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Discipleship: Relative Hate on the Trail

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.’ ” (Luke 14:25-26)

We left Jesus’ shocking statement hanging in yesterday’s devo. He challenged the large crowds following him with three requirements to truly be his disciple. The first was this one: hate your family and your life.

disciples_350It’s shocking because we know from the rest of the Bible that Jesus and the Word tell us to do exactly the opposite. We’re instructed to take care of our kids and parents, love our wives, and NOT to hate our brothers.

Sometimes, though, Jews used the word hate to compare the intensity of love between one thing and another. Jesus said his true disciples would love him so intensely that all other loves looked like hate. Another way to say it is that to follow and obey Jesus is to love our families with a little cold-heartedness out of love and commitment to him, not because of an unlimited love and commitment for them.

It’s the first hard requirement for discipleship.

Think: Can you imagine loving Jesus so intensely that your love for your family looks like hate by comparison? Can you imagine loving your family so obediently because you love Jesus and not because they deserve it?

Pray: Ask God to increase the intensity of your love and commitment for Jesus. Ask him to help you to love your family because you love Jesus more.

Do: Express your love for Jesus by going out of your way to do one kind thing for a member of your family today. Bonus points if it’s the person you’re least interested in being kind to.

Discipleship: Don’t Hike without Hate

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.’ ” (Luke 14:25-26)

Jesus recognized a difference between his disciples — especially the 12 he handpicked — and the rest of the large crowds following Him. It had to do with commitment. Why wouldn’t they follow? Jesus was healing the sick with a touch, casting out demons, performing mind-blowing miracles.

disciples_350Everyone believed He was something special. Some were convinced He was the Messiah. But not all were ready to commit themselves fully to following Him. So Jesus spelled out exactly what it would take.

His first requirement was hatred. Hate sin? Hate Israel’s enemies? Hate the self-righteous religious leaders? Nope. Hate your family. Hate your own life. It was a shocking statement, and we’ll dig into what it means in tomorrow’s devo.

Think: Do you tend to think of yourself as curious about Jesus’ life and power? As a follower of Jesus? As a committed disciple? Did you realize that Jesus had requirements for those who would be His disciples?

Pray: Ask God to help you to know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to help you to count the cost of making that commitment.

Do: Read Matthew 10:37-39.

Discipleship: Let’s Hike

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. . . . ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20)

For the next week, we’re going to be talking about what it really means to follow Jesus. We start with this key moment where Jesus called two of the men He would end up using to change the world forever through their leadership in spreading the news about Him.

disciples_350Notice two things: One, Peter and Andrew were in the middle of something else when Jesus called them. They weren’t out looking for some spiritual experience; it was just another day at work in the family business. He dialed their number.

Two, they had to stop what they were doing to follow Him. It’s not that being a fisherman is bad; it’s just that they wouldn’t have time for that and following Jesus, too. Nobody can do everything else life offers or demands and follow the Savior. Walking after Him means leaving some good things behind.

Think: What is the difference between just “being a Christian” and really following Jesus with your whole life? Which best describes you?

Pray: Ask God to help you to understand what it means to really follow Jesus with your whole life.

Do: Make a quick list of things you’ve had to give up to do something else. For example, maybe you had to drop one class or sport or activity in order to do another.

Not Home Yet: Take Me to Your Leader

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

One of the jobs of the U.S. President that gets talked about a lot is appointing the U.S. ambassadors to all of the other nations.

nothome_350Those who accept the job are sent to live in that country as an official representative of the United States. I waited a long time for my appointment to serve as ambassador to Fiji. The call never came.

But according to God’s Word, I am already living in a foreign country as an ambassador. My real home—my real life, even—is in eternity with God forever. Between now and the day I cross the welcome mat there, I live here as a foreigner with a message from my King back home: “Be reconciled to God. He made his perfect Son to be the sin of the whole world just so he could die and pay for yours and you could be made righteous like him.”

Think: How often do you think of yourself as a representative of God to the people who call this broken world their home? When you do think of yourself that way, does it change the way you act toward or talk to or think about people?

Pray: You are an ambassador of Christ on this planet. Ask God to help you to be a good one.

Do: Ask all of your Christian friends and your family members to call you “Mr. Ambassador” (or “Madame Ambassador,” if appropriate). That will remind you of your key role in representing Christ on earth, and it will remind them that you’re just a little strange. Everybody wins.

Not Home Yet: Your Message Here

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Some form of the word reconcile shows up four times in these two verses. It must be an important word. It means to take something that is out of balance or broken or disconnected and make it work or put it together or fix it. Let’s ask the standard journalism questions about these verses.

nothome_350Who? God did the reconciling; not us.

What? He reconciled us to himself. Our relationship with him was out of balance, broken, headed for eternal disaster. He fixed it.

When? At the moment we put our trust in Jesus alone for our salvation.

Where? Inside our hearts now and in heaven forever.

How? Simple substitution: Jesus died in our place to pay for our sin; now God does not count our sins against us. Through faith in Jesus, we are forgiven and clean.

What next? Go tell someone.

Think: These verses say that Christians still living in the fragile tents of our bodies on this side of heaven have been given the ministry and message of reconciliation. What have you done with that message? What could you do?

Pray: Thank God for reconciling you to himself through Jesus. Ask him to help you to know how to carry out the “ministry of reconciliation” he has given you.

Do: Type the word reconcile into an online dictionary and look at all the different things that word can mean.

Not Home Yet: New! Now!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Christianity is fundamentally different from most other major religions. Yes, it’s true: Nearly all religions promise a kind of heaven in the afterlife. And most encourage followers to obey certain rules. All require some kind of faith or belief system.

nothome_350But Christianity stands out for the reason Paul declares in today’s verse: we have been changed . . . now. It’s not just that we will one day be in heaven. It’s that we have already been made new in our hearts at the moment we placed our faith in Jesus.

Most religions promise a payoff if you work the system long enough, if you do more good than bad, if you keep yourself in line and sell out to the cause. God promises those who trust in Christ that the essential change in us—the transformation necessary for us to become like Jesus and be welcomed into heaven—happened before we could even begin to try to follow Him. It’s a gift, not a reward.

The old us is already long gone. The new us is already here.

Think: Have you ever heard people talk about hoping they can be good enough to get into heaven? Hoping to earn God’s approval by not sinning and doing the right things? How is that different than Christianity?

Pray: If you are “in Christ,” thank God for already making you a new creation. Thank him for giving you a new self as a gift and not making you work to earn it, because nobody ever can.

Do: In a few sentences, briefly describe what it means to be in Christ (as a way of being ready to tell someone else).

Not Home Yet: Time Travel Vacation

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)

Imagine taking a vacation on a luxury cruise ship. I’ll go with you. What do you think we’d be thinking about, mostly? I think I’d be thinking about relaxing and figuring out how to make sure I did all the fun things on the boat before the trip was over. I would be nice to people, sure, but this trip would be for me and my friends.

nothome_350Now I’ll ruin the dream. Imagine, instead, we went back in time to walk around on the luxury cruise ship Titanic the night before it sank. Even if I knew the time machine was taking us home before the iceberg hit, my head would be in a wildly different place. I’d wonder about the fate of every person I saw. I’d want to warn them or help or something.

That’s what Paul is kind of talking about in this verse. His awareness that this life is almost over for everyone—and that the next life is the one we’re made for—changed the way he looked at people. He couldn’t spend his life just serving himself any more. And he couldn’t pretend that Jesus didn’t matter. Faith in Jesus was the urgent need of every single person he met.

Think: How many people in our lives do we think of as merely background? How many do we really look at as people made by God to be with him forever? How can that attitude change our response to those who treat us unkindly?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to think of people from a worldly point of view but to look at everyone from his perspective.

Do: Jot down a rough estimate of how many living human beings you saw or texted or talked to in some way yesterday. How many of them would you guess are “in Christ”?