Early in the book of Judges, we see Israel falling into a pattern of sin that continues to plague each of us today. In Judges 1:28, we read that, in opposition to God’s command (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; Deuteronomy 20:15–16), Israel neglected to drive out the peoples of the promised land completely. They stopped short of what God commanded them to do. The Lord told Israel to eradicate the idolatrous people from the land. If they didn’t, the people might tempt them to follow other gods.
Israel drove out most of the people, but they stopped short of going all the way. They became complacent and figured what they had done was good enough. But stopping short of complete obedience to God is never good enough. It shows a lack of faith, a lack of commitment, laziness, or perhaps all the above. What it does not reflect is a sold-out devotion to Jesus.
When we only obey “part-way”, we leave ourselves open to all kinds of temptation, trouble, and sin. The reason is that partial obedience is no obedience at all. When we do just enough to convince ourselves we’re doing what God wants us to do without going all the way, we are only fooling ourselves. Perhaps to those around us, we might appear more godly, but God sees our heart. Our halfhearted attempts at commitment do not deceive Him.
Do you want to come to the end of your life knowing you stopped short of what God gave you to do? To me, that thought is mortifying. If we don’t go in all the way today, who is to say we will finish the job tomorrow? None of us are invincible, though most of us think we are. Perhaps we don’t consciously believe that, but the way we live shows we always think there will be a tomorrow. Tomorrow is not the day to go all in. If we don’t do it today, we may never get the opportunity.
Today’s churches are filled with people who are stopping short of living for Jesus. Most of the messages I hear being delivered from the pulpits in this land are preaching a message that stops short of the Gospel. We don’t need another dose of self-help psychobabble teaching us how to be better people who live better lives. We need to meet the God of the Bible, the incredible, majestic Creator of all things. When we meet Him, we will fall on our face. There will be no going back. We will have no choice but to go all the way.
When Jesus called His disciples, He said, “follow me.” That was it. They dropped everything and followed Him. When an admirer of Jesus asked if he could go bury his father before following Him, Jesus told Him (my paraphrase), “You’ve got to go all the way, no looking back. You must leave everything behind for My sake. (Luke 9:59-60)” Somewhere between the time Jesus walked the earth in physical form and now we’ve become confused into thinking we can follow Jesus in varying degrees. This is not a possibility He ever gave to would-be disciples. We must repent of our lazy and halfhearted approach to following Christ. We must drop everything, follow Him, obey, and never look back.