In the last post, we looked at what distinguishes real discipleship from simply Christians meeting together regularly. In this post, we’ll look more deeply about the cost of discipleship.
In Luke 9:23, Jesus laid the path of real discipleship:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Jesus is bidding those who want to follow him to come and die. This is crucial to understanding what it means to be a disciple of Christ. It is also why many people find Christianity and the message of the gospel to be exclusive, foolish, and at times unloving toward those who want to tolerate sin. There is no room to simply add Jesus onto your life. Our highest love must be Christ. It’s all or nothing. We are to die to self, die to our desires, and confess Christ. The gospel message is not shared with the language of, “Give Jesus a try”. The gospel message is proclaimed with the understanding of, “Come and die”. Death to self, so that we may be alive in Christ. Death to sinful desires so that our desires become His desires. Death to appetites that attempt to gratify our pleasures so that Christ is the fountain of living water our thirst is quenched with, given free of charge because of the great love with which God loved us. We no longer can live how we choose. Our desires must be left behind. The way we live must now be forever changed.
So now back to the question posed before our brief look at scripture – why should you consider taking part in the Discipleship Initiative? Because it is a tangible means by which you can learn to engage with the truth about Jesus. It’s an opportunity to die to self and grow in the grace and knowledge of God. It’s an opportunity to die to self by maybe having to get up at 5:00 a.m. to meet with your group at 6:00 a.m. when you got home late from work the day before or you’ve been studying all night for an exam. It’s an opportunity to die to self by openly confessing sin in your life, knowing that the way that others view you will now be a more accurate representation of why Christ’s sacrifice was needed to make you right before a holy God. It’s an opportunity to die to self by reordering your desires in a way so that praying with brothers and sisters in Christ and reading and studying God’s Word is infinitely more valuable than anything else in this world. The Discipleship Initiative can be a part of your lifelong process of dying to self so that you may know God.
Now I want to reiterate. I am NOT attempting to equate “discipleship” as defined above with the Discipleship Initiative. The Discipleship Initiative does not encompass all that it means to follow Christ, and therefore, joining a discipleship group and going through the material cannot be the end goal, nor can it be Northstar’s end goal for you. The aim of the Discipleship Initiative is to help you be a lifelong disciple of Christ, learning to love Him first above all and seeking to make Him known to others. You will not be fully equipped and officially “discipled” after going through six weeks of material. However, I can guarantee that focusing time to study scripture, grow in your affections for Jesus and pray with others will be a beneficial use of your time (if not the most beneficial use of your time) and aid you in knowing God. It will likely cost you something, but in the grand scheme of knowing God and worshipping him for all eternity, of what value is anything else?
The ultimate goal of all of discipleship is to both know God and make Him known to others. Paul describes his own passion in these words:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)
“..that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.. that I may know Him..” is the heartbeat of a disciple maker. Yes, Paul went. He traveled thousands of miles for the sake of the gospel. But Paul made disciples wherever he went. It was his focus, and Jesus was his first great love.
Discipleship is about helping one another grow in knowing and loving God and making Him known. May your confidence in Jesus be boundless and your desire to promote His message ever increase.
The following are written by old dead guys and can be difficult to read, but are worth investing in!