Discipleship is a supernatural life. No one has the power within themselves to live a true life of discipleship. Only a person who has been truly born again receives the necessary strength/power to live as Christ directs. (John 15:5; Acts 1:8)
True Christianity is total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ! Christ is seeking those who will give Him first place in their lives. Considering the Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary nothing less than unconditional surrender could ever be a fitting response.
The Lord Jesus Christ made stringent demands on those who would be His disciples. The demands of Christ for His disciples, found in the pages of the New Testament, are not popular in most churches and in the thinking of most Christians today. Many people see Christianity as only an escape from the fires of hell and a guarantee of heaven. Beyond that they feel that they have every right to enjoy the best that life has to offer them.
Most Christians do not have a problem accepting that policemen, firemen and military personnel give their lives for service and patriotic reasons. But that kind of lifestyle seems remote and hard to accept for the one who claims to be a disciple of Christ.
But what terms did Christ lay down for discipleship? Is there any room to ignore or avoid the consequences of disobedience and live like the world? If you accept the words of Christ at face value then there is little, if any, room for misunderstanding His meaning as it pertains to discipleship.
How great is the love for Christ to be? “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Of course this does not mean that we should harbor animosity or ill-will in our hearts towards our family, but it does mean that our love for Christ is so great that love for others seems like hatred by comparison. The most difficult clause in the passage is the expression, “yes, and his own life also.” Self-love is one of the greatest hindrances to real discipleship. It is not until we are ready and willing to lay down our lives for Him that He can find us truly useable.
How great is the disciple’s self-denial to be? “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross…” (Matthew 16:14)
No doubt you understand that “denial of self,” is not the same as “self-denial.” The latter means foregoing certain foods, pleasures or possessions. Denial of self means a complete submission to the Lordship of Christ. Denial of self means that the disciple has no rights or authority at all.
Henry Martyn put it this way: “Lord, let me have no will of my own, or consider my true happiness as depending in the smallest degree on anything that can befall outwardly, but as consisting altogether in conformity to Thy will.”
How great is the disciple’s choice of the cross to be? “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross…”(Matthew 16:24)
Most people upon reading that statement equate the cross to some physical infirmity or mental anguish; however, these things are common to all men. The way of the cross is a deliberate choice, a decision. The cross symbolizes the shame, persecution and abuse that Christ suffered and which the world will heap on all who choose to stand for Him. The cross can be avoided by simply being conformed to the world and its ways.
How great is the disciple’s footsteps to be in following Christ? “If anyone desires to come after Me, let Him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
To understand what this means simply ask yourself a question, “What characterized the life of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
- It was a life of obedience to the will of the Father.
- It was a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- It was a life of unselfish service for others.
- It was a life of patience and longsuffering in the face of tremendous wrongs.
- It was a life which produced the Fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
KEY: In order to be His disciple one must walk as He walked. One must exhibit the fruit of Christ likeness. (John 15:8)
How great is the disciple’s love to be for other disciples? “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
This love is one that puts the interests of others before our own. This is a love that esteems others better than himself. It is the kind of love that covers a multitude of sins/offenses. It is a love that is defined by I Corinthians 13. Without this kind of love, discipleship would be a cold legalistic asceticism.
How great is the disciple’s obedience to God’s Word to be? “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31; cf Joshua 1)
If one is to be successful in his walk with Christ “obedience to God’s Word” is mandatory. For real discipleship there must be continuance. The test of reality is endurance to the end. Any man who looks back after putting his hand to the plow is not fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62) Christ demands constant, unquestioning obedience to His Word.
How great is the disciple’s forsaking to be? “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
This command is perhaps the one least liked by Christians. Theologians can give you a thousand reasons why it does not mean what it says, but real disciples believe that the Lord Jesus knew what he was saying. Here is the harsh reality of what Christ is saying. Our earthly possessions are His to do with as He pleases. (I Corinthians 6:19-20) The disciple no longer holds title deed to anything and the Master directs the use of what the disciple has for the purpose of spreading the Gospel and accomplishing the will of the Father. (Matthew 6:33)
These seven terms of Christian discipleship are not popular today but in the Bible they are clear and unequivocal. Most of us in considering these terms of discipleship would have to admit that we are unprofitable servants. Nonetheless, the truth of God must not be suppressed because of the failure of God’s people. The message is always greater than the messenger. Let God be true and every man a liar.
Everyone desiring to be a true disciple of Christ should confess their past failure and courageously face up to the claims of Christ in their life in the present. Today is the first day of the rest of your life!
Rev. Tom Shelton