The True Cost of Discipleship

If you live in a consumer-driven culture, have you ever considered how your daily life is saturated with advertising? No matter the medium- television, radio, print, social media, billboards- our eyes are bombarded daily with images of various products and services that corporations produce and advertisers try to convince us of our overwhelming need for said product or service. However, do you ever notice the very, very, fine print on the bottom of many commercials? These legal disclaimers, though hard to read, give information such as the terms or conditions or the “do not try this at home” warning. Though the ad may list the cost of a product, did you ever consider the true cost of the product? For example, say you see a commercial for a new car and go to the local dealership to buy the car. You drive off of the lot with the new car, which has depreciated perhaps by thousands of dollars in a few seconds, thus you have lost money. Also, if you did not have the cash to purchase the car outright, you financed the car, which comes with a monthly payment and interest, while the brand new car continues to depreciate with each mile put on it. Also, consider the increase in your car insurance, repairs, the general wear and tear that comes with owning a car, and you could be in the hole for quite a bit of money. The purpose of this example is not a lesson in consumerism, but to illustrate that before we take on an endeavor in life, we must sit down and consider the true cost once the “new car smell” fades away.

Discipleship is a costly endeavor in our spiritual lives. It is a lifelong commitment and should not be made on a whim or in a moment of “hyper-emotionalism.” The Greek word used for disciple in the New Testament is the word  Mathetes (Strong’s #3101), which means “a learner, adherent, or imitator” of a teacher. When the Lord Jesus walked upon the earth, He developed quite a following and crowds showed up everywhere He went. People came to Him because of needs in their lives, people came to worship Him, and some people came out of plain curiosity or in the case of the religious leaders, stir up controversy. However, on more than one occasions, Jesus encountered people who wanted to follow Him. When Jesus, being God, encountered these people, He would listen beyond their words and into their hearts and motivations. Jesus could also see what was holding people back from becoming full disciples.

“Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:57-62, NKJV).

Though Jesus’ responses seem harsh, He was laying out the true cost of becoming a disciple and letting people know that true discipleship is not for the faint of heart and comes at a great price. The men in this passage of Scripture faced some of the same dilemmas we face in our 21st Century world. What are we willing to give up in order to follow God? Are we willing to surrender our material comfort? Are we willing to put our relationship with God above our family relationships? Are we willing to serve God today and not put it off until a “someday” that never comes? Are we willing to go all in and not look back?  How do we make the transition from being a believer in Christ to a disciple of Christ? As I mentioned earlier, discipleship is a lifelong process, it takes more than simply reading a blog post, listening to a single sermon, or attending a weekend seminar. Though not an exhaustive list, there are steps we must take in order to become a disciple of Jesus.

We must be in active fellowship with Jesus study the Word of God

How did you get to know your spouse or children? You spent time with them, you get to know them and communicate with them, right? The same principle applies to our relationship with God. In order to know God, we must spend time with Him, through Bible study, prayer, fasting, and applying the Word to our lives.

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31-32, NKJV).

“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9, NKJV).

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22, NKJV).

We must surrender all rights to ourselves and our lives

In any relationship such as a marriage or raising a family, there will be times that we will give up what we want in order to meet the needs of our spouse and family. When we enter into a loving relationship with someone else, it quits being about us our lives become about the other person. This situation is also reflected in our relationship with God.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24-27, NKJV).

We must live lives unto God in this present world

Living a life consecrated to God does not necessarily mean joining a monastery or convent or living as a hermit. However, the Bible instructs us to live our lives on this earth as pilgrims who are simply passing through until eternity. We must not take part in the fleshly pleasures of this world. If we are to be a disciple of Christ, we must live like our Teacher and even imitate what our Teacher did.

“Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:1-4, NKJV).

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:3-6, NKJV).

We must fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of others

If you have placed your faith in Jesus and are walking out your relationship with Christ through your daily life, you have taken the first steps. However, our relationship with God was never meant to be lived out in isolation. No, every believer, has an assignment from God, which is called The Great Commission.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV).  This aspect is always the part where a majority of people stumble because we do not see ourselves as worthy to teach someone else. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that makes us worthy. If we have placed our faith in Christ and He has saved us and forgiven us of our sins, we have an obligation to share the Gospel with the lost and dying world around us. True discipleship is not about us developing a following for ourselves, but it is pointing the others to Christ, that they in turn may disciple others, just as the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy.

“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, NKJV).

Let all of us who are believers, seek after the Lord with a fervent passion and proclaim His love to everyone around us. I pray the grace of God be with you in your endeavors.

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