The Call to Discipleship
as the purity of our motives in following Him”
“And he that taketh not his cross,
and followeth after me, is not worthy of me”
It is important for us to reacquaint ourselves often with the words of Jesus during his earthly walk. Let those words reverberate within our hearts and pierce through the rhetoric. There is something so uncompromising about His Call. May we meditate upon these words of His and allow them the full and undivided attention of our hearts. The solemnity of His Call to us is not to a mere forgiveness of sins (as overwhelming and precious as that is). His Call is to Himself. Our redemption is for His glory and the following of Him. His whole design is to bring forth a people who are no longer their own, but rather “As He is, so ARE WE in this world” (1 John 4:17).
Look at the depth of His conversations with those who heard His Call:
“He said to another, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.”
“But Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce God’s Kingdom.”
“And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house”
“And Jesus said unto him, no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”
There is power in the Call of Christ that defies logic. There is a stark contrast between then and now; between the perception of Jesus in our day and the Jesus presented to us in the Gospels. The Call of Christ is to the “whole” of us, not just a portion. Our response is not to be a casual one where we fit His Call into our daily life as if it were a part-time occupation. The Call is to Him; to sacrifice and to a determined relinquishment of all that we are.
Paul reiterates this in his plea to the Church at Rome.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”
There is a pleading in the ministration of the Call of God that this becomes an experiential truth. The things we allow in ourselves, and in the lives of those who claim to know Him, reveal our ignorance of His claim upon us. Sin no longer disturbs the majority. We look lightly upon the issues of others because we look lightly upon the issues within our own hearts. Lethargy is contagious; as contagious as any pandemic with eternal implications far beyond the loss of life here on earth.
Paul left no doubt with the Church at Colosse as to the purpose of the true ministry of God.
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”
What did this intensity of heart look like?
“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily”
The mighty working of Christ within is revealed in a life of labour without; it is the exposé of His claim upon us. There is no place for the lethargy and indifference men and women display to the Call of God.
We may declare such things, we may present our claims of following God, but the reality of the life we live may reveal something different. The works of a life reveal the faith of the life. In Revelation God declared unto every location of the Church in that day, “I KNOW THY Works”. God is ever beholding our works for by them He knows our faith.
The validity of our love for Him and the power of Him working within us is readily expressed in our interaction with our brothers and sisters. Paul sums up his expression of the workings of Christ within: “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom…”. If mere confessions of faith were sufficient (as is commonly taught today), why did Paul express warnings, admonitions, and exhortations to the people of God? To the church at Ephesus, one of the crown jewels of the early church, Paul declared:
“Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears”
The deception and lethargy of a confession-based gospel has produced the slumbering church of our day! It produces a blindness to the magnificence, grandeur, and enormity of His Holiness. We have reduced Him to professions which require nothing more than a mental assent which consequently requires nothing, costs nothing, and correspondingly produces nothing. A confession without sacrifice leaves people without resources to face what lies ahead. Ministries must heed the Call of God to build up His Church and to prepare His people for the storm which is about to engulf our land. He is coming first of all to judge His church to the intent that in righteousness He may then be free to judge the world.
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
1 Peter 4:17-18
The time IS COME upon us! Let those who have ears to hear tremble and seek Him afresh that we may be found “doing” when our Master returns. Take no comfort in confessions and doctrines which do not produce the Fear of the Lord, that do not bring forth a growing holiness and purity of heart. Forsake the delusion of heart which enjoys hearing the word, discussing the word, while yet refusing to obey the word.
It is a day to seek a new ministration of His Mercy; a mercy which produces sacrificial living and bringing forth of a new worship which is costly, pure and holy.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice…”
The true mercy of God enables men and women to give themselves wholly unto God, not to comfort them in their sins and rebellion.
May we as His redeemed rise up to respond wholly to the Call of God in Christ!
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power”
2 Thessalonians 1:11
“The true follower of Christ will not ask, “If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?” Rather he will say, “This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!”
– A.W. Tozer
“Unless we are willing to pay the price, and sacrifice time and attention and what appear legitimate or necessary duties, for the sake of the heavenly gifts we need not look for a large experience of the power of the heavenly world in our work”
– Andrew Murray
“And when they were come into the ship,
the wind ceased.”
For the disciple of Christ there is purpose in the storms of life. God’s design for His Own is never random and without intent. Nothing is haphazard or arbitrary. The storm in which the disciples found themselves was intended to enlarge their comprehension of the majesty of Christ. It was also an opportunity to experience this wonder in their own lives. The main beneficiary of this “lesson” was Peter. Peter had a desire to identify with the living Christ; his heart was not content in seeing Jesus walk upon the water! There was an inherent need within him to walk as Christ walked; to step into the storming seas of life because faith propelled him. True Faith can never find contentment in seeing Jesus only. It will inevitably compel the one in whom it resides to invest in the experiential life of identification with Christ.
The wind will cease, and the storm will become calm once the vital lesson is learned! How glorious is the inspired Word of God: “and when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased”! Let the “they” impact our hearts and stir our souls to greater faith and larger living. When Jesus and Peter step back into the boat, Peter is not the same man he was moments before. His understanding has been transformed by stepping out of his current knowledge of Christ into a larger revelation of the power of Christ.
The storms of life are designed of Him to not simply be endured, but to be the very instruments of our enlargement and growth. While many cling to the “safety” of the boat there are those who see Christ upon the waters and have the passion to walk as He walks, to overcome as He overcomes; to know within that a greater life is available. May the Lord work within us that faith that sees beyond the confines of our experience and propels us to walk outside the scope of human possibility.
“If it be thou, bid me to come”
Jesus has one response to such faith:
“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
“Sister Pasqualita spoke at the “Mexico, I Love You” Congress. She had suffered severe ostracism in her small town in the very southern part of Mexico because she had become an evangelical. Other Christians had already been forcibly driven from the town.
One night a group of her persecutors surrounded her grass-roofed home setting it on fire. As she opened the door, someone fired a gun at her. A co-worker shares her story in his own words:
“When she was sharing her testimony she was crying. She said, ‘I thank the Lord that only twenty-one ammunition bits touched me.’ She had been shot all over her body and even in the neck. She was still able to run and fell into a hole where her persecutors couldn’t see her in the dark. She was losing blood quickly but some other townsfolk who appreciated her testimony somehow took her out through the mob to another nearby town’s clinic. She survived but three other family members in the house were murdered.
“She complained to the Lord saying, ‘Lord, why now that I’ve given you my life and my family am I suffering this way?’ The Lord reminded her of a song that she used to sing very often, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.’
“She continued, ‘Then I understood that when I decided to follow Jesus, it was in the midst of any situation, any persecution. My life now belonged to Him. I gained strength in that song. I am preaching again and I am encouraging the rest of the believers that when we decide to follow Jesus there is no turning back.’”
Today Pasqualita continues to be a strong Christian leader and teacher in her community and she still loves to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”
Standing Strong in the Storm
“Herein is my Father glorified,
that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
“Trees have their seasons at certain times of the year when they bring forth fruit; but a Christian is for all seasons”
“And a mixed multitude went up also with them”
The great multitude that left Egypt (well over one and half million people) was comprised not only of Israelites but also of foreign slaves and Egyptians; a great diversity of races, cultures and motives. There were no doubt sincere followers of God in every one of these nationalities* for the promise of the Passover was to all: “when I see the blood I will pass over”. The blood was the reason for the pardon; not the nationality of the people inside the house. Even here we see glimpses of the New Covenant promise which is based upon faith and not natural birth. This mixed multitude were called the children of Israel. The wilderness was the crucible where many offending elements of the throng would be judged and purified (1 Corinthians 10:1-6).
Historically within the purposes of God mixture is a common malady. Within the hearts of all exists various motives for following after God. There are those who join themselves to the multitude for the blessings rather than out of a pure love for God. After the Sermon on the Mount a great multitude followed Him enthralled by the pure words of grace and wisdom which He spoke.
“When he was come down from the mountain,
great multitudes followed him”
Later we read that multitudes followed Him because He fed them.
“Ye seek me…because ye did eat of the loaves,
and were filled”
Jesus began to speak of deeper things; truths which were no longer pleasant and soft but offensive to the natural mind and the religious culture.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,
and drink his blood, ye have no life in you”
The multitudes began to shrink and many fell away. The way was becoming narrow and the gate unpopular. Many of His “disciples” began to murmur.
“Many therefore of his disciples,
when they had heard this, said,
This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”
So too in our day the multitudes enjoy the broad way focusing only on the elementary things of God. Discipleship, dying to self, the pursuit of true righteousness and holiness are forsaken for the golden calf of the masses. In our day the masses are the proof of a successful church or ministry and often the truth is crucified at the hands of those who want the approval and esteem of men. Nevertheless, there are those whose hearts are set upon following Him. It is to the disciple that His sayings become costly and His way becomes narrow. The self-life must be left behind to move forward in the mystery of His Way. It is the hard sayings of Jesus that cause many to stumble.
“From that time many of his disciples went back,
and walked no more with him”
In our day we have many places where people can congregate to ease their conscience and pacify their convicted soul. They can hear His words without having to follow Him and call Him Lord without obeying. It is a new “gospel” that claims one simply has to believe and heaven is assured and God is pleased. A relieved conscience and a no-cost gospel are nothing more than a religious sedative for a lukewarm environment.
“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people;
Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers have devoured his strength,
and he knoweth it not…”
Even so God calls out to us to draw near in truth and in purity of heart; to leave the crowds and the broad paths. There is a refuge and consolation to be found there. Even the weak, the downtrodden and the lonely are made strong in the way of our God. The Great Shepherd Himself will lead us through the labyrinth of compromise and mixture into truth, righteousness and holiness.
“A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction.
Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness,
it is no better than the faith of devils,
and perhaps it is not even so good as that.
A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit”
* Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite; one example of several non-Israelites. For his faithfulness to God, Caleb was given an inheritance of the Tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:13).
“So then death worketh in us,
but life in you”
2 Corinthians 4:12
The radical nature of the Kingdom of God is one of mystery and paradox; it is contrary to the constitution of natural man. Entering into it requires the death and renunciation of the self-life in order to touch the wonder of its power. The very LIFE of the Kingdom of God is only available in Jesus. There is “salvation in no other name” and there is LIFE in no other. He ALONE is the Kingdom and He ALONE is the Way into the Kingdom. He is the TRUTH of the Kingdom and He is the LIFE of the Kingdom.
“For the Jews require a sign,
and the Greeks seek after wisdom”
1 Corinthians 1:22
Here Paul sums up the inclinations of the world and the people of God. His people desired signs and wonders and others sought “wisdom” (Greek word “sophia” from which we derive the word philosophy*). The nature of the heart of man has not changed. God’s Kingdom will not be found by these means for Paul goes on in the very next verse of scripture:
“But we preach Christ crucified,
unto the Jews a stumblingblock,
and unto the Greeks foolishness”
1 Corinthians 1:23
Christ crucified is the pivotal point upon which the entire purposes of God rest. The Way into this Kingdom is dependent upon the extent of our identification and participation in His death being worked out in our lives. The corresponding revelation of His Life in us will be to the degree of “death” being worked into us. This happens through the operation of His Holy Spirit combined with our own will yielding in true discipleship. Smooth words, elaborate teachings and overt signs and wonders will never replace the power of a crucified life. It is in this place that God’s work must culminate if we would enter into the wonder of His Life. Again Paul continues:
“But unto them which are called,
both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God,
and the wisdom of God”
1 Corinthians 1:24
It is in those who are called that this revelation is made known. The nature of a call requires a response and the call to discipleship is predicated with an “if”. The “if” allows a free-will response from the individual. Entrance into the Kingdom is not by words, understanding, or signs and wonders but by the crucible of the Cross.
“For we which live
are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake,
that the life also of Jesus
might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”
2 Corinthians 4:11
The end and purpose of all life is “…that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”.
*NOTE: Contained within the Greek language are differing words for knowledge and love. The word for Philosophy comes from two Greek words (φίλος- philos) and (σοφία-sophia). Philos is one of three main Greek words for Love; agape, philos, and eros. Each speak to a realm or a sphere of love. Eros is a love which proceeds from the flesh and in turn loves fleshly things. Philos is a love which originates from the soul; it speaks of friendship and affection and when combined with (σοφία-sophia) we end up with the word philosophy: man’s love for wisdom and knowledge. It is a knowledge which may sound deep and good but leaves those who hold it weak and ineffective in the ministration of His life. God’s end is Agape – it is His love ruling, leading and holding us to His ways and purposes. God’s love cannot rest in anything which is contrary to His nature. It is the One over-riding motive which can produce discipleship within the heart of an individual. Peter’s love (philos) failed for man’s affection will never hold a heart true in times of testing.
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men,
but in the power of God”
1 Corinthians 2:5