Forsake The World
August 22, 2011
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, inviting us to serve in His Kingdom, does He expect us to forsake all –all that is in the world –forever? Yes. We know this is the demand taught repeatedly in Scripture. Then why are “Christians” not forsaking all? Why are they going back on their commitment to / their covenant with Christ? It’s because they really don’t believe what they claim they believe. And one reason they don’t believe in the necessity of forever forsaking all is because they look around and notice some godly people who have money, nice things, and who spend leisure time with family and friends. “See,” they think. “There’s been no vow of poverty that I can see.”
However, Christ never commanded a vow of poverty. That is not what “forsaking all” means. What Christ commands of His followers is this: A vow of death to Self. This vow is necessary so that Christ (instead) may live in and through the human. (2 Cor. 5:15) It is a vow that the Lord expects us to completely abide by and uphold every single day and moment. He is the one who calls the shots. He is the one who decides who has what and who goes where. He is the one living HIS life through us! This can only be a reality if we’ve bowed in true / total submission to His Lordship. –That, then, is when we have indeed “forsaken all”. It is an issue of the heart –a heart set free of the world, or anything in it (or what it offers), including Self (Luke 14:26), so that it is able to continuously submit to the King of Righteousness.
Most people really don’t like freedom. They say they do, but they don’t. Instead they want restrictions, they want boundaries, they want to know ahead of time what is expected of them and what their limits of movement are. Just like the Israelites who rejected God when they rebelliously asked for a king –“an evil thing they did in the eyes of the LORD” (1 Sam. 12:17), people do desperately desire visible leaders. They often seem to panic when realizing that the walk of faith is just that –a walk by faith, not sight. (2 Cor. 5:7) For our walk is about hearing Christ’s voice and obeying what He alone says. (John 10:4) This is what it means to follow Christ.
If someone is elevating a man’s teachings –by identifying themselves with that man (such as Calvinists do, as well as others such as Mormons or Muslims)– then the claim, “I follow Christ” is merely a hollow claim. Jesus spoke of such people in Mark 7:6: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.'” Does their worship mean one thing? Will their worship gain them eternal life? No. Jesus says it is done “in vain.” (v. 7)
How does a person evaluate whether or not he is following Christ? The test is that he has forsaken the world and all that is in it. Jesus certainly does continuously ask us to give up things, people, pleasures, recognition –things of the world– and we know in our heart if we’ve complied. If we’ve refused, He will either judge us now –so that we might reconsider our rebellion (especially if someone is interceding for us)– or He will let us continue on our foolish, self-willed way to eternal judgement.
However, if we have responded to the amount of light and tests given us, God, as He finds us worthy, will give us harder tests so that we may continue to grow in spiritual maturity. These tests often come labeled “Suffering”, while others are labeled “Rest”. Most tests are hard, but sometimes the restful ones require the most discipline. For when the pastures are green, the waters quiet, the banquet abundant (Ps. 23:2,5), the temptation to forsake Christ is more deceptive. Suffering makes us run to our Refuge for help and answers, but what about when we feel no need for either? Do we still keep our eyes on Him? Are we still listening intently for His every command?
Unfortunately, the answer is very often, “No.” For many people do turn away from (truly / whole-heartedly) following Christ –because if the difficulties didn’t cause them to doubt, the luxuries and worldly acclaim made them forget their God. God laments over people like this: “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.” (Hosea 6:4) Sadly, they turn to human kings (counselors) for help (5:13), joining themselves to idols (4:17) as they senselessly mix with useless, ungodly people. (7:7-11) God says of them, “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD.” (5:4) But wait! The unfaithful one “cries out to Me, ‘O our God, we acknowledge You!'” (8:2) And where do they cry this out from? Within “the house of the LORD” (v. 1) –those who by their hypocrisy “have broken My covenant.” (same verse)
How do “Christians” –those who say they are following Christ– break the covenant they have with Christ? They do it by turning back to love the world. They do it by elevating the world, other leaders, and Self… –above Christ. But they think they are allowed to do this! They think that Christ will still commend them at Judgement Day! They think that once they’ve made the covenant, it cannot be broken! Christ will never break it, they say. That’s right. Because He is always faithful. (2 Tim. 2:13) But “If we disown Him, He will also disown us.” (v. 12)
“I’m not disowning Him,” many “Christians” claim. “I’m acknowledging Him every Sunday as I worship.” Jesus calls that “worshipping Me in vain.” (See Mark 7:7 again) No, the person who has embraced the world, has automatically disowned Christ; for “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon [the world or money].” (Jesus in Matt. 6:24)
“I’m not serving the world,” the “Christian” claims.
God’s Word responds to that: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Choose the world = (equals) an automatic choice to become God’s enemy. One of them (the world or God) will be forsaken, for there is only room in the heart for one devoted love. 1 John 2:15 makes this clear: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The two loves can’t coexist. “For everything in the world –cravings… lusts… boastings… comes not from the Father but from the world.” (v. 16) “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (v. 17)
Claims mean nothing –even those saying, “Lord, Lord, we are doing many things in Your name.” (See Matt. 7:21) No, Jesus states that He does not “know” those who practice sin (v. 23) even if they are claiming to serve in His name. (v. 22) For “Only he who does the will of My Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (See v. 21) –Only those who know the true God and obey the true Gospel. (2 Thes. 1:8) Belief in a “different God or a different Gospel” (see 2 Cor. 11:4) is to “have believed in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:2)
Christ-followers must forsake all. –All the world. –All that is in the world.
Here are a couple of tests by which to evaluate ourselves to see if we are truly following Christ:
1) “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19)
~~ Ask: “Am I daily fishing for men, and/or daily preparing myself to do so? If I’m not, what does this mean?”
2) “Follow Me!” (John 21:19) Jesus said this to Peter as He says it to us all. Therefore, as He asked Peter, imagine if Jesus would ask this of you: “Do you truly love Me more than these?” (v. 15) “If so, feed and take care of My lambs and sheep.” (See v. 15-17)
~~ Ask: “Is this temptation, or this desire, or this person, or this thing, or this activity… something I love more than Jesus? If not, then why am I turning away from His voice in order to participate in it? If I do love Him more than all else, have I forsaken all else so that I can minister to His sheep most effectively?”
The world must be forsaken in order to follow Christ. Otherwise, one’s claim is hypocrisy.