We know we are commanded to go and make disciples from Matthew 28:18-20, but do we know that there are requirements of discipleship?
Let us consider the requirements Jesus laid out to his disciples and the multitude in Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23.
Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
There are three demands made by Christ that qualify what discipleship is and what it costs. Yes, there is a great cost to discipleship.
Jesus prefaced the three requirements of discipleship by saying, “If anyone would come after me…” This literally means “If anyone desires following me these are the requirements.”
#1 Deny himself
It means to reject self, disapprove of self, to make self void, null, and stand firm against self.
Discipleship costs our very life.
All the dreams, the pursuits, the striving after our own glory must die. We must bury the old man to make room for the new.
Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest (January 16), “Have you had your “white funeral,” or are you piously deceiving your own soul? Has there been a point in your life which you now mark as your last day? Is there a place in your life to which you go back in memory with humility and overwhelming gratitude, so that you can honestly proclaim, “Yes, it was then, at my ‘white funeral,’ that I made an agreement with God.”
Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Every disciple of Christ must have a last day to self or they are not a follower of Christ at all. They may have given intellectual ascent to Him, but they are not following Him. Jesus demands that we deny our self – a once-for-all-time and continuing decision. It costs a lot to give up the self, but the life that replaces it is eternal. When we come to our last day, we will know without question when that day occurred.
If you are a disciple maker, make sure the one you disciple has experienced his or her last day. If they haven’t, they will not mature or bear fruit.
Speaking from personal experience, I know my self was laid in the grave when I made the decision to follow Christ. I also know from experience that I have had to stuff my self back into the coffin on innumerable occasions since. This denying of the self is an ongoing act of obedience.
#2 Take up his cross
The act of taking up our cross is to daily accept that we have been crucified with Christ. It is another form of self denial and yet it is an active acknowledgement that we will find ourselves at odds with the world we have denied. We will be misunderstood and jeered by those who are of the world. In America we do not see beatings, imprisonment and death as Christ followers, but it does not mean that day may not be on the horizon.
Alistair Begg described cross-bearing as, “Walking in one way and not coming back. It is a one-way journey with no possibility of return. You are not your own and this is the defining mark of a true Christian.”
It is accepting that the world we left behind will not know us because they do not know Him. The follower of Christ swears allegiance to Jesus and as a result we may suffer marks in our bodies and even death, but one thing the world cannot take from us is the eternal life we have in Jesus.
The follower (disciple) of Christ is equipped to lose his life for Jesus’ sake because he has laid his life in the gracious nail-pierced hands that purchased his eternal soul.
Are you willing to lose your life for Christ’s sake?
This is a weighty question all disciples are required to answer in the affirmative if they desire to follow Christ because Jesus says in Luke 14:27, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
All cross bearers experience a miraculous transformation either at conversion or sometime later in their walk with Christ. It is a decisive moment of complete surrender of the self when the cross bearer picks up the cross of Christ and never looks back.
#3 Follow Christ
Judas is the prime example of how far one can go with Jesus. For all intentions, he looked like a disciple of Christ, he probably talked like a disciple of Christ, but his end revealed his true disposition.
Following Christ is a disposition of undivided devotion. Your family, your friends, your work, your interests – all is nothing compared to Christ.
In The Navigators’ Design for Discipleship series, there is a question: “Are all Christians disciples?” In the 22 years I used the Design for Discipleship series to train disciples, this question never failed to puzzle. The usual answer to the question was, “Who are we to judge who is a disciple and who isn’t?”
Our politically correct culture has cast a shadow over truth. However, Jesus isn’t concerned with our political correctness any more than He was concerned with political correctness in His days on earth.
Discipleship is costly. It will cost your very life.
Has Jesus got all there is of you?
Has he got a fully surrendered life?
A perfect song of personal worship is “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mk 8:34-35). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.