Back in the early 70’s, when I first became a Christian, we sang the little song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” I thought some Hippy from the Jesus movement wrote it. I had no idea people had been singing that song for a hundred years! The story of the birth of that song is fascinating. It goes back to the 1800’s when a missionary led a man and his family to Christ in the village of Garo in North East India. It was a rough neighborhood. The villagers were headhunters! The village chief was not happy about the conversions and commanded the man to deny Christ or watch his sons be shot through with arrows. The man humbly replied, “I have decided to follow Jesus and there is no turning back.” The chief gave the signal to the archers who immediately shot the man’s two sons. The chief told him to renounce his faith or his wife will die next. The man answered, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow,” and his wife was killed. The chief gave the man one final chance to save himself, but he softly declared, “The cross before me, the world behind me,” and he was shot dead. After some time, the chief could not stop thinking about how the man was willing to give his very life to follow Jesus. He too became a believer and announced his new faith to his people, which led to the entire village of headhunters converting to Christ. The Welsh missionary, who was an eyewitness to these events, told the story to Sanhu Sandar Singh, an Indian evangelist, who then put these words to an Indian tune called Assam.
As new believers, we sang this song as a declaration of our commitment to follow Jesus and leave our old lifestyles behind. Tears would flow down our faces as we passionately sang this song to the simple three chords played on someone’s guitar. The song had a deep impact on me then and now. When I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on Monday, February, 23rd 1973, my decision to follow Him was firm. He was the one I wanted to give the rest of my life to. Many other teens made the same decision at that time as well. The cover of Time Magazine on June, 21st 1971 had a pop art picture of Jesus with the title The Jesus Revolution. Millions of young people were finding new life in Christ. What an exciting time it was!
After a few years much of the excitement faded. Thousands of teens were slowly drifting back to their old habits of unrestrained sex, drug and alcohol abuse, the occult and false religions. Many of my closest friends started to drift back into their previous lifestyles and stopped hanging around those of us who wanted to continue pursuing Jesus. I can clearly remember looking out the front door of my parent’s house thinking about my friends who no longer wanted to live a Christian life. I could hear the still small voice of Jesus from deep inside me asking, “What about you Kevin? Will you still follow me?” I answered in the same way the apostle Peter did when Jesus asked him the same question, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” I knew there was nothing waiting for me in my old life. My only hope was Jesus.
It makes me happy to see some of the people who came to Jesus at the same time as me still pursuing Him passionately. I watch them in church still singing, still playing their instruments, still worshiping God wholeheartedly, and still serving the Kingdom of God in various ways. It thrills me even more to see those who are about ten to fifteen years older than me still head-over-heals in love with Jesus! They have experienced the best of times and the worst of times, yet they have followed their Good Shepherd faithfully for fifty or sixty years.
After forty-four years, I still want to walk as close as I possibly can with Jesus. I can’t let circumstances distract me from following Him. Jesus said, “Whoever 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 and the gospel’s will save it’” (Mark 8:34-35, NKJV). It doesn’t matter what my financial situation may be, if I’m employed or unemployed, if I’m healthy or not, if I have lots of friends or no one, if I’m happy and on top of the world, or in a deep valley; my confession must be, “I have decided to follow Jesus and there is no turning back.”
There’s nothing I want more than for my spouse, children, grandchildren, friends and family to have eternal life with God, but their choices cannot have any bearing on my decision to keep following Jesus. He said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26 NLT). I need to keep my focus on Christ and declare, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”
Regardless of how bad or scary the world gets; my hope is in Christ alone. As I follow Him, my heart will sing, “The world behind me, the cross before me.” I can’t look back. There’s nothing back there for me. Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NKJV). I remember the Happy Goodmans (Yes, I’m that old) singing a Gospel song with the lyrics, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. I’ve got to make it to Heaven somehow…but if I could, still I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” I said, “Yes” to Jesus over forty years ago and I’ve never regretted the decision to follow Him. Now, there’s just no turning back.