In seeking to purchase a mobile phone, my father’s desires and mine are worlds apart. He could care less about whether the phone has a camera or not, or whether it is compatible with the 3G technology; to him, a mobile phone is a device he needs in order to be able to make and receive voice calls as well as send and receive text messages; and isn’t that what a mobile phone is? Not to me. I care whether a mobile phone can connect me to the internet through various means; whether by WiFi of by GPRS, edge or 3G technology. I want my phone to edit my word document as well as read my pdf files. I want a mobile phone that can download, as well as play my audio and video files. My most recent attempt at purchasing such a device got me a Nokia E75, just perfect for me, could do all I wanted and much more. This is not a commercial as you’d soon find out. I used it for about 8 months and the screen went blank, I replaced the screen, it worked for a few months and the fault relapsed. I had to give it out, I was tired of the headaches. But that didn’t change my desires, I am adamant about needing a mobile phone that can do much more than voice calls and sms. God was merciful; a brother lent me his blackberry for a little while.
Many people purchase mobile phones not because they can perform the basic functions for which they bear that name, they rather do so because of the other things which the device can be used to achieve. But a mobile phone or a smart phone, call it what you may, has a way of reminding you of its primary functions. No matter what you’re doing with your phone, be it playing a game, or watching a movie or listening to a song or chatting with a friend, once a call comes in, every other thing pauses; it needs urgent attention. That wonderful device reminds you that I’m not a camera, neither am I a media player. I’m a mobile phone it says. But hey, in the first computer studies class, you’re taught that a computer is a moron; in effect, you can always disable incoming calls or shut out network functionalities while you do what you want with it.
There was a man named Jesus Christ. When He was on earth, he had many followers. In any city or town he went to, the Bible records that “multitudes followed Him” (Matt. 4:25; 8:1). Just like people today in the 21st century purchase mobile phones for a variety of reasons, so did they follow Jesus Christ for a variety of reasons. Some just followed as mere observers, some followed Him because their friends or family were in the crowd—socializing, some followed Him for entertainment or amusement, because of the signs which he did, while some others followed Him simply because they were His friends. Some followed Him because he asked them to “come and see” or follow me, while some followed Him because of food. (John 1:39, 43; 6:26).
The man Jesus Christ Himself was a simple looking man. There was nothing on Him that would draw unnecessary attention to Him. He was foreseen by a prophet named Isaiah as having “no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” (Isa. 53:2). Even among those who followed Him were those who despised him ; they hung around Him in order to find a fault in Him with which they could exterminate Him.
Well, that was over two thousand years ago, people should have better reasons for following Jesus today. They should have better reasons than merely observation or joining a band wagon or maybe because of food. We have additional information, so I think we should have better reasons. Interestingly, not much has changed. The fundamental reasons why people follow Jesus today are as the same as why they did two thousand years ago.
Many follow Him because of such things as power, money, fame, miracles and socializing. To say it as it is, our TV screens, billboards and all available media are bombarded with such phrases as “come to Jesus and receive financial breakthrough”, “come to Jesus and receive power over witches and wizards”, “come to Jesus and He will surely solve your health problem”. Jesus is presented as one whose friendship should be sought because he is a quick solution to our material and “spiritual” problems. And the Christian experience of many remain shallow as they never go beyond the solution seeking level. I think a question that begs to be asked is “can Jesus give all these?” obviously yes, but that’s entirely different from whether He always does. It also begs another question “can someone else, say Satan, give all these as well?” the answer is yes. He promised them to Jesus in order to tempt Him (see Matt. 4:8-10). Sucess also, can be achieved by hardwork and not necessarily by religious affiliation, anyone can have money, fame, power and all these things without necessarily professing faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45). There are many in the world today who we’ll regard as financially, academically, professionally or politically successful while they profess no faith in God. i.e They are acclaimed atheists. An example that readily comes to mind is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook, and one of the youngest billionaires in the world, he has achieved a level of success which is enviable by Christians while he professes no faith in God. And Professor Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian writer; he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first person in Africa and the diaspora to be so honoured. He sees the concept of a supreme being as a myth.
A gospel truth is that Jesus died for such too. If Jesus is a quick solution to the problems which they don’t have, I wonder what the attraction is for them. Besides this, Jesus Christ is particular about His mission on earth and about why he wants people to seek after Him. He came in order that we might have life and have it more abundantly by saving us from our sins. (see John 10:10; Matt. 1:21). Maybe that’s why John records thus “many believed in his name, observing the signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them. For He knew all men.” (John 2:23, 24). It is stated here that Jesus does not commit Himself to relationships where He is sought because of “all these things” which he says will be added unto us when we seek Him for the right reasons. (see Matt. 6:25-33). He reinforces this fact once again in the sixth chapter of the gospel of John. After He had miraculously fed five thousand with bread, people followed Him but “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal on Him.’” (John 6:26, 27). Jesus realized that they were seeking Him because of food, and He sought to divert their attention from the food which perishes to one which last till life everlasting; in a bid to do this, He said “I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51). A ridiculous idea to his hearers (see v52), as ridiculous as it is today, a time which was predicted as “when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Tim. 4:4,5). It has almost become ridiculous today to invite people to repent and turn from their naturally sinful ways; the psychologists and feel-good speakers might just remind us that such a comment put down people’s self esteem. Sin, the very purpose for which Jesus came, has in this post-mordern world become an old vocabulary even in the mouth of professed followers of Christ, replaced with such words as mistake, bad habit, alternate lifestyle and so on, but the greatest want of the world still remains that of “men who do not fear to call sin by its right name”.[i]
Jesus, the Desire of ages, has become to many, a name that needs to be euphemized and adorned and spiced up in a manner in which He would not commit or entrust Himself to. The power of the Holy Spirit to convert hearts is an unpopular gospel message today, it has been replaced by an obsessive power to get money and healing and food and academic success and all these things which Jesus says He would give us if only we would seek him for the right reasons. Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.
In the first century, when the Apostles, with their sweat and blood, were laying the foundation for the widespread of Christianity; they turned the world upside down with this same Jesus Christ whom they preached; people had needs too. They had health needs and financial needs and all other kinds of needs. Signs and wonders accompanied their preaching and ministry, but it was never their focus. They preached Jesus Christ and His mission, and it was enough for them. They told the people what they needed to hear and not what they wanted to hear or see. “The Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:22, 23). He says, we don’t give what they want, we simply give what God has told us to give, whether it pleases their itching ears or eyes or not. The Apostle Paul, a representative voice of the 1st Century apostles says “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), which also means preaching His resurrection too.
The message of the crucified Christ and what it represents was enough for Paul. Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer serve sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over Him. (Rom. 6:6-9). The message of the crucified Christ, yea, the risen Christ is that of a total make over from sin unto righteousness; a death of the old sinful self unto a life daily sanctified by the Spirit of God and that is why we should seek Jesus, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).
Mankind, both rich and poor, young and old, sick and healthy, male or female, powerful or oppressed need to recognize sin as the greatest problem, yea the greatest sickness which they have and which can ultimately destroy them, and that Jesus is the only solution. Could we all realize this; in the words of Lidie Edmunds, we will need no other evidence, and it will be enough for us that Jesus died and rose again.
We would, like Job be able to serve God for nothing but for love. The adversary still accuses every faithful follower of Christ before God as one who cannot serve God for nothing except for the accompanying benefits. “Does Job fear God for nothing?” was the question he asked God, and Job proved himself; how much more should those who have witnessed the love of Christ displayed on calvary. Ellen White writes “It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him.”[ii]
The evidence that one is a true follower of Christ is that of a transformed life. White writes: “Those who accept Jesus as their personal Savior will live lives of humility, patience and love. They did not give themselves to the Lord for the sake of the profit they should receive. They have become one with Christ, as Christ is one with the Father, and daily they receive the reward in being partakers of the humility, the reproach, the self denial, and the self-sacrifice of Christ. They find their joy in keeping the Lord’s ordinances. In true service they find hope, and peace, and comfort; and with faith and courage, they go forward in the path of obedience, following Him who gave His life for them. By their consecration and devotion, they reveal to the world the truth of the words ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’”[iii]
Jesus came for one mission alone. So that mankind will not perish in sin. The most popular bible verse, the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of the gospel of John reads thus “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. Take a moment with me to imagine that this text is worded differently. For example, “that whoever believes in Him, will not be poor but have abundant wealth” or “that whoever believes in Him will not die of cancer but will be healed”, the analogy lends itself to however wild your imagination can be. If these were the flimsy reasons for which Christ died, what a waste Christ’s death on the cross of calvary would have been?
It is enough, that Jesus died and rose again for me.[iv]
[i] Ellen G.White, Education, pg 57
[ii] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pg 480
[iii] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Jan. 5, 1897
[iv] A sentence from the hymn “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” by Lidie H. Edmunds