We are given a definitive picture of not only what Christ expects of His disciples, but what He also demands, in the New Testament. We have a working picture of how the disciples left everything to follow Christ. Christ Himself defines what it means to be His disciple. These commands are not palatable to us today, and we justify our distaste for them by flippantly defying and ignoring a direct order from Christ by subjectively interpreting Scripture as being suggestive and situational. The following Scriptures are just a few of the multitude of verses and examples that God's Word holds for us of what a disciple should look like.
"You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (Mark 10:21)
"Any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33)
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'" (Matthew 16:24-25)
“'He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.'" (Matthew 10:37-39)
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. . . . So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 13:26-27, 33)
These verses show us such a radical lifestyle. These scriptures ignite questions in us such as, "Would Christ really ask me to forsake my family for Him?" and "Does God not want me to be happy?" What we do not realize is that we are asking the entirely wrong questions. Questions such as these come from a selfish perspective rather than a God-centered heart. A proper inquiry would be, "What would be the most glorifying to God?" We must remember that everything in this life pales in comparison to Jesus Christ. This includes our money, our dreams, our families, our own lives.
I am going to borrow from my husband for a moment. He wrote a sermon this past Sunday on the radical call of discipleship and here are a few of his points:
"I wonder how many of us have ever seen the holiness of Christ and considered that we have no business standing before Him, much less being united with Him. We have far too small a vision of our sin, and far too small a vision of Christ. . . .The gospel call is the call to be a disciple of Christ; it is the call to forsake everything in order to gain what we could never gain apart from being united with the work of Christ. It is the call to count the cost and consider any cost as nothing compared to infinite value of Jesus. It is not some intellectual or emotional plea to decide whether or not a person wants to go to heaven rather than suffer for all time in hell, the gospel call is the call to realize that even though we are not worthy, that the Son of God has pursued us and commanded us to give up our very lives to follow Him. . . .The prevalent gospel in the American church is a false gospel that has abandoned the radical nature of the biblical gospel in favor of a message that will be palatable and desirable to even the most depraved God haters around us. The gospel that Paul says is the power of God for salvation was never meant to be appealing to God hating sinners, and just so we are clear everyone who is not found in Christ is a God hating sinner. The gospel is supposed to be foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the wonder of God unto salvation. We have stripped the gospel call of its wonder and its power, so that one not need truly see Jesus for who He is in order to see benefit in it. You do not need to see Jesus in all His glory in order to realize that you are not perfect; you do not need to see Jesus in all His glory in order to desire your life to be better and free from worry and care; you do not need to see Jesus in all His glory as the Son of God in order to desire to avoid eternal torment and suffering; you do not need to see Jesus in all His glory as the sacrificial Lamb of God in order to realize that it may be a good thing to possess a general sense of morality in your life. You do not need to see Jesus in all His glory in order to meet the low, low, standard of what we call the Christian life."
The Modern American Church on the whole has done its members a gross disservice by preaching a false gospel and lowering the standard from radical abandonment for a life following Christ which is explicitly upheld in Scripture to a substandard expectation of general moralism. Worldliness has so infiltrated our churches, our lives, that without the power of God and the Holy Spirit's discernment it is not only difficult to resist, but it is almost impossible to recognize in many cases. I am guilty of this. More than likely you are guilty of this too. We must flee from this false gospel. A gospel of "Cheap Grace" as Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship)
May we right our many wrongs by the power of Christ. May we hear the Word of God and seek to fulfill it as God intended. May we not sway with our fleshly emotions when it comes to God's commands, but treasure Christ above all. May we count the cost of discipleship, and count Christ as better than anything this earth might hold.