We’ve been talking on Little Lessons about a very important subject, the subject of discipleship. Because Jesus told His apostles, “Go all the world, make disciples. Teach them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you” (see Matthew 28:19-20).
That’s what Jesus wants. That should be every minister’s goal. That should be every church’s mission statement. That’s what we ought to all personally be pursuing. And we should be evaluating ourselves. Am I truly a disciple of Christ?
The Lie That You Can Be a Believer, but a Not a Disciple of Jesus Christ
If you’ve bought into the lie that you can be a believer in Jesus but not be His disciple, well, that’s a terrible lie to believe. Because it is a lie.
If you’re not a disciple of Christ, you don’t believe in Him. Belief and discipleship are one in the same. True believers are all disciples. All the disciples, they’re the only true believers.
If you said, “I’m a believer, but I’m not a disciple,” you’re not really a believer yet. The preachers and the pastors who are presenting that kind of false dichotomy, they’re doing a huge disservice to their congregations and to their listeners. Because it’s so easy to see from the New Testament that that’s erroneous.
True Disciples Love Jesus Above All
Well, in our last Little Lesson, we were looking at Luke 14, where Jesus, in front of a huge group of people who are going along with Him, stops and tells them,
“Here’s what you have to do. If you don’t do this, you’re not My disciple.” The first thing, He says, “You’ve got to hate the people you naturally love the most.” We interpret that simply as meaning that my love for my family, in comparison to my love for Jesus, almost has to see like hatred because I love Jesus so much.
I love Jesus with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength because I believe He’s God. And God alone deserves that kind of love. It’s great to ask yourself the question, “Do I love Jesus supremely? Is that reflected in what I do in my life? When I have to make a decision between loving one person or loving another one?”
Again, there’s not always a conflict. I love my wife and my children dearly. Generally, there’s no conflict between my love for my wife and my children and my grandchildren, and my love for Jesus. In fact, I consider my love for my wife as part of an expression of my love for Jesus as well as for my children and my grandchildren.
True Disciples Choose Jesus Over the Approval of Loved Ones
If Jesus is telling me, “David, I want you to spend two months overseas every year. Because of that, you’re going to be apart from your family.” And I said, “No. I love my family too much,” that would be a sign that I don’t love Him enough and that I’m not His disciple.
Glad that in my own life I at least have a chance to evaluate that by some of the things that I sense that God’s calling me to do. We all have those opportunities, don’t we? We have to make a decision. It’s Jesus or this person that I love.
Some families—I’ve heard stories, I’m glad this has never happened to me—where the gauntlet is laid down by Christians’ loved ones. They say, “If you’re going to do that Jesus stuff, you’re no longer a part of our family.”
That happens around the world in places where other religions are very dominant. Those people make the decision to follow Christ. They make it very plain and clear, “We love Jesus the most.” You need to think about that. We all need to think about that. Look at your life. Does it reflect you love Jesus the most?
True Disciples Take Up the Cross
Well, Jesus continued.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. – Luke 14:27
Who’s going to argue with Jesus? He’s the Lord. He knows what He’s talking about. You can not be His disciple, He says, unless you take up your cross and follow him.
Well, again, this is another verse that is worth our thinking about a little bit. Because it seems unlikely that Jesus meant that we should be literally carrying a wooden cross with us wherever we go. We don’t see that played out in the book of Acts. They weren’t carrying wooden crosses around.
It must be symbolic of something. Well, it’s obviously symbolic of death and hardship and suffering. At bare minimum, it means that we have to be willing to pay a price, to suffer for the sake of Jesus.
What Cross-Carrying Means
I wouldn’t be surprised if that phrase “carry your cross” was not a expression that was even coined by Jesus. But perhaps it was one that would have been fairly commonly used within Jesus’s world and by His contemporaries. Because Jesus and the Jews of his day were all living under the thumb of the Roman Empire.
I don’t know how many days you could have walked outside of the gates of Jerusalem and not seen somebody dying on a cross. And not just in Jerusalem, but any other city where the Romans were in control. If you committed a capital offense, that’s what they did to you. They did it publicly. You can imagine living in a country where at any given time, scores of people were hanging on crosses outside of the gates. It would give you a reason to want to stay home, all those people hanging on crosses.
At some point, a Roman soldier said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” What that symbolized was this was the beginning of the end. We’re going to go crucify you now. Part of your punishment is, as it was in Christ’s case, you’ve got to carry your cross. Here’s the wooden beam. Let’s lash it on you and you’re going to carry it. Then we’re going to nail you to it.
It’s possible that that became an expression to signify doing what you naturally wouldn’t do. Right? You can imagine wives saying to their husbands, “Dear, I know you hate paying those taxes to the Romans. But the tax collector’s coming down the street right now. Why don’t you go get a little money, take up your cross, and go pay the guy?”
You can imagine dads saying to sons, “Son, I know you hate to go dig out the latrine. It’s a dirty, smelly job. But just take up your cross and do it.” Regardless if it was a common expression or not, it clearly represents an embracing of suffering, rejection.
Are You Willing to Be a True Disciple of Jesus Christ?
Of course, you’re going to get that in some form or fashion when you follow Christ. Count the cost.
Are you His disciple, willing to suffer shame for Him? Are you willing to be ostracized, to be looked at as a weirdo?
Again, the scale of persecution varies from country to country.
Well, we’re out of time for today. Thanks so much for joining me. We’ll continue this discussion on our next Little Lesson. God bless!