What is this walk we are called to, being a disciple of Christ and following Him? It is an all-encompassing discipleship, not one that is segmented out into “church life”, "Scripture life", "prayer life", “friend life”, “family life”, “work life” and a million others. The reality of a life of a Christian disciple should be dominated by the very fact of that discipleship. The Scripture paints a picture that looks very different from what we think of as being a disciple of Christ.
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Mat 4:18-22)
They didn’t say to Him, let us stay here and keep working as fisherman and we will be your disciples when we have the time. They dropped their nets and followed Him. Notice also the sons of Zebedee, they left not only their nets but their father as well. The call of Christ trumps family. They left their family, their old lives, their livelihood to follow Him. Take another example:
Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." (Mat 8:21-22)
That seems reasonable doesn’t it? Just let me do what anybody else would do, bury my father and once that is done I will follow you. That is not what being a disciple is about. It is a total surrender to Christ and His will, setting aside our own in the process. We don’t place Christ at the top of our priority list because there is no list, there is just Christ. Everything else stems from being a disciple of Christ. It is not one of the competing priorities in our life, it is the only priority in our lives.
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luk 9:23-24)
What does it mean to deny ourselves? At least in part it means that we abandon what is important to us, most important to us in some cases, and make following Him the most important. It is not to deny ourselves a couple of hours on Sunday morning but a complete denial of ourselves. That might require us to abandon that which is most precious to us. In fact there is no “might” about it, it absolutely demands that we abandon what is most precious to us but for the one who knows Christ, this is not a sacrifice at all.
Here is one of the hardest verses in all of the Scriptures:
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luk 14:25-27)
Those are hard words. You must hate your family, your children, you own life. If you don’t, you cannot be His disciple. If you do not bear your own cross and come after Him, you cannot be His disciple.
What keeps you from serving Christ? Your stuff, your friends, your family? Are you worried about what your friends and family will say? I want to be “saved” but I don’t want it to inconvenience me or make me stand out. I still want to serve Mammon most of the week except those tiny windows when I let God intrude on my schedule. The American dream is not the Christian dream. Earning more than the other guy, having a bigger house than the other guy, owning more stuff than the other guy and raising your kids so that they have even more stuff than you is not even on the radar screen for a disciple.
Being a disciple is more than walking an aisle, becoming a “member” in a local church, showing up on Sunday mornings. It is also more than Bible studies, more than daily devotionals, more than “read the Bible in a year” plans. It is also more than being "Reformed" or homeschooling or headcovering or agrarian living. It is a complete and utter abandonment of everything that we hold most dear because when it comes to Christ, there is only room for one object of love and adoration. It is not our family, our country, our rights, our possessions, not even our churches. It is Christ and Christ alone. Until we strip away all of the things that we love in place of Christ, all of the things that deflect our attention, all of the things that compete with Him, all of the things that make us cling to this life we will never be His disciples. Is it possible to be a disciple of Christ while worrying about maintaining a middle-class lifestyle, of earning and consuming with a few breaks to go be religious? I don’t think that it is. The clamor of the world, the constant din of our entertainment, the ever increasing demands of the workplace, the drumbeat of “more, more, more” drowns out that solitary voice that says: “Follow me”. Being a disciple is not adding Christ to our lives, it is stripping away everything else until only Christ remains.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mat 16:25)