“If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink” (John 7:37). “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). These are plain invitations by the Lord to anyone who wishes to come unto Him for rest, peace, forgiveness and eternal life. A willingness to come to the Lord Jesus as a lost sinner is the requirement of salvation (Luke 19:10; John 1:12). But when it comes to calling others to be “disciples indeed” there are stern requirements. If these terms are not met, “he cannot be my disciple,” said the Lord (Luke 14:26,27,33). These requirements are extremely costly. They demand total submission to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ without retention of any rights for self. Acceptance of these terms is not for salvation merit. There is no indication in Scripture that we must earn God’s love by becoming true disciples. All discipleship is voluntary. Those who respond to Him in this way are expressing their belief in His wisdom and are committing their lives to Him as an act of loving devotion.
Success in the varied interests of this life is a major focus of the world. Professions, sports, and the business and social realms are areas in which extreme demands are made upon people in order for them to achieve outstanding recognition. A distance runner may practice by running 50 miles or more per day. A man may work 16-hour days for as many as seven days a week. Musicians practice for hours every day over a period of many years, even for life. All of these extreme demands are met to be successful. Only when extreme demands are made by the Lord Jesus Christ does it seem to be fanatically extreme. What is logical and necessary to the man or woman of the world to be successful seems illogical and needless if it concerns the priority demands of the Kingdom of God in the light of eternity. True spiritual success, of which the Word of God speaks, comes from the strength and courage of strict obedience and daily meditation upon that same Word (Josh. 1:7-8). It is this Book that records the costly demands of true discipleship from the lips of Jesus Christ.
One of the great sections on discipleship is found in Luke 14. The insecure religious critics of our Lord had refused to come unto Him (vv. 1-14). At this point He told them the parable of the Great Supper (vv. 16-24). Many were bidden and they responded by making various empty excuses. This obviously referred to the empty excuses of the critics for not receiving the Lord. The master in the parable then ordered his servants to go out to the highways and hedges and bring in the poor and the handicapped to his supper. This was an obvious reference to the despised Gentiles. Those who had made light of his invitation were now to be shut out. At this point, the Lord turns to the multitude and gives His stern demands for being genuine disciples. It was not to a select group but to the general crowd that the Lord Jesus states these terms. Therefore, we cannot restrict this appeal to a few devoted believers. It is for all who profess to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
No Rival: Allegiance to Christ
“If any come to Me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
The Lord Jesus asked would-be disciples for their supreme love. The Savior is to be above and beyond all earthly loyalties and affections. He is to be above the nearest and dearest ones in family ties. The expression of “hate not” is not an endorsement of hatred as we understand it. It is an expression meaning in effect to “regard less.” The choice is expressed as loving one and hating the other. Our Lord illustrated this in His own earthly life. When told that His mother and brothers were calling Him aside to speak to Him, He gave a surprising response. “Who is My mother? And who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, ‘Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother’“ (Matt. 12:48-50).
Those who obediently do the will of the Lord stand closer to Him than even His earthly family. Often strong opposition to doing God’s will comes from near relatives. Jesus said, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). The Lord must come first. He must be loved preeminently above all other persons.
Even self cannot be placed before Christ. The disciple must place Christ before his own life also. Fulfillment in careers, travel, education, position and self-development can never come before the Lord Jesus in the life of a disciple. He must stand first and foremost and have no rival.
No Refusal: Obedience to Christ
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).
The Lord Jesus asked his disciples for absolute obedience in following any path to which He called them. The cross was the principal weapon of public execution used by the government of this period. It clearly signified death to all who watched the victims carry their means of execution to the place where they were crucified. There was nothing pleasant, comfortable or glamorous about it. It meant the end of earthly life. It was a terrible scene when Jesus carried His own cross up the hill called Calvary and there was nailed to die. Since “the servant is not above His Lord,” we cannot expect anything easy when He bids us to take up our cross (Matt. 10:38; 16:24). He says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever will save his Nfe shall lose it; but whoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Did any other great leader ever offer his followers a cross? Certainly it was not a call to an easy life. But the Lord Jesus never promised His followers an easy life. “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). His Cross was not easy. How could our cross be easy? He calls disciples to the place of death to self and makes it a matter for volunteers. These make the best soldiers and are the ones who so gallantly offer to go on dangerous missions which have death as a prospect. It is the forefront of the battle where the valiant men are usually found (2 Sam. 11:15-16). It is the place of glory, but it is also the place of death.
Whatever the Lord calls upon His disciples to do, they must obey. He calls us to death by the Cross, and there can be no refusal.
No Return: Persistence for Christ
The Lord asked His disciples for an irrevocable commitment to come after Him after first warning them of the cost. Many invitations have been given to follow Him while neglecting to warn them as He did. He told them to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28). It costs nothing to
become a Christian. Salvation is without money and without price (Isa. 55:1). It is by grace and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9). But it costs a great deal to
follow the Lord Jesus. Before we elect to become “disciples indeed” we should be ready to face the cost. One illustration given by the Lord concerns a man who sought to build a tower without the money to complete the project. He could not finish it and was mocked. Another illustration concerns a king who unwisely began a battle without realizing he was outnumbered two to one. Thus he had to plead for peace before the battle had begun (Luke 14:28-32).
The lesson is clear. No one should volunteer to be a disciple of Jesus without first considering whether he is willing to pay the necessary price of never dropping out.
In the third demand of this section, the Lord makes clear that the disciple must accept the fact that he can never turn back. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple” (v. 33).
To forsake all that we have is to burn our bridges behind us so that we cannot ever return. There is nothing left to which we can return. All props are removed except the Lord Himself. Each believer must determine before the Lord what is meant by the expression “forsake all” when it applies to his own life. The Twelve left such things as boats, nets, homes, occupations and families to follow the Lord. Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee” (Mark 10:28). The Savior replied that to leave family and lands for His sake and that of the Gospel would be rewarded one hundredfold in the present life as well as eternal life in the age to come. Many believers have had to leave their homes and native lands to serve the Lord. They have left good occupations and good incomes. They have even sold their possessions and used them in God’s work. Whatever is required by the Lord will be given by the disciple. For Him there is no return to the former way of life.
Terms in Summary
In his well-known book,
True Discipleship, William MacDonald has listed the following seven requirements for being a disciple of Jesus Christ:
1. A supreme love for Jesus Christ (Luke 14:26)
2. A denial of self (Matt. 16:24)
3. A deliberate choosing of the cross (Matt. 16:24)
4. A life spent in following Christ (Matt. 16:24)
5. A fervent love for all who belong to Christ (John 13:35)
6. An unswerving continuance in His Word (John 8:31)
7. A forsaking of all to follow Him (Luke 14:33)
There were those who came to Christ with offers to follow Him wherever He went (Luke 9:57). It was evident that He saw where they had underestimated the task. They were apt to love comfort, and He had no comfortable place to live daily (v. 58). When He called, they were apt to mention that material claims must come first (v. 59). But He said that He must be first. They were apt to think of family claims (v. 61). But He replied, “No man having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God” (v. 62). The claims of the Lord Jesus must be first for the true disciple. Once he has begun that path, there can be no looking back to the old life.
A thoughtful person asked, “What are the
benefits of being a disciple?” With the cost so great, is it really beneficial? The question was raised in a different form by Peter long ago, “Behold we have left our own homes and followed you.” And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God who shall not receive many times as much
at this time and in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:28-30). Aside from treasure in Heaven and reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ, what do we receive here? Consecrated living may involve affliction, tribulation and sacrifice. Are there earthly benefits to following the Lord Jesus with diligent attention to His commands? That depends on the value we place upon spiritual blessings from living close to the Lord. Power in prayer, peace, joy, effective ministry, the fruits of the Spirit and other Christlike character traits are all related to consecrated, yielded, obedient living. Surely, the benefits of being a true follower of Jesus, not a seat warmer in church, are far greater than living for the passing scene of earth. It is these that shall “suffer loss” (1 Cor. 3:15). Even if there should be no earthly benefits, as there are, it is enough for many to serve Him now out of deep love and gratitude (2 Cor. 5:14-15), whatever the cost.
Lesson 1 Cost Of Discipleship
1. The primary teaching of Luke 14:28-33 is the
cost of discipleship. How would you apply this to yourself?
2. Matthew 10:38; 16:24 and Luke 9:23-26 reveal the
terms of disciples. According to these verses, define and apply to your life the following principles:
“loses his life”
3. What are the principal truths taught from the following verses? Luke 14:26
4. Which hindrances to following Christ can you identify in Luke 9:57-62?
5. Sit down and count the cost. Upon reviewing your answers to questions 3 and 4, what would most easily hinder you from total commitment to following Jesus as His disciple? Explain what action you plan to undertake to overcome these obstacles.