had no excuse not to follow a rabbi. Now the drop out student couldn’t complain about his past anymore. Now the mother of four couldn’t say she never got a chance to learn from a rabbi.
So what has your excuse been? I think most of us have been holding off on a relationship with Christ because we say we’re busy. So what is it for you? Is it because you’re too busy with putting in hours at the office?
Is it because you’ve really been focusing on your marriage lately? Is it because the kids need a lot of time and attention? Is it because times have been tough and you just got a second job?
Others say it’s because they’ve got a past they’re not proud of. So the baggage from the addiction or the divorce or the bankruptcy has been your excuse for a long time. It’s easy to hide behind those kinds of excuses, because who’s going to argue with someone who’s been through a tragedy, or someone who’s been emotionally scarred? But Jesus gets rid of all the excuses when he invites “Anyone.”
Anyone is welcome to have a relationship with Jesus. Anyone.
Sexual past? Anyone. Ex-con? Anyone. Inmate? Anyone.
Recently divorced? Anyone. Legalist? Anyone.
Alcoholic? Anyone. Pot head? Anyone.
Addict? Anyone. Hypocrite? Anyone.
Now, we need to be ready for what can happen when we embrace the invitation to “Anyone.” Because if anyone can come to church, that’ll kind of mess things up. All of the sudden, the church gets filled with a lot of “un-churched” people. If we really accept “Anyone” into our churches to follow Christ, we’ll be forced to deal with our unwritten codes. We’ll be forced to get out of our comfort zones and rub shoulders with people from different backgrounds and social circles, people who have different music collections and recreational activities than us, people whose wardrobes confuse or annoy us, people who are hard to tolerate and even harder to love. But followers are willing to break down walls, trash the unwritten codes, and welcome “Anyone” into God’s family right alongside Jesus.
Some of you are probably thinking, “Wait a minute! We can’t just let anyone into our church! We can’t just let people show up and invite them into God’s family and tolerate anything they want. That’s not Biblical!” And you’re right. That’s not Biblical. I’m not saying we tolerate or condone anything sinful. When a person wants to become a Christian, it’s right to make sure they understand what God’s Word allows and what it doesn’t.
But when Jesus makes the invitation, he says, “Anyone.” So some of the people who respond to that invitation will have a past that you don’t approve of. Some of them will have been involved in lifestyles you’d be embarrassed to hear about.
Fans don’t know how to handle new people like that. They prefer not to know. Fans prefer things to be shallow and comfortable. But followers are willing to listen, willing to hear stories of brokenness and sin and still welcome those people with open arms.
WOW! I share with you this challenge because I believe that it hits all of us where we live. I pray that we all grow in our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. I also pray that if you are a follower who’s been living like a fan you’ll stop…and if you’re discovering that you’ve lived your whole life as merely a fan, you’ll heed Jesus’ call to become His follower–His disciple–His child.
By Grace Alone,