Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple. – Luke 14:27 MSG
Discipleship. It isn't a word we use a lot any more. And even when we do it carries a lot of baggage with it. When we say discipleship we tend to think of scripture memory, Bible studies, class room environments, and a small group of Christians who are really serious about their faith. Discipleship is for those who want to be students of the Word. They are wired differently than the rest of us. They have a special capacity for learning deep doctrinal truth and a desire to spend countless hours alone, studying, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture. They are just not like the rest of us. They're a super-spiritual breed who are set apart from the rest. The are the few, the proud, the Marines. Sorry, couldn't resist.
Yet, when you read the words of Jesus you can't help but realize that to a certain degree, disciples really are a breed apart. They are special. But it is NOT a classification of people within the Christian community who just happen to take spiritual matters a little more seriously. If you are a follower of Christ, you are a disciple. In fact, Jesus made it quite clear that you had to be willing to shoulder your own cross before you could follow Him. You couldn't be His disciple without it.
There is a cost to discipleship. There is a cost to following Christ. It was never intended to be easy. John MacArthur has this to say about the cost of discipleship: "Discipleship...more than just being a learner, being an intimate follower, having an intimate relationship, following to the point where you would go as far as death out of love. There's no question about the fact that the only message Jesus ever proclaimed was a message of discipleship. The call that Jesus gave was a call to follow Him, a call to submission, a call to obedience. It was never a plea to make some kind of momentary decision to acquire forgiveness and peace and heaven and then go on living anyway you wanted. The invitations of Jesus to the lost were always direct calls to a costly commitment."
There is a cost to following Jesus. But that is not a popular message. It never has been. It wasn't popular when Jesus communicated it more than 2,000 years ago. His followers didn't want to hear Him say, "Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple" (Luke 14:33 MSG). This sounds harsh and demanding. But it is really the message of discipleship. Dallas Willard describes it as the life of an apprentice to Jesus. "Being his apprentice is, therefore, not a matter of special 'religious' activities, but an orientation and quality of my entire existence. This is what is meant by Jesus when he says that those who do not forsake all cannot be his disciple. (Luke 14:26, 33) The emphasis is upon the all. There must be nothing held of greater value than Jesus and his kingdom. He must be clearly seen as the most important thing in human life, and being his apprentice as the greatest opportunity any human being ever has" (Dallas Willard, How Does The Disciple Live).
Discipleship has a cost. So did our salvation. It cost Jesus His life. When I follow Him, He asks me to count the cost and determine whether I am willing to make His kingdom the most important thing in my life. Will I allow it to replace anything and anyone else? Will I, like Paul, count everything else as loss compared to knowing and following Jesus Christ as His disciple? (Philippians3:8).
Father, I want to be a disciple of Your Son who is willing to consider anything and anyone else as expendable compared to the joy of following Him. Anything it costs me is well worth it compared to all that I receive in return. Help me grow in my appreciation of the gift I have received and make Your Son and His kingdom the highest priority in my life. Amen.