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November 25, 2019


Disciple or Deserter ?

My Dear Friend,

     Desertion in the face of the enemy is one of the worst crimes military personnel can commit. They're betraying their country, their branch of military service, their officers, their follow combatants and, surprisingly, themselves. Why?

     They will never live down their decision to desert. It will haunt them to their dying day. What is this saying to us?

     Jesus - the "Lord of hosts" or General of heaven's armies - experienced desertion in His ranks. We know of the traitor, or course, but there were others besides Judas who walked away from walking with Jesus.

     John says when Jesus broached some especially deep and challenging subjects in His teaching in Capernaum one day, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (John 6:66). Note these were "disciples," not Jewish religious leaders, Romans, Greeks, or Jews hearing Jesus for the first time. No, these had walked with Jesus, as surely as the twelve. But now, they "walked no more" with Him.

     These disciples-turned-deserters were men and women who had already left their homes, families, and livelihoods to come and follow Jesus, drink in His teaching, become like Him, and spread His message and ways everywhere. But now, on this day, something happened that changed their minds so drastically they reversed their courses, abandoned Jesus, and went back to their old lives, unfaithful and unfulfilled, forever haunted by their decision to desert.

     It's very likely Jesus knew many of them personally, their names, what village or hamlet they came from, what their home synagogue was like, who had been their rabbi, what their occupation was, who their parents, siblings, and friends were, and so forth. He knew it all, if not by human communication, by divine revelation.

     So, their treachery - after all His love, care, and personal ministry to them! - must have hurt the Son of man and perhaps prompted Him to weep private tears like the public tears He shed at Mary's and Martha's unbelief, Jerusalem's apostasy, (almost surely) Judas' betrayal, and Peter's denials.

     We don't know how many went back on the day in question, but in view of the numbers typically associated with Jesus' meetings, "many" probably means hundreds if not thousands.

     How many thousands, or millions, have followed their footsteps in unfaithfulness down the centuries? And why?

     Some preacher's challenge offended them. Or, they refused to endure a long trial of injustice. They began despising the Lord's correction. Maybe they became weary of self-examination. Or, they began seeking recognition and honors. Perhaps their crosses became too heavy. It may be they refused to forgive someone. Or, they simply would not stop judging and condemning others. Maybe they clung to their worldly entanglements, sinful relationships, or long-fed trust in money and possessions. Or, in some other way they turned from a Savior-first to a self-first or sin-first attitude.

     Then one day, to the surprise of many, and perhaps even themselves, they openly left their God-assigned post and duty in the face of the enemy. These are the deserters. They grieve Jesus and break His heart!

     To avoid repeating their crime, let us search our hearts for the earliest beginnings of spiritual desertion.

     Is there any biblical truth that, despite its obvious biblicality, you simply don't like? Is there any duty God has called you to that you're beginning to neglect? Any relationship you're becoming unfaithful in? Any correction you're not yielding to? Any person you're refusing to have God's mind about? Any flesh you're refusing to cut off? Any reconciliation you're stubbornly refusing? Watch out, lest you, too, go the way of the deserters.

     If convicted of even the smallest inward despising of Christ's truth or will, wise Christians immediately confess and repent, seeking Christ's grace and complying with His Word. Consequently, they continue walking with Him. These are the disciples.

     Never say, "I could never desert Jesus!" Like Peter, thousands before us have loudly proclaimed just that - only to do the opposite when they suddenly turned a corner and were stumbled by their reaction to an unexpected correction issue, offense, or temptation.

     They have also forgotten one of the most basic facts of spiritual life: we never stand still spiritually! We are either humbly, hungrily moving forward or foolishly, forgetfully sliding back. The first is a disciple; the second a deserter. The first, though rigorously tested, grows increasingly happy; the second, though untested, ends up haunted.

Humbly, hungrily moving forward,

Greg Hinnant
Greg Hinnant Ministries

       Greg Hinnant Ministries
PO Box 788, High Point, NC 27261