In a day of change, challenge, crisis, and confusion, it is good to know that God has prepared a better way. A way forward. A way to true freedom. God’s way is nothing new and was announced thousands of years ago. It comes via Jesus Christ.
Jesus gives an open, all-inclusive invitation to ‘whosoever will.’ Yet once a decision to accept the invitation is made, that man or woman, boy or girl, becomes part of an exclusive group. Jesus is inviting us to follow Him, to learn of Him and to become like Him. In other words, He is welcoming us to become His disciples.
True disciples of Christ are a rare and blessed breed. A disciple in the strictest sense of the word is a ‘student’ or ‘learner’ of a worthy person. But the studies are not done in a mere classroom, with lectures to listen and assessment tasks to complete. The disciple is essence becomes an ‘adherent’ or ‘follower’—a ‘full-time follower’—like an apprentice in a trade. They live and learn from the Master, day in and day out, until they resemble the Master in character and conduct. This is the goal.
Jesus Christ the Worthy One
The Master in the equation is Jesus Christ. He represents and presents God’s alpine-high standards. Here are some of the great things He has to offer:
1. Holiness and Perfection: Jesus Christ the Righteous never sinned.
2. Power: Jesus is the ‘Anointed One,’ Son of David, Son of God. His anointing was not with olive oil infused with myrrh, cinnamon, cassia, and calamus, but with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38). Having received this anointed empowerment, He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil;
3. Life: Jesus lives life to the full, offers abundant life and the power of an endless life.
4. Light: He is the light of the world. Whoever follows Him will not have darkness but the light of life (John 8:12).
5. Love: Everything Christ did was motivated by love, not religious duty. This is consistent with the nature of God, for God is love (I John 4:7-8).
It is patently clear that Jesus Christ is an exceptional, even singular individual. Those who follow Him will be likewise. Indeed, they will shine like stars in a dark night.
Cost of Discipleship
While there is no monetary cost for enrolling in “Jesus’ University,” there is definitely is a price. When Matthew the tax-collector, who sat at the receipt of customs, was approached by Jesus, the Lord gave him a two-word command: ‘Follow Me.’ He did not think twice. Matthew got up, left everything behind, and began to live a new life in Christ (Matthew 9:9). He became a disciple…a follower. So should you.
What will it cost you to find the true freedom that only discipleship in Jesus can bring? Here is one of several verses to ponder:
Luke 14:26 (KJV)
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
As a compassionate, accessible, inspiring miracle-worker, Jesus was wildly popular during the days of His Galilean ministry. The crowds followed Him wherever He went. While they all wanted to be ‘where the action was,’ few understood the real demands that would come from being Jesus’ disciple. To follow Him to the full meant going to His ultimate destination…the cross at Calvary. This would scare off the hardiest among them. Only a few faithful women and John the beloved disciple are recorded to have followed Him all the way to His crucifixion.
Discipleship means sacrifice. We have to be prepared to ‘give’ in order to ‘gain,’ to ‘lose’ in order to ‘win,’ to ‘sow’ so that we can ‘reap.’ Such demands are alien to a generation that is taught to be comfortable, convenient, self-indulgent and safe. But there are neither short-cuts nor alternatives. It has to be ‘all the way…Jesus’ way.’
Following Jesus must come before all worldly and familial ties. Luke 14:26 seems a bit bizarre on the surface…why would Jesus command us to ‘hate’ our parents, spouse, and children? Remember, this is the Man who tells us to ‘love our enemies’ (Matthew 5:44) and He clearly endorsed the Fifth Commandment to honour father and mother (Mark 7:9-13).
Truth told, Jesus is using a Semitic idiom via the Greek word ‘miseo’ to express relative preference for something over something else (see Genesis 29:30-31; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Romans 9:13). When there is a clash between family demands and following Jesus, the true disciple will choose Jesus above all.
Let us be very clear. The godly person—the true disciple—is to honor his/her father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3); love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25, 33); reverence her husband (Ephesians 5:33); and provide for the care and upbringing of their children.
1 Timothy 5:8 (KJV) is very strong on this issue:
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own houseb, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
Even while hanging on the cross, Jesus made arrangements for the care of His mother Mary: He committed her into the hands of John the beloved disciple (John 19:25-27).
If you do not take care of your immediate family, you are disobeying the clear commands of the LORD. If you have a ministry, but your spouse and dependent children are falling apart, that ministry will not last much longer. Better to take a break from Christian service, get ‘hot for God,’ minister to your family, and then return to the ‘Gospel Road.’ You will be a better person with a healthier, happier family.
God must always come first. Recently a man named ‘Tom’ turned his back on a ministry that God had opened up for him so he could ‘take care of his family.’ Noble sounding as this may be…the ‘family’ consists of autonomous adult children as well as demanding extended family. By focusing on ‘family,’ ‘Tom’ lost both his ministry and spiritual fervor he once enjoyed. He has spiritually set himself back by years and it will become difficult…if not impossible…for him to even return to the place he once enjoyed before he chose ‘family’ over Christ.
Turning from the pathway of discipleship for family, comfort, convenience, and/or ‘playing it safe’ will always result in lukewarmness and backsliding. Chances are high that the family will be worse off, not better, because of this decision. The reason? Because a spiritually flat individual is not going to minister inspiration and blessing to anyone, let alone his or her family. Don’t hold yourself back spiritually waiting for family to ‘catch up;’ rather, get to the track and patiently run the race that God has set out for your, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
On the other hand, the true disciple will be the best son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother, when they do put God first. In many (though not all cases), you will gain the (at times, grudging) respect of family members. You will be a great role model. And disciples who are consistent in their Christian walk will have healthy marriages and solid children. In other words, take care of your Heavenly Father’s business (Luke 2:49) and God will take care of yours (Matthew 6:33).
TO BE CONTINUED…