Discipleship and its cost

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Today we are going to study discipleship and what it means for believers. Many Christians have a misunderstanding that there were only 12 disciples and today they could never become a disciple themselves. That couldn't be further from the truth. As believers in Jesus Christ we must continually study the word and compare it to our walk with the Lord to see if we are obeying what He wants for us. Why? Because "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). We may think to ourselves that we are doing what's expected of us but just because we think we are going down the narrow path doesn’t mean we are! That, my friend, can be very dangerous and can lead to (spiritual) death according to Scripture. (Matthew 7:21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. So let’s explore Jesus’ final instructions to see if we as Christians are doing the will of the Father and are indeed following what Jesus commands us.


(Matthew 28:18) And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go ye therefore, and make disciples (Greek - mathētēs = learner, pupil) of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (20) teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Jesus does not command us to make believers or "Christians". He commands us to make learners and pupils (disciples). Are you just a "Christian" or are you a disciple? Here's the difference between what we call "Christians" compared to what Jesus considered a disciple. A "Christian" looks nothing like what Jesus calls a disciple. Believers back then were called Christians by the pagans because they were "Christ-like". That is no longer true today. Most of today's "Christians" simply believe in Jesus and go to church every Sunday while living the rest of the week for themselves and their families. They don't study the Word of God as a student or pupil would do. Life for the average "Christian" is all about us, our family, our needs and never truly giving our lives to Jesus. Yes, most "Christians" say they've given their lives to Jesus but when we examine their lives and compare them to the rest of the world, you can hardly tell the difference. On the other hand, those who are disciples are continually at the feet of Jesus reading, learning, studying and doing His Word. They seem to be more interested in the things of God than the things of the world. A disciple is what each and every one of us is called to be! We are called to become pupils and students of everything Jesus taught.

Jesus commanded us to "Go ye therefore, and make disciples (learners, pupils) of all the nations"  but instead we have only made "Christians". What good is it to God's kingdom if we only lead an unbeliever to Christ, making him a "Christian" and never make him a disciple? Jesus warns us about "Christians" who are not disciples. He calls it not bearing fruit. Here's a parable Jesus told us about the importance of bearing fruit. (Luke 13:6) And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, (God has fig trees or Christians throughout the vineyard or the world) and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. (God looking for the fruit of Jesus in each of His believers) (7) And he said to the vinedresser, 'Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?' (8) And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. (9) Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"  If we bear no fruit we will be cut down! Jesus wants to teach us and make us disciples so that we'll bear the fruit of Christ, but so few want to be a learner and pupil of the Word of God. It's so much easier to pray the "sinner's prayer" while continuing to live the life you now have without having to die to yourself.

I believe, in the parable of the sower, Jesus shows us the difference between those who are "Christians" in name only and those who are disciples. (Mark 4:3) "Listen! A sower went out to sow. (4) And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Jesus explains: (14) The sower sows the word. (15) And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. These are people who never became Christians or disciples. The Word of God didn't even sprout in their heart. Next we'll see where the Word sprouts and a "Christian" is born. (5) Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, (not much learning, teaching, discipleship) and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil(no learning or discipleship) (6) And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Jesus explains the meaning: (16) And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. (One time sinner's prayer?) (17) And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. These plants were "Christians" who had no root; they had nothing to draw from; no teaching, no learning or discipleship. (7) Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Jesus goes on to explain this type of plant (Christian): (18) And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, (19) but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. We remember what Jesus says happens if we don't bear fruit! (8) And other seeds fell into good soil (teaching and learning) and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." Jesus explains about those who are disciples: (20) But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." There is a difference between what we loosely call "Christians" today and what the Bible calls a "disciple". That's why we have Jesus COMMANDING us in Matthew 28 to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES (that is make learners, enroll as a scholar) TEACHING them to observe ALL THINGS He commanded.

Being a disciple was not just reserved for the original twelve we read about in the Bible. It was for every believer who wanted to learn from Jesus and follow His ways! Do you remember the man who used His tomb to bury Jesus? He was a disciple too! (Matthew 27:57) Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. (58) This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him...We are all commanded to be disciples of Jesus! 


Now let’s take a look at what Jesus says it takes to be a disciple. (Luke 14:33) So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not ALL that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Does Jesus really say this? What do we have to give up? We have to give up ALL that we have! Let’s look at the Greek word which Jesus uses when he says to renounce all. That word is “apotassomai” which means to literally to say adieu (by departing or dismissing); figuratively; to renounce - bid farewell, forsake, take leave, send away (Strong’s Concordance). So we are to say adieu, "good bye", to ALL we consider our own. What does ALL leave out? Nothing! Now that doesn't necessarily mean you just blindly give all you have away. You still need a place to lay your head at night. What this means is all that you have, all that you own, you no longer consider it to be yours and that it's now God's. You are now just the steward of that which God has blessed you. If you see someone in need you give to them because the Bible commands you to do this. You simply let the Lord speak to your heart and give and help others where He tells you. That's what it means to renounce all that you have.

It does sound pretty strict and very radical to give up everything. Maybe we’re taking Scripture out of context. Let’s just see if there are any other Scriptures that confirm that we must renounce ALL. "At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word established" (2 Cor 13:1). Here is our next witness.(Matthew 16:24) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whosoever would save his life shall lose it and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. (26) For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life, or what shall a man give in exchange for his life? Now Jesus is not only saying that we must give up everything and renounce it but we must also give up our lives and follow Him. Is Jesus really saying that we must lose our lives? Surely Jesus is not talking to all believers… maybe He was just speaking to the original twelve that followed Him. Jesus surely doesn’t really mean that for you or I does He?

What does Jesus mean by "deny yourself" and "take up your cross"? It means that we must die to our old, worldly selves by spiritually going to the cross, just like Jesus did. Yes Jesus died on the cross but before his physical death he died spiritually to the world and to every fleshly desire and temptation. (Hebrews 4:15) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Our Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every area of His flesh just like you and I. Whatever your flesh wants, you must kill it. You must turn from it and turn to the things of God. What did Jesus die to that we're supposed to die to? Jesus died to unrighteous anger, unforgiveness, and revenge. Jesus was whipped, beaten, insulted, called the devil and was blasphemed many times, but Jesus was not bitter. He wasn't looking to get revenge on His archenemies, the Pharisees. He forgave everyone! Are you putting your flesh to the cross like Jesus did?


Jesus died to greed, covetousness, and the love of money. Satan offered Jesus all the riches of the world if He just bowed down to worship him but Jesus didn't. Jesus rebuked the money changers who were buying and selling in God's temple. Jesus didn't want more "stuff" The Bible calls that "covetousness". (Luke 12:15) "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions". Jesus wasn't working to be comfortable when He retired, are you? Jesus instead said, (Matt 6:33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Jesus put these temptations to the cross and only wanted to do the will of His Father in heaven, "I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me" (John 5:30). Jesus died to self and only did His Father's will. We too must do the Father's will instead of our own. If we can do God's will instead of our own, then we have truly taken up our cross and died. Jesus did it before He went to the physical cross and we should too!

Jesus was tempted to love His family more than God but Jesus said that His flesh and blood. (His mother, brothers and sisters) were not His family at all. Only those who did the Father's will were His family. (Mark 3:33) And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" (34) And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! (35) Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."  Are you spending more time on your family than on God? Jesus put that fleshly desire to the cross and so should we or we can never be His disciple. (Luke 14:25) Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, (26) "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. (27) "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. The Greek word for hate is miseô (mis-eh'-o) which means to detest; by extension to love less. Is Jesus telling us to hate the person or to detest the “worldly” life of both you and your family? Since there is no other Scripture that commands us to “hate” another person we must understand that we must love God more than our families and our own lives. Jesus was our example and He put this part of His flesh to the cross well before His physical body went to the cross. (Matt 10:37) He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Have you truly put God before your family? The time you spend with each will answer this question.

Jesus put to death fleshly temptations like pride, jealousy and the lust for power. He was never jealous of others even though the Scribes and Pharisees were held in greater respect. Jesus refused Satan's offer to be king of the world. When the Jewish people tried to make Him King of Israel Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world, and that "he who is greatest among you shall be your servant". Although the people were in awe with His teaching and His authority, Jesus never got puffed up and was always a servant to others. What are you good at doing that people complement you? What are the things which make you proud and a little puffed up? It could even be that you feel you know the Bible better than other Christians. Repent and put that pride to the cross and follow the example of Jesus.   

How about the pleasures of life and worldly passions? Jesus put to death the temptation to just have fun and please His flesh. You'd think that with the abilities Jesus had to walk on water and load up nets with fish that Jesus would have taken a few days off to go fishing and have a little fun. No, Jesus took His flesh to the cross every day. The Bible says that Jesus learned obedience. (Hebrews 5:7) In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (8) Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (9) And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. This may be hard for you to understand how Jesus who did not sin had to "learn obedience" but remember He was flesh and blood with the sin nature of Adam in His flesh, just like you and I. Yet Jesus suffered in the flesh and became perfect (Greek - complete). Only after Jesus suffered all the temptations in the flesh and died to self was He made complete and a perfect example for us! How are you doing with worldly passions and the things of this world? (1John 2:15) Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.


Our flesh wants what pleases us but God wants us to take up our own cross and follow Him! What was Jesus concerned about? Money? Family? Career advancement? Being happy? Retirement? He was concerned about none of the things that you and I worry about. Jesus' only concern was to do His Father's will and to obey Him completely! That's what Jesus means when he commands you to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Him. All you’ve worked so hard for in this world, can you take any of it with you in the end? The only thing you can take with you is what you have done for God! (Matt 6:19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; (20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. You only get this one chance so store up your treasure wisely.


(Luke 9:57) As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." (58) And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head." Are you submitted to Jesus, is He your head? Jesus is looking for believers to make Him their head and truly follow Him! (59) And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." (60) But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." (61) Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home." (62) But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Since becoming a born again believer, have you grown in your walk with Jesus or have you stagnated in your growth? Since you put your “hand to the plow” (became a Christian) have you looked back at the world and what it offers or are you plowing forward in the kingdom of God while keeping your eyes focused on Jesus? (Luke 6:26) “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say"? Are you learning and growing in your faith, taking up your cross daily and following Jesus, or are you just living your life for yourself, all in the name of being a "Christian"? These are hard questions you have to answer and judge about yourself. Scripture tells us, "all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Are you being persecuted in this season in your Christian walk? If not, maybe you are not really living that “godly life in Christ Jesus” that Paul talks about in the above verse. Oh yes, if you ask most “Christians” they would say that yes they're living a godly life in Christ but the Bible does not lie! It says if you are indeed living a godly life you will be persecuted. You will be persecuted by friends, by family, or by whomever the evil one brings against you. To the degree of persecution you're receiving from friends, family and others is often the test to see if you're really a disciple or a Christian in name only. Obeying God's Word will cause the world to hate you because God's Word is completely opposite to the world's way of doing things. (John 15:18,19) If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. The world loves most "Christians" today but a disciple will be hated in this world;even in their own families! (Matthew 10:34) Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (35) For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law: (36) and a man's foes shall be they of his own household. (37) He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. (39) He that finds his life shall lose it; and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.


Your decision to be a disciple and not just a "Christian" will not go well with friends and family. If you are a disciple of Jesus you will seem strange and different to those around you. People will not understand you and think that you're a “religious fanatic” or a “weirdo”; maybe even say that you need more balance in your life. Jesus warns us that there will be division because darkness cannot stand the light. That darkness which used to be in you and which is still in your friends and loved ones will fight against the light in you. (Galatians 4:29) He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now. Yes, those who are truly born again will be persecuted by those who are living in the flesh; even their own family members will be their persecutors. If you are truly doing what Jesus commands of you to be a disciple then their spirit will war with your spirit which is Christ! Unless they too have chosen to be a true follower of Jesus and not a follower by name only, then they will be against you. Know it, and expect it, because Jesus has already said it will be that way. (Matthew 10:16) "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. (17) "But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues (18) and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. (19) "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. (20) "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (21) "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. (22) "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. Not only will you be hated by your own family members for completely following Jesus, you may be betrayed or put to death by your loved ones too. Can you handle this? Are you willing to pay this price and are you still willing to put your hand to the plow without looking back? Can you afford to not pay this price?

(Luke 17:32)...Remember Lot's wife. (33) Whosoever shall seek to gain his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. Why does Jesus say to “Remember Lot’s wife”? This was a lesson for us to not turn back to our former life nor to the ways of this world. Jesus once again warns us not to save our lives or we'll lose our eternal life. He warns that we must die to our earthly life in order to gain eternal life! This means we must become disciples and not just "Christians". This wasn’t a new concept to the early church (in Paul’s day) but today, with the abundance we have in America, to lose our life and give all to the Lord seems like radical craziness and sadly, can be a very difficult decision to make. I think if you were living in Africa or some third world country, it may be much easier because there wouldn’t be very much to give up. Here in America we live in comfort and ease; to do what Jesus commands of us is just so much harder to do, because we have such an abundance of material things to give up. 

(Philippians 3:8) More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ... This is the cost of following Christ: suffering all things as loss and counting it as rubbish to gain Christ. How long is this life compared to eternity? Isn't eternity worth whatever the price is in this life? After all, God is not asking us for what isn't His to begin with, my friends.

Even though there's so much more to say on this subject, we'll conclude with some soul searching questions that only you can answer for yourself. Are you worthy of Jesus; have you taken up your cross and honestly followed Him? Have you lost your life in this world yet? This is what Jesus says it takes to be worthy of Him! Examine your life to see if you're “finding your earthly life” or “losing your earthly life”. From when you wake to when you go to work, how much time is spent on your life and how much time is spent on the Lord? From when you are at work until you get home, how much time is spent on your life and how much time is spent on the Lord? From when you get home from work until your head hits the pillow, how much time is spent on your life and how much time is spent on the Lord? These are not hard questions to answer and the answers will tell you exactly who’s life you are living. Jesus said “Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say” (Luke 6:46)? Be honest and ask yourself for whom are you living your life. Jesus says over and over that unless we lose our life we will not gain our life. Do you have eternal life? Jesus is not looking for people that just believe in Him. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Jesus is looking for disciples that will make more disciples. That is His command!Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations".

So are you a disciple?

God bless,

Mark, a servant of the Lord, www.HeavensHelpers.org




Questions/Feedback - email me: mark@heavenshelpers.org