What does it mean to follow Christ? Is it the product of a momentary emotional decision, or a lifelong pursuit marked by sacrifice and self-denial?
In his sermon “Barriers to True Discipleship,” John MacArthur explains what Christ meant when He said, “Follow Me.”
“Following” in itself implies a future, implies continuity. It implies something beyond the moment. And in the present tense, that implication becomes explicit. Keep on following Me. You might even say, “From now on in your life, follow Me.”
That really is not typical of the modern style of calling people to discipleship or evangelism. Modern evangelism would lead us to believe that becoming a Christian is a matter of a moment, not a lifetime. It’s a matter of an accepting of Christ. It’s a matter of an emotional experience to which you were led by fiery preaching or heart-rending stories or music. Whatever might be used to induce a person to a moment of emotional breakdown where they will pray a prayer, make a decision, accept Christ, that seems to be the direction of modern evangelical evangelism. All they have to do is grab that moment, say that prayer. And if they don’t know what it should be, we’ll give them a formula to pray. And that’s all it takes to become a Christian.
Christ’s standard for His followers was much higher—so high, in fact, that Scripture repeatedly tells us that His following dwindled over the course of His public ministry.
One passage stands out in particular when it comes to understanding the true standard for followers of Christ. Luke 9:57-62 unfolds the story of the Lord’s encounter with three men who professed a desire to follow Him, albeit on their terms. Christ’s dialogue with each man exposes the nature of their hearts, and their unwillingness to sacrifice personal comfort, temporal riches, and family relationships.
In “Barriers to True Discipleship,” John MacArthur examines this familiar episode from the gospels, and gets to the heart of each man’s divided loyalties. As he explains, the same fleeting concerns that distracted them from following Christ wholeheartedly can easily trip us up as well. We need to be vigilant when it comes to our own hearts, and drive out any inclination to divided loyalties and competing interests. We must be willing to deny ourselves at every turn, understanding that no sacrifice is too great for the sake of following Christ.
“Barriers to True Discipleship” is a convicting reminder of how easy it is to be caught up in this world and distracted from the work Christ has called us to. And it’s a helpful reminder of why so many who seemingly want to follow Christ fall away from the pursuit when discipleship demands self-denial. This message will inform how you understand your own faith, and sharpen how you call others to repent, believe, and follow Christ.
Click here to listen to “Barriers to True Discipleship.”