The Call to Discipleship
as the purity of our motives in following Him”
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Jesus did not come to annihilate the soul of man; He came to save it. The crucified life is one that chooses to reveal His resurrection in a fragile clay vessel that His power might be seen. Many speak of the cross in a future tense, but such is not the language of the New Covenant.
“I die daily…”
1 Corinthians 15:31
The folly of words that speak of future things while ignoring the call of Christ “Today” is the bane of religion. We are called to live His Life NOW, to walk daily in the wonder of this flesh and bone existence. Those who speak of things in some distant future while they allow the sands of time and the opportunities of today to slip through their fingers live in the danger and peril of a religious faith.
“…but if ye through the Spirit
do mortify the deeds of the body,
ye shall live”
The way of the cross is not a doctrine, a teaching, or a concept; it is the doorway into His life, present tense. Jesus did not come to share a new teaching; He came that WE may have life and have that life abundantly!
The life that you and I NOW live
is the revelation of our
daily participation in the Cross of Christ.
“Consecrate yourselves (today),
for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
Our depth of consecration today will determine God’s work in and through us tomorrow.
“Beside the burnt offering of the month, and his meat offering, and the daily burnt offering, and his meat offering, and their drink offerings, according unto their manner, for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord”
The Old Covenant speaks of New Testament truths in Christ. We are called to participate in the “daily burnt offering”. The offering is one of ourselves, daily, unto Him alone who is worthy. Do we not hear the voice of His Spirit calling out to us in the “now” of our life?
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”
This is not some future truth or call; it is the heart and desire of all true disciples. It is the way of life, His Life, in us. The religious adherent talks about the cross in abstract and rhetorical words of philosophical wisdom. The disciple embraces it with the full knowledge that the Life of Christ cannot be apprehended by any other means.
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win* (see note below) Christ”
Paul counted the cost in His pursuit for the full apprehension of Christ. His life was spent in the “loss of all things” to the end that he would “win” Christ. Few understand this pursuit to “win” *(see note below) Christ. It is in large part an unknown quest, a mystery which few have looked into. It is however the mystery of the call of Christ unto each of us.
Paul’s pursuit was to “win” or “gain” the fullness of the majesty and wonder of Christ. He was “reaching” unto something beyond the perspectives of man’s concepts and teachings. He was stretching, reaching, pressing unto the fullness. There existed in him a passion for the “One Thing”. In light of this “prize” he could not and would not rest in his current knowledge of Him. Oh, may we see afresh the vast horizons of glory reserved for those who feel the fire and call of God in Christ Jesus!
“If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily,
and follow me”
“Metaphorically used of persons meaning to gain or win someone, i.e., as a friend or patron, referring to Christ (Php 3:8); a brother (Mat 18:15). To gain over to one’s side, meaning to win over to Christ and thus bring to salvation (1Co 9:19-22, where it is equivalent to sṓzō [G4982], to save or to deliver in 1Co 9:22; see 1Co 7:16, where sṓzō is used; 1Pe 3:1).”
“The Complete Word Study New Testament” (Word Study Series) Dr. Spiros Zodhiates
“Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ”
The school of Christ is the privilege of discipleship. It is a life of instruction filled with the ministration of powerful truths whereby our life in this natural world becomes subject to the realities of the Kingdom of God. Paul, writing from a Roman prison, lived and dwelt in dark and damp quarters, yet referred to himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”. His view was heavenly. The intense lessons of the school of Christ had brought him to the place of sowing and reaping in all circumstances of life. He was not a prisoner of Rome; he was in fact the emissary of Christ!
The known world at that time was largely under a one world government and for the most part ruled by the iron fist of Roman decrees. Many of our brothers and sisters today live under the oppression of tyrannical regimes and savage Christian persecution. I have had the privilege of meeting with the underground church in a couple of countries and it was both humbling and inspirational. There is a feeling of oppression in our land of “freedom” which does not seem to exist for them. There is a liberty of the Spirit of God of which we have much to learn. These precious ones go forth each day with a boldness to declare the love of God in Christ which is both refreshing and convicting. Many of the things we call freedom here are based on our “legal rights” and reveal themselves in a spirit of entitlement and arrogancy rather than the humility of Christ. This so called religious freedom is founded in worldly declarations instead of the true liberty arising from a grace wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit. In those persecuted countries the true freedom of spirit is garmented in meekness in contrast to our demands to maintain our legal rights. The freedom in which they walk is that of the Spirit and not of man. It is one which has at its foundation the truth of our heavenly rights*. This freedom is only known to the extent to which we are freed from the life and the dominion of self. The truth of the Sovereignty of God can only become real in those who are in truth dead to self and alive in Christ.
True freedom is only known in our submission to Him. Wherever self reigns, there can be no freedom of the Spirit. The natural life will always reflect its natural surroundings, so also in the spirit. Those who live in the Spirit cannot but reflect the graces of the Spirit regardless of their natural surroundings. Bitterness, envy and anger are expressions of the carnal natural life. The school of God brings us to dark and trying circumstances that we might learn how to live in heavenly places. In our oppressive situations there are opportunities for us to discover hidden treasures of great value.
“And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord…”
The school of Christ is a difficult and arduous journey. It is the “way of the cross” and blessed are those who follow the Lamb through obedience. There is a grace which quietly works within those who choose His way above their own, and a freedom which comes from His bonds at work in our lives. We will know the power of true fellowship as we walk in His growing light and develop in obedience and submission to Christ.
The life of Paul abounded in this rigorous school of Christ. His heart was set upon learning and growing in God. These lessons are reserved for the true disciples of Christ. The graces learned result in a life of victory in all circumstances.
“Not that I speak as to need, for I have learned to be content in whatever state I am. And I know to be humbled, and I know to abound; in everything, and in all things, I am taught both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound, and to lack. I have strength for all things in Christ the One strengthening me”
Philippians 4:11-14 (LITV)
Heavenly Father let the confines and the circumstances of the moment become the Secret Place of your indwelling. Let the fragrance of your Spirit bring its healing balm to our hearts. May our limited surroundings give way to vistas of your Glory. Bring to us the clarity of your wisdom by which you are weaving your graces into the very fabric of our lives. Let us learn that in all things you are working out the mystery of your Sovereign Will for our good.
“For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, for ever”
Freedom from self
brings us into the
liberty of His Spirit.
* Note: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake”
“My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad”
The wise in heart ponder their ways before the Lord. With the passage of time, for the true disciple, there is a discretion that develops within those who hold to His leadings. This discretion is the fruit of experience and God’s correction. That which is lawful and permitted may not always be the wise choice. Wisdom guides and girds the heart for those who are determined to please God.
“All things are permissible but not all things are profitable or expedient. All things are permissible, but not all things promote growth in Christian character”
1 Corinthians 10:23 (Wuest)
The world, both religious and secular, offers many things; broad paths, amusements and temporal diversions. Yet the wise walk with hearts fixed upon pleasing Him who has called them unto Himself. To true disciples of Christ this is not a religious law or teaching; it is the joy of His Life beating within. There is little desire to appear spiritual to others, for those who seek the approval of men already have their reward. Wisdom is the pure fruit of the fear of the Lord. It is the fragrance of a life which seeks to honor Him. In its way men and women find great treasures; hidden treasures which more than compensate for His correction and discipline. Paul, in setting forth the true way of the Lord to his “son” Timothy, declared:
“No one serving as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of this life, so that he might please the one having enlisted him”
2 Timothy 2:4
Purity of heart in a young recruit could best be described as having a single purpose. The great Shepherd of our souls directs us into a purity where we become free from our own agendas; we intuitively choose the things which please Him because we have learned and are being instructed in the Way of Righteousness.
“And He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”
True Discipleship is the fruit of Love. Christ’s hold upon any life are determined by the tenacity of the bonds of His Love upon the human heart. Many may be devoted to a teacher, a prophet, an organization, a great cause or doctrine, but genuine disciples hold within their hearts a devotion borne and sustained by the sheer power of the Love of Christ.
“The disciple is not above his master:
but every one that is perfect shall be as his master”
The “marks*” of His disciples are a growing likeness to the Master. There is a distinct mark upon those who diligently “follow the Lamb wheresoever HE goes”. There is a detachment from the popular, the ethos of factions, or the press to conform to the dictates of a church or small fellowship. It is a life fully captivated by the wonder of Him.
“And as He passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphæus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed Him”
Those who truly hear the call and feel the power of a love beyond comprehension know this abandonment to Him. They know not where He will lead, they care not where He will lead. In reality they are no longer their own.
is the response
to seeing HIM.
The price of Discipleship? Loneliness, misunderstanding and persecution.
The prize of Discipleship? His joy resident in our hearts.
“Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it:
if a man would give all the substance of his house for love,
it would utterly be contemned”
Song of songs 8:6
*Note: Paul considered the scars borne in his body as the “marks” of the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:17) The Greek word translated “marks” actually means “brands” which denote the ownership of Christ.
“From henceforth let no man trouble me:
for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”
“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted”
“Every additional Beatitude deepens the breach between the disciples and the people. The disciples’ call becomes more and more visible. Those who mourn are those who are prepared to renounce and live without everything the world calls happiness and peace. They are those who cannot be brought into accord with the world, who cannot conform to the world. They mourn over the world, its guilt, its fate, and its happiness…. No one understands people better than Jesus’ community. No one loves people more than Jesus’ disciples․that is why they stand apart, why they mourn; it is meaningful and lovely that Luther translates the Greek word for what is blessed with “to bear suffering.” The important part is the bearing. The community of disciples does not shake off suffering, as if they had nothing to do with it. Instead they bear it. In doing so, they give witness to their connection with the people around them. At the same time this indicates that they do not arbitrarily seek suffering, that they do not withdraw into willful contempt for the world. Instead, they bear what is laid upon them and what happens to them in discipleship for the sake of Jesus Christ. Finally, disciples will not be weakened by suffering, worn down, and embittered until they are broken. Instead, they bear suffering, by the power of him who supports them. The disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of him who bears all suffering on the cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in communion with the Crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of him who was so alien to the world that it crucified him”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“The disciple is not above his master:
but every one that is perfect shall be as his master”
Many translations miss the beauty and power of this saying of Jesus. The word “perfect” here should be rendered “mended”. The salvation that Christ brings to His own is one that heals, transforms and brings wholeness of being. It is more than nice words. It is literally the life of Christ being infused into the contaminated essence of man, with a view to being healed and restored. His salvation is more than just a covering; it is God investing His life into that which was lost.
Man was lost through the infection of self-will and the corresponding corrupt choices. Simply put, when any living organism is removed from its life-center, corruption and decay are the result. When an apple is picked from the tree it becomes subject to the second law of thermodynamics. When man severed his relationship with God as the source and center of being, decay and death was/is the result. God, by the inner law of His being, sent His only begotten Son into the world to pay the penalty of man’s disobedience. When individuals break a law of any society, there is a penalty which must be paid *.
The penalty, having been paid by Christ, brought with it the offer from God for all to receive forgiveness. Man, who by freewill chose to disobey God can, by that same act of will, receive the justification of God in Christ. While that is often the extent of the Gospel message in our land, there is more. Not only has God offered forgiveness, He has invested the Life of Christ to undo the stain, corruption and decay of the human race. The infusion of this life is given to destroy the works of the enemy within all who receive Him. He has come to annihilate the workings of lust, envy, jealously, anger, murder and countless other defilements of the human condition.
The life of Christ within is all about the mending and the repairing of the breach. He has/is come to mend our brokenness and to obliterate the works of the flesh by the power of His Holy Spirit. Where the works of the flesh once reigned, we can see the beauty and grace of the fruit of the Spirit forming in those who abide within the sphere of His nature.
“The disciple is not above his master:
but every one that is mended shall be as his master”
It is the disciple (the ardent follower of Christ) who knows of this mending and healing within. The mending of a life is to become a follower of Jesus from the inside out. As one great man of God stated hundreds of years ago: “we are to become by grace what Christ is by nature”.
This work of mending can only be revealed in the depth of love we have for one another. People who treat others (in the name of God) with the same disregard and cruelty that is in the world, clearly reveal the absence of Christ in their hearts. Whenever there is sectarianism, division and strife within God’s people there is, at its root, pride, unforgiveness and carnality. It is the disciples who are mended; it is the true in heart who are called the children of God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God”
* Even in this is a residue of God within the composition of man. Law and order in society, though corrupted, reveals that man still carries within their own being a sense of justice.
“How can you give up the world?
Just do what you ought to do,
and it will give you up”
– J. Hyles
“Carrying the cross does mean following in Jesus’ footsteps. And in His footsteps are rejection, brokenheartedness, persecution and death. There are not two Christs – an easy going one for easy going Christians, and a suffering one for exceptional believers. There is only one Christ. Are we willing to follow His lead?”
– Hudson Taylor
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,
which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Without context, the focus of most Christians becomes the gate. The message presented in many places today is one of being “born again” with little thought of entering the Kingdom of God. Religion likes things simple and easy and the English language plays into this concept very well. However, in the Greek language, there is a whole different thought to what Jesus is saying to us.
“Because strait is the gate, and narrowing (compressing) is the way,
which is leading unto the life, and few there be that are finding it.”
Literal Greek Translation
The Greek tense used here is the Participle mood, best translated here with an “ing” suffixed to the basic verb form. This communicates to us a progressive walk and an on-going sense of growth and development. The narrowing or compressing of the way is the daily experience of all who would find the resurrection Life of Jesus. The leading speaks of following Him with the discovery that death to the outward man is the path to experiencing His life within. Discipleship is the life of the narrowing way, and few there are who choose this path.
We hear much of the scripture:
“Except a man be born again,
he cannot SEE the kingdom of God”
However, Jesus goes on in his discourse to Nicodemus:
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot ENTER INTO the kingdom of God”
While many of God’s children are content with seeing the Kingdom, there is a cry within the heart of God that some enter into the Kingdom. There is a pursuit and a cost involved with this entrance. The narrowing and confinement of the path must be walked in the reality of our hearts. We discover that this way is neither popular nor easy. It is the way of the Cross. It is found in the following of Him, not in the structured ways of men. It leads us into the wilderness where we discover that He came not only to forgive us but to save us from our sins and self-will. Of necessity we must be born not only of water (the cleansing aspect of His life) but also of the Spirit (the empowering aspect of His life) where we find enablement to overcome the issues that bind us. This birthing of the Spirit is also accompanied by the fire of His life to purge the dross and the impurities from our hearts. It is a purifying that no amount of washing will ever accomplish.
The strait gate is the introduction to the Narrow Way. The Gate is not an end in itself as many suppose. It is merely the beginning ever leading us farther on the Narrowing Way wherein we discover the “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of our God.
“We want to reach the kingdom of God,
but we don’t want to travel by way of death.
And yet there stands Necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’
Do not hesitate, man, to go this way,
when this is the way that God came to you.”
It is the broad and easy road which leads to destruction. A crossless walk is the way of the broad and easy way, its end is judgment and misery.
“…for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,
and many are the ones entering in through it”
“If you here stop and ask yourselves why you are not as pious as the early Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor through inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.”
“And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11)
“Salvation is free
But Discipleship will cost you