3 Reasons Not to Follow Jesus: Shelby Abbott
You want to follow Jesus. But what's it look like to be all in—with your magnetic personality, your fabulous hair, your zipcode? Jesus teaches hard things about following Him. Is He worth it? Shelby Abbott divulges his own recent path to give it all up (even that one thing) for Jesus.
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You want to follow Jesus. But what’s it look like to be all in? Shelby Abbott divulges his own recent path to give it all up (even that one thing) for Jesus.
3 Reasons Not to Follow Jesus: Shelby Abbott
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Season 1, Episode 42: 3 Reasons Not to Follow Jesus
Guest: Shelby Abbott
Air Date: June 24, 2023
Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading.
I'm your host, Shelby Abbott, and today it's just you and me. Yep. I don't have a guest joining me on this episode. Instead, I wanted to talk about a really difficult but super important teaching that Jesus gives in the Gospel of Luke chapter 14. Now, just for context, Luke 15 is one of the most famous passages in the entire Bible, the story of the lost son or the prodigal son. This is where we learned that God loves us and welcomes us anytime we screw up, regardless of how bad our behavior is and how far we've run away. But what does Jesus teach right before he gives that message of warmth and welcoming and kindness? Well, it's kind of provocative and we're going to get there. But first I want to tell you a personal story.
Several years ago, I became deeply convicted that I needed to forgive my biological father. I was listening to a podcast sermon on forgiveness and God did some stuff in my heart. And then a few years later, and I do mean years later, I got to a point where I actually was able to start writing out a letter to share the gospel and also forgive my biological father who had basically not really taken much interest in my life in about 30 years or so. Just last summer, I was able to finally send that letter to him and let him know that the slate was clean.
And as I processed writing a letter like that after experiencing so much hurt over so much time and feeling neglected by my own father. I knew I would have to go through a lot of difficult things, but I knew that what was on the other side of that forgiveness was where real life was. I thought to myself, you know, there are costs in the human experience. There are costs in the Christian life, and while what Christ offers us is always worth the price of admission, I think here's the great invitation from Jesus to you, to me, to all of us, but to you specifically in regards to following Him.
Ready? Here it is. Come and die. Come and die. And in that death, you'll find life. Well, how do I know that that's the invitation? Well, we, we can see that at the end of the Gospel of Luke chapter 14. So, we're going to look at a few verses from verses 25 through 33 here in just a second. I want to give you a little context of what's happening at this particular time in Scripture.
Jesus is really gaining traction in His ministry. His popularity has spread to the point that thousands of people are following wherever he goes. At the height of his influence, this is what Jesus chooses to say to the masses in this moment. Okay, this is starting at verse 25 of Luke 14. “Now, great crowds accompanied Him, and he turned and said to them,” verse 26. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Fascinating opening line, verse 27, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Then he unpacks that a little bit, and then in verse 33, He says, “So therefore any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Okay, so Jesus is really gone for the jugular here in a moment when by any PR standards, He should be appeasing the crowds instead of intentionally thinning them out and frankly, probably making them mad. If you're at the height of popularity on social media, you don't say stuff to like, make people unfollow you. You do just the opposite.
Well, that's not what Jesus did.
When all these people are super interested in what He has to say, and they've heard about all that He can do and that He's a messenger from God and He's calling Himself in fact the Son of God. God in human form, walking amongst fellow human beings, when all these people are drawn to the living embodiment of the creator of the universe.
Instead of communicating in this moment a message of warmth, comfort, prosperity, and attraction, Jesus chooses to communicate in this passage three things. Number one, if you want to follow me by comparison, other relationships should look like hate, in fact, hate your own life in comparison to loving Me. Number two, if you want to be My disciple, die. Bear your own cross and die. And then number three, you can't follow me unless you renounce all you have. All that you have now belongs to Me. Jesus says. So those are the three things He says to the thousands of people who are choosing to follow after Him and are hanging on His every word.
Now, what I want to do is take a look at each one of these and break them down, but not in the order that Jesus says them. And I'm calling this: Three reasons not to follow Christ. Yes, you heard that right? Three reasons not to follow Christ.
Number one, renounce all you have. Verse 33 said, so therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple now.
We might initially think that this is a call to give up all your worldly possessions or really consider all your stuff God stuff and yes, that's true. But Jesus is going after more than just material possessions here. He's asking the question, what are you doing with not only the things you have, but the opportunities that come your way based off the natural abilities I have wired into you?
He's asking that question because those opportunities don't belong to you. They belong to Jesus. So, what are you doing with all that you have? What are you doing with your career or your future career? What are you doing with those attractive physical features that you have? What are you doing with that sense of humor? What are you doing with that magnetic personality? What are you doing with your free time? What are you doing with your money? What are you doing with your phone? What are you doing with your social media accounts? If you're a follower of Christ, He calls you to renounce all that you have because you belong to Him, and therefore all you have belongs to Him.
Do you think that future career, that sense of humor, that personality, that free time, your money, your phone, your browser history, your sexuality, your social awareness and capability, you think that belongs to you? If you're in Christ, He says, renounce it all. It belongs to Me. And if you can't do that, you can't be My disciple.
But we spend all our money on stuff for ourselves, right? We spend all of our time on ourselves and what's best for me. It's all about me, my stuff, my time, my rights, my wants, my needs, my desires. And all the time, if we're honest, when we're self-focused, we're probably pretty miserable. Why? Because when we're in Christ, we're made for so much more than being self-focused.
“Renounce it all,” Jesus says, and “you'll truly have it all. Give it to Me,” Jesus says, and “you'll be more eternally rich than you've ever imagined.” Seems counterintuitive, but it's one of the most important things you can learn, adopt, and take into the center of your soul as a man or woman who wants to walk with God for a lifetime. And that's this, your life is not about you, it's about Jesus. You are not the center of the universe. He is. That’s point one.
Number two, by comparison, hate your own life - Verse 26 says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters.” Yes. and “even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” So, what He's saying is when you try to make the comparison, nothing compares to Him. So much so that even the most passionate and binding of relationships to engage with, and certainly in the culture He's speaking to at the time that puts family above literally anything else. All of those binding relationships, parents, best friends, your spouse or children one day, your siblings, even yourself, should seem like hate when compared to Jesus.
In comparison to knowing Jesus all else should pale. All of your other relationships by comparison should not compare. And here's the thing, if they do, or your loves aren't properly aligned with Christ at the top? Well, Jesus calls you to something different to something better. He calls you to be radical in the way you value Him above everyone else.
And that might be extreme, and there's definitely a weight and a gravity to truly following Jesus, but He'll help you do it. You don't have to go it alone. In fact, you can't without Him. So, let's also not forget what Luke 15 unpacks for us in the story of the lost son, the prodigal son, that comes right after what he's talking about here in Luke 14.
Maybe you don't remember that. So, it's the story of this son who runs away from the father and then is welcomed back once he loses everything, and that teaches that God loves you for who you are, not for what you've done. God says to you, I love you because you're Mine. He doesn't want us to work off our sins like we think we should.
He runs to embrace us when we turn to Him. He says, “let's celebrate. My child was dead. Now he’s come to life. [He was] lost, and now he’s found.” [Paraphrased]
All of this is true a hundred percent of the time. We are accepted in Christ. The old is gone. The new has come. We are welcomed, loved, valued, cherished, esteemed,
His. And His love for us should overwhelm us and in turn drive us to commit to the same kind of passion for Him. We should welcome Him, love Him, value Him, cherish Him, esteem Him above anyone else in our lives, even our own selves.
So, here's the truth. Let me give you a personal example. If my wife loved me more than she loved Jesus, I would be sorely disappointed. Why? Because I can't be my wife's savior. I don't want to be my wife's savior. I am not good enough for that. The extreme nature of these statements should communicate that Jesus means serious business. As someone who's born again, a Christian, a true follower of Jesus, does He love you and accept you? Yes. Should we hate other relationships in comparison to Him? Yes.
Now, of course, this doesn't mean that we hate other people. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. But we are in fact called even to hate ourselves in comparison to Him. And this is tough. You want to know why? There's never been a bigger fan of me than me.
I literally think about myself like all the time. And if you're honest, you think about yourself all the time too. But Jesus is calling us to something better when He calls us to love Him more than we love ourselves. Self-focused people are the most miserable people in the world, and Jesus knows this. He's calling us to draw our focus up to Him.
Put our lives into His care because He's the most capable being in the universe. There is literally no one more trustworthy to hand our lives over to than the one and only Son of God who loves us and gave Himself up for us.
So, renounce it all. By comparison hate your own life and finally, come and die.
“Take up your cross and come after Me,” Jesus said. I know we've been looking in Luke 14, but I want to turn over real quick to Matthew 16:24-26. It says this, “Then Jesus told his disciples, if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life, for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
Now, I like the way this passage words things because it kind of encapsulates everything that we've been talking about in a really succinct way. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. Now, what I want you to keep in mind is what his disciples must have been thinking when he said this to them. Now, when we look at this, we read from the perspective of someone who knows what Jesus did by dying on the cross, but his disciples didn't. They must have been thinking, take up your cross, Roman execution? Why would Jesus tell us to die by Roman execution and then follow Him afterward? It doesn't make any sense. I don't get it. But they inevitably did get it when Jesus Himself led the way by doing the exact thing He was asking his followers to do.
Christ will never ask you to go anywhere He hasn't first already gone. He wouldn't ask you to die without first dying Himself. He doesn't ask you to sacrifice anything He hasn't already given up. Yes, Jesus is asking a lot of his followers, but He's already done the work. Jesus was a man who constantly laid down His rights.
Listen to this from Philippians 2: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” That's Philippians 2:5-8.
So, Jesus is the Son of God, the King of the universe. When He walked the earth, He had specific rights as the King, yet He emptied Himself and became obedient to the point of death on a cross. Jesus had the right to comfort, respect, justice, understanding, and life. He was the king, right?
But when we look at His life in the New Testament, we see that Jesus constantly laid down His rights. He was constantly in discomfort. He was always disrespected. He received no justice at His trial. He was regularly misunderstood. And He was killed unfairly. Jesus embodied a life of selflessness, as an example for us to see and follow. As modern Christians and as especially Christians in the West, we have a tendency to do the exact opposite of what Christ did.
We demand our rights. We're in the business of making our rights known, shouting it from every corner of the internet, and if we believe our rights have been violated in any way, we kick and scream until our demands are met in a way that satisfies us. If anyone or anything has the audacity to step on our right to comfort, respect, or justice, for example, we're completely outraged. We've been treated unfairly, and as a result, we've grown accustomed to a belief system that feeds off the idea that we are owed something because my life is all about me.
But as Christians, that's not what the Bible communicates. We are not our own.
I Corinthians 6:19-20 says this: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God you are not your own, for you are bought with a price, so glorify God in your body.” This means I have been purchased by God and He owns me. He owns all the rights to my life because it was a package deal when He bought me and paid for it with the blood of His only Son.
The truth is, I have no rights to demand because my rights aren't even mine. They're Gods to do with as He pleases. So, when I abandon the idea that I'm entitled to my life and it's all about me, the fear I have about all the circumstances and anxiety inducing variables, they begin to erode away. If my life belongs to Him and according to I Corinthians 6, it does. I can see things in a way that help me look at all the decisions I make as decisions that belong to Him. “Come and die,” He says, and “I'll show you what real life looks like. Come and die and you'll truly live.”
Much about how we approach the Christian life in the West and in particular in America, is the idea that my relationship with God is about me. And if it ever makes me uncomfortable or sad or frustrated or confused, like I don't get what God is doing in my life right now. If any of that happens, I'm out of here. If it's not working in the way that lives up to my limited expectations, I'm going elsewhere.
If you feel that way or if you feel let down or frustrated by God, let me say this, just because Christianity may not be working for you right now in the exact way you want it to, doesn't mean it's not true. It means you are not able to see what God sees from His infinite perspective. He's able to see, grasp, and control every aspect of the universe, including every detail of your life. And if we trust Him, even when it doesn't make sense, we'll be able to live a life of joy because it's a life that rests in the center of His care and control.
What if our attitude with God was, hey, even when times get tough, I'm not going anywhere. The God who bought me with a price is trustworthy, loving, and good, and I'm all in with Him even when it's inconvenient for me. I don't understand what's going on in my life right now, and I can't see all the angles that God does, so I'm going to default to trusting Him because I'm limited. He's not, and I clearly have blind spots that he's able to see.
What if we did that? What if we believed that strong and binding commitments to Jesus didn't fly away in the face of inconvenience or disappointment? I think we all need to understand that our Christian life isn't meant to be comfortable. It's meant to be transformational. That transformation often happens in the context of trusting God when you can't possibly understand what He's doing in your life.
I have found that he will intentionally put you in positions where you have to trust Him, where that's your only option. Why? Because you're finally in a spot where it's not about you, and these are the best parts about following Him, not the worst. Faith when you're ignorant is by definition, true faith. Trusting Him when everything makes sense doesn't really require faith. But trusting Him when you can't possibly understand how and why He's working. Mm. Now that's, that's actually true faith, and I believe that'll change you. Come and die and you'll finally have life.
In the year 1859 Charles Blondin, also known as the Great Blondini, stretched a tightrope, a quarter of a mile long over Niagara Falls. And he walked across it in front of tens of thousands of people. He crossed from the American side to the Canadian side several times. And then he did it on stilts, which I can't even imagine doing that.
And then he did it in a potato sack, like a big sack, and he did it on a bicycle. And then he carried a stove, a stove. Out to the middle of the wire and cooked an omelet on it. This is crazy, right? And then he blindfolded Himself and he pulled a wheel barrel backwards across the tightrope.
And when he got to the American side, after he did that, the crowd was going nuts.
They were cheering for Him. They're like, this is amazing. And so, the Great Blondini, he looked at the crowd and he said, “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” And he pointed to it and the crowd was like, yes, yeah, we believe it. You could do it. And then he said, “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?”
Belief is saying, “I believe God is good and loving.” Faith is living day by day as if it's actually true. Faith is getting in the wheelbarrow. So, Jesus says, give Me everything in your life. Love Me above all others. By comparison, hate your own life. Die and follow Me.
So, here's the question, Why on earth would anyone do this? Like, why would anyone hear these things and say, yes, sign me up for following Jesus. I want to give up everything. I want to love Him so much that by comparison, all my other relationships look like hate. I want to come to Him and die to myself. I'm all in for Jesus. Why would anyone do this? And the answer is because He's worth it.
At the end of John chapter six, Jesus says some pretty hard things that draw the line, different things than what we've been looking at today, but some other difficult things that really draw the line for the crowd. So much so that verse 66 says, “Many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” [Paraphrased]
But when many of those people turn away, Jesus kind of spins on His heels and he turns to the 12 disciples left and he says, “Do you want to go away as well?” And then verse 68 says this. “Simon Peter answered Him.” Simon, by the way, either gets it totally right or totally wrong, and this is one of the areas where he gets it totally right.
“Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that You are the holy One of God.”
So why do we renounce all we have? Why do we hate ourselves by comparison? Why do we die to follow Him? Because Jesus is God and no one or nothing else is worth following compared to Him. Comfort, ease, sexuality, a life without mystery, knowing what's going on all the time. Wealth, prosperity, health feeling good - none of it is worth abandoning Jesus over, none of it. And anyone who does is trading eternal joy for the temporary appeasement of what would be the equivalent of nosing through the trash for scraps of rotting food.
Jesus is the holy One of God. The One who loved us so much that he gave up everything to be in relationship with us. The wellspring of all that is good about life. The relationship unequal to any, a loving, intimate, vulnerable relationship with your Creator - the One who made you. “Who knows you to the depths and yet still loves you to the skies.” That's a Tim Keller quote. I love that.
Imagine a thought bubble over your head. I don’t know if you read comic books. I do. But in comic books, you could sometimes read the thoughts of the characters. They have like a little bubble above their head, and you can read exactly what they're thinking. Imagine you had a thought bubble above your head 24 hours a day, and anybody could read anything that you were thinking at any time. That's pretty scary to think about because there's a lot of wicked, evil, horrible, rotten thoughts that I have all the time.
But God is able to see that all the time. He knows us to the depths. He sees us for all of our failure and, and selfishness and rottenness, and yet He still loves us to the skies. He's worth it.
He gave up his life for us, so of course he's worth it. Yeah. The end of Luke 14 is a, is a hard teaching. I'm not denying that at all. It's three reasons not to follow Jesus, but I want you to count the cost of following Him, and in doing so with eyes wide open about what He's asking of you. Sign on the line and say, “Yes, count me in.”
This is what it truly looks like to be a follower of Jesus. It starts with submitting to Him, dying to yourself, and then watching Him work in areas with your friendships, in your schoolwork or your job, your free time, your relationship with your family, your vices and addictions, your future and every other nook and cranny of your life.
Watch it start with you and then trickle down into all the other aspects of your life. Because Jesus is in the business of changing lives. That's what He does. He changes lives. Want Him to change yours? then ask Him to.
Man, I know this seems counterintuitive, and it certainly did for me when I was first learning about what are called the upside-down principles of God's kingdom - dying to yourself leads to life? Yes. Because Jesus is the one who led the way and did it Himself first. And we could always trust Him. Always.
If this episode of Real Life Loading was helpful for you, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend. And wherever you get your podcast, it could really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading, if you'd rate and review us.
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I want to thank everyone who's on the Real Life Loading team, Jarrett, Chloe, Josh and Kaytlynn. I'm Shelby Abbott. I'll see you back next time on Real Life Loading.
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