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Curious, convinced or committed?

sausagerollHaving failed to give up meat for Lent due to a particularly tasty sausage roll, Rev Matt Stone asks whether we are really committed to following Jesus or simply making the token gestures of the curious and the convinced?

Anyone who has been to Ipswich Road URC’s weekly coffee drop-in will know how delicious Muriel’s sausage rolls are.  They are simply irresistible and I have to confess that I have quite a weakness for these homemade delicacies. Last Friday, I tucked into one with a particular sense of delight.
 
I wasn’t sure why I enjoyed it so much, or why I felt slightly guilty for eating it so quickly at the time, until I mentioned it to my wife, Jenni, when I got home. As the words were coming out of my mouth, I stopped and remembered that we had both given up meat for Lent...
 
A few years ago, I gave up chocolate for Lent. Well, I tried to, but was thwarted by some kind person at a Bible study offering me a Chocolate Hobnob. Without thinking, the banned food passed my lips.
 
All this failure has got me thinking on two different fronts. First, how and where do I inadvertently sin? I simply didn’t connect Muriel’s sausage rolls with my pledge to give up meat for Lent. Where else do I fail to make connections and act in ways incompatible with being a follower of Jesus?
 
Secondly, do we miss the point of Lent with our half-hearted token sacrifices? We commemorate Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and prepare ourselves for the greatest sacrifice in history by... giving up chocolate for 40 days?! How does that even begin to prepare us for Easter or help us understand what Jesus suffered for us?
 
Paul urges us “in view of God's mercy, to offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is [our] spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).  Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
 
There are no half-measures when it comes to following Jesus. This is something we really need to reflect upon, something which is so at odds with the culture that we live in. So many people try to be occasional Christians, coming to church only when they need a spiritual boost or when they feel obliged to, giving to God only the loose change of their lives.
 
The cross shows us that Jesus went all the way for us, gave everything for us. I don’t know about you, but when, as a teenager brought up in a Christian family, I realised just what Jesus had done for me, I wept. I wept because I realised how wretched and undeserving I was. I wept because God’s grace and love overwhelmed me. We can’t truly look at the cross and remain emotionally detached.  Jesus died for me. Jesus died for you. It’s personal, and it inspires us to follow him. It inspires us to give him our all.
 
I’ve heard it said that everyone Jesus spoke to fell into three categories: the curious, the convinced and the committed. And we have to ask ourselves, which category do we fall into?
 
The curious came along and heard Jesus’ preach. They liked his stories and miracles. They got excited by the party along the road side as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It was entertainment on a Sunday morning. But there is a limit to what the curious will give up for Jesus.  They like their comforts slightly too much to tithe, their trust is still in the things they can touch and hoard. They are happy to be spectators, but they don’t want to be participants. They don’t want to tell others about Jesus – they’d be too embarrassed. They certainly don’t want to walk to the cross with Jesus. They are at risk of losing their lives as they try to save it.
 
The convinced are a bit further along. They are faithful in coming along to church, and they get involved, and they know that Jesus is Lord. They know that Jesus speaks truth. They may even try and live as Jesus said where it isn’t too unpalatable. But they feel slightly too inhibited to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. They can’t quite give God their all, even though they know that Jesus gives us His all. And as a result they don’t experience the blessing of joyful abandon – knowing that their lives and eternity are held only in the hands of the King.
 
Finally, there are the committed. The disciples, including Peter, often made mistakes. They often misunderstood Jesus. But I have the greatest respect for them because of one line in the Gospels: “At once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18). That’s their response to Jesus’ call.  They were not just curious. They were not just convinced that Jesus was worth following. They were committed – so much so that they left everything and trusted their lives with Jesus.
 
We need to get away from making token gestures in Lent and, instead, offer God our all.  “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Are you curious, are you convinced, or are you committed?


Rev Matt Stone is a minister in the Norwich Area United Reformed Churches.

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