Following Jesus is not like being a groupie who thinks the Son of God is cool. In the New Testament, it was no small thing that Paul did, converting completely to Christ and following him. Paul had everything going for him. He was the up and coming star in Judaism.
Paul had the Jewish pedigree, the intelligence, the personality, and the drive to become one of the greatest Pharisees of all time. But he forsook it all in order to know Christ (Philippians 3:1-14).
It might be hard for us to imagine just how significant Paul’s turn around was; on a much smaller scale, it would be like Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers (give me a break – I live in Wisconsin), at the height of his career, leaving football altogether in order to become a missionary to remote places that no one knows much about. Many people would think he is throwing away something valuable and important. So it was with Paul. People thought he was nuts for becoming a Christian.
But this is to misunderstand what is really of greatest value. In our society there are messages and voices proclaiming to us every day what we really need. Whether it is economic security and accumulation of stuff, or emotional security and self-protective behavior, a genuine Christianity of revolving all of life around the person and work of Jesus can easily get lost in an ocean of competition.
On a practical level, it is much too easy just to toss following Jesus on the smorgasbord of good ideas that we get handed each day.
Jesus can be lost to us on the plate of life with the mass of other food that is piled along with him.
Whenever I talk with non-Christians about Jesus, what he has done and what he means to me, they typically celebrate that reality. I have gotten a response of “I’m glad that works for you” more times than I can count. “It’s not my thing, but I’m glad you found happiness in Jesus.” It is so much more than that. All people need Jesus Christ, and to know him crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again. The distinctive of Christianity is that there is no other Name by which we can be delivered from brokenness and an empty way of life except Jesus.
The core value and heart of Christianity is a faith and love relationship with Jesus, to know Him. This was the cry of the Apostle Paul, and it was so valuable to him that he gave up everything in order to pursue Christ and follow Jesus.
If we ever strip Christianity of its true value and lose sight of knowing Christ, the vacuum will be quickly filled with all kinds of other stuff, like church attendance, perfunctory prayers, and clean living.
The cry of Paul’s heart was to know Christ (Philippians 3:10). Paul did not simply want to sign-off on right doctrine, but wanted an intimate experience of Jesus. Paul desired this so much that literally everything, when compared to Jesus, is rubbish. In the ancient world there were no landfills and dumps; instead, the street served as the place people threw their garbage and it would get trampled into the ground. That is how Paul thinks of even the best things in life as compared to knowing Jesus.
There is no comparison between a freshly grilled T-bone steak and microwaved liverwurst; there is no comparison between a billion dollars and a penny; there is no comparison between the Packers and the Vikings (keep in mind I’m still in Wisconsin); and, there is no comparison between Jesus and anyone or anything else, no matter whom or what it is.
Saint Augustine, who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries, described life apart from Jesus as “disordered love.” By that he meant that we pursue whatever our affections are set upon. One might love family, friends, job, and hobbies, but if Jesus is absent or has to compete for our affections in the middle of those things then it is a disordered love and the solution is to rightly order our love by having Jesus as the premier object of our affection. Scripture puts it this way: repent and believe in Jesus.
Knowing Christ is meant to be a profoundly intimate affair of experiencing the depths of Jesus each and every day of our lives.
It is further meant to be enjoyed together with a group of like-minded people who share the same values and pursue the same affections. This is church as it is meant to be. Don’t settle for being a groupie; instead, follow Jesus as the surpassing greatness he truly is.