Discipleship is an extremely important word in Christianity. Outside of worshipping and glorifying the Lord, discipleship ought to be our first priority. I could argue that we worship and glorify the Lord the most when we are making disciples! Discipleship is not a manmade idea that simply sounds good. This crucial way of life came straight from the lips of Jesus as He was leaving the earth. He left His disciples with a big command. We would be wise to make this command our main focus in 2019!
“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.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“Go!” Jesus commanded. He sent the disciples out on mission. The mission was to make disciples. This command in Matthew 28 is not new to most of us. I do believe, however, that the cost of discipleship is a foreign idea to many. That is what I want to examine in today’s writing. If we do not grasp the importance of our discipleship efforts, we will simply leave the world unreached. If we do not consider the cost of discipleship, we will never dedicate our lives to it. A life dedicated to discipleship is exactly what Jesus demands.
Discipleship is costly if we take the words of Jesus to heart. He was not shy about the stakes with His disciples. Jesus wanted His followers to count the cost before diving in headfirst. I want us to count the cost of discipleship as well. We will see that the stakes are extremely high, but we will also see that there is no better way to live. Let’s examine the words of Christ in Luke 14.
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.'” (Luke 14:25-26)
There is clearly some very heavy language being used here. Jesus tells us to hate our entire family and even our own lives. That sounds very harsh, does it not? Jesus is not telling us to actually hate our families and kick them to the curb. Instead, He is talking about proportions. In a nutshell, when Jesus tells us to hate our parents, children, and siblings, He is telling us that our love and devotion to Him should make our love and devotion to our families look much less. He is to be first, with our secondary priorities being a mile behind.
When many people read a text like this, they get quickly offended. They think Jesus is being arrogant and unloving. The truth, however, is that a life devoted to Christ in this way is the only true life! So many people are discontent with life and it is because they are not sold out for Jesus and His call to discipleship. Loving our lives and families more than Jesus leaves us in a constant search for fulfillment that never ends. After all, whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it (Matthew 10:39). Life is only found as we give it away for Christ.
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
As Jesus continues on, He commands us to carry our cross as we follow Him. What is one thing that is guaranteed if you carry a cross? Pain. Jesus tells us upfront that there will be pain and sacrifice if we follow Him. He wants us to know this as we count the cost. The sad reality, however, is that we are a people called to a daily cross and yet we want and expect to feel no pain. According to Jesus, if we are not willing to carry a cross, then we cannot be His disciple. Are you willing?
I am not trying to be downcast (neither was Jesus) as I highlight the costs of discipleship laid out in Luke 14. I simply want you to know what you are signing up for if you choose to make 2019 your most radical, discipleship-focused year yet. In a nutshell, you are signing up for true life! Pain will come. Priorities will change. You will be stretched. Growth will occur. You will feel purpose. People will be impacted. Most importantly, you will be doing what Jesus commanded of us as He left the earth!
I want to end by encouraging you to simply take a step in this direction for the new year. Making disciples of all nations is a mighty task. Let us start in our own backyards, while being open to God calling us somewhere else. What a privilege that would be! First, count the cost. Second, start investing in people. Go make disciples. Tell people your story. Teach people the Bible. Show people Jesus. There will be a more in-depth video on our YouTube channel this Friday about what discipleship looks like practically. For now, decide to dedicate your life to making disciples this year. It is the only way to live…no matter the cost.