Death by Discipleship

A Follower, Lover, and Learner of Jesus

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. . . . So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26-27,33 (ESV)

Discipleship means to walk with Jesus where he walks, go with him wherever he goes, study the words that he says, obey the instructions he gives, imitating his life as he lived it–even if it means certain death. Discipleship requires that Jesus be given primary allegiance: full and wholehearted devotion with special focus on obedience to his commands is required (Matt. 16: 24-26). Discipleship is a result and consequence of a genuine and living faith in Jesus’ sinless life, his shed blood, and glorious resurrection.

I gave as an offering my all to Him Who had won me and saved me, my property, my fame, my health, my very words… In considering all these things, I preferred Christ. And the words of God were made sweet as honeycombs to me, and I cried after knowledge and lifted up my voice for wisdom. There was moreover the moderation of anger, the curbing of the tongue, the restraint of the eyes, the discipline of the belly, and the trampling under foot of the glory which clings to the earth.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus

Ambivalence in the life of a disciple toward Jesus’ lordship means no peace that passes all understanding, no full and complete experience of God’s unconditional love, no faith that trusts God’s eternal goodness, no hope in the midst of disappointing circumstances, no ability and power to do the right thing at the right time, and no strength to stand against Satan’s wiles and temptations (James 1:6-7). If he or she is double-minded, they will lack that abundance of life that Jesus spoke of and promised for every believer (John 10:10).

As a disciple of Jesus I am with him, by choice and by grace, learning from him how to live in the kingdom of God. This is the crucial idea. That means, we recall, how to live within the range of God’s effective will, his life flowing through mine. Another important way of putting this is to say that I am learning from Jesus to live my life if he were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything that he did, but I am learning how to do everything that I do in the manner that he did all that he did.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997), 283.

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