The Lord had one of the most counterintuitive recruitment programs of all time. He had many that wanted to join Him, but in Luke 14:25-33 the recurring phrase is “he cannot be my disciple” (vv. 26, 27, 33). As great as the need was, you would think He would take anyone who was willing. But it was the need that made Jesus so particular. To be a disciple of Christ, someone who represents the Lord and His teaching, takes extreme discipline.
To make His point, Jesus had extreme requirements. There were things that had to be denied:
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
This sounds shocking to modern ears, but this statement needs to be understood in context. Jesus was not advocating family division, though sometimes dedication to Him can divide families (Luke 12:51-53). In some countries and cultures if someone comes to Christ, their family cuts them off. This happened to believers in the early church quite often. But Jesus is not advocating family division. His statement is one of comparison. My love for Jesus must supersede even family, if it comes to that. Let’s consider this another way. Let’s say you have a son whom you love dearly, but that son is deeply addicted to drugs to the point where he is a constant source of strife in your home. There are hard choices you must make for the sake of your son and for your family. Some of those interventions will look harsh to those who are not aware of the situation. You might even cause division between yourself and that son, but the overarching motivation behind your actions is still love, even if it does not look that way. I know of believers whose families have pushed them away because of their faith. Those same believers have a tremendous burden for their families and while faith separates them now, their heart’s desire is to see their whole family reconciled to Christ.
To be a disciple of Christ, there are things that need to be considered:
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
To make this point, Jesus talks of a man who intends to build a tower, or a king planning to go to war but neither has considered the cost of those endeavors. Easy-believism is dangerous for potential disciples and for churches because it brings people in on false pretenses. It makes it both easy to trust in the Lord and easy to leave Him. Coming to Christ means repentance from sin and completely turning to Him and Him alone for salvation. As already mentioned, it can cost a person everything. As much as we want to see everyone come to Christ, it is important that we point them to Christ with the full message of the gospel, not a watered down one just to get people to “sign up.”
To be a disciple of Christ, there are things to be forsaken:
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)
Did you know there are a great many things we get worked up about that God doesn’t even care about? Paul was probably a sports fan. He used sports illustrations a lot, but never do you hear him ask his readers to pray for his favorite team. I love American football and I pull for the New England Patriots but not even in the Super Bowls where we played the Giants (and lost) did I ask God for His blessing on my team. Of course, I was tempted but I didn’t because God is not concerned for such things. His glory and the souls of lost people are much more important to Him. To be a disciple of Christ, means prioritizing things. It might mean forsaking things I care deeply about because they have no bearing on eternity. To know what goes and what stays, means seeing all of life through the lens of God’s Word. That means there is going to be a lot that will fall off my radar. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,” says the songwriter.
If we are honest with ourselves as believers, we need a lot of clean up and personal soul searching to be proper disciples of Christ. The Lord understood this. This is why He made such radical statements regarding discipleship, because by nature we know how not to be a disciple of Christ.