Why do you follow Jesus? Is it because of what you will gain in the process or because of what you can give? Jesus led a life that had one purpose: to sacrifice His life for others. If we would walk in the way that He walked, this is what we must do as well. If we don’t love Him enough to give up everything for the sake of His mission, then we cannot perfectly follow in His footsteps. We must be willing to love Christ regardless of any reward; we simply follow Him out of our love for Him and our gratitude for what He gave up for us.
Many of us came to Christianity because of the offer of eternal life. It’s a great benefit, to be certain, but would we have been so drawn if the promise of our relationship with God did not include the promise of Heaven? Would the sheer knowledge that the Creator of the universe desired to interact with us be enough if there were no other reward? It’s important to remember that Heaven is the eventuality, not the goal. The goal is to love God with all our hearts and to love and serve those around us. (Matthew 22:35-40). The mission of Jesus was to redeem His people, and our mission is to carry that message to the world.
While He was here on earth, Jesus did not live in luxury. He was constantly on the road in an effort to touch as many people as He possibly could before His time was up. Are we doing the same? My adult life has been spent climbing the ladder of business success, providing a nice home for my family and securing my retirement in the future. None of that looks like Jesus. I suspect you are in a similar situation. This is what has to change. We have been sold a bill of goods in the past few hundred years about what it looks like to be a follower of Christ. We have gotten very good at practicing a Western flavor of Christianity that has very little to do with the life Christ told us to live. We gather in large buildings to worship and devote a tiny sliver of that budget to actually carry out the mission of Jesus as it is defined in the Bible.
I have a challenge for you: obtain a copy of your church’s annual budget and compare it to Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27 and Isaiah 58:6-10. My guess is you will be mortified. We spend money on heating and cooling costs, lawn and building maintenance, office supplies and holiday decorations. Add up the items that specifically relate to the Scriptures above and see what percentage is being spent on the mission of Jesus. Before you feel too judgmental however, let’s also turn the same mirror on ourselves. Let’s take a look at our own household budget. What percentage of our own money are we dedicating to doing the work we have been commanded to do? Regardless of what our lips may say, the evidence seems to point to the fact that we are more interested in the reward of Heaven than in the beauty of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Our priorities have to change. If being a Christian is not about following Jesus simply because of who He is, then there is little point. If our faith in Him is not proven by the way we live our lives, then there is a strong question of whether or not that faith will actually save us and bring about the eternal life we are so desperate to achieve (James 2:14-17). Until we are ready to follow Jesus simply because we love Him and desire to be in relationship with Him, we will simply be practicing an empty religion that looks nothing like what God designed for us. We don’t marry for the sake of what we might acquire when the marriage is over; we marry for what the relationship will be throughout the journey. It is the same in our relationship with Jesus Christ; it’s not about what happens when we die, it’s about what happens while we live.
I look forward to spending eternity with Jesus in Heaven; I am definitely eager to obtain the peace and rest He promises. But I don’t want to wish away the years of getting to know Him while I am still walking this planet. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to serve Him and grow in my relationship with Him. I want to take hold of each moment I have been given to get to know Him better and to share His love with the world around me. This is my aspiration; more than anything else I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I want to obey His commands out of love, respect and trust in Him. I want Heaven, but I don’t want to miss a thing between the now and the not yet. So why do you follow Jesus? Is it for what you will gain or perhaps to protect what you might lose? Or is it simply for the sake of knowing Him? Do you struggle like me in maintaining perspective and the proper priorities in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts and encourage you to leave a comment below. Let’s be real with each other and simply tell it like it is. We are all together on this journey. As for me, I definitely want the reward, but not at the expense of the relationship. Even if there were nothing else, I’d still choose Jesus. I have a long way to go, but this is my desire; He alone is my hope.