Discipleship: Surrender and Sacrifice
We have been called to put on Christ and to live faithfully according to His cause for the remainder of our lives. Our discipleship will be tested and tried, but this should never keep us from fulfilling our role to become more like Him. Jesus is the perfect example of One completely devoted to the service of others. Jesus served by going to those did not have the necessities of this life, especially spiritually, and alleviating that need. The compassion of Jesus throughout the gospel narrative should invoke within us a deeper care and concern for the world which surrounds us. Jesus also was willing to sacrifice His precious time and energy to reach those who may have been cast out of society but were still essential and valuable in the sight of God.
Discipleship has been defined in a variety of ways, but the greatest definition was given by Jesus – “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master…” (Matthew 10:24-25a). The key to discipleship is not a continuation of our lives prior to the gospel, but rather being transformed and made new each day through Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 12:2). Our lives have been called to the higher purpose of living in a manner that brings glory and honor to our heavenly Father. Jesus commanded, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When the world witnesses our words and actions will they see Jesus or another person who is given over to the influence of this world?
On the evening of Jesus’ betrayal, Jesus demonstrated one of the most difficult aspects of being a disciple – SURRENDER. After Jesus and His disciples had left the upper room, they made their journey toward the garden on the Mount of Olives. Jesus understood exactly what was before Him and waiting in the garden that evening. The gospel of Luke records with great detail the great agony Jesus was experiencing in those final moments prior to Judas’ arrival and betrayal. Luke wrote – “And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (22:41-42). There is no greater example of complete surrender than what is recorded in Jesus’ three prayers. He revealed His emotions and pain, but remained fully reliant upon His Father and His will. What an awesome example of what true devotion and discipleship should look like!
When we have “put on” Christ in our baptism, we are called to imitate Him in every action of our lives. This means that our lives are no longer determined by our desires and wants, but rather we are guided by the principles contained in God’s Word. Discipleship requires for us to completely surrender ourselves to the authority and direction of Jesus Christ. If we do not give Him everything, then our discipleship and faithfulness will be lacking. Jesus told those who desired to follow Him – “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27). Jesus’ point is clear, we must die to self and live for Him!
Jesus’ surrender to His Father’s will brought Him to this pivotal moment of despair, but He trusted in His Father. Jesus prayed that His Father’s will would be accomplished in Him, and that meant He would have to SUFFER. Jesus stood after praying three times to the Father and faced His betrayer with great courage and resilience. Jesus was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death over the course of the next few hours. He never stopped the proceedings for His own survival, but rather He suffered the greatest exhibition of injustice ever perpetrated by man. Jesus was taken by the Roman soldiers, scourged, and finally brought to Golgotha to be crucified. Jesus had been slapped, beaten, mocked relentlessly, nailed to the cross, and spat upon, but His first words from the cross were not warnings of condemnation, but rather – “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In the midst of suffering, Jesus’ compassion toward mankind is simply overwhelming.
The life of a disciple of Christ will have to endure a variety of trials and persecutions. The apostle Paul wrote Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). The prophet James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (1:2). In the midst of our suffering, do we manifest a heart like Jesus? A heart that is willing to love and pray for those who have persecuted us (cf. Matthew 5:44). A heart that is able to see the Father’s will and His blessings despite the intensity of the trial. Jesus said – “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11). When the disciples of Christ were arrested, flogged, and finally released Luke recorded – “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). May God bless us with similar hearts that are willing to seek first His kingdom and righteousness, despite what we may suffer on earth.
The call of discipleship is not one to be taken lightly or without serious consideration and “counting the cost.” Jesus serves as the supreme example of these four characteristics – Serve, Sacrifice, Surrender, and Sacrifice. We must make the decision to learn from Him and imitate His life in every aspect of our lives. The role of discipleship will never be sufficiently accomplished without our complete allegiance being given to our King and Savior Jesus Christ. May God bless us in our daily lives to deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him!