THE COMMANDMENT TO FORSAKE
Faith’s greatest test is obedience in forsaking. Because, it is investing all our trust in Him. Our faith, translating itself into deeds literally. Therefore, we might as well call it the entrance test to His school of Christian apprenticeship.
SALIENT FEATURES OF FORSAKING:
- The higher the calling, the greater the cost. Therefore, as Jesus forewarns, let us first prudently analyze the cost before venturing forward, lest we drop out midway and end up like the salt that has lost its saltiness! (Lk 14:28, 31, 33-35).
- The more we succeed in forsaking, the better we equip ourselves to obey the commandments to sacrifice and witness. Eg. Lk 5:27-28.
- Our calling becomes clearer to us as we begin to forsake. For eg., Jn 21:11, 15 – shows how Peter’s calling became clear to him.
- The call to forsake is a test that we will be taking repeatedly. For eg. As it happened in Abraham’s life (Gen 12-22). For we see that they reap a harvest of righteousness. Read James 2:23-24, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”
- When we willingly forsake, God takes our ‘little’ and blesses it to ‘abundance:
- 1 Kings 17:15-16 – the lasting provision of the widow of Zarephath.
- Matt 14:18-21 – five loaves and 2 fishes that fed more than five thousand people,
- Jn 10:10(b) – the brief life here to abundant life in eternity.
- God restores our humble forsaking with greater honor:
- Mk 14:8-9 – Mary’s perfume of anointing – what she has done will be told throughout the world in memory of her.
- Matt 27:60(a), Lk 23:50-53 – the new tomb that will remain open as the greatest symbol of hope!
- Lk 19:30-35 – the colt that gave its maiden ride to the Lord.
- Lk 22:8-13 – the room prepared for the Last Supper.
- God restores our forsaking with great blessings, so great that we are justifiably left wondering if we ever forsook anything at all. Praise God! for He is pleased to remember it always:
- Gen 25:1-2 – the impossibility that had turned into possibility did not stop with the birth of Isaac. Abraham went on to raise many more children of his own.
- 1 Sam 2:21 – similarly, Hannah continued to bear more children after Samuel so that God had filled her bosom with immeasurable joy.
- Finally, we are also led to forsake something or someone if found detrimental to our spiritual well-being (Heb 11:26, Matt 18:8-9 and Lk 9:60. Also, Deut 13:6-10, 12-18 -though an example of extreme measures of O T times).
[THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM: No man can perhaps excel or even equal Abraham who is also known as the ‘father of faith’ by his obedience in forsaking – his country, his people, his father’s household (Gen 12:1, 4-5), Lot, who’d initially rallied to his side and with him the rich pastureland along the plains of Jordan which was his by virtue of Promise (Gen 13:8-9, 11), the wealth of Sodom even though it was his by virtue of conquest (Gen 14:22-24), his son Ishmael (Gen 21:11-14) and even his promised heir and son of the covenant, Isaac (Gen 22:2, 9-12, 15).
FROM PROMISES TO BLESSINGS TO GREATER PROMISES: (Gen 12:2-3, 7; Gen 13:2, 14-17; Gen 14:19-20, Gen 15:1, 5-7, 18-21; Gen 17:1-2, 4-16, Gen 18:17-19, Gen 22:16-18) Most noteworthy is also the fact that at every cross-road of his obedience, God blesses Abraham more and more. So that we find him richly rewarded and increasing greatly in manpower and wealth (Gen 24:1).
Undoubtedly, God blesses us every step of our obedience (Matt 19:27-29, Mk 10:28-30), rewarding us with hundred-fold of whatever we might have forsaken for His sake, from this life onward. But taking our cue from Abraham we should keep our focus steady and not let it stray to the blessings of this world. (Heb 11:9-10).
FOLLY OF SHIFTED FOCUS: Otherwise, like Terah, Abraham’s father, who had initially heeded the call to Canaan but ended up discontinuing after reaching Haran (Gen 11:31-32), we’d also fail in complete obedience. Like Terah, most of us struggle to let go of what we perceive as deserved or promised blessings. It is only our ‘folly of shifted focus’ that we end up exposing. We need to understand that by blessing us God is accounting us faithful to be entrusted with more to invest upon.]
RENUNCIATION VS FORSAKING
We must also understand that Christian concept of forsaking is not the same as religious concept of renunciation. Often ‘Forsaking Christians’ are looked at with skepticism because of this lack of understanding prevailing even among the Christians. A comparative study of the two will help clear the cobweb of confusion:
- Renunciation is a voluntary act of the highest order in terms of human virtues. Forsaking, on the other hand, is an act of obedience to a personal command received from God (Lk 14:26-27).
- Renunciation usually involves renouncing everything that may be summed up as worldly living – going into seclusion, embracing extreme austerity and carrying out severe penances. In Forsaking though, what one forsakes is Christ’s prerogative and command. To one it may be something, to another something else (Lk 9:57-62).
- One Renounces to seek God, salvation, peace and freedom from bondage of life’s desires, sin and fear of death. Whereas, in Forsaking, salvation and freedom from all bondage is the reason, not the goal (Matt 19:16-21). Also read Jn 14:27, Phil 4:7, Matt 28:20.
IN THIS WORLD, YET NOT OF THE WORLD:
Jn 17:15-16 – In the world, yet not of the world. Yes, we are called to remain in the world but with detachment for the salvation of others. We cannot, therefore, renounce the world or go into self-imposed isolation.
God’s blessings and provisions strengthen us to further the cause of Gospel, provided we do not lose our vision and faithfully continue to re-invest. A vow of austerity will only be a deterrent under the circumstances.
Saints like Abraham proclaim and testify to the provisions of the Living God everyday of their lives (Gen 22:14, Rom 4:3, 18-22). They willingly forsake because they know their Provider, ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ never fails (Gen 22:14 (kjv), Ps 87:7).
By commanding the Israelites not to store up left-over manna for the next day, God taught them the invaluable lesson of continuing to look up to the Source of all their blessings. The trusting line of prayer Jesus teaches sums it all up, “Give us today our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11).
ANALYZING THE COST:
In order to analyze the cost of following Jesus, it is imperative that we understand the scriptural purview of things we might be required to forsake:
1. Worldly ambitions, even that of owning a place of one’s own. Matt 8:19-20, “…..Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” Also, Mk 8:36-37, Matt 16:26, 1 Jn 2:15-17, Lk 9:57-58.
2. Worldly obligations, sometimes even that which one feels one owes one’s own parents. Lk 9:60, “Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God’.” Also, Matt 8:21-22, Lk 9:59-60, Mk 1:19-20, Matt 10:37, Lk 14:27.
3. Marriage (not by divorcing but by not marrying). Matt 19:10-12, “…….others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Also, Rev 14:4.
4. One’s life. Matt 16:25, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Also, Jn 21:19, Lk 17:33, Matt 10:39, Mk 8:35, Lk 14:27, Heb 11:35.
5. One’s occupation: Mk 1:16-18, “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him.” Also, Lk 5:27-28.
6. Worldly ties or familial ties and worldly desires. Lk 9:61-62, “Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family’. Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’.” Also Gen 19:17, 26; 2 Tim 2:4, Lk 14:26, Lk 17:31-32, Matt 6:32.
7. The wide and commonly followed path of this world. Matt 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it“ Also, Lk 13:24-27, Lk 17:26-29.
8. All one’s possessions or wealth. Matt 19:21, “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’.” Also, Mk 10:21-22, Lk 16:9.
From all above, we are also led to understand that when one forsakes, one forsakes even that which one does not possess but might aspire to possess otherwise. For example, marriage, a career, worldly success etc.
Often we see churches making so-called doctrinal impositions. When churches stoop to impose they deprive the flock of their right to individual fellowship and calling from God. In other words, they resist the working of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. What one forsakes is entirely Christ’s prerogative, and we will do well by not meddling with it.
LEARNING FROM JESUS:
Let us now look to Jesus Who alone exemplifies for us all divine virtues better than best of men:
GOD’S COMMISSION FULFILLED BY GOD’S PROVISION: Jesus first forsook His heavenly abode and all the riches and glory associated with it to come into this cursed, lowly and perishing world to seek us. Though garbed in flesh like man, He overcame all the temptations and lure of this world (Jn 16:33). He humbled Himself like a Servant (Isa 49:1-10, Isa 52:13-15, Isa 53:1-12, Isa 49:1-10, Isa 50:10) by willingly forsaking all its temporal charm and remained obedient to the Father till the end. He willingly forsook His life at its prime. Having thus proved Himself perfect through complete obedience, Jesus, offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice.
Thus, all His forsaking geared Him for the sacrifice or the “Calling” that was exclusively His own.
PROVISION: Throughout the brief period of His life and ministry in this world, the Creator by Whom all things were created (Jn 1:3) did not seek even a place of His own (Matt 8:20). Yet, everything – from the womb to the grave was made available for Him at the appropriate time for the fulfillment of His divine mission. Jesus seeks to lead us by the same path to enrich us with total and all encompassing fellowship of God.
Next, let us look closely into why most of us fail or hesitate to forsake:
“The old wine and new which take away the understanding of My people.” Hos 4:11(b).
Heb 11 enlists great men and women of faith who forsook everything, even their lives, readily. They are people who expected great things from God and attempted great things for God.
On the other hand in today’s materialistic world, churches have more or less discarded the teaching to forsake. Instead, today’s teachings are all about acquisitions. Acquisition, apparently, to showcase one’s blessedness as the favored child of God.
Hos 4:6-12 depicts the current state of affairs vividly: “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against Me; they exchange their glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of My people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds……..”.
The new wine introduced by Jesus (Lk 5:36-39) can only be contained in new wineskins, and for that one has to be transformed by the renewal of one’s mind (Rom 12:2).
BLESSINGS OF THIS AGE: Mk 10:30(b) is very clear as to the blessings of this age – They come with persecutions! How many of us are prepared to accept our blessings with persecutions? Let us look closely into the lives of godly men and see for ourselves how true it has been for them – not just in N T times but since O T days, e.g. Joseph, Daniel, Ruth, Esther etc. And they were all the wiser for it. Persecutions help us stay detached and faithfully persevere for that which is eternal and yet to come. Like the aforementioned known and anonymous saints of Hebrews 11 exemplify.
2.MYOPIC SPIRITUAL VISION:
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Cor 15:19.
Jesus teaches, “…A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possession.” (Luke 12:15(b)). Ps 62:10(b) reads, “….Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”
Yes, forsaking also means giving up the temporal for the eternal. Matt 6:19-24 teaches, “store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven…. for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” How do we do that? By investing our blessings further. From basic trust to blessings is how God honors and rewards us. So that we may venture into greater investments as was the case with the two good and faithful servants in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:15-30)!
To the worldly-wise it might sound like foolishness, but to the spiritually discerning it is the very aspiration of one’s life – AWAITING THE ETERNAL AND TAKING POSSESSION OF IMPERISHABLE TREASURES. Read Luke 16:9-15.
3.FENCE – SITTING BELIEVERS :
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:26.
Let us stop living our spiritual life on the periphery of God’s blessings and be willing to plunge right in and invest our trust in Him. Only then will our faith begin to show forth itself in our deeds.
The passage in James 2:14-26 exhorts us to practice our faith with deeds to match. But, we find that the teaching is usually limited upto verse 17 and misinterpreted grossly. As a result, the general idea is that it is all about giving to the poor and needy only. And therefore today’s emphasis is on christian ministry that borders on social work only. We find that even people without the means going to great lengths to raise funds in support of some charity or the other. What role does faith have here?
How unlike the faith demonstrated in Peter’s work! Read Acts 3:4-6, “Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’.”
1 Cor 12:28, “…those able to help others..” is very clear. Charitable work as such is for those God has thus enabled. It is for those with the means to invest their trust in God and give to the poor and needy.
Christian services or deeds have got to demonstrate faith. If you have, then gladly give. That is deed matching faith. If you don’t have don’t ask of somebody else so that you can give. It is not faith. It does not glorify God or His power in any manner. If anything, it brings disrepute to God’s work.
DEEDS THAT PROCLAIM ALOUD OUR FAITH: Reading the whole passage through will help us arrive at the right perspective. The deeds James is referring to are the deeds that proclaim aloud our faith.
EXAMPLE OF RAHAB: Let us take a quick look into Rahab’s life and find out why her faith stood out to be worthy of mention. Joshua chapter 2.
Rahab becomes the only woman, the only person in the entire city of Jericho to stand her ground against the king’s orders, staking her life, her everything to fulfill God’s divine purpose. Her confession of faith testifies to her great courage (Josh 2:9-13). Verses 10 t0 11 from her confession show that all in Jericho had heard of the Israelites, and the awesome deeds and wonders God performed on their behalf. The people were gripped with fear (James 2:19, “You believe that there is One God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder”). Yet, we find it was Rahab alone who truly feared God, who could match her faith with deeds (vs 9), worthy of the Spirit’s commendation.
What became of Rahab is history written in indelible ink (Josh 6:22-25). Vs 25, “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho – and she lives among the Israelites…” What’s more, God honored her and she went on to become the second woman finding a mention in Christ’s genealogy (Matt 1:5(a)) by becoming the mother of Boaz.
Let us be earnest and keep our focus fixed on Christ, our Redeemer and the broader picture He offers. Like the wise men of Matt 13:44 and 45, let us be found forsaking and staking our all, if need be, to lay claim on that which is of greater and incomparable worth. Amen!
May God bless you!
To be contd…….NEXT: The commandment to Witness.