We can easily get caught up in the rhythms of doing all of the right things while simultaneously moving away from our love for Jesus. Thus, effective discipleship processes don’t always will yield transformation. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. Ask the Ephesian church Jesus squares up to in Revelation.
Jesus tells them, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.”
“Deeds.” “Hard work.” “Perseverance.” “Testing.” “Endured.” “Have not grown weary.” These words are process-oriented. Impressive, none the less. They did a fantastic job at everything they were supposed to do. Yet, Jess indicted them on charges for leaving their first love, that is, forgetting to connect their hearts with him.
At some point, we must come back to the critical choice we made about Christ. How serious are we are about Jesus? Is he an addition to our lives, or is he everything?
Whose life is it? The bedrock of discipleship is this: Embracing the person of Christ and living the mission of Christ. Either we seize control over our lives, or we give Jesus control. It cannot be both.
In Luke 14, Jesus gives three shocking requirements to be his disciple.
Requirement 1: Hate your family, even your own life.
“If you or 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.” It’s my conviction that Jesus is using hyperbole to shock his audience to make this point: Our love for Jesus must be so overwhelming, powerful, and evident that it looks like we hate those closest to us and even ourselves. Thus, if we love anything more than him, we cannot be his disciple.
Requirement 2: Die to yourself.
“Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” A shame-ridden, disgraceful cross? A humiliating cross to bear is the last thing anyone wanted to carry, yet Jesus calls us to pick up and embrace our crucifixion. Thus, anyone who does not give up his life to follow him cannot be his disciple.
Requirement 3: Give up everything you have.
“Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Everything belongs to him. Everything we have belongs to him. He places his claim on our lives, and we no longer belong to ourselves. Our lives are not our own, and we don’t belong to anyone or anything but Him.
We don’t make contributions or donations of our time; we holistically commit every fiber of our being to Jesus. It’s an absorption of our identity into his. Paul says, “To live is Christ.” And this is our reality if we embrace Jesus.
If we can’t distinctly answer the questions, “Who and what are you living for?” and “To whom do you belong?” then we clearly cannot be disciples of Jesus.