Thursday, November 1, 2018

Discipleship Is Not Optional

When we bought a new car recently, we found many exciting new options: 4 or 6 cylinder engine, exterior and interior color, keyless entry and ignition, heated seats and mirrors, sunroof or not, push-button seat adjusters on front passenger seat, to name a few. Each option added to the cost, but the benefits of certain options outweighed that.

We chose this ruby flame 2018 Toyota Camry XLE now parked in our driveway.
When we purchased appliances for our home, we discovered another dazzling array of options. Health insurance and life insurance policies, investment plans, vacation packages all offer exciting options. Cable TV offers myriad channels to choose from.

Options are a way of life in America.

Options appear even in church. Many churches today have two or more Sunday worship times. Bible classes, home groups, and Christian service organizations offer a wide range from which to choose.
Some things, however, are NOT optional. With the belief that truth is relative that is so prevalent  today, Americans have a tendency to view discipleship as being only for super Christians. But that is not what the Bible says.

Discipleship is NOT Optional!

The word disciple occurs 269 times in the New Testament, while the term Christian only three times. The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus. Perhaps the invitation to become a Christian should be renamed the call to discipleship.
The goal of the Great Commission is to "make disciples," not just converts. All the New Testament benefits and promises presuppose the person is a disciple of Christ.

What is a disciple? According to Bible dictionary definitions, a disciple is a person who not only accepts what Christ taught but also practices it.

The Call to Discipleship

The call to discipleship is issued to all. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

In Jesus' day, "to take up one's cross" referred to the cruel Roman execution by crucifixion. It meant dying to one's own desires and leaving all to follow Christ. Jesus' disciples left jobs, homes, and families to travel with Him. 

No online courses, no how-to books, no 2-day seminars were available. They had to be with Jesus to learn how to do what He did. They learned by observing Him and then doing what He demonstrated.

Today, we do not have to leave home to follow Jesus around the countryside, yet our priorities and intentions must be the same. The goal of discipleship is to become like Jesus--to seek to rearrange our lives to that end.

What are the requirements for discipleship?

The primary requirement of a disciple is to "seek...first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33), just as Jesus did.

The Kingdom, which includes our relationship with the King and the King's kids, must become our first priority. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).

From other Scripture passages we know that Jesus did not intend for us to literally hate our family members. He used a figure of speech called hyperbole, an extreme exaggeration, to make a point. Our love for Jesus must be so high on the continuum that in comparison our love for our families is closer to hate.

Second, becoming like Jesus involves ministering to others as He did. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Mark 10:45). He came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). Jesus left His disciples the responsibility of telling the good news to everyone.

We are all essential to God's plan for the salvation of souls for His kingdom. God has given each of us a ministry of helping others become mature disciples. If someone is not doing his part, all of us suffer and are hindered in our work for Christ.

In my next  blog post I plan to explore the cost and the compensation of discipleship. I hope you'll join me.

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