The Price Tag of Discipleship
Every action film has a classic shot of the wise, worldly mentor telling the protagonist something important seconds before death. This phrase inspires and transforms the protagonist, causing them to go and save the world from death and destruction.
Christ’s famous last words are extremely similar to this method of storytelling. The Great Commission is Jesus’ final exhortation to his disciples.
“All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go 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 obey all of my commands. And behold, I am with you until the end of the age.”
Then he makes his final ascension into heaven, for at least a while of course. This was obviously not something Jesus just thought up right before he leaves his disciples alone, but rather this was a strategic method of exhortation. The difference between Jesus’ last words and a superhero movie though, is the fact that although he is physically no longer among us; he is living within us. This is not just a mission for us to be sent on, but rather a commission that he is accomplishing with us.
While discipleship sounds nice and nearly every Christian would say it’s something they feel called to do, I would venture to claim that the vast majority is not doing it. Why is this? Is it because they do not feel prepared enough? Is it because they do not have enough time in the day? Or is it because they do not have their priorities straight and do not fully understand what role the Gospel plays in every aspect of their lives?
Discipleship is hard work. It is a costly endeavor. It is not simply hanging out with a friend and it is not simply walking around and knocking on doors to merely ask them, “Have you heard the Good News?” It’s somewhere in the middle, and then some. It takes intentionality, patience, getting priorities straight, and most of all “dying to yourself.” Discipleship might mean waking up two hours earlier than you have to in order to go meet a couple guys at a coffee shop before they go to school. It might mean sacrificing the time you were going to spend watching Stranger Things in the comfort of your own home in order to go and support the disciplee after their friend committed suicide. It might mean carving out an hour in the middle of your workday to meet up with your disciple, and no you have to work an hour late.
The point is that discipleship is hard work, but we are all called to do it. The Creator of the universe came to the earth as a man, lived a perfectly pure life and died the death of a sinner on everyone’s behalf. This act of eternally profound grace saves anyone who chooses to believe in him from an eternal death. The least we can do is follow his command for us and die to ourselves and offer our feeble attempt at mimicking Jesus.
How This Plays Out in My Walk
Luke 14:26-27 is the passage that I was reading when I truly accepted Christ into my life after falling away for a few years. I was just a freshman in high school that chose to hang out with some guys who wanted to smoke and drink every time we got together. These guys were my best friends and I just wanted to have fun with them. I had gone to church my whole life and got baptized when I was eight years old, but throughout middle school my priorities were not in the right place and I had fallen away completely. I still showed up to church every Sunday, but I could not tell you how many years it had been since I opened a Bible by myself with the intention of actually reading it. I was young and bound to make some really stupid mistakes at some point, but February of my freshman year, God gave me a revelation through his word.
I felt like God was telling me to open my children’s Bible that had been sitting untouched on my headboard and read Luke 14:25. I wasn’t even sure if there were fourteen chapters in Luke, but it was so clear, so I did it. This passage is Jesus speaking to a crowd of his followers (disciples). He says,
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
It was immediately clear to me what I was being commanded to do. I had to leave my best friends in order to mature in my walk with Christ. I had to be isolated from the world in order to grow personally with the Father. At first, I disobeyed and still tried to hangout them a bit. But it was not long until they pushed me away for being “different” now. For months, I was a young high school boy who went from having a million friends to having one single friend. I was broken and hurt, but for the first time, I did not feel alone. For the first time, I felt fulfilled. I finally recognized my need for Christ and grew exponentially closer to him.
It was a lonely time, then after this period of maturity I realized that I was not meant to be in isolation. My one friend invited me over to his house while another one of my old friends was there. He knew I was different now, but hadn’t actually experienced this positive change in my life. We began to talk and he wanted to understand why I had changed the way I did. It was no more than a year later that I was baptizing him in front of the whole church. That was one of the most satisfying, fulfilling, and humbling experiences I have ever been a part of. He later told me that my influence taught him what it meant to truly love others and to pursue relationships with everyone.
Jesus was so clearly at work. It was my junior year when I was first intentionally discipled by my youth pastor who edits this blog with me now. He showed what it meant to not just be a friend, but to be a disciple maker of people who make disciples. Now that I have felt this call and have seen God move, I have devoted my entire life to the work of making disciples. I had to die to myself as a young high school student and isolate myself in order to mature, and now I have to choose to die to myself every day in order to intentionally make disciples of the people around me.
I currently meet two guys on Tuesday mornings at 7am before they go to school in order to read with them and make disciples of them who will then go and make disciples of others. I also have them over to my home to play board games and just spend time together so that they can observe me in my home. The cost of discipleship is not just hanging out with a friend until they hopefully see the light of Christ within you and become a Christian. The cost of discipleship is the constant act of giving up your own life so that you can pour it into others. While this can, and probably should, be through fun activities, it is also the most Christ-like, selfless, and intentional act that you can possibly do. When you go and do this and do not see immediate results, just remember that the God of the universe is your partner in this great CO-mission you are on.