Exacting Discipleship

Jesus came to this earth with the foreknowledge that He was to die for mankind’s sins. He willing gave up His glory in heaven and took on the form of a bondservant so that you and I may be given eternal life through Him (Phil. 2:6-7, 12-13). Our wonderful Savior understood the cost of His love, but did not allow the cross to detour Him from accomplishing the ultimate goal. He learned obedience from the things He suffered and left the greatest life example for all to follow (Heb 5:8).  Do we understand the cost of our own discipleship?

Jesus spoke on many different occasions about the cost of discipleship. He commanded that those who follow Him must be willing to pick up their cross, an emblem of pain, agony and more importantly death, and follow Him daily (Luke 9:23). To follow God we must allow ourselves to die to self, so that Jesus may live in us. Paul captured this mentality in his letter to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (2:20).

The Bible speaks of three men eager to pledge their willingness to follow Jesus (Luke 9:57-62). Their hearts desired to follow Jesus, but their eagerness did not weigh the cost. The first man came to Jesus and exclaimed he was ready to follow Him, but he did not desire to leave the comfort of a good night’s sleep. This prompted Jesus to respond that foxes and birds have places to lay their heads, but the Son of Man had no place to lay His own. We can become inspired with the thought of taking Jesus’ gospel into the world, but when it comes to leaving our homes and families, the thought becomes more of a reality. The first step of discipleship is allowing ourselves to leave the comfort of selfish desires and take the name of Jesus with us wherever we may go.   

Jesus asked the second man to follow Him. He was quick to say yes, but first he wanted to go and bury his father. Whatever the idea may be, the point made within this context is that he was unwilling to put Jesus and His kingdom first (Matt 6:33). One of the most profound statements made by Jesus is, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me;” (Matt 10:37). The second step in discipleship is willing to forsake all others for Jesus Christ. We must be willing to give up any earthly encumbrance, which may be a distraction from our relationship with God (Heb 12:1). This truly may be a hard step, but the reward is great when standing faithfully with God. Jesus understood the difficulty His followers would have, but He gives motivation to the faithful, a crown of life (Rev 2:10).

The third man who proclaimed his willingness to follow Jesus had put his hand to work, but then looked back to those at his home. Jesus responded, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Therefore the third step in discipleship is full dedication to the work of God. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matt 9:37-38).  “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35). There is a great need for workers in the fields today. We tend to give God a few hours a week for working and tending to the spiritual growth of our lives, but we neglect the greatest charge as Christians – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” (As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, 139–143) The question that remains is what type of player are we and on whose team are we playing?

The cost of discipleship may prove to be too much for some and cause others to allow things to overrule their relationship with God, but if we remain faithful, heaven will be our reward. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Have we counted the costs and weighed our answer?” We can be just as willing to follow Jesus as these three, but when stipulations begin to arise; our enthusiasm to follow may diminish. May we be found as disciples and nothing less when Jesus appears to reward the faithful.