Following Jesus is not easy.
There are so many things I don’t understand about it. There are things the Bible says are true that are difficult for me to believe. I don’t always feel sure. Jesus teaches things that are hard to accept and hard to comprehend. His example isn’t easy to follow, and it goes against the grain of what comes naturally. As Christ-followers, we’re called to die to ourselves. We’re called to deny our flesh and put sin to death. It’s sacrifice and it’s death and it’s messy and painful and just hard.
We live in a culture in which to identify sin in someone else labels you hateful. To disagree with someone makes you self-righteous and narrow-minded. To love someone means to support every decision they make, always. Acceptance means telling people to follow their hearts, wherever they may lead. We’re encouraged to create our own truth and live it. In our culture, it takes courage and conviction to stand for what God says is true. It requires bravery, and often, putting your own ideas and preferences aside.
If you follow Jesus for any length of time, you’re going to run into one of his teachings that is hard for you to swallow. The gospel is offensive. To understand the sacrificial love that Jesus embodies, you have to first understand your position as a helpless rebel, a slave to your own sin. It is good news, the greatest news of all, that He loves us in spite of us, but it’s not easy to hear. As Christ-bearers, we carry that inherent offense with us. For those who don’t believe, Jesus is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. (Isaiah 8:14, 1 Peter 2:8)
But you know what else? He is “a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6) The Bible never claims that following Christ will be simple or easy or protect you from all that is wrong in the world. In fact, the word of God is brutally honest about the difficulty you will face in dying to yourself. Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) He tells them that if they want to find their lives, they must lose them for his sake. He doesn’t promise ease or comfortable circumstances. He promises that he will go with us. He promises that through him we will find life. He promises that he is the way to the Father. He promises that he is the truth. He promises that he is the good shepherd and that he has come to give us life to the full. He promises that he has come to set us free.
And so where else would we go? In John chapter 6, Jesus gives a hard teaching. Lots of people leave. They’re offended. They don’t believe. Jesus asks his disciples if they want to leave too. Peter’s response is the same one we need to have when we’re confronted with the conflict of the righteousness we’re called to and what comes naturally. Peter answers Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, what you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
If we have believed and come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God, there is nowhere else to go. He is light and truth and hope. He is the one who is making all things new. He is the King of Kings. He is where life is found, and we need seek no further.