Radical Discipleship: Sacrifice
In Prov 29:18, King Solomon wrote a powerful statement that should challenge us all:
“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (KJV – perish), but happy is he who keeps the Law.”
Without a God-given vision for your personal life, the power to hold you and keep you on course for God’s will for your life, will actually find you frustrated and lost! Unless you have a vision for becoming a disciple first, and then fall in the process of making disciples, you will fail to get alongside new believers and help them mature in the Lord. Instead, you will busy yourself with many worthwhile activities, but will leave this great commission of the Lord unfulfilled. As the verse above says, being unrestrained, you may be unable to choose the best over the good. Not only will you fail to disciple others, but also you will find excuses for being lazy in this life-giving spiritual discipline yourself.
Without a vision for disciple making, you will neglect this mandate from God or be only half-hearted in your obeying it. Some one said, ‘In neglecting the ministry of disciple-making, we leave new believers to their own progress, hoping they don’t fall away from the faith. As a result, many of them will never grow into maturity in Jesus and will not develop and fulfill their God-given potential.’
But today, I would like to talk about the sacrifices involved in becoming a Radical Disciple. And I will also take the example of my own life.
The Gospel of Luke records Jesus calling his first disciples. Chapter 5 reveals the calling of Simon Peter and Levi the tax collector. Luke notes they ‘left everything and followed him.’ Jesus extends them an invitation to follow Him, and they drop everything and follow. Right there, on the spot! It is recorded in another place in Luke’s Gospel that others wanted to take care of their affairs before they followed Jesus and Jesus basically told them they could take care of those things or follow Him. They had to make a choice right there! But they couldn’t do both. And they were not just insignificant things. One wanted to bury his father and the other say good bye to his family.
But Simon Peter and Levi left everything. Everything! That’s what Luke’s Gospel says!
Most of the time when we read that they left everything to follow Jesus we picture them leaving their boats, their nets, their tax collector booth, and their other possessions. And that’s all true. But they also left their families, their houses, and their careers. That doesn’t mean they never saw their families again. We know they stayed at Simon’s house as Jesus healed his mother-in-law. But they were willing to make the sacrifice. Those who followed Jesus turned their lives upside down for three years to be near Him and learn from Him.
They gave up their expectations, understandings, and hopes about what the Messiah would do. We see them struggle with this even after the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 1, after spending time with the resurrected Jesus they ask, “Are you now going to establish your kingdom?” They still believed Jesus was going to build an earthly kingdom like they had grown up believing. But they had to give this up to really follow Jesus. In order to live into the mandate they were given to make disciples, they needed to give up trying to build an earthly kingdom.
The disciples had to give up their desires for success. We see an argument between James and John about who is greater and who will sit at the right hand of Jesus. When Jesus confronts them about this conversation, he turns their understanding of recognition and privilege upside down by saying the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Over and over again the disciples had to give up their prejudices. Prejudices against the poor, the righteous, the Samaritans, children, prostitutes, religious leaders and themselves. When we follow Jesus we are called to give up everything. Everything!
Following Jesus is one of the most difficult things I have done with my life. The early years of our ministry were trying and very testing. Few know about this. The whole idea of giving up everything took me hard and then shook me harder! I learned that it was one thing giving up possessions, but I had to learn giving up prominence and pride and this part has been a long and arduous journey indeed.
The commitment you make as a Radical Disciple will affect your family. But at the same time, to follow Jesus, and to be willing to leave family means that one cannot sacrifice following Jesus on the altar of family. Personally, I find this a difficult, but good, tension to live in…your family is important, but Christ is first!
Following Jesus means we also give up our ideologies…and most of this stuff is the world-view that goes around…it also means giving up our idols, our desires and our insecurities and whatever else we give authority in our life. It really means giving up everything!
Are you ready? Then what have you given up? Good question!