A very wrong assumption about discipleship is that the right process will yield transformation. We can easily get caught up in the rhythms of doing all of the right things while simultaneously moving away from our love for Jesus. This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s true because I’m a victim of this reality. I’m reminded of the Ephesian church that Jesus squares up to in Revelation.
He says, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.”
Deeds. Hard work. Perseverance. Testing. Endured. Have not grown weary. This is process-oriented language. In fact, impressive process-oriented language. They did an amazing job at everything they were supposed to do. Yet, they were indicted on charges of leaving their first love, that is, forgetting to connect their hearts with Jesus.
At some point we must come back to that historic choice that we made about Christ. How serious are we are about Jesus? Is he an addition to our lives or is he everything? We have to come to the point of asking ourselves, whose life is it? A benchmark has to be put down. Who am I living for? What am I living for? What am I going to do with my life, seeing that I only have one?
This is the bedrock of discipleship: Embracing the person of Christ and living the mission of Christ.
Either we seize control over our lives or we give Jesus control over our lives. It must not be having one and the other, but only to have one or the other. In Luke 14 Jesus gives three shocking “cannot be my disciple” statements.
#1 He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is using hyperbole to shock his audience and make this point: Our love for Jesus must be so overwhelming, powerful, and obvious that it looks like we hate those closest to us and even ourselves. Thus, if we love anything more than him, we cannot be his disciple.
#2 He says, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” A shame-ridden, disgraceful cross? A humiliating cross to bear is the last thing that anyone wants, yet Jesus calls us to pick up and embrace our own crucifixion. Thus, anyone who does not give up their life to follow him cannot be his disciple.
#3 He says, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot by my disciple.” Everything we are belongs to him. Everything we have belongs to him. He places his claim on our lives and we no longer belong to ourselves. Our lives are not our own and we don’t belong to anyone or anything but Him, not even to ourselves. This is not a contribution or donation of our time, it’s a wholistic commitment to Jesus. It’s an absorption of our identity into his. Paul says, “To live isChrist.” And this is our reality if we embrace Jesus.
If we can’t clearly answer the questions, “Who and what are you living for?” then we clearly cannot be disciples of Jesus.