You can listen to the audio lesson here.
You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.
PART VI – Tying It All Together
Lesson Fourteen: The Urgency and Cost of Discipleship
“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. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” (Lk. 14:26-27).
When calling sinners into discipleship with Christ two concerns must be held in tension with one another. We must understand that the call to discipleship is both urgent and costly. New disciples must understand both that the general call to repent and believe is not something to be considered at their leisure and that discipleship, though a joy-filled endeavor, will also mean hardship, pain, and persecution.
The urgency of discipleship. In His earthly ministry, Christ taught on both of these matters. Regarding the urgency of discipleship, He warned men not to presume upon God and, thus, squander the time they had been given on this earth. Man does not often think of his time as being squandered. We have a knack for keeping ourselves busy with stuff. However, Christ would have us to understand that busyness is not in itself virtuous. Consider the man who squanders his life on greed.
“15Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’ 16And He told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive. 17And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God,’” (Luke 12:15-21; NASB).
Man, in considering the gospel, often thinks of it as something to which he will attend one day. It’s another piece of junk mail to be added to the pile. A pre-approved line of credit he can always reconsider at a later date. Right now, there are more pressing matters that need my attention. Jesus says that God will say to such men, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?”
God is patient and merciful, but we are never to presume upon His patience and mercy. We are not to presume that we are owed our next breath because, in presuming, many have fallen headlong into their eternal damnation. Instead, like a man who is going into battle or running a race, we are told to lay aside all that encumbers us and launch into action. Delay, even for the moment, could mean an eternity of destruction. This very night, our soul could be required of us!
Hearers must be careful not to say, as many did on Mars Hill, “We shall hear you again concerning this,” (Acts 17:32b; NASB), presupposing they will have opportunity to yet again hear and respond to the gospel. Tomorrow is promised to no man. We are not merely commanded to have soft, receptive hearts ready to receive the implanted seed of the gospel. We are commanded to do so today!
“7For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice:
8Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,” (Ps. 95:7-8; NKJV).
Procrastination in the matter of repentance and faith is not merely foolish, though. It is also sinful. Because the one who procrastinates presumes upon the patience and mercy of God, that one stands guilty of the sin of presumption. When tempted to put off Christian discipleship, the hearer must pray along with the psalmist, “Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression,” (Ps. 19:13; NASB).
The cost of discipleship. Yet, we must keep in mind that Christian discipleship is not a foolhardy endeavor. While we are not to hesitate in turning from sin toward God in faith, the path we choose in that moment will not be easy. Christian discipleship is costly, and that cost must be weighed. No man, woman, or child should be asked to ‘sign on the dotted line’ without at least a certain level of understanding that his or her gaining of Christ might mean losing all else.
Christ does not call us to abandon a few of our more valuable possessions in order to follow Him. If there is anything in this life we are not willing to forsake in order to gain Christ, we will by no means gain Him. “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple,” (Lk. 14:33; NKJV). Many of us tend to think of this forsaking as a forsaking of those things we already hold somewhat loosely. Christ does not mince words, though. In this teaching, He begins with the most difficult bonds to sever:
“26If 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. 27And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” (Lk. 14:26-27).
Notice the exhaustiveness of this commitment. Christ uses the term anyone to describe the group of people who would come to Him as disciples. He does not say that a certain select group in far away lands need to be ready to give up everything to follow Him. He says instead that anyone who follows Him must prepare himself in this way. Christian discipleship means being prepared to lose everything and everyone you hold dear. If you value anyone higher than Christ, you do not value Him as you must. You cannot be His disciple. Period.
Well, you know, I could give up my mother-in-law. She’s painful to be around anyway. No! Who do you value most? If you are to be Christ’s disciple, you must be ready to forsake even that relationship in order to be faithful to Him. You must value Him higher than your parents, your brothers and sisters, your children and, yes, even your spouse.
It is as though you were dead and at the bottom of the ocean with all of this life’s cares pulling you down. Having heard the gospel, you have been revived. A true disciple of Christ, in order to reach the surface and be brought onboard the lifeboat will shed all that encumbers. He or she will be willing to sever all bonds that weigh them down and keep them from Christ. Is your spouse more lovely to you than Christ? Do your parents have more authority in your life than the word of God and the leading of the Spirit? Do you idolize your children? These are all bonds that can potentially be used to drag you down to the abyss.
Few Christians are required, at the moment of conversion, to sever such bonds. Sadly, we have some among us who were. We are not commanded in Scripture to abandon our unbelieving family members at the moment of conversion. Instead, what we are expected to do is to hold loosely to those earthly bonds in comparison to Christ. There is an order of priority here. Men and women are commanded, when they wed, to leave their mother and father in order to cleave to their spouses. This does not mean that the parents are no longer important in the lives of the young couple in question. What it does mean is that the marriage now takes precedence over any concerns of the extended family. The extended family is to be loosely held.
The church is wedded to Christ. We are Christ’s bride, and so we are to hold loosely to all other bonds on this earth. Our love for Christ is to be so much greater than our love for others that our love for all others might be said to resemble hatred.
Not only are we to hold loosely to earthly relationships; we are also called to hold loosely to our own lives. This is where people misinterpret the command to carry our cross. Periodically, you might hear people say, “It’s just my cross to bear,” by which they might mean some infirmity, some difficult person, or a financial hardship. When Jesus spoke of bearing our cross, He did not mean dealing with difficult circumstances or people. He meant that we are to die to ourselves.
The cross is not a symbol of burden or hardship. The cross is a symbol of execution. When Christ says in Luke 14:27, that His disciple must “bear his cross and come after Me,” He means to say precisely what He said in the previous verse. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate. . . his own life also, he cannot be My disciple,” (vs. 26). Christ’s disciples are merely those who hold loosely to others. We are also those who hold loosely to ourselves. We are those who confess with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” (Phil. 1:21; NASB). This is the cost of discipleship. Christ purchased it for us. Now, we are called to walk in it. Our Master was hated. He was persecuted. Should we expect less? Certainly not.
There is yet another promise, though. Surely, we have been promised that many will loose their possessions, their loved ones, and perhaps even their own lives for the sake of Christ and His gospel. We have not only been promised that such would be the case, but that we will receive one hundred-fold in this life, along with persecutions.
“28Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ 29Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life,’” (Mk. 10:28-30; NASB).
Sure there will be a great cost to Christian discipleship but, when the church is being the church in one another’s lives, there is also great benefit. We may lose shelter, but the church will ensure that we have a place to stay. Our families may abandon us or, for the sake of gospel ministry, we may have to leave our families, but the church will be our brothers, sisters, mothers, and children. We may loose our livelihood and have concern for whether or not we will eat or be able to feed our children, but the church will not let us go hungry. Discipleship requires a great price, but it comes with a great reward, yes, even in this life!
If, then, we are going to be calling people to this urgent, costly discipleship, let us also have a sense of urgency to be the church in their lives. Whatever or whoever they are called to forsake for the sake of Christ and His gospel, let us be ready to meet that need a hundredfold. In this sense, also, evangelism must be seen as a corporate effort.