TRUTH #4

There is a high cost to true discipleship.

One of my favorite quotes to use when we speak to church congregations is by the French Christian anarchist Jacques Ellul, “Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society.”

When I’m being real honest with myself, I can’t say that I am incompatible with society.  I can’t really even say that I am “set apart” from others.  At my worst, I look just like the world.  At my best, I seem different, but not incompatible.  Every disciple that followed Jesus was executed for their belief in Him (minus the Apostle John).  Do I live my life with that sort of uncertainty?  Do I stir up enough trouble and live a life so incompatible with this world that the world attempts to silence me?  If the answer is “no” can I be called His disciple?

The Crucifixion of Peter

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26-27

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 10:22 (Mark 13:13)

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matthew 10:38-39

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Matthew16:24-26 (Mark 8:34-37)

“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”  Matthew 19:29-30 (Mark 10:29-31)

“So you cannot be my disciple without giving up everything you own.” Luke 14:33

“. . . . small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:14

So, let’s just assume that we actually took what Christ said literally.  What do the above passages tell us?

Did Jesus really speak figuratively this often?  Did He use hyperbole to express every point?  I think, once again, when I’m being honest with myself I begin to realize that more often than not, Jesus was serious.  We will lose our friends, or family and our livelihood, and if we are living real good, possibly even our lives.  This is a testament of a true disciple.  This sounds too extreme, too radical.  And if we trace the word radical back to it’s source, the same word for “radish”, in the ground, the root, then yes, it is radical.  I want to be radical, because I want more of the true Jesus, I NEED more of Jesus for this world to make any sense!

It is so easy to be a “believer” in this country of ours.  Some places it is easier than others.  So many church goers are playing a game, and that game costs them nothing.  But the cost of true discipleship is high.  Living a life that reflects Christ’s life in us is expensive, it might cost us our lives, and in His reality, it should — our lives should not be our own, we no longer live, it is Christ living in us — we should have already given up our lives.

In Luke 14, after Jesus tells His disciples that they must give up their very lives, he says this:

“For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”

Jesus is warning us – count the cost!  We must first recognize the radical sacrifice and then make a decision to either follow the call and give up our very own lives or reject that call and live a nominal Christianity.  There is no easier way to put it.  We either accept that we must give up everything or we reject Christ.

The early Christians got this.  Disciple after disciple was executed, flogged, beaten.  For nearly 300 years Christians were fed to the lions in the Colosseum for their beliefs, and many went with joy in their hearts because they were different.  The early church even called themselves The Way, because their path was so different, so uncertain, so incompatible, so narrow, yet so right that it made them different — they chose a different way — Jesus.  My prayer is that we, as believers in The Way can begin to see that true discipleship is costly and then actively live like we want nothing more than to walk the narrow path that leads to Jesus.