Several years ago, our student ministry team took a group of high school seniors to New York City for a special graduation trip. While visiting Times Square, one of the students informed me that he had purchased a “Rolex” watch from a street vendor for $69.95. When I explained the difference between an authentic Rolex and a cheap imitation, he was somewhat disappointed but, nonetheless, he was happy to have a souvenir to “impress” his friends back home.
A few weeks later, I saw the student at a youth group meeting and asked him how his watch was holding up. Somewhat embarrassed, he informed me that the watch was now broken and that it also turned his wrist a rusty green color. We both had a good laugh over what happened, but a valuable lesson was learned. There is a big difference between an “authentic” Rolex and a fake imitation.
When it comes to being a follower of Jesus Christ, the world is looking for authenticity, not fake imitations. There are far too many people who call themselves Christians, but in reality, they are just putting on a show. They may know the “Christianese” language by saying the right things and doing the right things when around church folks. However, when it comes to being in the world, they just blend into whatever environment they are in.
In the Bible, Jesus reminds us what His real, authentic followers look like. In Luke 9:23-27, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (ESV).
In these verses, Jesus is calling His disciples to surrender everything for Him. When we become followers of Jesus, He expects us to be “all in” for Him. When Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, He went “all in” for us. Denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily means that we are putting away our old sinful ways and lifestyles and turning completely to Him. We put away our ego, our desires, our wants, and our ambitions and turn them over to Jesus.
When we are baptized, we are symbolically buried with Jesus in death and raised to the newness of life. An authentic follower of Jesus is someone who puts on His selflessness, His patience, and His sacrificial, unconditional love. We are called to surrender everything to Him and to be His witness in this world. Each day, our lives should be an open, living testimony of His saving grace, and we should never be ashamed to share the gospel.
The world is watching us, church. My prayer is that you will not have one foot in the church and one foot in the world. I pray that you will be “all in” for Jesus and that people will see that you are the real deal and an authentic follower of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through your words and your actions.
Please know that I love you all, and I am praying for you. If you have specific prayer requests or anything that I can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn Swanson is the president of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and serves as the senior pastor of Bayside Baptist Church in Chesapeake Beach.