When Jesus Calls
In recent years the denominational church has turned its attention to the subject of discipleship. It has become fashionable to hold classes on this subject in an effort to increase laymen’s participation in the rank and file duties of the church. Interests in this subject have been sparked elsewhere as well with a different agenda in mind. In this circle the name of the game is “control.” Usually, though not exclusively, these are independent charismatic groups with doctrines designed to excite and please. Leadership is dedicated to growth and financial success is sometimes a hidden agenda. Often, gifted leaders use their gifts to gain power over the followers; the kind of power that possesses and manipulates those who have become accustomed to seeing their leaders as God’s mediators. Often these leaders become predators and the sheep they lead the prey, especially young, vulnerable women or older women of substance.
Using discipleship as a method these self-serving wolves in sheep’s clothing work their way into a position of trust. They demand absolute obedience from those they lead; they often use psychological manipulation inflict guilt on any who resist. “Don’t I know best?” “Hasn’t God placed me over you to protect and care for you?” “Why are you resisting God, you need to trust me.” These are some of the more common phrases used to gain control. There are many injured among God’s flock today because of these abusive tactics. For the abused and wounded “discipleship” has become a dirty word. Once again, the enemy of God has taken one of God’s most effective weapons and turned it against His church. If this is the way you’ve seen it work then you haven’t seen real discipleship. You’ve seen bondage applied in the name of discipleship. We have not been given a spirit of bandage but of power and of love.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (KJV)
2 Timothy 1:7
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (KJV)
Many today have no idea what it means to be a disciple. Disciple-ship is not a boat that carries disciples, it’s a way of life. It can’t be taught in a three week course because it comes from experiential learning, nor is it about earthly control for it can only survive in an atmosphere of Godly freedom. It certainly is not for the faint of heart but rather for the strong and adventurous. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ He must be your Lord. Not only must He be lord of your life but there must also exist a bond of love between you and He.
So then, your bondage must be a voluntary bondage of love and your control must be one of total surrender to Him because of your love. To surrender this love and obedience to another would be an act of infidelity. He must be preeminent in your life, nothing less will do. The word “disciple” comes from the word “discipline” and discipline has two major meanings. First, we must realize that whom the Lord loves He chastens.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (KJV)
Christ learned obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8) and we must do the same. He is the potter and we are the clay; He has the power over the clay to fashion it in whatever form He chooses.
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (KJV)
The form God has chosen is the image of His son.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (KJV)
The second meaning for discipline is that of earthly pursuit. For example, engineering is a discipline, or the study of music or mathematics. Discipleship’s is a calling, a lifetime pursuit and therefore a discipline. Both of these definitions fit this calling. God will call us to this service once we have excepted His son and He will continue to instruct, correct, admonish and rebuke all who accept this challenge.
You may think at this point that college training is similar because they also instruct, correct, admonish and rebuke but there is one major difference. Your private life and your college life can be different but there can be no such split in your life as a disciple. In college your allegiance is to man but as a disciple it’s to God. College is man’s way of teaching but discipleship is God’s.
Just as the institutional church today has been fooled into believing there is a difference between laity and clergy the institutional church has also fostered the belief that there are followers and disciples and both are saved. Wrong! We are all called to be clergy (priests) and we are all called to be disciples.
1 Peter 2:9
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (KJV)
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;(KJV)
There were many who followed the Lord from place to place sitting on hillsides listening to His teachings, most of these were looking for a free lunch. Not much has changed, there are still many who visit Him, only today, they don’t sit on hillsides, they sit in pews, but what they seek hasn’t changed, they’re still looking for a free lunch. The intent is the same receive, receive, receive and give as little as possible.
When asked to give their time or talents they either want to be paid for services rendered or they remind you that salvation is a free gift of grace not of works and they have no intention of getting on any kind of works trip. They need to be reminded of the following texts.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.(KJV)
I John 2:3-4
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (KJV)
So you see how it is, no works, no faith; no faith, no grace; no grace, no salvation. While it’s possible to have works without faith it is impossible to have faith without works.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?(KJV)
If you think you can be a part of Christ’s kingdom by listening to his words alone, you’re wrong and you’re deceived.
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.(KJV)
Don’t be deceived into believing that attending a church and claiming to be Christian is enough; it isn’t! Being a follower of Christ isn’t enough, you must be a disciple to really be a part of his kingdom. Following Jesus is just where it begins, there are strict requirements for disciples. Not only do you need to qualify to be a disciple, but the first requirement is that you must do it for love; you must want to be one with all your heart. No legalistic, self sacrificing, long faced, throw yourself on the alter of pity will do. You must present your body a living sacrifice, and do it with a smile on your face. They are then to teach, what Jesus had taught them (Matthew 28:18-20). We do likewise and He is always with us.
Note:The translation of the KJV renders "teaching" as the first part of Jesus' command, indicating the need to place converts under the teaching and discipline of Christ, thus discipling them.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (KJV)
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (KJV)
The love required is two-fold. First, we must love the Lord (Matthew 22:37). Second, we must love others as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Yes, this is the way that others, both in and out of God’s family, will know you are a disciple (John 13:35). The depth to which this love must grow exceeds life itself.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.(KJV)
If we, as Christians, are to be Christ-like then we must be prepared to follow him in every way. Jesus gave his life for us because he loved us and because the Father loved us. If he laid down his life for us then we should, it required, be able to lay down our life for the brethren (1 John 3:16).
Maybe you're thinking, “I’m not sure I’m ready for such a sacrifice.” Maybe you’re afraid. If you’re to die for the brethren then consider how important it is to be able to identify those who are truly brethren from those who merely play at it. One may put fear aside and be willing to die for another brother or sister in Christ but should the sacrifice of your life be required, you may choose to look very closely at the life of the one for whom this sacrifice is to be given. Most of us in Christ are humbled at this suggestion but remember, this is the ultimate gift, “greater love hath no man than this.” (John 15:13)
Brethren, do not focus on your ability to make such a gift but instead, concentrate on your capacity to love, for in love lies the secret to this gift. Many who would not have thought themselves able, have given their lives for husband, wife or children. Others have laid down their lives for friends or country. Why? Not out of duty, obligation or honor, for the most part, but out of love. Fear is a force to be reckoned with but when you’re able to love another more than you love yourself, fear is put aside and love, that strongest of all emotions, gains the victory.
I John 4:17-18
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (KJV)
You’re still not convinced that you’re strong enough for such a test? Don’t worry about it, you won’t have to face such a test until you’re ready, we have his word on it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (KJV)
God will not let you succumb to the temptation of fear but will instead infuse you with the power of the Holy Spirit that you may stand and be able to bear it in the day of your testing. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Ph’p 4:13, 1 Pe 4:14).
Now that we’ve discussed the love that a disciple should have, let us now move to obedience. For if we indeed love our Lord then it follows that we will also obey him (John 14:15). Obedience is the very evidence of Christian love. Anyone who does not obey the commandments of God and claims to be a Christian is a liar and we have his word on it (1 John 2:3-4).
We can hear Jesus himself asking this question of those who have claimed to be Christians throughout these last two millenniums. He asks, “Why do you call me Lord and then continue to disobey me?” (Lk 6:46) How can Christ be the Lord of our life if we continue to do things contrary to his will? Are we Christians or Churchians? Have we focused on the bride rather than the bridegroom? Do we think the word “Lord” is a common name? Have we failed to recognize its meaning? Obviously some have, and some will continue not to recognize its meaning, for many will say to Him, when He returns, “Lord, didn’t we prophecy in your name and in your name cast out demons?” His answer revels that they never really understood what was involved in a Lord/servant relationship, for He answers, “depart from me, I never knew you, you workers of sin” (Matthew 7:22-23). He reminds us that not everyone who calls Him Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven but only those who obey God’s will(Matthew 7:21). The prophet Samuel reminds us that to obey is better than sacrifice and to pay attention to God better than the best part of our gifts (1 Samuel 15:22).
For those disciples who really love Him, God’s commandments are not too heavy to bear.
I John 5:2-3
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments:and his commandments are not grievous. (KJV)
The yoke that we carry is His yoke and the burdens we carry are His also and neither rest heavily on the shoulders of those who have given Him their burdens (Matthew 11:29-30). He had to bear our sin, our guilt, and our shame; is it now too difficult to walk in the light of righteousness carrying the gospel of forgiveness on our shoulders? Is it a burden to carry the good news that God has forgiven our sins and offered a sacrifice for us; one that will remove all of its terrible consequences? Too many today are still clinging to the false belief that Christ can be our savior without being our Lord. The same misguided souls believe that it’s possible to be a believer without ever becoming a disciple. Buying into this deceptive belief could cost you your soul.
Even in Jesus’ day there were those who sought to become His disciples; men with good intentions but afraid to let go of their lives. Men who couldn’t understand how to order their lives according to God’s priority. Men who followed the thinking of Martha rather than that of her sister, Mary. The Lord invites each of us to enter into the labors of his kingdom and feast with Him at his table when their labors are done, but many make excuses to avoid these labors, like those mentioned in the parable taught by Jesus in Luke fourteen, verses sixteen through twenty four. Not all excuses are false, some are real, but none are acceptable. Many of those who came to Jesus to be disciples were sincere but because they had their priorities confused were not accepted. One such individual was a scribe who desired to follow Jesus but was told that Jesus had no home, no fame or wealth to offer him (Matthew 8:19-20). One who had become a disciple desired to return and bury his father, but Jesus suggested he continue to follow Him and let others attend to his dead father (Matthew 8:21-22). Yet another man came asking how to obtain eternal life. Jesus told him, “Keep the commandments.” The young man replied that he had kept them from his youth. Jesus then told him to go and sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor and then join Him as a disciple. The young man departed sadly because he couldn’t let go of his worldly goods (Matthew 19:16-22).
It is not at all unusual for conduct like this to overtake those who, with all good intentions, became disciples. Discipleship is not for the weak but the strong and many fall short because they love this present world more than our Lord. When they do this they damage the very structure they came to build.
2 Timothy 4:10-11
10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.(KJV)
Many who have heard the call of God refuse to answer and many who answer allow themselves to be turned. Like Lot’s wife, they perish in sin and disobedience because they stopped to look back on the old life. Once we hear the call of Jesus our hearts, our thoughts, and our spiritual eyes must remain fixed on the road ahead (Lk 9:62). Only then do we have any hope of reaching the high calling of God.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
The road of discipleship is the road of the cross. To take up the cross daily and follow Christ we must first learn how to discipline ourselves, or to accept discipline and this means denying ourselves (Lk 9:23). This doesn’t just mean abandoning worldly material possessions but much more. If we fail to count the whole cost we may at a later time find ourselves turning back, unable to finish what we began.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.(KJV)
What does forsaking all you have really mean? Most often we think of money, land, houses, and goods but there are more precious things then these that may be lost. Jesus said he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword, one that would divide a man from his father and a daughter against her mother and daughter in law against her mother in law. Yes, for the sake of following Christ you may well find your enemies to be those of your own household (Matthew 10:34-36).
Christ won’t take second place. He must be preeminent in our lives if he is to be in our lives at all. Anyone who loves father or mother more than he is not worthy of him and he that loves son or daughter more than he is not worthy of him (Matthew 10:37). We read these words but in our hearts we can’t imagine them ever coming to pass and when they do we’re devastated. Why? Did Jesus keep these things secret? No! He told us plainly so why do we find it so shocking when faced with these loses? Jesus said, “He that forsakes not all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Your faithfulness to Christ could cause you to lose your whole family.
Some, by now are thinking, “I just want to be a believer, I don’t want to be a disciple.” They’re thinking about the cost of discipleship and wondering how they got so deep into something that comes as a free gift from God. We’re speaking of salvation, of course. Let’s think about this for a moment. A friend gives you an automobile free, as a gift, and you accept it. Step one, the vehicle was offered. Step two, the vehicle was accepted. When you accepted the vehicle you accepted all the responsibilities that go with it. True, the automobile was free but there are taxes to be paid as well as registration fees each year. There is also the yearly inspection and the cost of fuel, oil, and routine maintenance. Perhaps you should have thought about it more carefully before you accepted this free gift. Salvation is free also but the responsibility that goes with it is discipleship, let’s be clear on this point so we’ll have no need to turn back.
Having discussed those non-material things which discipleship may cost, let’s now turn our attention to those things which are material. The early church disciples parted their possessions and goods as anyone among them had need (Acts 2:45). None regarded the things in their possession as their own (Acts 4:32-37) and those that made false promises to the Holy Spirit by holding back what was promised paid with their lives (Acts 5:1-11). The fear of God was in all of them and they gave great respect to those who lived this commitment. We need more fear of God in today’s church. We need to take inventory of those things we say and do or perhaps don’t do. We need to examine the promises we’re making before we make them, after all, “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalms 111:10). We can’t serve God and money (Matthew 6:24) therefore, doesn’t it make sense not to stockpile wealth that will one day be destroyed by fire or left behind when we die. Wouldn’t it be more profitable to lay up spiritual treasure that remains unaffected by thieves, fire, or our death, remember, where your treasure is your heart is also. Doesn’t it make eternal sense to do your banking in the bank of heaven (Matthew 6:19-21)? Being a disciple is not only all about sacrifice, it’s also about producing fruit.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.(KJV)
When we bear fruit we glorify God. What kind of fruit? Actually, several kinds. First, there is the fruit of repentance.
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (KJV)
This fruit must come to maturity before we are eligible to receive the free gift of salvation previously mentioned. Then we must endure the chastening of God to bring forth the fruit of righteousness.
11 Now no chasteningfor the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousnessunto them which are exercised thereby. (KJV)
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.(KJV)
After this we must allow the fruit of the Holy Spiritto take root in our hearts.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.(KJV)
When we have yielded to the Spirit and the Spirit has yielded fruit in us we are then prepared to offer fruit unto holiness.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (KJV)
Finally, we come to the fruit of the kingdom; the bottom line, souls. This is the fruit mentioned in John 12:24 and again in the fifteenth chapter of John. If we fail to bear this fruit then we have not gone forth as commanded.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (KJV)
Failing to bring forth this fruit makes us useless and impotent as disciples, worth nothing as Christians except as kindling to feed the flames of God’s fiery judgment.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (KJV)
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.(KJV)
The Apostle Paul’s plan was to bring forth fruit among each of these he ministered to (Ro 1:13) can we do any differently?
A disciple must never ignore God’s word, we must study it and continue to live in it.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;(KJV)
This is the only way we have of receiving more truth from God. If we let Him, God will keep our cups running over but if we hope to receive more of God’s truth we must share what we have with others. By doing this we break the chains of sinful bondage and enter into the light of truth; truth that chases the darkness and shadows of sins away and sets us free, free to serve God.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.(KJV)
In our pursuit of righteousness we must be careful not to be caught in the snare of self righteousness. To allow pride any room in our heart would be to invite the chains of bondage once again. Keep in mind that a disciple is not above his teacher or a servant above the one he serves (Matthew 10:24-25).
The disciple’s obedience, his or her unselfish life style, their zeal for souls is born out of a love of God and their appreciation of the grace extended to them by a loving and forgiving Father. Acts of charity or kindness which come from a sense of duty have a different birthplace. They are born out of obligation or, in other words, the law. Sometimes these lines get obscured in our minds, we get confused as to the difference. Let’s discuss this
Assuming you had a reason to visit a friend’s house but was not aquatinted with where he lived you would quite naturally ask him for directions. He would respond, either in written or verbal form, with a detailed explanation or map showing land marks, right and left turns, etc. If you fail to follow these instructions you’ll fail to arrive at the correct destination. Consider such a list of instructions as the law. There is another way, however, to arrive at the correct intended destination. If your host agrees to lead you there; he in his car with you following behind, then all you need to do is keep your eyes on him and do what he does. When he turns you turn, when he stops, you stop, etc. In following, you will without thinking about it, make all the correct turns. Jesus invites us all to follow him; this is grace. When he walked the shores of Galilee he beckoned to some fishermen and said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They did and men who were once bound by law were free to follow. These men became disciples. They entered a relationship with their master; not a classroom relationship but a living, day to day, intimate, all seeing, relationship where nothing could be hid from another. They allowed themselves to be taught how to model truth, how to live it and how to walk in integrity. Their strength was not in what they learned but in the relationship they had with the one they learned it from.
Jesus is still calling those who have the spiritual ears to hear him. He is telling us to leave our nets of entrapment and entanglement behind, nets of ritual, man-made nets of tradition, nets of pyramid authority, nets of separation. He calls us to leave the doctrines of men and demons behind and receive only the doctrine of truth which He has spoken by His own mouth and recorded in the pages of scripture with His blood and the blood of the Apostles. Everyone is not called to be an Apostle, though we’re all sent out. Everyone is not called to be a prophet, though we all have the capacity to hear God’s voice. Everyone is not called to teach, though there’s a teacher in all of us but everyone is called to discipleship. When we say “believer” we make reference to one who believes in their heart. Heart belief is belief that’s put into action; belief that goes beyond words, belief that is demonstrated by your seen and unseen conduct. It’s belief that knows and reveals the joy of serving the king of all creation. “Believer” is just a synonym for discipleand if any fail to accept this they’ll miss their intended destination, God’s kingdom, by approximately eighteen inches; the distance between their head and their heart.
The saddest prophecy given in scripture is found in Matthew seven, verse fourteen.
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (KJV)
Indeed, few there be that find it. Truth is, we pass more people each day headed for everlasting contempt than those headed for everlasting life. Many, and probably most who read this chapter, will reject its conclusion, that true believers and disciples are one in the same. Accepting this truth would require many of us to make a serious change in our life and you know how we hate change. Many of us would rather deny this truth sitting on a church bench for the rest of our lives, comfortably headed for eternal destruction, than to search until finding the straight gate and having found it, pass through and follow the narrow way that lies beyond; a way that compels us to drag our cross as we go.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.(KJV)
Most of us will choose to believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. We’ll deceive ourselves into believing that we, content to be hearers of the word and not doers, can walk the broad, well-traveled path with our bibles tucked securely under our arm while singing, “Nearer my God to thee” but as Angels watch us go, the hymn they may be singing with tears in their eyes is “Almost Persuaded.”
You may say, “I don’t have to be a disciple to be saved, all I need do is believe.” Remember, even the demons believe and tremble.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.(KJV)
Do you still feel you don’t need to be a disciple to be saved?