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.

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: 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: Dead Man Walking

“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)

Remember, Jesus said this before he died on the cross, before any of his followers knew he was going to die on the cross. His second requirement to follow him as a disciple must have sounded as shocking as the first one about hating your family.

disciples_350The large crowd knew all about Roman crucifixion. They’d seen plenty of them. Victims of crucifixion were forced to carry their own crosses as a form of confession. To show that Rome was right in its judgement, they participated in carrying out the sentence on themselves (whether they liked it or not).

Jesus told would-be disciples they must show their complete surrender to God by fully and freely participating in “losing their lives.” (Matthew 10:39) These followers would have to be willing to walk away from every personal dream and agenda and set out on whatever trail he marked for them to find a new life.

Hard, hard stuff.

Think: Why do you think Jesus used such harsh language about hate for family and Roman execution to describe the commitment to be his disciple? Do you think he was looking to get a lot of commitments or just a few?

Pray: Ask God to help you know if you’re holding anything back when it comes to “losing your life” for Christ. Ask him for the courage to fully commit yourself to the path he’s calling you to.

Do: Make a quick list of some of the personal plans and dreams you might have to put on the table as expendable if you fully committed to living as Christ’s disciple.

Discipleship: Step One – Do the Math

” ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” ‘ ” (Luke 14:28-30)

Ever build a tower? Yeah, me neither. But before Jesus moved on to his third requirement for following as one of his true disciples, he wanted the large crowd to think about budgeting. Yawn, right?

disciples_350Not really. He’s talking about what it will cost us to follow him. In essence, he’s saying, “If you can’t pay for it, don’t sign on the dotted line.” He’s almost like an anti-salesman for discipleship.

If your building project runs out of money before it’s done, everyone will notice. Some will laugh and point. Don’t walk the aisle while the music plays in front of God and everyone only to change your mind on the ride home. You’re talking about the rest of your life. How much of it—how much of ourselves—are we really willing to give to hiking the trail of Jesus?

Think: Are you more likely to make rash commitments of all or nothing—or to try things out a little at a time to see how they go? Is one better than the other? Can you commit to following Jesus a little at a time?

Pray: Ask God to help you to understand what it means to count the cost of following Jesus as a disciple.

Do: Look for some half-finished building projects in your world (or your life) this week.

Discipleship: One-Way Trip

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?

“If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:31-33)

When you’re counting the cost of living as a disciple of Jesus, it doesn’t really matter what numbers you put into your spreadsheet. The bottom line always comes out the same: everything.

disciples_350Jesus’ examples of doing the math before you build the wall or go into battle made his point. Being his disciple isn’t just hard. It’s not just costly. It costs everything. It’s a one-way trip. It’s leaving behind the expectation of every personal hope and dream and taking his plans on as our own.

Think: How often do you think of being Jesus’ disciple as such an expensive commitment? How do you usually think of being his disciple?

Pray: Ask God to help you to have a better understanding of how much it can cost to follow Jesus—and why it’s worth it.

Do: Think about asking someone who has been living as Jesus’ disciple for a long time what that choice has cost him or her.

Discipleship: Road Salt

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ ” (Luke 14:34-35)

Wait a minute. Wasn’t Jesus just talking about the cost of following him as a disciple? Now he’s talking about salt. Is my Bible set on shuffle? Nope, he seems to be finishing his thought about counting the cost of following him (everything) before taking the next step. He’s not looking for short-term commitments.

disciples_350Most of the salt in Jesus’ time and region came from the Dead Sea and went through a process of purification. If that process failed, the salt went bad and became worthless. The buyers’ investment was wasted, and he had to get rid of a load of useless salt.

Jesus’ last word for listening ears was this: Don’t be like a giant, wasted pile of unsalty salt. Either follow me or don’t. But don’t start in the heat of this moment and turn back, wasting your usefulness to me. If you’re coming, forget about Plan B’s and exit strategies. Plan to follow me all the way.

Think: How often do you think of Jesus speaking this abruptly about being his disciple? How often do you think about the commitment you have—or haven’t—made to follow him?

Pray: Thank God for Jesus’ abrupt and honest words about following as his disciple. Ask him to help you to make that commitment carefully—but fully.

Do: In a sentence or two, write down what commitment you have made to follow Jesus with your life.