66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
John 6:66-68, ESV
To be an authentic follower of Jesus can be really hard sometimes. There doesn’t seem to be any contingency plan for anyone who is looking to escape. Jesus either is, or He isn’t our Lord. The question is posed daily, “Do you also want to leave?”
That’s a question that will be asked to every disciple–I will hear it every morning for the rest of my life.
These are moments when I must make a decision. Will I take up my cross and go with Him? I’ve looked around and there doesn’t seem to be any room in Jesus’ band for ‘almost’ disciples. But Jesus loves Peter, and Jesus loves me. I believe this.
“And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself],
And take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].“
Luke 9:23, Amplified Bible
Being obedient to Jesus is far from easy these days. Today’s cross is waiting for me as my feet hit the floor each morning. I’m afraid at times that I won’t be able to take the next step as a true follower. Am I just fooling myself? Will Jesus keep helping and holding me? (Matthew 11:28-30.)
All of heaven seems to stand on tiptoe to watch and see what I’m going to do next.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.”
You really start to gather them when you’re middle-aged. I’m 62 now and am surprised (and somewhat disturbed) by my memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of getting old. But that’s the deal.
I guess what really bothers me the most are all the missed opportunities.
I wonder what life could have been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away.
I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of a 70-year-old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”
The solution to our regret is to focus on God’s total forgiveness. Past, Present, Future.
Paul clearly saw what lay ahead of him. Heaven was his destination, and, it’s our calling as well; it’s where we truly belong, made righteous in the loving presence of Jesus.
Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time for me to lay aside all my foolishness and rebellion and instead live for God. Enough is enough.
“You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”
1 Peter 4:3
Thinking about my past keeps me humble and broken (which is no small thing)! But it also cements me into the joy of His marvelous amazing grace. I now know Jesus’ love.
Oh the joy I have of being forgiven!
David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness. He wanted us to believe in it as well:
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
“We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear-and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.”
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
Definitely, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But ‘condemning another’ is His exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.
It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor.
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together.
And yet out of our ‘hot mess,’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, is it not strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, need to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
There are certain people who are just stuck in this seemingly endless cycle of sin. Oh, I feel conviction. Oh, I confess and repent and I receive forgiveness. And then the next day it happens all over again, and they are in this seemingly endless cycle. There are two truths that we have to embrace here. They are not mutually exclusive; they are perfectly compatible.
It is a good thing for you to see your sin.
You need to feel the conviction of the Spirit on the one hand, but God doesn’t want you to stay in that mindset. He says “When I awaken your heart to the reality of how you’ve fallen short, come quickly to the throne of grace and look at the many ways in which I have dealt with that sin. I have put it behind my back. I’ve buried it in the depths of the sea. I’ve blotted it out. I’ve trampled it underfoot. I turned my face away from it. I won’t gaze upon it.”
And it’s the power of that truth that will enable us to break out of this cycle in which so many people find themselves. It’s a cycle in which they just live in constant fear and trepidation. Oh, maybe I’ve done it one too many times, and God’s just so fed up with me that I’m going to be cast aside forever.
Live now in the freedom and the joy of knowing that you are forgiven fully and finally.
I’ve actually heard people say, I envisioned myself coming to the Lord once again and him saying, ‘Oh no, not you again. The umpteenth time and are you just expecting me to forgive you over and over and over again?’ And they live in fear that God’s just going to run dry and not have mercy, that he’s going to run out of grace.
And God has said, “Look, it’s good that you recognize the ways you have failed. I don’t want you to live oblivious to the fact that you have disobeyed in an unrepentant and high-handed way. But know this: I have dealt with that sin. The punishment that deserves has been exhausted in Jesus. Live now in the freedom and the joy of knowing that you are forgiven fully and finally, and let that be the power to break the cycle of the constant repetitive falling back into these old ways and these old patterns of the past.”
“Live in the fullness of your freedom in Jesus.”
Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at SamStorms.org.