Simplicity Series #14

The True Disciple

“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Luk 14:33
The Cost of Discipleship
In the previous post, we looked at Luk 9:23, where Jesus lays down the fundamental requirement for discipleship, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” The denial of self, that is relinquishing all claims to my life, and the taking up of the daily cross are two sides of the same coin. When we distort this into the idea of “self-denial,” we place the emphasis on our sacrificial living, and this is a form of arrogance. The unconditional surrender of my whole life to the call and cause of Jesus Christ is the total picture of discipleship. It is “For me, to live is Christ …” (Phi 1:21), and “that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2Co 5:15).
The only purpose for my denial of self is that I may be free from the demands and desires of self to take up the daily cross of the life of Christ—as I am led and empowered by His Spirit. This is nothing less than the life of faith, where His will is supreme and His Word is the final authority. This life is summarized in many of the simple yet powerful statements found in God’s Word:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” Joh 3:30
“No longer I who live, but Christ lives in me …” Gal 2:20
“Not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luk 22:42
Counting the Cost
In much the same way that we misconstrue the meaning of denying self, we also distort the concept of counting the cost. We tend to think of it as a serious consideration of all that we will have to give up. This is defeatist thinking from the start!
When Jesus urged His disciples to “count the cost” (read Luk 14:25–33), His foremost thought was not what we give up, but what we have to gain if we have the determination to follow through. Note that the man who wants to build the tower sits down to consider, not merely how much it will cost, but whether he has what it takes to finish it. While funds and materials are certainly in view, the greater focus is will, commitment, resolve, and determination. In the same way, the king who goes to war must consider whether he can defeat his enemy’s twenty thousand troops with his ten thousand. The object in both cases is the achievement of the goal, regardless of the enormity of the task!
The thought is not, “This will cost me too much.” Rather, it is, “If I am wise and determined, I can achieve a great victory.” This is the true perspective of discipleship. And for this great and worthy end, all else—including family members, friends, and possessions—must be made subject to that high and exalted undertaking. To “hate” them is not an emotional hatred, as we think of hatred. Rather, it is to make them of no account when we consider the claims of Christ on our lives.
In the famous statement, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Rom 9:13), God chose Jacob to be the heir of the Abrahamic Covenant, bringing the Savior into the world through his lineage. While this was a great spiritual honor for Jacob, it was not made in antagonism to Esau. Rather, by this sovereign decision, salvation was made possible for all the descendants of Esau. In this sense, to “hate” family for the cause of Christ, is the greatest demonstration of love for them. The husband or wife who loves Christ above their spouse may, at times, due to this devotion, seem to “hate” them. But, in reality, keeping Jesus Christ in His rightful place is the greatest way to love them—with the love of Christ (Eph 5:25).
A True Disciple, Born Out of Season
Looking at the “extreme vetting” for discipleship demanded by our Lord in Luk 14:25–35, we can see how it worked out in the lives of men and women like Mary (Joh 12:1–5), Barnabas (Act 4:36–37), Paul (Phi 3:7–14), Aquila and Priscilla (Act 16:3–5), and Epaphroditus (Phi 2:25–30). Each in their own different ways “took up the cross daily” and, having “counted the cost”—once and for all—never again counted their service or labor “costly.” Rather, it was a joy and privilege.
In fact, Paul called himself an apostle “born out of due time [season] (1Co 15:8). The word he uses speaks of an abortion, but his meaning seems to be that his was an untimely spiritual birth.
It is interesting that one of the greatest examples of living out the demands of discipleship is found, not in the New Testament, but rather in the Old. In Moses, we see a detailed description of Christ’s demands as recorded and summarized by the author of Hebrews. Consider the account as recorded in Heb 11:23–29.
No doubt, one could dwell on what it cost Moses to follow God’s plan and purpose. He was in line to become the next Pharaoh! He had the power, wealth, and a life of luxury known to few others in history. However, and consider this well, so did the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt—and he lost it all. The wisdom of Moses, gained “by faith,” was to see those things in light of eternity.
He was able to see “the passing pleasures of sin,” the essence of which is “self,” in the dramatic contrast of “the reward,” which lasts forever. The pomp and splendor of Egypt turned to dust and ashes in comparison to even the lowliest place in Christ’s eternal kingdom. Moses was enabled to stand firm in the presence of Pharaoh, the mightiest monarch on this Earth, because his faith enabled him to [see] Him who is invisible” (Heb 11:27). Moses counted the cost, and found the price of discipleship cheap indeed when the gain was considered. Put in terms of finance, the cost was pennies, and the gain was millions. Only a fool would pass up such an investment!
The Wisdom of Discipleship
Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries martyred in their attempt to reach the Auca Indians in Ecuador in the 1950s, made perhaps the clearest statement of the “cost” of discipleship:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
The Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said the same thing:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him …
And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1Jo 2:15–17
Absolutely nothing we have, or are, or can gain, is worth the loss of our eternal inheritance. When the fires of the Bema Seat of Christ burn up all that is of this world in our lives (1Co 3:11–15), it is the love of God, purging from us things we should have laid aside ourselves and, much more, purifying even the smallest and weakest acts of faith, into treasures that will brighten our eternity and bring glory to our Savior forever and ever. Amen!


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