We have church members. We have ordinary Christians. We have believers. But where are the disciples?
Christendom seems to have forgotten that disciples were what Jesus told the original eleven to go and make. And disciples are the only category of Christ followers He prescribed.
Said plainly, only disciples are Christians.
However, it’s a good bet that up to 99 percent of people who self-identify as Christians do not even know what being a disciple consists of.
Is a disciple one who believes in Jesus Christ? Is a disciple one who attends church more often than a couple of times a year?
What is a disciple?
Though it is a mystery to many in the Church today, Jesus was very specific about the condition of discipleship.
Let’s examine three astounding statements He made about those who would be His disciples:
- Luke 14:26 “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.”
- Luke 14:27 “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
- Luke 14:33 “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
According to Jesus, His disciple must sever himself from all earthly ties.
Everything that binds us to this world, that makes us hesitant to wholeheartedly enter into service to the Lord, must be reevaluated and aligned with the will of God – or ditched – if we want to follow Jesus.
Our worldly goals and aspirations, our loving family and friends who want to keep us near them and walking with them, our homes, our jobs, our achievements, our hobbies, our possessions – everything that has the potential of distracting us from God’s will must be subjugated in our estimation and relegated to a position so far below our love for and eagerness to serve God that it becomes, as Paul indicated, like dung in our path. (Philippians 3:8)
If this sounds extreme to our ears, it is because we have considered some or all of these things in our lives too highly, and we still love them more than we love God.
Let’s review what Jesus said about following Him, for that is how He enlisted His disciples: He simply said, “Follow Me!”
That He meant, Follow Me in virtually every way that it is possible to do so, they seemed to know by the Spirit, for not one asked Him what we would have asked: Where are You going? How far do You want me to follow You?
In three of the gospels Jesus is quoted as saying, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
What are we to make of these words if we cannot accept that prospective disciples are being asked to sever ourselves from everything that keeps us from wholehearted service to God through Jesus Christ?
They sound as though we are to be, in truth, fully invested in the Kingdom of God, in the actual life of Christ, instead of treating our citizenship in heaven as a symbolic gesture worthy of a framed plaque on the wall but without any change in our reality.
What have we thought He meant when He said, “Follow Me”?
“Follow Me in theory and rhetoric”?
“Follow Me in my ability to explain the Bible and quote scripture”?
“Follow Me as you ‘follow’ someone on social media”?
Apparently, eleven people who heard these words two thousand years ago and believed He meant to follow Him in purpose, thought, deed, holiness, zeal for God’s will and commitment to obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit. Later, one hundred twenty believed it. And later still, thousands believed it enough to sell what they possessed, or what possessed them, and follow Jesus.
Does hearing this make you want to cut your ties to this world and follow Him wholeheartedly, or does it make you want to reconsider the Christian path? The former is a step toward becoming fervently hot; the latter is a step toward becoming cold in your love for Jesus, for indecision is a vote for lukewarmness.
Some would think this is extreme teaching.
Barely moments after the rich young ruler walked away from Jesus on hearing Him say, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me,” He said to His disciples, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
If we believe that God can make possible even those things we think are not, we might ask Him to finish the work He has begun in us, and make us disciples according to His description rather than according to our modern notions.
I highly recommend that you acquire a copy of my workbook, “The Planting of the Lord; Discipleship 101,” and step boldly onto the path to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.