Have You Been Avoiding Jesus?
Over the previous eight years, there have been more seasons than I can count that I’ve avoided Jesus at all costs. This doesn’t mean I didn’t believe in God or realize my need for salvation. I simply wasn’t willing to make Him the center of everything I am. For me, following Jesus isn’t something I do half-heartedly. I’m either all in or I’m not in at all.
The majority of the time, during these seasons of my life, there’s an underlying sin I’ve allowed to dominate who I am. I find too much comfort in rebelling. I can beg for forgiveness all I want. Until I’m ready to repent, it’s really of no use. Sure, I’m forgiven of my sin. But I’m also still enslaved to it. This is how it’s always been for me, anyway. I enjoy what’s controlling me. The last thing I want is for Jesus to get in the way of the false feeling I experience.
In my opinion, too many of us take advantage of our faith being what saves us. We don’t see faith in Jesus as being an action word. We view it as something we have when it’s convenient for our lifestyle. Sure, we believe He died on the cross as the penalty for our sins. After all, the last thing we want is to spend eternity separated from the presence of God. We want to do as little as required. We’re like the student willing to take a C instead of putting in the work for a B+ or an A-.
When we’re willing, to be honest, I think too many of us can wholeheartedly relate to what I’ve written so far. We want to keep Jesus at a distance. We want to be close enough for salvation, we just don’t want to get any of Him on us. After all, Jesus wouldn’t want us to be uncomfortable, would He?
Read: Learning How to Follow
Normally, when I write something, I begin outlining the message I want to share. After it’s completed, I search for a verse or passage that ties into what I’m wanting the audience to comprehend. This article is different. I read something a few days ago and my mind has been stuck ever since, trying to figure out how I could lead someone else to feel as I did when the passage got my attention. I’ve started writing a few times just to stop and delete what’s been written. My prayer is that someone will read the words I’m putting together now and the Holy Spirit will work in their heart similar to how He did mine almost a week ago.
In chapter five of the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus is being followed by a large group of people. The gathering starts to become so large that Scripture tells us the crowd was pressing in on Him. Think about that for a minute. Everyone in the area would have been trying to get as close to Jesus as they could. This was starting to become the normal routine everywhere He went.
All of these people were flocking to Jesus. They’d heard the stories of Him teaching with authority and an instance or two of miraculous healing. They wanted to see for themselves. Still, there were a few people who didn’t have any interest. There was a group of fishermen who’d left their boats to wash their nets. Simon, who went on to be named Peter, was one of these men. He’d go on to do amazing things for the glory of God.
Peter went on to preach the sermon at Pentecost that led around 3,000 people to Christ. He led the church in Jerusalem and wrote two letters in the New Testament. Still, on this day, he wanted nothing to do with Jesus. While the crowd gathered, Peter stayed focused on the task at hand. He avoided the Man we would go on to spend the rest of his life proclaiming. There was a plan, though.
Due to the size of the crowd, Jesus decides to climb into one of the boats, putting himself in a position to have to speak with Peter. You see, while Peter wanted nothing to do with Him at the time, Jesus went out of His way to pursue Peter. No matter how much the fisherman tried to ignore God, he had to at least acknowledge His presence. He had to respond. This is a tactic Jesus still uses today. I can say this because more than once, I’m the person He’s forced to at least acknowledge He was there.
Again, more than once during the last eight years, I’ve deliberately avoided Jesus at all costs. This gives me the experience to now help others making the same mistakes that I’ve made. If you can relate at all with anything I’ve said and want to begin following Jesus again, here are a few steps to guide you along the way. No, these aren’t three steps to becoming a better version of you. They’re three steps I’ve had to take more than once to place God at the center of my life.
Allow Jesus to Speak
If you’ve been avoiding God for a while and you’re aware of His absence in your life, you have to be willing to start somewhere. You have to allow Him the opportunity to speak. That’s all He needed with Peter. Jesus asked him to put the boat a little offshore so He could address the crowd. That was easy enough. As soon as He was finished speaking to the people, He asked Peter to pull into the deep to give them some alone time. All He needed was the slightest opportunity, and Jesus went on to produce a miraculous catch of fish.
It’s no different with us today. In my case, I was too sorry to give Him an opportunity to touch my heart. I allowed shame and guilt to create even more distance. Instead of coming home like the prodigal son, I’d act like Judas and head out even further. Eventually, I’d find myself with a rope around my neck every time. Until we’re finally at a place where we’re willing to hear God speak, we’ll never be able to listen.
Acknowledging Our Sin
As I said, Jesus gets Peter out into the deep and tells him to drop the nets. Peter informs Him they’ve already been fishing all night, but he’ll try anyway if it makes Jesus feel better. They ended up hauling in so many fish, the nets began to break. Peter had to signal his partners to come help haul the fish in.
When Peter is able to fully take in exactly what’s happening, there’s only one response. He falls down to Jesus’ knees and tells Him, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” When we’ve put so much effort into avoiding God and out of His love, He still takes interest in us, there’s only one response. We have to be willing to confess our sins. We have to make sure He knows we understand what we’ve done and how thankful we are for His mercy.
This allows us to identify our need for God and His forgiveness in a way that cleanses our hearts. It gives us an opportunity to say out loud we know where we’ve been wrong and we’ve felt the depravity of our sin. We know that without Him, there’s no hope for us. Only then are we able to place Jesus in His rightful place in our lives.
A Willingness to Follow
When the fishing trip finally comes to an end, they make their way back to the shore. Peter, James, and John were each left astonished at the number of fish they’d caught. I live in an area surrounded by lakes and I love to fish. Fishing has been a part of my life since I was six years old. Still, I’ve never caught so many that I was left astounded. The DNR has set limits here in Indiana. Legally, this isn’t possible.
When all is said and done, these men leave everything they have and follow Jesus. Keep in mind, these were commercial fishermen. It wasn’t a hobby. This is how they made a living. They just caught the biggest catch any of them had ever seen, and they leave everything and follow wherever it is Jesus wants to take them. They don’t ask where they’re going or who else is coming along. They’re not concerned with how long it will be before they make it back home again. They’re willing to follow God wherever He wants to take them.
After allowing Him to talk and then acknowledging what we’ve done wrong when Jesus shows that He still loves us no matter what has happened, our response has to be the same. We have to be willing to follow wherever it is He wants to take us.