A Very Lonely Path for a Genuine Christian
John 21:18-22 Amplified Bible (AMP)
18 I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, when you were young you girded yourself [put on your own belt or girdle] and you walked about wherever you pleased to go. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will put a girdle around you and carry you where you do not wish to go.
19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. And after this, He said to him, Follow Me!
20 But Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, following—the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper and had said, Lord, who is it that is going to betray You?
21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, Lord, what about this man?
22 Jesus said to him, If I want him to stay (survive, live) until I come, what is that to you? [What concern is it of yours?] You follow Me!
Have you ever been desperately lonely despite the throng of family, friends, buddies at work and brethren who surround you every day? You do? Well, don’t be too concerned about it because it is standard procedure for all those who want to follow Jesus. “No way José, that’s just not true,” is what you probably may say.” OK, let us take a quick peek at Peter and see whether we can affirm whether following Jesus is the most lonely path there is.
I just love brother Peter. If there ever was a man who drew buckets of living water from the well of truth, or shall I rather say who prodded Jesus – and, may I add, quite unintentionally – to present him and the other disciples with his deeper spiritual truths, it was brother Peter. None of the other disciples were so candidly upfront, outspoken and blunt as he’d been most of his life, and seven and a half times out of ten he managed to put his foot in it. However, it was his foot in it that led him to learn so many precious truths.
Consider for a moment his very brave but very sincere declaration, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” when Jesus told his disciples that “All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” And all the other disciples seconded their brave brother’s resolve to follow Jesus, even into death. “They must have thought, “Well, if you can do it, brother Peter, so can we.” Helloooo, they must have known more than the God who created everything and knows everything before it even happens.
Or, think about the moment when brother Peter rebuked his Lord and said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” and Jesus very sternly scolded him with the words, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” The slightest appreciation for the things of men over and above the things of God disqualifies anyone to follow Jesus. In fact, this very thing of not wanting to feel lonely, rejected, scorned and trampled upon by others is the very thing that prompts Christians to compromise the truth. They will rather set aside God’s truth (his doctrines) and try to find common ground so that their relationship with family, friends and brethren may not falter. The Emergent Church fraternity who boldly call themselves followers of Jesus, are guilty of the relationship paradigm at the expense of truth and sound doctrine.
Neil Livingston, a leader in the Emergent Church said:
The truth of the Bible, like any truth, is not best seen ‘objectively’ . . . Where then can I find authority that I can be sure of? . . . As we said before we cannot simply ‘go to the book.’ Truth cannot properly reside as a mere proposition on a paper. Truth lives in persons and relationships.”
In an interview Betsy Hall had with Trevor Hudson on 15 July 2013, he responded in the following way to her question, “How have you seen the Holy Spirit deepen relationships between people?”
I think one of the ways the Spirit deepens relationships is by growing awareness in us of the sacredness of other persons. This leads us into a much greater responsiveness to those around us.
Jesus never said that man’s inherent sacredness should inspire us to respond to peoples’ spiritual needs. It is man’s inherent lost-ness that ought to inspire us to proclaim the Gospel to them so that they may be restored to a right relationship with God and be saved. Jesus did not come to the world to make man aware of his own sacredness. He came to the world to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
In the follow-up question, “And where have you seen the Spirit’s work through reconciliation and restoration in South Africa?” he responded as follows.
The Holy Spirit is the Great Includer, always at work widening our little circles to include those we exclude. Wherever I witness this happening in South Africa, I know the Spirit of Christ is powerfully at work. Also when I see people who have been painfully hurt extend friendship and forgiveness to those who hurt them, this for me is a miracle of the Spirit.
Beware of the word “widening” Mr. Trevor Hudson. It reminds too much of the wide gate and the broad way or path. (Matthew 7:13).
Rick Warren of the Purpose “Driven” paradigm said something similar to Trevor Hudson,
. . . You may be Catholic or Protestant or Buddhist or Baptist or Muslim or Mormon or Jewish or Jain, or you have no religion at all. I’m not interested in your religious background. Because God did not create the universe for us to have religion. He came for us to have a relationship with him.”1 (Emphasis added)
If the Holy Spirit is the Great Includer and wants to be in a close relationship with everyone, irrespective of what they believe or worship, then Jesus grievously contradicted the Holy Spirit when He said,
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38).
The cross is God’s sword. It divides and cuts asunder relationships between holy and unholy, saved and unsaved, godliness and ungodliness and it is then when Christians often feel loneliness, rejection, denunciation and rebuff.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
I remember having many friends when I gallivanted with them in just about every worldly entertainment there is. And then, when I was saved and wanted to tell them about the wonderful thing that happened to me – whoosh, they were gone. I was even more disillusioned when the brethren I started to fellowship with, began to turn their backs on me because I warned them against false teachers and their doctrines.
One little group of brethren who asked me to lead them in a Bible study every week, suddenly changed their countenance towards me (Genesis 31:2) when I warned them against preachers like Angus Buchan. – and whoosh, suddenly they were gone. They were very courteous in their approach. They did not ask me to leave but told me they had some other business to attend to first and would invite me back as soon as they’d finished. I am still waiting. Most people want Jesus but not his truth. They want Him to bless them with abundant health, wealth and prosperity but soon turn their back on Him when things go wrong.
Rob Bell says in his book Velvet Elvis, page 167,
Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn’t really love, is it? It’s something else. We have to discover love, period. Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender our agendas.
NO, Mr. Rob Bell, loving someone because you want to see them saved, is NOT an agenda because God who is the essence of love and sent His Son to die on a rugged cross to save lost sinners is NOT an agenda. It is pure unadulterated love, period!
If an agenda is not true love then Jesus Christ’s agenda (itinerary) to seek and to save lost sinners when He came to our world is not love (Luke 19:10). Imagine Jesus having had to surrender his agenda because He teaches a love that just loves without presenting lost sinners the truth. It would never have been necessary for Him to die on the cross and hence no one could ever be saved.
Does it mean that saints should never be friendly with unbelievers and “Christians” who proclaim another Gospel? No, of course not. However, as soon as you elevate your relationship with others above God’s Word and his doctrines, you are not only disobeying Him but also doing those whom you may have had an opportunity to win to Christ by proclaiming the Truth to them, a gross disservice. In fact, you are standing in God’s way. A relational gospel which excludes God’s Gospel truth is no gospel at all, or it is at best another gospel of which there is none. (Galatians 1:6-7).
Jesus never compromised his truth in favour of good relationships. He once asked his disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” when some of his followers abandoned Him because He said something they did not like and offended them (John 6:67). When is mother and his brothers sought to speak to Him while He was preaching to the masses He bluntly chose his Father’s will as a much higher priority over his relationship with his closest of kin and even said, “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50).
Was Jesus being unloving when He said,
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37-38).
NO! saith the Emergent Church fraternity. Relationship is the rock of our salvation. It is the “Comm-UNITY of faith, love and hope” that makes us true followers of Jesus Christ.
The wielding of the double-edged sword of God causes division and not a lovey-dovey kind of relationship that never challenges lost sinners to make a decision for or against Christ. Jesus said your own family members will become your enemies when you wield his double-edged Sword of unadulterated truth (Matthew 10:36).
Brother Peter was a slow learner but whatever his Lord taught him he never forgot and followed it to the hilt. When Jesus told him what manner of death he would suffer in obedience to God and in honour of his Name, he turned his eyes upon John, the apostle of love and said, “Lord, what about this man.” Surely, this man who leaned his head on your breast when we ate the Last Supper with you, this man who loves you so dearly, surely he must also be willing to follow you into death as I am willing to do. No, my dear brother and sister in Christ, you cannot expect others to follow Jesus with you. You, like them and all the saints after them, must follow Jesus alone. They cannot follow Jesus with you. Jesus said “You follow Me.”
A very lonely path it may be.
However, when saints keep their eyes fixed on their Savior, Jesus Christ, it is the most glorious path to follow.
Proverbs 18:24 Amplified Bible (AMP)
24 The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. [His Name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God).
1) United Nations, Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, September 2005, transcribed from the audio of Rick Warren’s message available at Lighthouse Trails Research Project, “The New Missiology—Keep Your Own Religion, Just Add Jesus” at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newmissiology.htm; below Rick Warren’s quote — “Listen to entire transcript.”