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Discipleship Part III

Luke 9:23 (KJV)
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Have you run into a difficult person lately?

Working with people is mandatory in terms of getting somewhere in life. Unless we have self-sustained lives on a deserted island, we will be encountering people…all kinds of people. While some are kind and delightful, there are those who can be downright nasty.

Sometimes we console ourselves with the explanation: ‘This difficult person must have issues.’ It is reminiscent of the following story:

One Sunday Morning

A woman wakes up late on Sunday morning and realizes that church will be starting soon. She feverishly tries to wake up her husband, but he merely yawns and rolls over. She tries again…no success. Then the woman becomes louder and more aggressive: ‘Wake up, it is time to get ready for church.’

Finally the man slowly rises upright and says, ‘I don’t want to go to church!’

The woman is aghast. ‘You don’t want to go to church?’

‘No,’ he sulks, ‘and I will give you three reasons why not.
First, the church is full of hypocrites!
Second, there are people there that I don’t like.
Third, there are people there who don’t like me.’

Pausing for a moment, the woman replies:

‘I will give you three reasons why you are going to church:
First, you need to set a good example.
Second, there are people who are counting on you.
Third, you need to go to church because you are the pastor!’

Tackling the ‘Issues’

Whether we develop a phobia regarding difficult people, or we feel life is all uphill, or sometimes the goal does not seem worth the effort, we need to be reminded of this simple fact.

Every person has ‘issues,’ ‘baggage,’ and ‘challenges.’ Perhaps these are merely euphemisms for the Biblical concept of ‘sin.’ Whether you are dealing with difficult people or you, in fact, are the difficult person, there is a solution. It is a glorious, God-given solution, that leads to fulfillment, fruitfulness, and freedom. It is called Biblical discipleship. Jesus Christ offers this to all who will hear and obey.

‘Discipleship’ simply means to ‘follow the Master;’ to learn from and become like the Teacher Himself. Jesus makes discipleship the core goal of what has become the ‘Great Commission,’ found in Matthew 28:18-20. This Commission is the only assignment Christ ever gave His church. The purpose is to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ When the Church makes disciples around the block and around the world, they are fulfilling the very mission Christ gave. Anything less…or anything else…is to miss the mark.

The reason is very simple: discipleship helps us leave the old life behind and enter into a new, Godly, Spirit-empowered life. Instead of being a dried out old wineskin, we become as ‘new wineskins’ in order to contain the ‘new wine.’ Rather that be a tattered old garment in desperate need of patching, we become a hole-proof ‘new garment.’ Disciples know God’s truth and this truth makes them free (John 8:31-32).

Pay the Price: It’s Worth It!
Luke 9:23 (KJV)
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Biblical discipleship is worth the price and the effort. In the above verse, Jesus makes it very clear three strong yet stark conditions:

1. Self-denial: this is a hard one throughout the ages, but it is especially difficult today. In western society, people are taught to be self-reliant, self-centered, highly individualistic, acute narcissists. They are encouraged to put self-interest above all else.

Yet the price of not following Jesus is even higher; for if the person seeks to do self-pleasing, life-enhancing things first, they actually lose it; if they live a life of self-denial, they will find it (Matthew 16:25). Self-denial is actually liberating, since we actually turn our back on selfishness and sin. We get to have a fresh start with God.

2. Cross-bearing: Again, this sounds like a painful concession. Furthermore, the cross signifies humiliation, loss, and death. Yet, like self-denial, it is the key to freedom. Because the ‘issues’ that have plagued you, perhaps all your life, are nailed to the Cross. Your sin nature is dealt a death blow. (Romans 6:6). From now on, you have the right to live a new life (Romans 6:4).

3. Follow Jesus: Like Ruth the Moabitess with Naomi the Judean, we have to be willing to go where Jesus wants us to go and do what He wants us to do. ‘Following Jesus’ also means that we are ‘diligently seekers’ of God, not casual inquirers. The diligent seeker looks to God, seeks God, and holds onto God until they receive the blessing (Gen 32:24-30). Those who diligently seek show themselves to be people strong in faith who will not fail to receive their reward (Hebrew 11:6).

Any person who will truly follow the road to discipleship will find that their ‘issues’ will be addressed, their sin forgiven, and their battles into victories. Instead of being part of the problem, they become part of the solution. Discipleship will transform them from being dozy to diligent, from defeat to determination, from being difficult to delightful.

When you seriously consider it, discipleship is more than just a ‘good idea.’ It is ‘the God idea.’ It is not optional but gloriously mandatory. And when properly pursued, it leads a victorious, fruitful, abundant life that others can only dream of.

Yes, discipleship is the only true way to freedom.


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