Why do many who profess to be Christians hold back from becoming disciples, fully fledged followers of Jesus? I think it is fear, but probably not the kind you’d expect. I don’t think they fear persecution or even death. From my study and observation, I believe Christians stop short of discipleship because they are afraid of giving up personal pleasures. They don’t want to sacrifice their comforts and selfish desires. This isn’t a new phenomenon.
It can be traced back to the early church. Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD) is recorded to have said, “There are quite a few persons who hold back from becoming Christians—not because they are afraid of losing their lives— but because they are afraid of losing their pleasures.” How have we made almost no progress in over 2,000 years?
What is it you are afraid of relinquishing? Are there pleasures you hold so dear they prevent you from surrendering to Jesus? Do you really believe anything you possess in this life will be better than what is to come in the next? We live in a broken and tainted world. Everything we see is but a pale reflection of what was originally created. God created everything for our enjoyment, so imagine how amazing everything will be in its undistorted state! Whatever you love, God has something better. The catch is you will have to surrender the here and now for what cannot yet be seen. But nothing is as sure as the promise of God. This is a no risk investment; you cannot lose what matters most.
Americans and other prosperous people struggle more with this than our brothers and sisters who do not have the means to afford luxuries. We have engorged ourselves so long feeding an insatiable appetite for “more” that we no longer can conceive of a life with less. Jesus did not call us to hoard possessions or sequester ourselves in luxury and safety. He called us to give it up, every last thing, and follow Him instead. Western Christianity bears almost no resemblance to what we read of the early church. We don’t dare. We don’t risk. We don’t live like Jesus at all.
We hold back. We cling to safety and seek pleasure to salve our shallow wounds while the world lies fatally bleeding around us. It’s as if we are simply trying to buy time until we get to Heaven. In the interim, we’ll wring as much as we can out of this life for ourselves. I remind you again of Jesus’s horrifying warning in Matthew 7:22-23; you may be in for a horrible shock when you see Him face to face.
So why won’t you give it up? Why won’t you surrender everything to take Jesus at His word and follow Him? What do you possess that is worth more than Christ? What are you holding onto that provides more security than the Master and Creator of the Universe? What lies are you believing that prevent you from trusting what Jesus told you? You’re either in or you’re out (Matthew 12:30). This is the most important decision you will ever make and it may be the last moment you will be given to choose. Are you willing to move from simply saying you are a Christian to being a disciple of Jesus? You know what’s right. You know what you must do. To gain it all, you’ve got to give it up.