More and more churches are falling away from biblical truth and teaching and compromising with the world and there may be churches near you who are abandoning the truth once delivered.
Abandoning the Faith
The growth of churches which are falling away from biblical truth and teaching and compromising with the world is growing exponentially and in fact, there may be churches near you who are abandoning the truth once delivered. Churches that are abandoning biblical doctrine to compromise with the world is nothing new for even in Jude’s day he “found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Why did it necessary for Jude to write about contending for the faith once originally delivered? It’s because “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). They were changing the gospel into cheap grace and denying that Jesus is God and Lord. Some cults teach that Jesus was created which is heresy. Churches want to make Jesus more human and thus, more acceptable. If they teach about a Jesus Who is compromised and compromise with sin, then they can increase church attendance. That means more “offerings.”
Just as it was prophesied that a great falling away would come, the Apostle Paul also foresaw that many would depart from the faith delivered by Jesus Christ and passed on through the Apostles. We expect the world to get worse before Jesus’ return but we must expect that “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions” (Jude 1:18). What we don’t expect, but should, is churches that teach and preach or allow sexual immorality, so even in churches now, they are “following their own ungodly passions” (Jude 1:18) and not following the teaching about God’s judgment on the sexually immoral (Rev 21:8). Any pastor that marries same-sex couples is not in the church Jesus’ built. Satan has his own sinister ministers, and thus, Satan has his own churches too so beware!
The Altar of Pragmatism
Pragmatism has crept into the church today, even if the church is unaware of it, so what is pragmatism? It is essentially this; if it works most of the time for most of the people it must be right. If some program brings more people into the church, it must be right, but that’s not actually a good thing. If people come into the church for the wrong reasons and not for the desire of repentance and faith in Christ, but instead, they come to have their needs, comforts and wants met, they will never truly be saved. If they are simply pampered and catered to, then their faith will not be genuine. Pragmatism has produced more tares or false converts in the church than perhaps anything else.
Gifts over Fruits
Jesus said that we will know them by their fruits, not by their gifts. Spiritual gifts are given by God at His discretion and not everyone has the same gift. That would not make up a balanced Body of Christ. Those who covet gifts of the Spirit are more likely worshiping and glorifying the Holy Spirit and not Jesus. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would testify of Him and not bring attention to Himself (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit points to Jesus and to make know the things Jesus wants revealed to us. Anything that overshadows the fruits (like the gifts can and often do) does not give others a means to identify who Jesus’ disciples truly are. The greatest gift is love and that his how people will not who Jesus disciples really are (John 13:34-35). It is not by their gifts but by their fruits they will be known, chief among the fruits will be love (1 John 2). Even so, some churches teach that unless you speak in tongues, you are not saved. They elevate the gifts over the Gift Giver and worship the Holy Spirit and not Jesus Christ. That’s sin!
I get a lot of junk mail, much of it telling me how to grow the church. These types of programs almost always try to grow the church by means not seen in the Bible. They want you to buy their supplements and training materials to help “you build the church.” This totally ignores what Jesus said that He would build His church (Matt 16:18). He never told Peter, “Peter, you and I are going to build My church together.” He never told that to anyone. It is His church and He will build it, so it is not Peter’s church nor is it my church. It is His church and He is the Head and He says “He” will build it or grow it, not me or anyone else or any program. God alone gives the increase (Acts 2:47), but He is pleased to use us as a means to do so. He could build it without us, but we can’t build it without Him.
Women Pastors, Apostles & Prophets
Even though the Bible forbids women to be ordained as pastors (Titus 1; 1 Tim 3), there are twice as many women pastors being ordained today than men. Even though it’s contrary to biblical truth and doctrine, it wins many people to the church and they build the church upon an unbiblical pastorate and spurn the teachings of Scripture. That’s a serious fall from Scripture. And it is compromising God’s requirements for elders, deacons and pastors.
One church I know requires members to tithe to have the right to vote on church boards. Legalism is deadly poison to the church too because no works could ever save us (Eph 2:8-9). Where pastors preach expository preaching from Scripture you will find the best churches and most sound doctrine. I am thankful that my wife, Martha and I, are in a rock-solid church here in Kansas.
I pray you’ve already trusted in Christ and discover what God’s will is for your life; what He has called you to do (Matt 25:35-36; 28:18-20). If you have still not trusted in Christ, God will say no to you regarding your entering into the Kingdom. Repent today and trust in Christ or face God’s judgment after death (Heb 9:27) or at Christ’s appearance (Rev 20:12-15), whichever comes first.
A disciple is someone called to live “in” Christ, equipped to live “like” Christ, and sent to live “for” Christ and called to “share” Christ.
I suggest you read the Gospels of Matthew and John because of the 261 times discipleship or disciples is mentioned in the Bible, Matthew and John contain well over half of the references (148 times). To be a disciple means to be a student or learner. This is what the word disciple means. It means we discipline our bodies and minds and bring them into the conformity of obedience and be devoted to the “apostles’ doctrine.”
Every Timothy needs a Paul to mentor them and every Paul needs to be mentoring a young Timothy. I am a mentor to some but I am still being mentored. This will end only with Jesus’ coming. We all need it as much as anyone does. That’s what being a disciple of Christ is; surrendering self, devouring His Word, and following Him in obedience. We are called to make disciples, not convert people to be “Christians.” That word is so broad in meaning compared to the specific nature of disciple or follower.
Discipleship could be described as anything that causes us to imitate Christ. Authentic discipleship is raising up godly men, women, and children who love God more than all others and all things. There cannot be discipleship without evangelism. A true disciple is one who accepts His teachings and assists in spreading the gospel, striving to make new disciples. Jesus’ wept over the lost sheep of Israel, knowing their judgment was coming (70 AD), so this should make our hearts burn within us and make us weep for those who are perishing. A disciple is someone called to live “in” Christ, equipped to live “like” Christ, and sent to live “for” Christ and called to “share” Christ. “Calling” includes salvation and abiding in Christ (John 8:31–32, 15:1-11). “Equipping” includes the spiritual formation and growth that God commands (2 Timothy 3:16–17). “Sending” includes making new disciples (Matt 28:18), but not stopping there.
These new disciples need to be discipled by teaching them what Christ taught His disciples (Matt 28:20). It’s not complicated but it’s not easy! Disciples will naturally produce good works that God has laid before them (Eph 2:10), but they can only bear godly fruit by the Spirit’s power (John 15:8; Gal 5:22-23). These same disciples will be changed from within and only then be able to love others as Jesus loved the disciples, although infinitely less than His perfect love. This love is the identifying mark of disciples (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11-15).
How to Make Disciples and Disciple New Believers
The Great Commission, given as an imperative command by the Lord Jesus Christ, is to make disciples and disciple new believers, so how can we do that? What’s that look like?
The Great Commission, given as an imperative command by the Lord Jesus Christ, is to make disciples and disciple new believers, so how can we do that? What’s that look like? To make disciples is to share Christ with others. Some, perhaps only a few, will come to believe that Jesus is their only solution to God’s judgment. Those who now believe become followers or disciples of Jesus, but it doesn’t stop there because Jesus said we are to teach these new disciples the same things that Jesus taught the original Apostles. These teachings are found in Scripture, particularly in the Gospels and the New Testament letters (books). To begin with, Jesus says that “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-33).
We must love God, even more than our own family. Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac, we must renounce all else that comes between us and our God. Inventory your activities some week, or even for a day. Log the times spent in activities. See what’s valued the most and what’s valued the least.
What is a Disciple?
This word comes from the Old English discipul, which originated from the Latin word discipulus. The word means “a pupil, student,” or “follower.” It is said to be from the word discere, which means“to learn” and where we get the word “discern.” The root word of that word is dek which means “to take, accept” (used in Matt 28:18-20). To take means “to grasp intellectually,” “analyze thoroughly,” or “to take hold of,” like “carpe diem” (Latin for “Seize the day.”). So a disciple of Jesus is a follower who is a student or studier of God and His Word that is attempting to discern or grasp and hold on to the essentials of what they learn thru the Word. The goal is that “when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
The Cost of Following Jesus
“Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24) and most certainly, those who are like Christ will suffer persecution like Christ, although not to the same extent of course. This means, “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” (Luke 14:26), but also, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). I don’t know about you, but that sounds about impossible to me.
Chip Ingram from Living on the Edge Ministries said, “Living the Christian life is not hard…it’s impossible,” and he’s right! We’re going to need God’s help for sure (John 15:5; Phil 4:14). The false idea that we can “accept Jesus” and everything gets easier is actually the reverse in most cases. Since we don’t live like the world anymore, the world won’t love us anymore. We’re sand it the world’s machinery. In fact, the world is agitated at Christians because of their “piety” or “pious” attitude toward sinful activities and hate us for our association with Christ…but that’s really good news for us (1 Pet 4:14). Our lives, driven by the Holy Spirit, can convict the world of sin, although it is the Spirit Who enables us to live godly lives. The way we live our lives can convict people who live contrary to the Word of God. Of course, we’ll never be sinless, but over time, we should be sinning less!
Costly Was the Blood
Every Christian should be greatly humbled to know, if they don’t already know, that new believers will struggle, just like we do! We know it is a very narrow path to eternal life that is very difficult. This is why so few will find it (Matt 7:13-14). So many think I do good enough things to be saved, but if God did not spare His own Son…a Holy, Righteous God Himself, what makes people think they can slide in with just enough “good works” to get into the Kingdom? If they could get into the kingdom some other way, Jesus’ death was pointless, but we know He made the only way possible. There is no forgiveness without being plunged beneath the precious blood of the Lamb of God.
Where will it cost you the most to follow Christ?
How have people treated you differently after you became a follower?
How do people behave around you after discovering you’re a follower?
How can we encourage others to forsake all for Him?
In what ways can you reflect Christ before others?
How do you typically respond when being persecuted?
How often are you persecuted?
Jesus sought out and chose the twelve disciples and not the other way around (John 15:16). In many cases, He simply went up to them and told them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). The point is, we didn’t chose Him; He chose us (John 6:44), even before the earth even existed (Eph 1; Rom 8:29-30). Academic studies of a particular field in education are sometimes called a “discipline” because the student is to take hold of what they learn and practice in later life.
As for disciples of Jesus, He doesn’t want any more religious people. Religion has never been the answer. He is seeking disciples after His own heart. It is not about learning a religion but having a relationship with Jesus Christ. The fact is we are a disciple of whoever or whatever it is we follow.
To be a disciple of Christ’s you must study His textbook, the Bible. It’s like enlisting a man in the Army and issuing someone a rifle that they never learn how to clean or shoot. The risk when we don’t “fully” disciple new believers is that they will almost always become lukewarm in faith, worldly in behavior, and hypocritical in witness. I know. I am proof of that! For this reason alone, anything less than a plan to disciple every willing person is going to be a catastrophic moral failure.
Random Acts of Kindness
Leaving the restroom better than you found it
Putting on a new roll of toilet paper (and even starting it!)
Opening the door for someone
Say “Thank you”
You might be the only Bible someone ever reads (Dr. John MacArthur). You might be the only glimpse that people will ever see of Jesus. Some believers were called “living epistles.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book on the cost of being a disciple of Jesus, ultimately paying the cost of being a disciple of Christ with his death in a Nazi prison camp. Pastor Bonhoeffer said if you want to be a disciple, look to Jesus! Dietrich Bonhoeffer desired to be a disciple of Christ so much that he actually entered into the sufferings of Christ. That was Paul’s desire too, “so that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10) Mr. Bonhoeffer was right in saying, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
In what ways does Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s example affect us
How do you discipline yourself in life?
What price do you pay for being a disciple of Jesus?
Christianity and Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ,” and he is absolutely right. Discipleship is never done alone, living apart from the Body of Christ. There are nearly 40 “one another’s” in the New Testament, showing we need one another and they need you! It’s hard to love one another when you’re by yourself, so discipleship is impossible if people forsake the assembling of themselves (Heb 10:24), and even more so today (Heb 10:25).
Discipleship is modeling and teaching Christians the precepts of the Bible, how to prayer, essential doctrines (Rom 10:9-13; Acts 4:12), Christian living, acceptable worship; and to live like Jesus lived; love like Jesus loved and pray like Jesus prayed. You learn these things through the hearing and study of the Word. We are discipled by the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and through the preaching of the Word and study of the Word. We are commanded to reach out to others and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), but recognize that it is the Holy Spirit Himself Who reveals Jesus Christ to the world. God makes disciples, but He is pleased to use us as a means. Our desire must match Jesus’ desire to bring people into an intimate relationship with God so that they might be saved and discipled by Christ and His Word. This is an act of divine intervention and grace by God (Eph 2:1-5), just as it was for Saul (later, Paul) on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).
God Seeking Us
Paul wasn’t seeking the One, True God; God was seeking Paul’s agenda, but God uses us as a means to make disciples, but not without the effectual call of God; just like Jesus’ called Lazarus from the dead. All Lazarus offered was a dead corpse (Eph 2:1). Jesus didn’t say, “Okay Lazarus, I need some works from you first, so just blink an eye and I’ll do the rest.” Discipleship always begins and ends with God (John 6:44), but what a privilege that He would use us as a means to achieve His divine purpose in doing this. It’s not our responsibility to save anyone. It is their response to His ability, but it is our responsibility to share Christ. A disciple must realize that it was the Word of God shared by a person from God and the Spirit of God that birthed a child of God and for the glory of God. We must recognize how good and gracious our God was to save us. Thankfully, it wasn’t “Jesus + your best works = salvation,” otherwise, none would make it (Eph 2:8-9).
Does God being the true evangelist change the way you think about witnessing?
Why is it not possible to be a “lone ranger” in the Body of Christ, the church?
Discipleship is Costly
Being a true disciple means having a willingness to trust Him completely in all aspects of life from the highest highs to the lowest lows. God sent Philip into the desert to share the gospel. Surely no one would have thought to go into the desert to find someone to witness to. He is the Lord of the Harvest. We simply cast the nets and leave the catch up to God. We must sow as widely and often as we can and leave the results to Him. It means we are not only willing to trust Him to provide for our salvation, but also for the future salvation of some. We are to trust Him even when we do not know, like, or understand what’s happening, even when He is leading us through unpopular or unfamiliar territory. Being a true disciple allows us to put our hand to the plow and not look back (Luke 9:62). As we grow in Christ, we become increasingly unsatisfied with anything less than His call and character. But it is through much adversity that we reach the kingdom. A faith that’s not been tested is a faith that can’t be trusted.
Jesus Christ lets you know up front that His calling is a commitment that will cost you something. It is not going to be easy. You cannot just say you love the Lord. Love is a verb; its action oriented. It is what you do. We must show this love to others as our heart’s devotion transcends to our hands and feet, being a part of the Body of Christ. Being Sunday morning Christians is not enough. He is seeking disciples to follow Him.
Are there Christians who you see are “sold out” for Christ?
When you’re in a hard place in life did you manage to still have peace of mind?
What tempts us to remove our hand from the plow in life?
Are Discipling and Mentoring the Same Thing?
The Apostle Paul mentored Mark, Timothy, and Titus (among others), so I believe every Paul needs to mentor another Timothy and every Timothy needs a mentor like Paul. Is mentoring the same thing as discipling someone? It’s not exactly the same thing but I believe mentoring is part of discipling someone. Paul had counseled Timothy and church leaders in Corinth, so part of mentoring is loving someone enough to speak the truth to them; even if it hurts. Read the Book of Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy. It’s much about mentoring and discipling. A mentor is a guide to be sure, and that’s also part of discipling. The Corinthians were told, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). We can imitate other’s faith to a point, but it’s more like imitating how they react under pressure, how they love others who are hard to love, how they are despised but don’t seek revenge, how they pray, how they study, how they witness to the lost. Our model of course is Christ, but our earthly examples can teach us a lot about how disciples of Christ live.
Costly but Priceless
Discipleship is costly because Jesus demands His being the priority over our own will, our own ideas, our own plans, and our presumptions about future things. Discipleship is dynamic, not static. It’s about a life committed, a life changed, a heart and will surrendered, and having a new direction and a biblical worldview. We now embrace Jesus’ teachings (the Bible) and His life as an example for us. The bracelet, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) presumes we know what He would do, and we can’t always know that, but we have a good idea from Scripture how He might react. We can’t always be accurate about what He would actually do, but trying to stop, think and imitate Him helps us reflect Him to a lost world.
Jesus often does things contrary to what we might expect, and just the opposite way the world does things. Being a disciple of Christ includes a change of heart, a change of direction, and a change of our will. A disciple is willing to grow in Christ by studying Christ (the Word). A disciple is willing to go for Christ! Are you willing to GO for Him? Part of the cost of following Him is ridicule or even embarrassment. Pastor Irwin Lutzer (Moody Church) prays every morning, “Lord, may I glorify You today, even at my own expense…still, may You be glorified.” The world tries to avoid being put in embarrassing situations, but the base part of the word humility is actually “humiliation!” Never did the early church pray for persecution to stop but that God would be glorified. The Apostle Peter said, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:14).
Jesus never asked anyone to do anything without enabling them with the power to do it. He never asks us to go through anything that He first did not go through, although Jesus suffered exponentially far than any man (Isaiah 53). He was willing to bear the shame of our sin for the joy that lay before Him. Let that encourage you and give you motivation!
Questions to Ponder:
How much time will discipleship cost you?
Does it scare you to share Christ? If so, why?
What can you do to abandon your fears in witnessing?
Which is harder; witnessing to family or a stranger and why?
Read Luke 9:23 and Luke 14:25-35: Ask yourself, “Am I willing to pay that cost?”
How Do We Deny Ourselves?
We are the last ones on earth that we typically want to deny. We often don’t want to deny our flesh, our desires, or our passions, but we must learn to deny ourselves for His sake if we really want to be a disciple of His. Being His disciple means that we must deny what we want and carry our own cross for Christ, because if we don’t, we can’t even claim to be His disciple (Luke 14:27). The cross is often meant to carry the burden of being rejected by the world, scorned by people, laughed at as foolish to the lost.
When approached by the rich young ruler, Jesus set a discipleship standard. This wannabe disciple would first have to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and then follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21).
I wonder how we would respond if a rich young ruler approached us today. Would we ask him to be on our board of directors or serve as a deacon? Would we ask him to teach a class on finance? After all, we would reason, God could do a lot with such dynamic influence and money, but we know riches do not qualify us to serve! In fact, riches can choke out the Word and cause us to fall away, showing we were never really saved in the first place.
Even those who help a fellow Christian or a disciple will not lose their reward (Matt 10:42), so being a disciple means we help others who are His disciples. Disciples ought to be a blessing to other disciples because doing if we do it for the least of the brothers and sisters in Christ, is the same thing as doing it to Jesus (Matt 25:40).
The 12 Disciples Resume
They had no financial clout.
They had no formal theological training.
Most were young.
They were plain, ordinary citizens; fishermen, or just plain old country boys (Acts 4:13).
They were a diverse group.
Peter was brash. John was given to anger (calling fire down from heaven!?), Thomas was full of doubt. Matthew was politically conservative. Simon was radical….and so on. It didn’t matter. Jesus made them disciples and that meant:
They were open to Jesus’ teaching.
They were the “least of society” or outcasts, like Matthew the tax collector.
Not Many Mighty or Noble
First Corinthians 1:26-29 tells us much about Jesus’ church, as Paul says we should “consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Jesus did not choose His disciples for what they could do for Him. He chose them for what He would do through them.
Jesus told the disciples just before He ascended to heaven, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).
The word “disciple” is only found one time in the Old Testament in Isaiah 8:6 where it says “Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples.” The Hebrew word for disciples is “limmuwd” and means the very same thing as it does in the New Testament; a student or pupil who takes up and carries their teacher’s teachings.
What Jesus was telling His own disciples in Matthew 28 was to go out and make disciples of others and this discipleship should be self-replicating (Jesus replicating!). As God intended, the disciples of Christ will spread throughout the world to go and make other disciples. It is perpetual growth. It is never a static process.
That is exactly what has happened in the last 2,000 years. Jesus said He would build His church and He has. And He uses disciples of His to do that. You might notice that the word “discipline” is close to disciple, and that’s because we must discipline ourselves and not satisfy the flesh. We must desire to follow the commands that Christ has given us and be part of Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.
To be a disciple of Jesus is more than just making a decision for Jesus. Jesus must be preeminent in our life. It’s easy to say you’re a disciple of Christ but the test is do we bear our own cross?
Will we love our own family far less when compared to loving Christ?
Do we deny ourselves and follow Him?
What evidence is there that you or someone else is a disciple of Jesus?
Ambassadors for Christ
Second Corinthians 5:17-19 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Since God has reconciled by Christ, we must carry on Jesus’ ministry of reconciling the world by Christ.
What this means is “we areambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). God uses the Body of Christ who live a godly live to make Jesus Christ appealing to the lost. Yes, He alone saves, but He is pleased to use us as a means to His end, chiefly, their salvation. Like God desires that none perish, we too should deeply desire that others be saved, knowing what our God has done for us, in that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:20-21)
What does being an ambassador mean to you?
How great is this responsibility of being an ambassador? Be specific.
A disciple is a pupil, a learner or a student of Jesus Christ Who is their Master and He said it is “by this” everyone will know you’re one of His disciples. What did He refer to as “by this?”
Jesus said it is by our love for one another that people would know we are His disciples (Read John 13:34-35). It would be the same type of love that Jesus had for His disciples. If we display this kind of love to the world, they might see the kind of love God has.
Being kindly affectionate with one another is contagious and better than a dozen books on apologetics. People can come to Christ, not through arguments or winning debates, but by loving them when they don’t deserve it, just as God did with us (Read Rom 5:6-10).
What does this kind of godly (agape) love look like?
Give an example.
Who is Jesus talking about that will know we are His disciples (if we love one another)?
First of all, love is not what you feel as much as it is what you do. A bank robber loves money. Eve loved the forbidden fruit in the Garden, but love is more what you do for someone than what you say to someone.
Love is not just a greeting card or a dozen roses (although it adds to our love-oriented actions). True love is a verb, so it’s much more than simply feelings or words. Jesus’ love was displayed on the cross; in His death for those who were still wicked sinners (Rom 5:8), and who were still His enemies at the time that He died for them (Rom 5:10). Jesus displayed what love is on the cross. It is what He did, not just said. That is true love, not a wishy washy type of sentimental love but an action-oriented love that does something for someone.
Loving God or Lying to God
If we say we love God but hate our brother, we are only deceiving ourselves (Read 1 John 4:20). If we say we love Christ but don’t do what He commands us to do, we’re actually a lying to God (Read 1 John 2:4). Strong words, yes, but those are not my words. They are from the Word of God. We might say we love our brother or sister, but if they are in need and we shut our eyes and ears to their needs, how in the world can the love of God really be in us (1 John 3:17)?
Love is also selfless. Love let’s others speak first; love allows others to finish their sentences; love is not interrupting others while they’re talking; love is not talking while others are talking in a group (Bible study, etc.). Love admits when we are wrong. Love admits our weaknesses. What power there is in these 7 little words: “I’m sorry,” “I love you,” and “Thank you.” You can’t hate others and say you love God. It’s not possible. Jesus’ disciples love the brothers and sisters, or they are not His disciples.
Are You Willing to Offend to Save
What I mean by saying we should be willing to offend in order to save is that we should understand that the Word of God will afflict the lost, but it wounds in order to heal. It cuts so that it might heal and reveal our need of the Savior. We must accept the fact that we are, “to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” so don’t take it personally, however we must not back down from the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).
Imagine you’re taking an early walk in the morning and you see a house on fire. You run to the front porch and start pounding on the door and yell, “Fire, fire,” knowing they’re probably still asleep. To not share the gospel with someone would be like not warning a sleeping family that their house is on fire. I would hope you’d get them me up in the middle of the night to save my life. Someone cared enough to risk offending me; not to judge me but in order to save me. How much greater a fire is coming and one that will not be quenched. Would you really want even your worst enemy to perish in this fire? Remember, we had previously been enemies of God (Rom 5:6-10), but He intervened, perhaps through an acquaintance of ours, to share the gospel.
When we are born again (or, from above; John 3:3-7), Jesus places us in the exact spot where He wills and which best fits into the Body of Christ, the church. The body, and all members are included, and all have specific talents and skills to be utilized for the building up of the church and for Christ’s glory. He did the placing; we do the “doing.” Each must bloom where God has planted them.
That may mean feeding the poor for some, it might be clothing the poor for others, visiting the sick in hospitals, rehabs, or nursing homes, or going to those in prison. We’re even commanded to show mercy to strangers (Matt 25:35-36; Heb 13:2). This is the way Jesus sees it; “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). A disciple does what his or her teacher teaches them to do (Matt 28:20), and in time, becomes close to what their teacher is like.
What happens to those who claim to be Christians and yet do nothing for Him (Matt 25:41-46)?
What about those who just disappear from the church (1 John 2:19)?
Be Wary of Traditions
On one occasion, “the disciples of John came to [Jesus], saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast” (Matt 9:14)?
We may not think about their being other disciples that were not part of Jesus’ disciples, but John the Baptist also had disciples who survived his death and were still around long after John had been put to death (Acts 19:2-7), but John’s disciples apparently had their own traditions, just like the Pharisees who fasted twice a week.
They came to Jesus and questioned Him about why His disciples didn’t fast like John’s disciples. Jesus told them that as long as the Bridegroom is with them (which is Him), they rejoice but when the groom’s gone, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt 9:15).
Fasting does not demonstrate you are a true disciple of Jesus. There is a time and place for fasting. Some who are in grief fast because they’re focused on their pain and/or their loss. Some cannot fast due to medical reasons, but it things like fasting that can quickly become ritualistic. We can easily look down on those who don’t fast.
Being a disciple of Jesus is not just “checking off” Sunday school attendance, being baptized, or serving at the homeless shelter, but if we are only doing it to be seen by others, which is revealed when we tell others, our works are useless to God. Works done to be seen by others are not what Jesus’ disciples do (Matt 7:21-23; Eph 2:8-9).
True disciples produce godly fruit as a by-product of the Spirit’s work in them, but they are not really their own works, but God causing the fruit to bear godly fruit. A branch that doesn’t abide in the tree cannot produce fruit. The only fruit we can bear is through God, and only as long as it’s attached to the vine (John 15:1-4). We cannot do this on our own (John 15:5). The only fruit we can bear on our own is fleshly, sinful fruit (Gal 5:19-21). Bearing the fruit of good works never saves us, but the saved bear godly fruit simply because they are saved (Gal 5:22-23), so it is God Who works both in them and through them (Phil 2:13)…but the source of works/fruits it’s not from themselves.
Have you ever fasted?
Did you have a scheduled fast?
Was your fast due to troubles?
What does it make you feel like after you fast?
When you fast, what do you think of others who don’t?
Breaking Religious Tradition
Matthew 15:2 is where the religious Jews ask Jesus, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”
When the Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus’ disciples for not keeping the tradition of the elders, Jesus gave a stern rebuke about their traditions, asking them “why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” (Matt 15:3-3-6) and so called them “hypocrites” (Matt 15:7).
True disciples of Christ will care for their family, friends, members of the church, and honor their father and mother. They will care for them…not out of tradition but out of love, compassion and obedience. The Pharisees and scribes looked good in their traditions but they were breaking the fifth commandment by not honoring their father and their mother. The Bible records that instead of taking care of their parents as they were commanded to, they claimed the money was to be used as a special offering for God so they had nothing left for their parents. Whether they ever gave that gift to God at the Temple is unknown, but their parents certainly didn’t benefit from their traditions. Traditions that do not love our neighbors are hindrances to the disciples walk with Christ.
Do we have some traditions that we keep?
Do we look down on others who don’t do some of the things we do (i.e. fasting, Christmas, etc.)?
What is Jesus most concerned with (Matt 15:19-20)?
Do we honor our parents, even if they were less than honorable in life?
How do we honor our parents who abused us physically, emotionally, or sexually?
The Master and His Disciples
Matthew 10:24-25 is where Jesus says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”
Jesus had just been telling His disciples that they are not above their Master who was hated, and in time, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:21-22). Disciples of Jesus will be hated by the world. Get used to it. No true disciple will be loved by the world because the world only loves its own.
Jesus was preparing His disciples to be hated for His name’s sake because they represented something different than the Jewish traditions and the Jews had added rules and regulations above and beyond Scripture’s teaching. It’s like God’s calling of the Old Testament prophets who were told to go and prophecy, and by the way, they will reject your message (Jer 7:27). To this day, most Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah. In Jesus’ day, the Jews hated anyone who didn’t keep the same laws (and traditions) that they did.
The world will hate those who don’t follow the ways of the world because it’s ruled by the god of the world (2 Cor 4:4). Of course, it was impossible to keep all the laws and traditions they kept. So much so that there is no way that even the religious Jews could keep them. They kept their traditions just fine; the true meaning of the Law, not so much.
That’s part of the reason why they hated Jesus and why they would eventually hate all of His disciples, and later, seek to keep them. Because every disciple will experience the same things as their teacher did, they shouldn’t be taken by surprise by the way the world treats them.
Have you been insulted for Jesus’ name sake?
Did your family or friends or co-workers turn on you after you became a Christian?
Why shouldn’t we be surprised by persecution or suffering for Jesus’ sake (1 Pet 4:12)?
Refreshing the Saints
We must follow Him wherever He goes and He went everywhere He could in visiting and healing the sick, seeking out the lost sheep of Israel, and preaching a gospel of repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). The way others treat you in your mission for Christ doesn’t matter. What matters is how we treat others. This, even though Jesus said that “whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt 10:42). The way I see it is we must quench a thirst or meet a need when we see it (James 4:17). This is Jesus’ way, as He even went to the Samaritans, whom the Jews hated.
Has anyone ever offered you a “cup of cold water” so to speak?
Have you offered something refreshing to another disciple?
Who are “these little ones?”
The Command to Make and Teach New Disciples
Matthew 28:19-20 says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When Jesus was about to ascend back to the Father, He gave His disciples an imperative command to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, but how was that possible? There was no mass transportation or a printing press. It didn’t matter. Jesus simple said they were (and we are) to teach “them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded” them to teach. Today, we find those teachings in the New Testament, especially in the gospels. That’s how the disciples teachings are going into all the world, so how was the early church able to grow so rapidly? The Bible says that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) [just as Jesus commanded], “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). God alone brings growth, but that is if the local church is faithful to teaching what Jesus taught. That is, to disciple someone after the likeness of Jesus Christ is to be devoted to the apostles’ teachings in the Word of God. If they don’t teach and follow these teachings, they can never hope to be a true disciple and be able to follow Him and the church will simply grow more tares than believers.
Do you have a mentor or is someone discipling you?
Is mentoring and discipling the same thing?
What is the key to making disciples of others?
I urge you in your study to look at and read all of the Bible verses in this study and read them aloud in the class so that you can get the most out of this lesson on discipleship. If you want to read more about the kind of discipleship that we’re all called into, I suggest you read the Gospels of Matthew and John because of the 261 times discipleship or disciples is mentioned in the Bible, Matthew and John contain well over half of the references (148 times). To be a disciple means to be a student or learner. This is what the word disciple means. It means we discipline our bodies and minds and bring them into the conformity of obedience and be devoted to the “apostles’ doctrine.” Every Timothy needs a Paul to mentor them and every Paul needs to be mentoring a young Timothy. I am a mentor to some but I am still being mentored. This will end only with Jesus’ coming. I need it as much as anyone does. That’s what being a disciple of Christ is; surrendering self, devouring His Word, and following Him in obedience.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ in your words?
Can we follow Jesus and not be His disciple? If not, why?
Has your understanding changed about discipleship in this study?
Who Chooses Whom?
We might like to think we’re responsible for coming to God to be saved through Christ but Jesus told the disciples “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16), so disciples are made by God alone. But Jesus’ disciples are called to bear godly fruit. The context here is not Jesus’ choosing the twelve disciples only to be apostles, but choosing the disciples (and us) to bear fruit and receive eternal life. This comes only by abiding in Him, but we only abide in Him because He made the first move (1 John 4:10, 10), or we’d still be abiding in the world (and death).
Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations, but God Himself elects and effectually saves those whom He has determined to save (Eph 1). This means God makes disciples, just like Paul didn’t make Lydia a disciple. God opened Lydia’s heart to hear the words of Paul (Acts 16:14), but Paul didn’t save her. God did, but clearly, God will use us (His disciples) as a means to make more disciples, although salvation is all from God. It is not our responsibility to save anyone. It is their response to His ability, although it is our responsibility to share Christ.
Who do you now that God has used so He could make new disciples?
In what ways have you introduced the gospel to someone?
What kind of fruit do you see in the person closes to you?
Go and Bear Fruit
The disciples are called to “go and bear fruit.” Earlier, Jesus had just said “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil,” referring to Judas of course (John 6:70). God is sovereign. We are not. Paul writes that “no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:10), but “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God” (Psalm 53:2). A look at all the Old Testament prophets shows that God called them (Jer 1) and they often resisted that call. I know many pastors that resisted this call at fire, thinking themselves unworthy, but that’s just the point! None of are worthy. We are made worthy through Christ.
Not one of the Old Testament prophets ever sought after God. It was generally God pursing them. This list includes the Patriarchs like Moses (Ex 3) and Abraham (Gen12:1-3). Jesus makes it clear that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44), so no unsaved person can make themselves a disciple of Christ. It is possible without God’s outside intervention by the Holy Spirit. Just like Lazarus had no hope of resurrection without Jesus. Trying really hard wouldn’t have done much for Lazarus (Eph 2:1-5).
Jesus Calls His First Disciples
In the Gospel of John it says that some of John the Baptist’s disciples started following Jesus (John 1:37). One of John’s disciples was apparently Andrew as it says, “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother” (John 1:40), but the true calling came when Jesus went to them and to where they made their living as fishermen. Men will not go to God so God must go to men, so it was “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matt 4:18-22). They never talked it over, consulted their dad, or apparently, had second thoughts. It only says that “they left their nets and followed him,” like true disciples will.
More Disciples Called
It was on “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:43-45). God’s calling is an effectual calling which means what God proposes to do, will be done! Jesus never asked Philip “Do you want to follow Me?” but simply spoke it as imperative command, “Follow me.” Again, Jesus “decided to go,” and in this case, “to Galilee” and “found Philip.” Then He tells Philip, “Follow me.” If someone tells me “I found Jesus,” I would ask, “Was He missing?” He found us. Every sheep I’ve ever known has tended to go his/her own way (Isaiah 53:6).
The fact is, He found you and me. You and I were once lost but now are found. We were once blind but made to see. If you and I were blind, we couldn’t have possibly found the way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Here is God’s effectual work in a nutshell: He thought you, He sought you, He bought you and He taught you what you ought do. It’s all about Him and His ability to make disciples, but He is pleased to use other disciples like us as a means to his end.
Jesus is not done calling His disciples, because “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him” (Luke 5:27-28). Once more, Jesus Christ doesn’t ask them, doesn’t consult with them, and doesn’t even give them time to think it over or turn Him down. He says “Follow me.” There is no other option. God again does the calling and amazingly, even prostitutes and tax collectors will enter the kingdom before the self-righteous Jews will (Matt 21:31) because they’ve repented and trusted in Christ, as do all true disciples of Jesus. A disciple does not practice such things (Gal 5:19 -21).
Jesus Choses the Apostles
A disciple is not the same thing as an Apostle, which simply means “sent out one.” We are all called to be disciples of Christ, but the original twelve Apostles were specifically ordained by Jesus Christ Himself. Sometime later, Paul would be called as an Apostle, but even He had an encounter with the living God in Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, and like the other Apostles, he was called by Jesus Christ to be an Apostle, but to the Gentiles. Becoming an Apostle was not a decision Paul made. He was on his way to imprison or kill more Christians. It was God’s choice, not Paul’s. Disciples are “students” or “pupils,” but Apostles were the ones that God specifically chose to send out in the first century. There are no more Apostles today (Acts 1:16-26; Eph 2:20; Heb 1:1-2)
Jesus didn’t immediately choose the twelve Apostles because He first went to pray about it, and this was no short two minute prayer because it says “he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). This was an incredibly important decision so Jesus prayed all night long and only then “when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, Nathaniel, Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Luke 6:13-16). Save for Paul, Jesus never called any other to be Apostles, nor is this found in the Book of Acts.
Jesus comforts us by saying, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). How is that comforting? Because what the world loves, God hates, and what God loves, the world hates.The real question is, are we being hated for the sake of Christ or because we’re trying to shove Jesus down people’s throat? Jesus or his disciples never forced themselves on anyone. The way the disciples loved one another would show people, the lost and saved, who the true disciple of Jesus are, but Jesus’ true disciples will not have a lot of friends in this world. More likely, we’ll have more haters than those who love us.
Our Lord said we are to “love one another; just as I have loved you, you are to love one another” (John 13:34). What kind of love is that? A disciple loves radically, willing to risk much in relationships, but it is a self-sacrificial love. Loving others like Christ loved us is giving up our own lives for the sake of others. It is giving up of our time, energy and talents for the welfare and benefit of others. It is this kind of love where “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). That’s a love that cannot be found in the world because it is not of the world. Disciples of Jesus have a love that’s not of this world, so the world won’t understand it.
Hating the World, Loving God
One of the hardest things about being saved was that most of my family was not. They didn’t like it when I was changed. I was “brain washed,” but my brain needed washing! The same thing happened with most of my friends, so I had a decision to make. Would I risk offending some family members and friends and losing some of my personal relationships for having trusted in Christ? Yes, it was clear that I had to love Christ more than all others. Jesus said that in loving Him it must look like hate in contrast to how we feel about our family (Luke 14:26). Jesus is not saying that we are to hate our family, but if you compare it to how we are to love Him next to our family, hate is what it would look like to the world. The interesting thing is, many believers do have to live with this kind of animosity with their family, friends, and co-workers. We love God and hate the world, but the world hates God and loves the world. It’s all backwards!
How Do We Follow Christ?
You never heard Jesus refer to His followers as Christians, but rather, He would call them His disciples, and when He called His disciples, He would often say, “Follow Me.” When Jesus saw “Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:18-19), and what was their reaction? Did they stop and think about it? Did they consider the fact that they’d be leaving behind the family fishing business and all the security that went with that? And, what about their family? Couldn’t they have at least said “Goodbye?” No, “can’t take your hand off the plow” stuff. It’s all in or not in.
Amazingly, the Scripture says “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matt 4:20). That’s a radical thing to do. Could we do that?! It says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” And while Jesus was at the shore, He “saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matt 4:21-22). Again, it was an immediate decision. That’s what it means to follow Christ. You drop everything and follow Him, no matter what it costs you. That doesn’t mean you quit your job and leave your family, but that does mean you seek first the kingdom and His righteousness (Matt 6:33), and that is found in the King of the kingdom, Jesus Christ (2nd Cor 5:21).
Do you believe all professing Christians are disciples? Why or why not?
Can you be a Christian without being a disciple?
What things in your daily life show you’re following Christ?
Could we leave everything and everyone if the Lord came up to us and ask us to?
Not everyone responded immediately by following Him, and that made a huge difference. It’s the difference between those who profess Christ and those who possess Christ. It is follow the world or follow Christ. Jesus never promised eternal life to those who simply profess to be Christians, because many will claim they know the Lord but Jesus will tell them plainly, “I never knew you” (Matt 7:21-23). A person can say they’re Christian, but Jesus defines believers as being His disciple. It is not about what you say, but about what you do.
Jesus said, “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:38), and wearing a cross around the neck isn’t what Jesus had in mind. Christ says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Jesus made this offer to the rich young man and told him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matt 19:21), but “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt 19:22). He was not ready to follow “immediately,” and his eternal destiny was likely changed. He came so close to the Kingdom, but close is not enough.
When Jesus began to preach some very hard things to the crowd, many of His disciples could not take it anymore, and “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66), but if they truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah and the Savior, they would have followed Him. By not following Him, the reveal they were never really saved in the first place. Like the Parable of the Sower, one by one they fell away and only 1 in 4 of the seeds remained because the Spirit of God enlightened the Word of God. The sower had nothing to do with the seed sprouting. That is a work of God.
Jesus knowing so many had fallen away, asked the disciples, “Do you want to go away as well” (John 6:67)? Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Even though Peter didn’t understand everything Jesus spoke about, He did believe in Jesus, so a good point is, obedience comes before understanding.
Sharing in His Sufferings
I would rather call myself a Christ follower than a Christian because the word “Christian” seems to be too generic. I remember years ago a man who lived down the street. He would swear profusely, and it was worse when he was drunk. While he was sober, I asked him about his faith and he insisted that he is a Christian, but did his life show he was truly following Christ? He never goes to church, doesn’t particularly care for the Bible, and his language, even while he’s sober, reveals what is in his heart. Only God knows for certain, but from what I (and others) can see, he doesn’t appear to be following Christ but rather following the desires of the flesh.
If you truly want to follow Christ, then you will share in the sufferings of Christ, as the Apostle Peter wrote, saying we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13). This Apostle Paul wrote that “as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2nd Cor 1:5), but you might ask, “Why God?” This was in order “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10). To follow Christ, you must know Christ, and only then can you follow Christ. And to know Christ better is to enter into His sufferings. Our neighbor down the street never did suffer persecution for his faith, but maybe that’s because he never had authentic, saving faith.
Following His Persecutions
If you want to follow Christ, you must believe what Christ said, and He promised, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20), “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22). Christ followers know that none were ever hated like Jesus was, so “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Most of us do not receive any kind of real persecution, but God’s Word does says that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2nd Tim 3:12). Jesus never promised that we’d all live happy lives, but all will be persecuted, because they persecuted Him; they will hate us because they first hated Him; and all would be persecuted “who live a godly life in Christ.” It is such a radical devotion to Christ that our love for Him will look like hate to our family by comparison, which may explain why Jesus said, “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” (Luke 14:26).
To follow Christ means to suffer with Christ and to suffer the same things as Christ did, although not at all to the same extent (Isaiah 53). Our sufferings may include being ostracized, hated, and despised; if not to our faces, surely behind our backs. Do you still want to follow Him? Jesus says we must count the cost (Luke 14:28), because “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). If you have never trusted in Christ, today He says to you, “Follow Me.” I pray you will do that “immediately,” because those who believe in Him shall never be put to shame. To whoever has ears, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)?
What Does Jesus Mean By Saying “Follow Me?”
What does it mean to die to self?
What things did you have to stop doing after following Christ?
What “expense” has your faith cost you?
Why did Jesus use such radical language before the Jews and disciples?
I personally believe it is better to refer to believers as “Christ-followers” or disciples than it is to refer to them as Christians. To be a Christian is to be labeled as a believer, but this word is so generic today that almost anyone can claim to be a Christian. To be a Christ-follower is much different because we do more than claim to be a Christian, we claim to follow Christ wherever He leads, and may He lead us into some very difficult places and circumstances. We will share Christ actively as commanded.
Jesus never came up to anyone and said, “Let me into your heart,” or “accept Me,” but rather He wants us to show our love for Him and do as He says, “Follow Me” (Matt 4:19). There are not scriptural references where Jesus or any of the other apostles ever said, “Accept Jesus,” “Let Him into your heart,” or “Pray this (sinners) prayer.” No one is ever saved by walking down the aisle and coming forward, or filling out a “decision card” or repeating a prayer that someone else leads them in, or by claiming “I was baptized on…”, but rather, a person is saved when God grants them repentance (2 Tim 2:2426) and they put their trust in Christ.
We don’t put our trust in a decision card, or going to the altar, or in water, or in “accepting Jesus.” Salvation is fully a work of God and so God, rightly so, receives 100% of the glory (Psalm 115:1). That’s how a person is born again or born from above (John 3:3-7). It is an act of God that is part of the will of God.
There are dozens of times that Jesus comes up to those He has called and tells them, “Follow Me.” One such example is when He was choosing His disciples and “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matt 4:18-20). There is no hint of these men stopping to count the cost or talking it over with one another, it simply says, “Immediately they left their next and followed Him (Matt 4:20). They left their job security, the only living they had known, to go with Jesus and follow Him and really had no idea about what they were getting into. That proves they were really Jesus’ disciples.
Later in the Gospel of Matthew, “Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him” (Matt 9:9). Again, there is no indication that Matthew had to stop and think about what he was doing. Being a tax collector for the Roman’s was a very lucrative position to have but Matthew didn’t think about all he was going to lose or leave behind. It only says, “And he rose and followed him” (Matt 9:9b).
That is what it means to follow Christ. It is a radical lifestyle where we seek the kingdom above all things (Matt 6:33) and it will be painful and cost us, but as Jesus told the Apostle Peter who had just said he had forsaken all, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 10:28).
Counting the Cost
Those who follow Christ were told by Christ to count the cost before they followed Him. Jesus said, “which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it” (Luke 14:28)? But some might think, “Jesus, I am giving up so much for you,” (as the disciples said), but Jesus promises that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matt 19:29). This type of love for Christ is so intense that it appears to look like hate toward our own family members and our unsaved friends. Even so, listen to what Jesus says will happen to those who have done for the least of these, His brothers and sisters. Our Lord will say the words we all yearn to hear someday, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). Notice that this inheritance is not for this world or anything in this world, but for the world to come. God has prepared a kingdom for us and He plans to use us for His glory in the coming kingdom. That is, if we have counted the cost and forsaken all others to follow Him. It’s not easy; it’s painful and expensive, but the inheritance to come is beyond comprehension.
Putting Christ First
Jesus said that “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” (Luke 14:26). As I mentioned earlier, we are commanded to love others but the love we display for Christ is so much greater than if you compare the love we have for Jesus and the love we have for family. It would almost look like hate, but Jesus is not telling us in practical terms to go out and hate everyone, especially our own family and the family of God. He is telling us to love Him so much that it looks like hate or negligence to those who know us.
Why does the Lord repeat some concepts or verses so often? It’s because we are children and we just don’t always get it the first time. I can’t remember how many times I heard, “Take your shoes off at the door!” Why, because I kept forgetting, therefore Jesus says again, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37). What this looks like in daily life is “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). If we love our lives more than Christ, He warns us that we “cannot be [His] disciple” (Luke 14:26b).
In conclusion, we must count the cost of following Christ and this means we must die to ourselves and our own interests and live for Christ. Jesus tells everyone who desires to be saved that “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:38) and even more specifically, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24).
One final warning that is very sobering comes from Jesus’ own lips as He said about the Day of Judgment, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt 7:22-23). Did you catch that? “Many” will come to Him thinking they are saved but they loved their lives and therefore, lost it.
They may have counted the cost and decided it was too expensive, so they followed their own desires. And by doing so, they proved they were not worthy of Him. Jesus doesn’t say, “I didn’t know you well enough,” or “I wished I had known you better,” but instead, He says, “I never know you” (Matt 7:23). They professed to have a personal relationship with Jesus by saying, “Lord, Lord,” but He didn’t know them in the sense of being part of His sheepfold.
Jesus is omniscient and knows all, so he’s not saying He doesn’t know about them (Matt 7:21-23), but He doesn’t have that personal relationship that Jesus’ disciples do, so to “know” someone means you know a lot about them. We know a lot about Jesus by Scripture and the Holy Spirit which testifies of Him. By the way, repeating a name indicates a more intimate knowledge of that person in Scripture. If Jesus doesn’t know you, it doesn’t matter what you do for Him; but if you follow Him wherever He leads, you will die to yourself and not love family and friends more. To the others, Jesus will say, they “are not worthy of me” (Matt 10:38b).
God’s Word can disciple us too as “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). It is as if God is saying, the Holy Spirit will unfold the meaning of the Word of God to make simple our salvation, unfolding and revealing the Lord, Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God and the Word of God are necessary to make disciples of Christ.
How is this true? How does God’s Word increase our understanding?
Has something in your study “unfolded” for you?
Has something you read (in the Bible) “unfolded” for you?
Has something you heard in a sermon “unfolded” for you?
What is “Silent Mentoring?”
Is part of mentoring someone more caught than taught? Give examples.
Some passages to consider: Psalm 119:130; Isaiah 42:16; Luke 10:2-3; John 4: 23-24; 15; 1 Corinthians 2:14-15; Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:5-7
Never allow daily devotionals to replace your reading of Scripture. They can be supplemental, but only the Word of God, full strength, can mentor us and help us mentor others.
Some additional passages to consider: Psalm 77, 119:130; Isaiah 42:7-16, 69:1-2, 88:7; Luke 10:2-3; John 2:3-5, 4: 23-24; 15; Acts 16:30-31; 1 Corinthians 2:14-15; Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 John 3:23
How can the Word of God mentor us?
Psalm 15; 51; 149:4; Proverbs 3:34; 6:16-19; 16:5; 18; 20:25; 29:23; Job 35:12; Obadiah 3; Matthew 5:46; 28:19-20; Mark 1:35-2:12; 8:34-38; Luke 9:62; 12:15; John 1:36-52; 3:30; 15; 17:20-23; Acts, 10-16; 1 Corinthians 3:2; Romans 6:14; 8:9-17; 8:28-32, 12; 1 Corinthians 12; 13:4-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 2:20-21; 5:26; 6:1-10; Ephesians 2:10; 4:1-3, 29-32; 6:10-20; Philippians 2:3-4; 3:1-10; Colossians 3:12-14; 2 Timothy 2:2; James 1:2-4,19; 4:7, 10; 1 Peter 2:13-15; 4:2,10; 5:6-9; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 John 1:9
How can we avoid missed opportunities?
Luke 9:23-24; 14:25-35
How can we make Christ our focal point?
John 5; 14:1; Job 1-2; Psalm 31:9, 15; 62; 103; 119:50; Isaiah 26:3; 41:10; Jeremiah 27:11; Luke 10:20; Romans 8:28-29; 35-37; 12; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Revelation 21:4