"The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what GOD is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him" - Eugene Peterson
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Following Jesus is Demanding
"...So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own" (Luke 14:33)
In my brief 20 years of being an intentional follower of Jesus I have had countless conversations with people and have read many books on being a disciple. As a result, I have come to observe that the term “Christian Disciple” means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. They can’t all be right, can they? Sometimes when our opinions, feelings and preferences about discipleship are shared, we end up with what we want following Jesus to look like rather than what it really is - don't we?
The word ‘disciple’ is used as a synonym for a Christian believer throughout the book of Acts. So, it is right to presume that every Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. In Luke 14:25-35, we read that there were large crowds of people who were inquisitive about Jesus and were following him to hear from him. Jesus looks at the crowd and without sugar coating his words or beating around the bush tells them directly what he demands from his disciples...
A disciple, according to Jesus, is a single-minded follower who is willing to go all the way for his teacher. This means that followers do not have the freedom to pick and choose aspects of following Jesus and disregard or ignore the parts they don’t like. They can only be a disciple of Jesus on Jesus’s term. Therefore, the terms of discipleship are not up for debate or even for negotiation. One can live as a disciple on Jesus’s term or one does not live it at all.
This has to make us uncomfortable. Why? Because Jesus says that being His disciple is not easy. It is costly, demanding and sometimes painful. Following Jesus requires us to give up, let go and surrender everything we are holding onto dearly more than GOD Himself. The lyrics of the famous hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross sums it up well: "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."
Today, Christians around the world are making the choice of following Jesus in the midst of death, persecution, sickness, suffering and excommunication. They do this because the love of Jesus compels them to. They do this because they are committed to Jesus and desire to follow Him to the end, even in the midst of pain, suffering and discomfort. If we follow Jesus for convenience or cultural reasons or as a familial obligation or for friends or because we want to receive something from Jesus – we will get disappointed, run out of steam and give up at one point or the other.
We follow Jesus for Jesus. To be with Jesus and become like Jesus is the primary purpose of our discipleship. Jesus is not teaching that we must be perfect in order to be a disciple. He is calling us to have a "long obedience in the same direction". We know that salvation is “free" in the sense that we cannot earn it, buy it or contribute towards it (Ephesians 2:8-9). GOD saves us by His grace and enables us to do and be what he calls us to do and be. May we humble ourselves before him and surrender to his demands so that he can do the work of transformation in our lives. Salvation is free but discipleship is costly. And apart from Him we can do nothing.