From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 1 – What it means to be a disciple and how Christian character is formed
The word ‘disciple’, is rarely even used in most Western churches today, let alone taught on. Therefore, many of us have no idea how radical the Bible is about the expectations Jesus has of His disciples. He actually commands that we follow Him, obey Him and devote our entire lives to Him. We are meant to hand over to Him all that we have and all that we are. That includes our possessions, career plans, ambitions, relationships and even our own bodies.
Too many of us think that a Christian is simply someone who believes in God, or perhaps someone who goes to church. We tend to recoil from the suggestion that we should be any more committed than that. It sounds ‘over the top’ to our modern ears to go any further than merely believing in Jesus.
Therefore, most Christians in the West settle for a life which is far less challenging, productive and adventurous than God intends us to have. He wants us all to aim very high and to seek to become the best disciple that we can possibly be. That should involve achieving great things for Him, i.e. relative to the level of talents we have been given.
Instead, most of us just want an easy life and to avoid inconvenience, hard work and discomfort. But, in taking the easy options, we are not experiencing the things that God wants us to face and overcome. Therefore we miss out on a great many blessings. In particular we would miss out on some or all of the rewards that Jesus will one day give out at the Judgment Seat of Christ to those who have served Him faithfully. (See Book Four.)
Those who choose the easy option, whether due to laziness, fear or lack of motivation, are going to miss out. They will not receive a host of blessings and rewards which Jesus wants to give to those disciples who serve Him with all their hearts. We therefore need to get really clear that becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is a radical and costly step to take. It does bring blessings and advantages, and we must not overlook those either. However, it also involves handing over your whole life to Him and agreeing to follow and obey Him, whatever the cost may be.
It means a complete surrender of your own will to His, and to do what He wants, even if that clashes with what you want, as it often will. It may mean facing suffering, or even death, for His sake. A real Christian must be willing to receive the whole package of what it means to be a disciple, both the good and the bad.
Those are strange and extreme sounding statements to make. They will jar with most modern ears and sound excessive. We live in an age which has largely forgotten what discipleship is and we don’t like to talk about duty, self-sacrifice or hardship. We know what it is to be a fan, but Jesus is not looking for fans. He is not a celebrity or a pop star. He is the King. In fact, He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is also the Creator, Saviour, High Priest and Judge. Given all of that, He is fully entitled to expect complete loyalty and devoted service.
Moreover, Jesus is fully entitled to give us orders and commands. Again, those are words which sound odd to our Western ears. Today very few of us have had any military service. Therefore the very concept of giving absolute obedience to anybody’s orders is unfamiliar to us, and even alien. But we need to grasp this. If not, we will have an inaccurate and unbalanced idea of what is involved in being Jesus’ disciple.
Life as a Christian is not meant to be a holiday camp. A closer analogy would be to liken it to joining the army. When you become a soldier you give up all of your freedom and independence. You agree to go wherever you are sent and do whatever is required of you, however hard it may be, even if it means going to your death.
In much of the underdeveloped world, and especially in Islamic countries, becoming a Christian today may well involve losing one’s life. More Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all the previous nineteen centuries combined. And it is getting even worse in this century, though our dishonest and politically correct media chooses not to report any of that.
Their silence is primarily due to fear of being seen to criticise Islam. It is persistently portrayed as if it was a ‘religion of peace’. In fact, it has always been spread and sustained by violence and intimidation, and it still is. For that reason, it is now by far the main persecutor of the Church.
Moreover, the power and viciousness of Islam is growing and it is spreading into Europe and America, in which it previously had no foothold. Soon, even in the West, becoming a Christian will involve increasingly severe persecution at the hands of Muslims and also aggressive secularists.