Tuesday, 24 April 2012
34And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37“For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
(This is the New American Standard version; that's the version I'm reading right now. I grew up on King James and wanted something different that would make the Bible less familiar, so the quotes I use will be from the New American Standard Bible from now on.)
Being a disciple is not easy, and is not for everyone. There is a definite cost. People won't understand what you're doing; even those who mean well will try to call you back, try to reason with you. Read Matthew 10:16-42 and Luke 14:25-35 to get an idea of the things that are at stake in becoming a follower of God. Are these things that we also consider possibly losing when we become Christians? How many people would drop their Christianity if it cost them everything they owned and all the people they loved? How often does Christianity cost someone everything?
To be perfectly clear and perfectly honest, I don't see how true Christianity shouldn't ALWAYS cost you everything. You become God's child; all that you are and all that you have belongs to Him. What He gives you, He gives out of His love and grace. What He takes, He takes for a purpose. Nothing is yours. Does that sound radical? Does it sound like too much? Than you aren't ready to be a disciple of God, a follower of Him. If this is what modern Christianity looked like, there'd be a lot less butts filling the seats on Sunday mornings, but I don't think that would be a bad thing. Jesus often actively kept the crowds of followers down to a minimum. When the crowds gathered around, he started talking in parables so that those who weren't really listening wouldn't understand. To see this, read Matthew 13:10-17.
Out of the thousands that followed Jesus around and listened to His preaching, He called only 12 to be His disciples, His students. So how do we know that anyone today is meant to be anything more than what modern Christianity calls for us to be? How do I know that anyone is called to be the kind of radical Christian that I keep calling 'Disciple?'
I guess I really don't. I do believe we are called to be more than what we have become; this idea of one-day-a-week, prayers-in-the-morning-and-before-bed Christianity is not enough for me, and I can't settle for it. Quite frankly, it leaves me feeling empty and unfulfilled.
I'm not getting down on church. I love a great, dynamic worship service with amazing music and long, stretched out times of heartfelt worship. And worship is both essential and important. It strengthens our love for God, connects us to His love for us and honors Him as the great and powerful being that He is, the King of all that exists and the only One worthy of our worship. I love to worship my God. But I've left amazing worship services nevertheless wondering if Jesus really suffered the torture of the cross so I would sing Him a few lullabies.
That feeling becomes even more protracted in the middle of a regular Tuesday, outside the element of church service, where God seems almost nonexistent and, in many ways, irrelevant. Is this what life was meant to be? What life in Jesus was meant to be? A small back-seat passenger experiencing my mundanity with me? It's not enough. What was offered to me by modern Christianity is simply not enough to satisfy. I hunger for more. And really, I'm just trying to find it.
In Matthew 13:1-9 and then 18-23, Jesus preaches and explains the parable of the seeds. We know this one, right? The seeds fall on the path, on the rocky soil, on the thorny soil and on good ground. The rocky soil and the thorny soil sounds, to me, very familiar. I can't see what's in the hearts of my fellow church goers, but many of them, if not most of them, seem to be exhibiting the signs of shallow roots that don't stand up to persecution, or the worries of the world and deceitfulness of wealth, as described in verses 20-22.
Additionally, in Mark 8, Jesus is speaking to the whole crowd about taking up their crosses, about losing their lives to gain lives in Him. In Matthew 10, Jesus is speaking specifically to His 12 disciples and telling them what their duties are to be; there isn't any indication that these instructions are also meant for us. They might be, but I can't say for certain. But in Mark 8, He's definitely talking about anyone who is to follow Him. That's me. I want to follow Him with my whole heart. That's how I know that I'm called to be something different.
How do you feel is the relationship between Christianity and discipleship? What do you see as the cost of discipleship? How have you experienced discipleship in your life?