Yesterday, I finished lesson one and wrote an article on discipleship. Today, I would like to continue the theme of discipleship from Jesus’ perspective. If you want to catch up or review the previous lesson, here it is:
What does the word disciple mean? The Greek word that is translated “disciple” is “mathetes”. It literally means a learner or a pupil, one who learns theory and practice. This is the exact example that we saw in lesson 1. Jesus taught His disciples theory and also gave them opportunities to practice what they learned. The root of the word disciple is the Greek verb “manthano”. It means to increase in knowledge to the point of habit. As you learn things, you apply them. As you apply them over and over again, they become a habit for you. This is what discipleship mean. I learn and apply until learning and application become a habit for me. I am learning to know and follow Jesus. It really is that simple. Are you a learner of Christ’s ways? Are you applying what you learn to the point where it becomes a habit for you?
In lesson 1, we focused on the call of being a disciple. In lesson 2, we are going to focus on the cost of being a disciple.
I. Your life
As an American church, we have reduced the message of the Gospel to something that is not found in the Bible. We seem to be looking for Jesus. We ask people, “have you found Jesus”? We invite children to say a magical prayer and ask Jesus into their hearts so that they can go to heaven. We make it easy to be a Christian. What does the Bible actually teach about coming to Christ and becoming a disciple? Let’s take a look at how Jesus presented the call to follow Him. Is there a cost, or, as we like to say, is it a free gift with no strings attached? The first passage that I would like to consider is the Gospel of Mark 8:34-38. Jesus is not talking to believers whom He wants to invite into the process of discipleship. He is talking to nonbelievers. His Jewish audience were seekers of God but they did not have a personal relationship with Him. They had not yet bowed their knees to the Lordship of the Messiah. The Messiah is about to give them the chance. Look at how He presents the message. He begins with the cost of following Him, the cost of bowing your knee to His Lordship. In order to be a follower of Christ, in our terms, a Christian, here is what you must do:
- Deny yourself – this is in the aorist tense, which in Greek means a completed action in the past that can have consequences in the present. In English, we may render it, “you must begin denying yourself”, or “you began denying yourself”. It is a one time action that continues daily. You make a choice at a certain point in time that will impact every moment from that point on to the present. Coming to Christ means denying your own life, your own goals, hopes, and dreams and embracing someone else’s goals, hopes, and dreams.
- Take up your cross – the implications here are a person who has received a death sentence and all that he has left is to walk from the place of sentencing to the place of execution. If you are going to follow Christ, you are a condemned person and all that you have left is the walk to the place of execution. You no longer do what you please. You now do what the master tells you to do. You no longer have your own will. You have denied yourself and now you have died to yourself.
- Follow Jesus – because you have done the other two things, you are now in a position to be able to follow Jesus unconditionally. The verb “follow” is present, active, imperative. This means that you follow Jesus moment by moment, day by day. It is active, meaning that you choose to do this moment by moment, day by day. It is imperative, making it a command. This is not optional. If you want to be a Christian, you must do this!
Jesus presents a very different picture than the one that we present in the modern world. We want to make it simple and easy, seal the deal and move on. Jesus says, “first know and count the cost”. Who is correct? Which path have you chosen to follow, simple and easy or count the cost?
Once you have counted the cost, made the choice to give up on your own life and embrace a life of following Christ, now you are able to be a testimony for Christ in the midst of this wicked and adulterous generation. If you have not chosen to give up your life and follow Christ then you will be ashamed of Christ in the midst of this wicked and adulterous generation because you will be more concerned about your life than about being a testimony for Christ. As a minister, I know many who have taken the simple and easy path as presented by the modern church, and as a result, have become ashamed of Christ in the midst of this crooked and adulterous generation. May the Lord forgive us for not presenting the Gospel the way that He did!
II. Your relationships
In the Gospel of Luke 14:25-33, we learn that there is more to counting the cost than just our very lives. We must also consider our relationships. When we take a stand for Christ in the midst of this crooked and adulterous generation, we will offend people. In fact, we are not the ones who offend people. The message of the Gospel is what offends. Since we are the messengers, we become easy targets. Enemies will arise around us. They may even come from our own households. All call is to follow Christ above all else. Our relationship with Christ is now number 1, even over our own familial relationships. When Jesus says we must “hate” our parents, He is using a figure of speech called hyperbole. He is exaggerating love here, not hate. Your love for Christ must be so strong that love for anyone else looks like hatred when compared to the love that you have for your Lord. Christ does not want us to hate our parents. The only thing that the Lord wants us to hate is sin, not sinners. Before choosing to follow Christ, we must weigh the costs of our relationships. Are we ready to love Christ so much that He comes first before any other relationship in our lives? To exemplify this idea, Jesus gives a couple of real life situations to help the crowds understand the importance of counting the cost. He tells them of building a building. The builder firsts counts the costs and then begins to build so that he does not begin the project and then run out of money before finishing. A king, before going to battle, must count the cost. If the enemy is stronger, he sends for peace instead of beginning and then having to run away in shame. The same goes for following Christ. When we do not present the cost of following Christ, we see many people who agree to accept Christ, but, along the way, they end up walking away because “Christianity just did not seem to work for them”.
III. Your comfort
The last cost that I would like to consider is counting the cost of your comfort. Many times, in the modern church, we present coming to Christ as something you do to fix all of your problems and make your life better, more comfortable. Is that the way Christ presented the Gospel? Let’s take a look at the Gospel of Luke 12:51-53. Following Christ is going to bring persecution. Persecution is not pleasant but it is not a surprise. Jesus warned us from the beginning that following Him and proclaiming His message will divide people, even households. Are we ready to accept the loss of our own personal comfort so that we can follow Christ and proclaim His message? If you have heard the simple and easy message of the Gospel and accepted that, it becomes a lot more difficult to give up your own personal comfort in order to follow Christ.
Which message have you heard and believed, the message that Jesus presents in the Bible or the simple and easy message of the modern church? As I study this subject and write this article, I am reminded of what Paul told the church members of Corinth in II Corinthians 11:4. I constantly examine myself to see if I am preaching a different Christ and a different Gospel than what is found in the Word of God. I am afraid that just like in the days of Paul, we have many today teaching a different Christ and a different Gospel. May the Lord help us preach and teach the Christ in the Word of God!