At the close of such a sad moment in Jesus’ ministry—the crowds retreating into the distance and leaving Jesus behind to question the commitment of the twelve–we find that Jesus knew full well that the decision of the multitude to leave only marked one type of spiritual failure. For at that time, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve” (Jn. 6:70–71). Many people, like Judas, will hang in the shadows of discipleship, staying around Jesus and the faithful, and yet betraying their Savior in the end. They do not see themselves that way, but it is unlikely that Judas did either. That fact should cause all who lay claim to being disciples of Jesus Christ more than a moment to pause and reflect on the seriousness of their commitment.
People do not like to look at their failures and their consequences in stark reality. They never see themselves as the villain or the enemy, despite desperately clinging to a friendship with the world (Jas. 4:4). They do not see their sin or their rejection of plain Bible teaching as denying Christ, but He does (Mt. 10:33; Jn. 12:48). So when their hearts grow cold and their faith weak, they step away from the truth of the gospel because they have trouble facing that truth. And so they betray their Savior—maybe not all at once, maybe not visibly to anyone else. Nevertheless, slowly but surely Satan turns their hearts so that they no longer feel close to Jesus but rather are ashamed of the gospel message and salvation’s plan He died to bring them (Rom. 1:16).
My friends, the moment you turn away from following Christ, you are rejecting everything that brought you to Him in the first place. Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). To turn away from following Him—whatever He asks, whatever the cost—is to choose hopelessness. No better offer lies at the door. We have this opportunity, this grace extended to us because God loved us—not because we are lovable (1 Jn. 4:19). “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). Therefore, to reject any part of what discipleship requires is to reject God’s love and trample on His heart.
This is an excerpt from Kevin’s new book, Follow Me: A Call to Authentic Discipleship, available through Hopkins Publishing or through Amazon.com. You can check out Kevin’s other books as well. Just click on the Books page link in the upper right of this page.