If you profess to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, how do you describe yourself to others? Do you identify as a Christian? And what does that name mean within your relationship with the Godhead? For awhile now, I have referred to myself as an obedient follower of Christ; with the confession that being "obedient" can sometimes be a struggle in my flesh. But is that the term Jesus uses to describe those who will ultimately believe and follow Him? It seems to me that, in the Bible, it is the term Disciple that best describes those who will champion His cause. [And a side note of interest, the word Christian is what the enemies of the new faith in Jesus called His followers].
I find it interesting that Jesus defines what makes a Disciple only a handful of times, and He is very specific as to what it entails. But there's no mistaking that if you choose to use that term yourself, you better understand the cost. And here is something that the Lord has recently revealed as I continue on my journey to get closer to Him ... I don't get to voluntarily decide that I am going to be a Disciple. He calls me. It is He that makes the decision, just as He did in the Bible when He approached Peter, John, Andrew, Matthew and each of His Disciples. He calls us individually according to His will, AND it is His choice, not ours. It is only if we are willing to pay the cost, that we can truly be counted as His Disciple. And that cost is steep; more expensive and costly than the majority of Christians can even contemplate. That is why not many qualify to be called His true Disciples.
That might be an offensive statement to those who identify as Christians. But have you ever sat down and seriously read the description that Jesus gives of what it takes to be His Disciple? He lays it out pretty clearly in Luke 14:26-33: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, He cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." Who among us could easily say, "Yes, Lord, I'm willing to do that! I will despise and separate myself from all those I love, and who love me, and live a life totally dedicated to You! And I declare that I will sacrifice all I have and all I am, including my life, to follow You! I am willing to break ties with everyone and everything in my life to focus solely on serving You!"? Those are difficult promises to make! Yet, He demands exactly that if you are going to call yourself His Disciple. But how many of us loosely apply that term to ourselves?
I think Jesus was referring to most self-described Disciples in the middle of that passage [in verses 28-32] when He says ... "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace." If we're honest, there aren't many of us who would answer Jesus's call to be His Disciple without hesitation, not taking the time to first measure what it's going to cost us. We would have to make sure we had all we needed to pull it off, because we sure wouldn't want to be embarrassed if we said, yes, and then realized we hadn't measured all it would cost and what we would need. And like the king in Jesus's example, we wouldn't want to agree to be His Disciple and then realize that the forces coming against us are going to be greater in power than we have the ability to defend ourselves; we only want to commit if we are assured of winning our battle. And like the rich young ruler in Mark 10, we might decide to wait until the lifestyle of a Disciple is more convenient for us.
You see, the call of Jesus to be His Disciple is costly, indeed. And I don't think there are many who understand that it is, first and foremost, a life lived in separation and isolation from the world and all that we hold dear in it ... our families; our status in society [and yes, in the Church]; our jobs and careers; our very lives. And here is an astounding realization that is new to my understanding of true Discipleship ... IF it is Jesus's will to call us, and IF we accept His will, it is because He determined that it would be so! There was no way that Peter, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, James [son of Zebedee], Jude, Matthew, James [son of Alpheus], Philip, Simon the Zealot, Thomas, or even Judas were going to be able to say No! Jesus had now come into the midst of their lives, and their relationships with their immediate world had been infringed upon; He now stood in opposition to all they clung to. And once we accept His call, all those relationships are forever and profoundly changed.
Our relationships are no longer the result of our direct contact with our loved ones or people in the world. Christ stands between us and them, and what we perceived before Him was just an illusion. Everything and everyone is now a redefined reality through Him. He separates us from the world and we must come to Him as an individual and alone, allowing Him to reconstitute and restore those relationships through His preeminence in our lives. And the good news is that while Jesus separates us from the world and it's natural relationships, He also establishes new fellowship between us and others. He makes a way for us to connect through Him; a way that began in solitude and separation, but now unites in shared love and purpose to glorify the One who called us.
I wish I could truly imagine all the thoughts and emotions those first Disciples experienced as they answered Jesus's call. We know for certain that Peter was married, because Jesus healed his mother-in-law. And according to Clement, Bishop of Rome in the late 1st Century, "Peter and Philip begat children, and Philip gave his daughters in marriage". So the first Disciples sacrificed families and gave up their material things to live a life of solitude as they followed Christ to the Cross, and then took His message to the world. And lest we forget, Jesus made it clear that to be His Disciple meant that the persecution He suffered would come to them as well. Nothing has changed in this 21st Century. We don't get to escape the cost!
Everything that has made our lives easier and more prosperous doesn't eliminate the price we will pay to be His Disciple. Are we willing to make the ultimate sacrifice? If we are called to be Disciples, it is a very real possibility. The persecution He endured came to every one of His faithful Twelve, accept for John. It will be a part of our walk with Him. too. But we can celebrate that He also told them that by their love for each other and the fruit they bore, they would be proven to be His Disciples. Oh, what a glorious calling! And I believe that it is Jesus's will that each one of us be His true Disciple!
Be separate from the world, but united in Him! Cast off all the world has to offer and cling to what we have in our relationship with our Master! The road He has called us to is fraught with extraordinary change, and that frightens some people. But we are assured that everything we have surrendered will be returned to us a hundredfold! There is no greater honor than to be called as a true Disciple of Jesus... are you ready to answer Him without hesitation? The world needs you!
#discipleofjesus #discipleship #jesusdisciple #calledtobeadisciple
Luke 14:26-27 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
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