25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. 34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
There is a big difference between being fans of Jesus and being followers of Jesus. What seems like radical Christianity for us today, was normal Christianity and the lifestyle of early believers (see the book of Acts). These were true examples of disciples of Jesus Christ. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they turned their world upside down for the sake of Christ. Ordinary people who refused to keep the truth of the gospel to themselves. Consequently, Jesus still desires that we “Follow Him” and become His “True Disciples” today—ordinary people like you and me whom God can use to fulfill the Great Commission: “to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). However, before we accept Jesus’ commands, each of us needs to answer this question first: Am I a true Disciple? If we are True Disciples, we need to walk and be led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-18).
Obviously, following Jesus wholeheartedly will be challenging, but at the same time it will be exciting and our lives will have a sense of purpose and direction. However, if our current Christian experience can be described as unfulfilling, and even boring at times, we need to seriously examine the statements Jesus made concerning what it means to be a True Disciple. After all, how can we discuss discipleship if we do not even really know what one is?
A disciple is defined as a learner and a follower. A disciple listens with attention and intention, and has an intense desire to apply what has been learned. Matthew 28:20 says that the disciple must be taught to obey and practice every single command given by our Lord. Likewise, Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God as children imitate their parents. To imitate Jesus, we must talk like Him and act like Him. The image of children learning to grow and mature as they watch their parents; we are to look to Christ as our example, always.
The Requirements of Discipleship
Luke 14:25–35 reveals the requirements of discipleship very clearly. In fact, in Luke 28-30, Jesus told us about a man who had laid a foundation for a tower, but was unable to complete it, because he was not able to pay the construction cost. This analogy indicates that following Jesus does cost us something. Jesus told us to sit down and count that cost before even starting to build. In fact, Jesus’ words seem to imply it would be better to not even begin building if we already know the cost far exceeds what we are willing to pay. In other words, there is no room for half-hearted commitment in following Jesus.
Upon seeing a large crowd gathering, Jesus taught some very difficult truths. He knew that these people believed and accepted His message in principle. Prior to this point, Jesus had shown how the message of the gospel was for everyone. However, Jesus makes it clear that when it comes to personal discipleship, Jesus seeks quality over quantity. Why would Jesus say such things to all those people who followed Him? It almost seems that He is intentionally trying to get rid of them (at least some of them), who likely were not willing to truly follow Jesus. Three times in the course of this message in Luke 14, Jesus used the phrase, “cannot be my disciple” (Verses, 26-27, and 33).
Jesus offers three evidence of True Disciples:
1. He must first of all cut any attachment to his family that impedes him to follow the Lord (Luke 14:26)
2. He must be willing to deny himself and put his self-life to death daily (Luke 14:27)
3. He must give up his love for material possessions (Luke 14:33). These are the three minimum requirements for anyone wanting to be a True Disciple.
1) Love God More Than Anyone Else (Luke 14:26)
“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)
Jesus begins with some very strong words. What we are asked to put to death here is the natural affection that we have for our family. When we give up our human affection for our family, God will replace it with Divine Love. Our love for our family will be then pure in the sense that God will be always first in our affections and not our family or ourselves. Our love for God should be so strong that our love for others is like hatred by comparison. Jesus must be Lord of all in our lives or He will not be Lord at all.
In this life, we either will have harmony with people and friction with God, or vice versa. We cannot have it both ways. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:34-35). We must decide which way it will go: will we love God more than all else, or have a heart divided. If we choose harmony with God, the conflict we experience with others may lead to the awareness of their own need to find harmony with God. Consider Mary’s example in Luke 10:39-42.
2) Deny Yourself and Take up the Cross (Luke 14:27)
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27). “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
To deny our “Self” is the same as to hate our own life, the life that was inherited from Adam (Proverbs 20:9; Romans 3:23; 5:12–13; 1 John 1:8). To take up the cross is to put that “Self” life to death (daily). Our Self-life is the main enemy of the Life in Christ. The Bible calls this “the flesh”. The flesh stores our evil desire to do our own will, ambition, goals and desires at all times; to see our own gain, our own honour, our own pleasure, etc. If we do not hate “the flesh”, we will never be able to follow the Lord (Matthew 6:24). To hate our own life is to give up seeking our own rights and privileges, to stop seeking our own reputation, to abandon our own ambitions, to pursue our own way, etc.
In a culture which continually says, “have it your way,” what is the positive outcome of denying ourselves? Jesus goes on to say: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). When we give that up to allow ourselves to be conformed into the image of Jesus, we will discover His plan and purpose for us. In the New Testament, a person who was bearing a cross was walking to his death. Bearing our cross means dying to self—laying aside our personal goals, desires and ambitions so that God can reveal His desires, ambitions and goals for our lives. In essence, it is living life as it was meant to be lived: in the will of God.
3) Surrender All That You Have (Luke 14:33)
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
To give up our possessions does not necessarily mean we must all literally give everything away; but that giving it all up means that we no longer consider anything as our own. All that we have must be laid on the altar and given up to God (Mark 8:36-37). Why? Because our possessions can easily possess us (Matthew 6:21). So we need to surrender our claims to our families (spouses, children, parents, etc.), our properties, our jobs, our money, our talents, and everything else that we value on this earth (1 John 2:15-17). Jesus is not asking if we will commit 25%, 50%, or 75% to Him; He is asking us to commit everything. Until we recognize that everything we have belongs to Jesus Christ, we are not His disciples. Our challenge as Christians is to live in the world without allowing the world to live within us. Obviously God knows that we have needs. He will provide for our needs as long as He is on the “throne of our lives” or as Matthew 6:33 says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, we pay the price of this world’s friendship. We will be laughed at for our convictions, mocked for our beliefs, and belittled for trying to live by what the Bible teaches. At the same time, in place of the world’s friendship, we will have God’s. It costs much to follow Jesus Christ, but the reality is that it costs more not to. If we settle for anything short of true discipleship, we are missing out on a reward that surpasses the fleeting rewards that so easily distract.
Are you a True Disciple of Jesus Christ? If your answer is “Yes”, what can you do to help others to became True Disciples? If your answer is “No”, what steps you need to take to become one?
Father God, I want to love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I want to love You more than anyone else in my life, I want to deny myself and take up my cross daily, and I want to surrender all that I have to You. Help me to be the man or woman that You want me to be: a true disciple of your Son, Jesus. I need Your Spirit to lead me to accomplish this, I cannot on my own. My sacrifice, O God, is a humble and contrite spirit; a broken and contrite heart. I choose to live by what I know is true: Your Word. In the name of Jesus, Amen.