Two Groups

Now I want to stretch this passage a little to apply to two groups of readers. Some of you might be exactly like the rich young ruler, and you’ve never made any sort of real decision to follow Christ. You may have had some emotional experiences in the past. You may be good-hearted and honest and really think Christ has the answer, but you’ve never really been willing to give up what’s dearest to you to follow Christ.

But there are others of you who are certain you are a Christ-follower. You’re experiencing sanctification, growth in holiness. You’ve set yourself apart, consecrated yourself, for God’s pure and holy use.  But you’re holding out on God. There are things in your life you’re just not willing to give up to follow him wherever he might lead you.

For both of you, right now is the most important time you’ll ever have to decide to follow Christ fully, to follow Christ with your whole heart, not half-heartedly. Jesus is calling on you to deny yourself, to bear his cross, to follow him wherever he leads you and never look back, never have any reservations, never have any regrets.

No Reserves

Many of my readers will remember the story of William Borden. In 1904 Borden graduated from high school. He was heir to the Borden family fortune, and received a trip around the world as a graduation present from his parents. His travels confirmed in him a desire to be a missionary. His friends and family were incredulous at his desire to throw himself away on the mission field. In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.”

Borden was a spiritual leader on the campus of Yale University, where he chose to attend college, and he gained the respect of his fellow students for his singular devotion to give himself wholly to the service of Christ. While at Yale, one of his journal entries read: “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to Jesus every time.” Borden started a small morning prayer group at Yale that resulted in a spiritual awakening on campus. One thousand of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such prayer groups by the time Borden was a senior.

No Retreats

Borden sensed a calling to minister to the Muslim Kansu people of China. When he graduated from Yale, he turned down several high-paying job offers, and was derided by many people for his commitment to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Never discouraged from his mission, he wrote two more words in his Bible: “No retreats.”

No Regrets

After graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary, Borden set out for Egypt. There he began to study Arabic so that he could preach the gospel to the Muslims to whom he was hoping to minister. But his efforts were to be short-lived. While in Egypt, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead. When his Bible was recovered, it was seen that he had written two more words in it. Underneath the words “No reserves” and “No retreats,” he had written: “No regrets.”

Questions We All Must Ask

All of us, no matter where we are in our spiritual pilgrimage, must ask ourselves this question: Will we be like the rich young ruler? Will we go away sorrowfully because we’re simply not willing to give up riches and status and anything that stands between us and service to God?

Or will we be like Peter, who said down in verse 28 of this chapter, “We have left all and followed you.” Jesus’s reply to Peter when he said that was that everything the disciples left behind to follow him would be restored “a hundredfold now in this time . . . and in the age to come.”

Will we be like William Borden, and follow God—“No reserves. No retreats. No regrets”?

Will we leave it all behind to follow Christ wherever he leads us? “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Are we willing to leave it all behind?

The Things We Leave Behind

Michael Card sings a song about this very decision the disciples made to leave what was most important to them behind to follow Christ. Meditate on the message in these lyrics:

There sits Simon, so foolishly wise.
Proudly he’s tending his nets.
Then Jesus calls, and the boats drift away,
And all that he owns he forgets.

More than the nets he abandoned that day,
He found that his pride was soon drifting away.
It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind.

Matthew was mindful of taking the tax,

Pressing the people to pay.
Hearing the call, he responded in faith,

And followed the Light and the Way.

Leaving the people so puzzled he found,
The greed in his heart was no longer around.

And it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind.

Every heart needs to be set free
From possessions that hold it so tight;
For freedom’s not found in the things that we own,
It’s the power to do what is right.
With Jesus our only possession,
The giving becomes our delight.
We can’t imagine the freedom we find

From the things we leave behind.

We show a love for the world in our lives
By worshiping goods we possess
Jesus says, lay all your treasures aside,
And love God above all the rest.

Because when we say “no” to the things of the world
We open our hearts to the love of the Lord,

And it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind.

Oh, it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind.

Let us pray for the grace to scorn the things of this world—the riches and status and values of this present evil age that are vying for our allegiance. Let us take a hard look at our lives, at what is deeply important to us, and let us resolve to leave it behind, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus, without reservation, never looking back. No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.

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