Here’s a question: “It it worth it to give up everything for Jesus?” Now, before we give our trite “Christian” answer, I want us to honestly think about it, because if you’re like me, this is actually a difficult question…that is, in practice. We sing about it, make our declarations of complete fealty to Jesus, but when the proverbial rubber meets the road, we can have honest doubts we feel we dare not admit openly.
With this mind, I came upon the following passage in Matthew recently in my devotional reading. This response from Jesus comes after Peter asked if it was worth it to have given up everything to follow Him:
28 Jesus responded, “Listen to the truth: In the age of the restoration of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will have twelve thrones of your own, and you will govern the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 For anyone who has left behind their home and property, leaving family—brothers or sisters, mothers or fathers, or children—for my sake, they will be repaid a hundred times over and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who push themselves to be first will find themselves last. And those who are willing to be last will find themselves to be first.” (Matt.19:28-30 TPT*)
Okay, this is a very familiar verse. I’ve read it hundreds of times and just passed over it. But there seemed to be “burning bush” here this time!
What struck me was the context, “In the age of the restoration of all things.” I had always assumed it meant in the age when Jesus returns, and on I read. Of course, we’ll be rewarded then, but it’s not what this particular phrase means.
There’s one single Greek word for “In the age of the restoration of all things.” It’s παλιγγενεσία (palingenesia). It means a “new birth” or “regeneration.” It’s only used one other time in the New Testament (Titus 3:5). Another way to render this passage in Matthew would be as follows:
“In the new birth, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne….29 For anyone who has left behind their home and property, leaving family—brothers or sisters, mothers or fathers, or children—for my sake, they will be repaid a hundred times over and will inherit eternal life.”
My point is that this is talking about believers—now—not just when we die and go to heaven or even when Jesus returns. There are other verses for that, but this is not one of them.
Think of it this way: when exactly do we inherit eternal life? Is it not when we first believed?
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth [palingenesia] and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5 NIV*)
Of course, eternal life—aiōnios (endless) zōē (God’s life)—is both now and forever for us because the indwelling life of God in us through Holy Spirit, and His life exists now and forever.
So, I come back to my question. “Is it worth it to give up everything for Jesus?”
Here’s the thing: we will only ever understand this question when answering it costs us dearly, even having to let go of something or someone we dearly love—when it looks to us like saying yes is a living hell compared to hanging on whatever it is Jesus is telling us to let go.
This is why it’s easier for someone destitute, or someone having already failed in relationships, or anyone with nothing left to lose, to cry at the altar and give it all to Jesus than most of us are willing to give up. But as the great prophet from the 1960s, Kris Kristofferson wrote:
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,
And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free (“Me And Bobby McGee”)
This kind of freedom is an illusion. Nothing left to lose really is nothing. We can only appreciate true freedom when we realize the great cost required of us. And when we can’t let go of what’s holding on to us, like what happened to the rich young ruler earlier in the story, often happens to us.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matt.19:22 NKJV)
Beloved, Jesus is the Great Incentiviser! But the problem the rich young ruler had, like many of us in the prosperous West, is that he could not get past what he had to lose, so he never experienced the truly abundant and overflowing life he could’ve gained—in this life and the next—had he just trusted Jesus instead of the fragile and fleeting security of his great wealth.
We will all certainly face this question in some form. It may not have anything to do with money, but it will always have to do with what has our affections.
The truth is, we cannot follow Jesus while still holding on to other things, but His promise to us is that our life in Him will be at least hundred times better than our life without Him! You can trust Him on that one, even if making that decision seems like the opposite at the time.
29–30 Jesus replied, “Listen to my words: anyone who leaves his home behind and chooses God’s kingdom over wife, children, parents, and family, it will come back to him many more times in this lifetime. And in the age to come, he will inherit even more than that—he will inherit eternal life!” (Luke 18:29-31 TPT*)