The Cost (?) of Discipleship? (of walking with Jesus)
Thoughts that cause me to be drawn closer to Jesus… and to the Cross:
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. Matthew 19:21-22 GNT
IN this atmosphere of theological litigation it comes to seem as if God did not want us to be free, as if freedom were something He envied and begrudged us; as if grace, while making us “safe,” took all the sting out of this dangerous faculty of free will by robbing us of spontaneous initiative; in other words, it seems as if man saves himself and arrives at divine union by bartering his freedom for God’s grace. The price of happiness is the renunciation of his natural autonomy, and the acceptance of a slave-status in the household of a God who is powerful enough to make slavery worth while.
The methods that make the kingdom of America strong—economic, military, technological, informational—are not suited to making the kingdom of God strong. I have had to learn a new methodology: truth-telling and love-making, prayer and parable. These are not methods very well adapted to raising the standard of living in suburbia or massaging the ego into a fashionable shape.
We need to pray for men and women in our churches who have determined to set their own agendas—to live their lives as they please! They have determined to manage the influences of the Word of God in their lives.
When I was in Bible College, one of the motto’s of our school was “to prepare servant leaders,” And while most thought this was about pastors, youth pastors and missionaries, it was equally about preparing those who would serve the church in the community, and as volunteers in local congregations. TO this end, every graduate ended up with a part of their degree being in Bible.
While I don’t believe it was everyone’s intent, there was a subtle concept undertow similar to Merton’s comment in green above. In order to show we were saved, we needed to give up what we wanted, and embrace the sacrifice that God wanted us to make. For that was the way to be holy. Avoiding sin was often taught as forgoing pleasure. We didn’t have to live like monks, (unless we were headed to the mission field) but books like Freedom of Simplicity, and books by Tony Campolo and Ron Sider were often looked at as true spiritual disciplines that we needed to embrace. (These books were good- but it was put to us that it was our “duty” to live sacrificially)
There is not doubt in my mind that we need a change of heart and soul in this country. Peterson is write, the American Way is often incompatible with God’s will. The perceived standard of living will not be increased, the ego won’t be massaged in the ways the world recognizes. This is not just a problem in society, it starts in the church, where we have been taught it is either God’s way or the highway.. Again, we see guilt and pressure to give up what we have…and perhaps even feel much like the young rich man Jesus invites into his crew.
Make no mistake, the lifestyles of someone dependent on God is different from someone without God. But it isn’t about losing freedom or sacrificing ones ego on the altar.
It’ is about seeing a change in ownership, about realizing that we were less free apart from God than we are walking with Him. We need to see that pleasure and happiness are not the same, and the damage sin does to us, is horrid. It is not losing freedom, it is changing masters, One who was oppressive, and one who is benevolent. One who does not care about one’s life, or eternity, One who cares for it enough to die…
That’s the missing piece of the discussion, the idea that free-will is not oppressed by Satan. Satan will use anything to captivate our attention, our hearts, our souls. The cost of following Jesus is not a cost to us, but a blessing. It is not a loss of free will, but freedom from the consequences of the thoughts, words and actions that deserve punishment. Until we understand this – we will struggle with the idea of the cost of discipleship.
God is our Lord, and when we struggle with that, and we will, may we ask for His help, and the assurance of His love and presence. Amen!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 27.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 38.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).