The other day I heard the classic sermon: the epitome of Christian messages. In just a span of ten minutes, a pastor explained the whole story of Christ: his life, death, and resurrection, and then called anyone who hadn’t “accepted Jesus into their heart” to do so now. It was the first time in a long time I had heard a message like that, and it left me slightly empty inside. I felt like this because I know that by following Jesus and being his disciple, there’s so much more to life than just accepting what he says and being the one in charge—the one who has him come to us instead of us running to him. Yes, it is true that Christ first loved us and pursued us, but aren’t we also called to love him with everything? To pursue and follow him even unto death so we can then experience the resurrection and blessings of being children of God?
Sadly, I believe much of the church has been fooled if they think they “converted” someone by having them simply accept Jesus into their hearts and nothing more. When Jesus first called for his disciples, he didn’t say, “Hey man, accept me into your heart and you’ll have a blast in Heaven.” Instead, he said, “Follow me.” Every time. In fact, there’s no place in scripture where Jesus talks about us accepting him into our hearts.
So where did this bizarre notion come from? Well, if we look at our consumerist culture, we consume everything. We’re always asking, what’s in it for me? Books, movies, TV shows, relationships, jobs, etc.—there are very few things we don’t consume and drain. And, reflecting back, I’ll admit when I first began following Jesus, I prayed the sinner’s prayer and “accepted Jesus into my heart,” but I wasn’t really following him. For a few years, then, I always envisioned Jesus coming to me and sticking by my side. I was in charge, and no matter where I went, he would always stay with me.
Now, some of this remains true, such as the fact that Jesus never leaves us, and he promises this at the end of Matthew. But my problem was that I put me in the center. Jesus came to me, and instead of surrendering everything to him, instead of denying myself, picking up my cross, and following him, I was just clutching onto him. And of course, when other things came up that caught my attention, I’d grab at those things, too. But soon enough, I wasn’t able to carry everything.
At that point in my life, I had a choice: either drop Jesus and the notion that I could stuff him in my cluttered heart, or drop all my clutter and follow Jesus.
I’m so thankful to say that I chose to follow him.
Now his spirit is with me, and it is him who is in charge, not me. The fact is this: Jesus accepted us, not the other way around. He paid the price and then called us to follow him. It’s so simple, but not easy.
Sometimes it may seem like I’m upset or counter things widely accepted by Christians, but it’s because Jesus teaches so much stuff that we often ignore. I believe what many Christians teach is good, but it’s not the best. It’s milk, and we desperately need meat.
So let’s accept the truth that Jesus is Lord and follow him with full abandonment. Because accepting is good, but following is even better. And the greatest thing about following is the fact that you have to accept what you’re going to follow at the risk of not following something else, whereas you can simply verbally accept something without following it.