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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Staying the Course

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

There is a great distinction between being an admirer of Jesus Christ and being His disciple. An admirer wants to experience the glitter without making a lasting commitment. A disciple is a pupil who has counted the cost and placed himself completely under the guidance of the Master—whose love for Him is greater than for anyone or anything else, and who resolves to give and also give up whatever is necessary. This is radical discipleship.

Jesus’ words in Luke are not addressed to His disciples. Each disciple has already counted the cost, and made a decision to surrender. His question is directed to those who offer quickly to serve, and then fade away like a shooting star. It is to this marginal person Jesus says, “If you can’t do what it takes, you can’t be my disciple.”

To witness the enthusiasm of a new believer is exciting, but often such enthusiasm does not weigh the cost involved. “I will follow you anywhere,” someone quickly offers Jesus (Luke 9:57). This man is a new believer, and is fired up to go. He opens his mouth to speak without thinking of what his offer entails. In the very next verse Jesus carefully handles the man’s zeal without offending him by telling him that his future is uncertain. They are wanderers, and there is nowhere to rest at night. There are very few comforts following Him.

Jesus searches the group and His eyes rest on another man. “Follow me,” he says (Luke 9:59). The man asks Jesus to first let him first bury his father Jesus tells this man there is no hope for salvation for someone who is already dead, and that his obligations at home are nothing compared to the call upon his life (Luke 9:60). Jesus has looked upon this man’s heart and seen great potential. Time is of the essence, and he must be about the Father’s work.

The first man who offered to go with Jesus had a shallow faith that would not stand up under pressure. Jesus knew this, but the second man is different. Jesus sees his heart, and knows he can be used to bring life to those who are spiritually dead.

A third man quickly offers to go with Jesus, but asks the Lord to first let him go and tell his family farewell. “Any person who starts doing something and then keeps looking back is not fit for the kingdom of God,” Jesus warns (Luke 9:62).

God delivered Lot’s family before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and was warned for them not to look back. Longing for what she had left behind, Lot’s wife glanced back for one moment, and was turned into stone. When you follow Jesus old worldly friends are left behind, and will not understand what has happened in your life. When God calls, you should not ask others whether it is right or not. The call is not theirs. It is yours.

God cannot use people who allow personal desires to deter them, but he does use people with a commitment and a vision like Abraham. He stepped out in faith, followed God on a journey of a lifetime, and never looked back at Ur. He never built a permanent house again, but lived in tents, and moved when God told him. Abraham looked for the everlasting city of God.

The third man, just as the first one, is not fit for the journey. I find it interesting that the second man, unlike the first and third, did not offer to follow Jesus. He was asked. He had not spoken a desire to follow, but Jesus instinctively knew if he would make the sacrifice. He knew he could ask for a radical commitment, and knew that it would be given.

Jesus asks us, just as he did the second man, to leave self behind, take up His cross, and follow Him. These requirements don’t attract a large number of followers, but for those who follow and stay the course, the result of such a decision is guaranteed. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

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