Around here, we think of becoming a follower of Christ as a fairly simple process. Understand why the Gospels were written, accept the witnesses the New Testament provides, acknowledge our need for God, respond to it in faith and locate a church in which to be baptized and serve.
For many, the hardest part is walking down the aisle of that church to make that public profession of faith. For others there are repercussions throughout their families, adjustments that must be made. There are a lot of lessons to learn after following Christ. Some of them today aren’t really easy. That hasn’t changed.
Peter comes to mind first. Enthusiastic, over the top Peter. He is such an example of the highs and lows, yet the consistency of love that goes with being a Christian. He just couldn’t accept the idea that Christ must die. Then, as now, Jews were looking for an earthly Messiah, one who would come to free them from tyranny and set up a kingdom here on earth. Instead, Christ spoke of the heavenly Father, a kingdom in heaven and a sacrificial death ahead of him. Peter protested. His protests drew a response from Jesus.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, 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. (Matthew 16:23 KJV)
That had to hurt. Not as bad as the look he received just before the crucifixion, though.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75 KJV)
He had not held to the faith that God was in control, that what happens is within His will. Even the tragic, unexplainable, life-costing events in life – even the works of the fallen who would have taken His place – our all-knowing, all-caring God is aware of what is coming. Even when it hurts, as Peter hurt, and wept bitterly.
Another example is Paul. Opposed to the doctrinal challenges Jesus posed, Paul sought with great fervor to eradicate the followers who claimed to have seen the risen Christ. To believe their stories would not change so much how he perceived God, but how he perceived those who taught of him. With the authority to destroy, he changed on the road to Damascus.
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:4-5 KJV)
It must have hurt when he stood up, sightless.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (Acts 9:8 KJV)
Yet, neither man left Christ, instead they followed His commands and spread the word to the point their names are held in high esteem today as examples of men who served others all their lives, in the name of their Lord.
Paul beseeched others to do the same, seeing it as reasonable service.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1 KJV)