When’s the world’s blocked away, And if you’re looking for a rainy day, friend, Well, grab a rope, pull me in; lean on me
Grab a rope and pull me in, But lean on me, Everyday, you’ll have a friend, But lean on me – Housemartins, 1986
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. – Mark 10
Paul Heaton wrote a beautiful song I grew up with called Lean on Me; he was the frontman for the Housemartins in the 1980’s. In fact, he wrote many beautiful songs, and as well as being outspokenly political, he was also a Christian. I heard the song the other day, so I thought I’d look him up and see what he was doing these days. To my not so utter surprise, his politics had superseded his Jesus in importance. It made me ask, why do people who know Jesus, leave him for something or someone else? What could possibly be more important?
It’s a question I’ve grown up with in a Christian family; back in the day, we excused it away by saying, ‘oh they never really had a relationship with Jesus in the first place’ but that is simply not right. Others contend, ‘they never really experienced Jesus’ but that too can’t be right. The rich young ruler and many others in Scripture experienced the Son of God first hand, and still rejected him. Judas walked with Jesus for 3 years, saw everything and yet still walked away, in fact it is possibly the great tragedy of all humanity. Unimaginable.
Out on the streets, we come across a surprising number who are in the same boat. We knew Jesus once, but now, well, other things have simply taken over. Why is it that many walk away, and more importantly as a Disciple Maker, what can you do to prevent that happening?
Firstly, I walked away from God in my early teens. Baptised and committed, for some reason God and I parted company for many years. Those around me must have wondered if I would ever come back, but whoever was praying for me, I’m overjoyed I did. I am deeply saddened by those I know who are distant from God, when they were once close, even fervent. What happened?
A close look at the lives of those around Christ who believed, and then walked away reveals one important trait it seems. It is this, we come to God looking for what we can get out of him. The rich young ruler in the story above, Judas, those throughout the New Testament as well as those around us today all seem to want to know what God is going to give them. If we’ve had a normal conversion, then perhaps that is natural – we arrive at God’s feet in a state of disarray, often desperate for him to fix us up, which he usually obliges us with. Then, like the 9 lepers, we go merrily on our way ‘fixed’ and think no more of him.
But, somewhere along the process there must be a transition in our hearts that gratefully extends upwards. Our attitude changes to that of, ‘what he has done to me means my desire is so great, I ask now what can I do for him.’ No longer is it about what I can get from God, he has already given me everything he had to give in Christ, but a recognition through the Holy Spirit that he wants us to love him for who he is. Now we come to him with our heads bowed and offer ourselves as a ‘living sacrifice’ willingly laying down our lives.
For those who seek only to serve God, who have reached that point in their faith where they are so overwhelmed by what he has done for us, it seems our relationship changes. Somehow, if I can be a little irreverent, we become soul mates, inseparable by anything in this world. For those who go through life continually on the look out for what God will do for them though, the relationship seems unsettled. It is the tune of most big church evangelists in our day, preaching the prosperity Gospel – look what God will do for you if you will only put your money in the slot. Not fully understanding what he has already done, we will tire quickly of a God who stops giving us what we want, just as Judas did.
It is why, when we preach on the streets we always try to include the full Gospel; let us understand truly what we have done and how he responded, before we decide to commit. Tozer said, “it is unlikely God can really bless a man until he has really hurt him deeply.”
Such an affront to our modern selfish thinking, yet surely an antidote to our shallow tendencies with an Almighty God. Meantime, let us keep praying for those we know who are still away from God.