february 20th - Follow Jesus
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matt 16:24-26 (NKJV)
If you grew up in an Evangelical Church setting you are probably familiar with the song, "I have Decided to Follow Jesus." The lyrics are simplistic; therefore, nearly impossible to forget.
I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.
The cross before me, the world behind me, The cross before me, the world behind me, The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back, no turning back...
I have sung that song countless times. With an authentic fervor in my heart and tears running down my cheeks I meant every word, only to stumble and fall under the weight of my own fleshly desires. Herein is the question one must ask: "Does Jesus want me to get up and try again or has He grown tired of my feeble attempts to fulfill my promise to follow Him?" The conclusion that a person draws in answer to this question is telling. If I am driven by the guilt of my failure, I am in danger of following in the footsteps of Judas. If I believe that God is love--and that His love does not fail--and that His love is revealed as mercy, grace and kindness--then I get up, dust off, pick up the cross and try again.
When I think of how Jesus restored Peter, I am filled with hope. When I read the story of the Prodigal Son and see how the Father greeted him and restored him, I am filled with hope. When I realize that God's love has no end--no hidden limitation--and that nothing can separate me from that love, I am compelled by love to follow Jesus. This is the one issue in life where I know that I need to double-down on my conviction and once again declare: "I have decided to follow Jesus."
Author's Note: There is no Gospel according to Judas in the Bible canon. It is kind of a shame. How amazing would it have been to have had the story of Jesus from Judas' perspective? I know that some probably find the idea ludicrous; however, Judas could have repented and asked for forgiveness. It is true that he betrayed Jesus, but I am confident that he would have received mercy and grace had he repented and returned. I could make a strong case that the two most influential Apostles in the early church were Peter and Paul. Both men failed Jesus in their own right and repented. The rest is a history... RJD