No Turning Back

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Maddie and her husband, Marcos, are Crosstown "Goers" serving with MAF in Ecuador.

The words rang out from a tiny group of believers in an unassuming building at the edge of a small town in the jungle of Ecuador. First in Spanish, then English, then Quichua, Shuar, Waorani. And tears streamed down my face.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

It was our first Sunday to gather with this local church and I was overwhelmed by the power of the gospel to bring people from five different languages together to proclaim, “No turning back.”

I used to sing these words as a resolution. I have made the decision to follow Christ and I will never turn back. Sort of like Peter’s words to Jesus in Matthew 26:33, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” And again, in verse 35, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” But as we know, Peter does deny Jesus. He turns back.

For all of our well-meaning proclamations, sheer willpower will not keep us from turning back. Walking with Jesus is hard. It takes work. It is costly. There are many days, hours, and moments when it feels too hard. Following Christ takes up time, money, and energy. There have been many times over the past few years when, quite honestly, I have wanted to turn back. Sometimes the sacrifices that we have to make to follow him hit too close to home. In those times I can’t confidently sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back,” because I know that if it were up to me and my own fleshly strength, I would be turning back.

It is through these times that my Lord has gently and lovingly showed me the other side of the coin. I learned it again from Peter.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:66-68)

Once you have experienced Jesus, walked with him and experienced the sweetness along with the suffering, you realize the truth behind those words. He alone has the words of eternal life. Where else would I turn that could compete with that?

In the song, Christ Is Enough, we find these words:

Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there’s nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy
Through every trial
My soul will sing
No turning back
I’ve been set free
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back.

I’ve been singing this song to myself quite a bit lately, because I think that it is through believing the truth that Christ is enough for me that we can fully embrace the fact that there is no turning back after he has changed your life. Christ is enough, enough for me to trust that he is working through me when I feel inadequate for the job he has called me to do. Enough for my kids to know that he is their rock when the rest of their identity seems shaky. Enough for my marriage to thrive in the midst of stressful circumstances. Enough to fill the hole of missing family and friends. Enough to make up for any sacrifice I’ve had to make.

Enough to bank my entire life upon.

If Christ isn’t enough for me, truly enough to fill every part of life, to heal every wound, to sustain me through every trial, then what sort of hope do I offer to the world?

So of course, there is no turning back. The sweetness of communion with him and the joy of eternity with him compel us forward. Not my faithfulness to him, but his faithfulness to me. He has revealed himself to me in a way that leaves no other option. He is my only hope. I know now that I won’t turn back, not because I have a superior amount of faith but because I have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good” (Psa 34:8).

Now, on Sundays when we sing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” in five languages, the words take on a nuance that I hadn’t understood before. When you meet the one who has the words of eternal life and you turn your eyes upon Jesus, the things of earth really do grow strangely dim. And there is no turning back.

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