The Terms of Discipleship

Bible Book: Luke  9 : 57-62
Subject: Discipleship

This morning I want to speak to you about discipleship. And I want to remind you that a disciple is someone who has a desire “to know Him and to make Him known.” A Christian disciple is one who follows Christ, one who submits to His authority, one who hungers to learn His truths and follow through obedience.

Someone has said, “As the soldier follows his general; as the servant follows his master; as the scholar follows his teacher; as the sheep follows its shepherd, just so ought the professing Christian to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Dear church. God is continuing to convict me in my ministry to quit making decisions for the sake of making decisions and get to making disciples. I'm coming to see more each day that the only people who matter in any local church, in order to carry the burden of prayer and of ministry and of evangelism, are disciples.

Frankly, I don't want to be found guilty of calling people to a church membership which in many cases is no more than a cheap substitute for discipleship. What this church needs is not necessarily more church members, but more disciples. In fact, we need to be busy making disciples out of the church members we already have. There is a ministry we've got to have in our churches today of Christianizing the Christians.

Now, let me ask you a question. Are you a disciple or are you just a church member? This morning we’re going to be thinking about the terms of discipleship. First of all, in the life of discipleship there must be…

I. No Rival To Jesus Christ

Jesus said on one occasion, “If 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” (Luke 14:26).

In other words, there is to be no rival to the place Jesus Christ is to have in your life and mine.

We’re to love God; we’re to love the Lord Jesus Christ; we’re to love the Holy Spirit; we’re to love our great triune God above all else. Jesus Christ is not just to be present in your life or prominent in your life, but preeminent in your life. He is to reign without a rival in your heart.

Abraham of the Old Testament demonstrated that the Lord was without a rival in his heart when he proceeded to offer his beloved son upon the altar of sacrifice to God.

You remember the story in Genesis, chapter 22. God put Abraham to the test. God said, “I want you to take that boy, your only son, the one that you love.” I don’t know. Perhaps Abraham was just about to make an idol out of his son. I mean, he had waited so many years for him. He is well past a hundred years old. He knows that he doesn't have many more years to live. His whole life and his hopes and aspirations and ambitions are wrapped up in the life of that boy. He was his son of promise.

Have any of you men got an only son? Have any of you parents got only one child? Why, that child is the apple of your eye. Everything that you hope for is wrapped up in the life of that child. Here is Isaac, and God says to Abraham, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.”

So, if you’re going to be a real disciple, if you’re going to walk by faith for the Lord, if you’re going to love the Lord, the Lord says, “I’ve got to be absolutely 100 percent in your heart and in your life.” God will allow no rivals in your heart if He’s going to be number one in your life.

Jesus said in Matthew 10, “He who loves son or I daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Now, He's not saying here that you ought to love your son or daughter less. He is just simply saying that you ought to love Jesus more.

Now, when our children were very small I used to play a little word game with them. I used to say to them, “Who do you love?”

They would begin to name me people they loved. They loved mommy and they loved daddy. They loved brother and they loved sister. I said, “Who do you love most of all?” I always tried to teach them to say, “I love Jesus most of all.”

Folks, that’s the way it is supposed to be. Isn’t that right? Say “amen.” If s right whether you say “amen” or not. That is exactly the way it is supposed to be. Jesus Christ is to be number one.

I look out there at my wife, and I love her with all of my heart and with all of my life. But as she will tell you, the night I proposed marriage to her I told her that I loved her and I wanted her to be my wife. But I told her, “There is something you’ve got to know about me. Jesus is number one in my life, but I want you to be number two.” You see, that doesn't mean I love her less. I just love Jesus more. Ever since I was a ten-year-old boy that's been true in my life. Jesus is absolutely number one.

Now, that doesn’t make me love my family less. It makes me love them more. But I am going to tell you something. You’d better be very careful when you let anything or anyone come between you and your love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t let some Isaac in your life come between you and the Lord. God said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest, and put him on the altar as a burnt offering unto me.”

Now, I want to tell you that Abraham’s world just caved in. The roof just came crashing in on Abraham. The floor just bottomed out beneath him. The walls just came crashing in. His whole world collapsed. Can you imagine what must have gone on in his mind?

But do you know what the Bible says in Genesis 22:3? It says, “And Abraham rose up early in the morning.” Early that next morning old Abraham was getting up. The Bible just kind of draws a curtain of silence over what must have happened that night. Oh, what a night Abraham must have gone through. Oh, what rending of heart must have taken place. It’s like a butcher knife had been thrust into his heart. He didn't know what to do. But before the sun came up that morning somehow, in deep communion with God, Abraham said to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t understand it. I don’t have the answers to it. Lord. I can't comprehend it. But, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

I can see him as he gets up early the next morning singing, “Have thine own way. Lord. Have thine own way.” Now, of course, you know the rest of the story of how God delivered Isaac from death. But as Abraham led Isaac up that mountain, he was going in obedience to God. He was going up that mountain to demonstrate that there was no rival to the Lord in his life.

Have you ever thought about what would happen if Christ was really preeminent in your life? Have you ever thought about what would happen if there was no rival to Jesus Christ in the hearts of the people who make up Eastside Baptist Church? For one thing, you'd have to come early to get a seat. This place would be filled for every service. Amen?

When Jesus Christ has first place in the hearts of people, they attend church. They are faithful to the services. They come to Bible study. They’re hungry for corporate worship. They’re not looking for 49 excuses to be absent.

The pastor of a small church was asked if he ever feared his congregation, and he said, “Oh, no. The choir and I usually have them outnumbered.”

A questionnaire mailed out by another church asked: “How far do you live from the church and how long does it take you to get to church?” One member answered, “I live about four blocks from the church and it takes me about three months to get there.”

But if Jesus Christ is preeminent in your life, it will be your great desire to be in God's house at the appointed hours of Bible study and worship.

Dear friend, do you want to know how to love God the way you should? Then you just love God’s music above all other music. Love God’s Book above all other books. Love God’s table above all other tables. Love God’s house above all other houses. You see, there are to be no rivals to the place the Lord is to have in your life.

Once in awhile you'll hear someone say, “You know, I tried religion once and it failed me. There is no power in it. There is no truth in it.” That’s like a fellow saying, “Once I tried to play the piano, but I never could make any sense out of those lines and spaces and those sharps and flats and those quarter notes and eighth notes. I just gave it up because there is no music in the piano for me.”

But you put the hands of Gayle Thompson on the piano and there will flow from that instrument an unspeakable musical beauty, because Gayle has disciplined herself. She has committed herself with a passion to know how to play that instrument.

The fellow who has one piano lesson and who never practices, and who doesn't consider the piano important, and who doesn't meet the conditions, and who doesn't put aside everything else to give himself wholly to the pursuit of getting music from the piano, will never be much of a pianist. Was the problem with the piano or the man himself?

If you have sought the Lord and not found what you expected, then perhaps you have not met the qualifications. You did not seek the Lord with all of your heart. If it is not that important to you, then there will be nothing in it for you. It is to those who seek Him and serve Him with the whole heart that He promises to reveal himself in power and blessing.

You see, there must be no rival to the place Jesus Christ is to have in your heart. But then, in the life of discipleship, there must be

II. No Refusal To Jesus Christ

Jesus said on one occasion, “And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple”" (Luke 14:27). Now, I don't know what you think that means, but I believe the cross for our Savior and the cross for you and me means an eternal "yes" to the will of God. When the Savior knelt in Gethsemane and said, "If it be possible, let" this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done," he was saying, "yes, yes," to all of the will of God. The principle of the cross is to say, "yes" to the will of God and always "no" to self.

Now, if you want to understand what this means by way of application, move out of the Gospels into the Epistles for comparing scripture with scripture. For many of us the cross means the place where we knelt as bankrupt sinners and claimed that cleansing blood that washes away our sin. But there is something more about the cross than that. In Galatians 2:20 the apostle Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ" lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

You see, most people in the church have never taken up the cross as Jesus commanded. They know nothing of the principle of the crucified life. Their lifestyle is characterized by the words: "not Christ but I, not Christ but I, not Christ but I." But the principle of the crucified life is: "not I but Christ, not I but Christ, not I but Christ." The ego is ruled out and Christ comes through.

Now, dear friend, when you get to that place there will be no refusal in your life to Jesus Christ. You will be able to say an eternal "yes" to the will of God.

I was reading a book by A. W. Tozier last week. I never cease to be convicted by what this man has written. He said, "How often we are willing for the will of God to be done in various areas of our life, but in some areas we don't want His interference or control. We have a notice on that particular door that says 'no admittance, private.'"

This morning I want you to examine every area of your life. I want you to examine your time. I want you to examine your ability (your talent, your area of expertise). I want you to examine your relationships. I want you to examine your material possessions. Examine every area of your life. Is there any area where you do not want God's interference or control? Is there any area where you have a sign that says "no admittance, private?"

Do you know what I have been praying this week? I've been praying, "Oh, God, I pray that you will help me to die to self, to die completely to self. I want to be dead to Gerald Harris, to my opinions, to my preferences, to my tastes, to my will. I want to be dead to the world and its approval or criticism. I want to be dead even to the approval or blame of my own friends and colleagues. I want to study to show myself approved unto God.

Have you died to self? Are you prepared to say an eternal "yes" to the will of God? You see, the life of discipleship means no refusal to Jesus Christ. But also the terms of discipleship means

III. No Retreat From Jesus Christ

Now, look in our text at the last part of verse 57. A young man came to Jesus and said, "Lord, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Now, here is a young man who came and looked into the face of the Master and said, "I'll follow you everywhere, anywhere."

And Jesus said, "Wait a minute...wait a minute. Do you know what you're talking about? Tonight when evening falls, the foxes will scurry into their little holes for sleep, and our feathered friends will have their nests, but the Son of man will not have a place to lay his head. Will you follow me now?"

I want to say, dear friends, that in this affluent society in which we're living, where we have suffered no major persecutions, we have become so soft, so complacent, so self-satisfied that we know very little about New Testament Christianity. The whole Christian life today appears as a picnic.

But I believe that the Christian life, lived as it ought to be lived; when we're standing up for Jesus in the marketplace and in the halls of government and in the schools - the Christian life, lived as it ought to be lived, will find itself in a head-on collision with a hostile world.

Jesus said, "I'm going to promise you tribulation." Jesus said, "The day will come when men will kill you and think they're doing God a favor." Jesus said, "Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." This is how they treated the prophets in old times. And don't be surprised if they treat you the same way - but we're not facing that kind of thing. But I believe it's coming. And when it does, don't you turn your back. Don't retreat.

Let the sun beat upon you, let the thorns prick your feet, let it be sheer sweat and blood, but go all the way. That's the pathway that Jesus walked. Should not the servant walk the same pathway - following Jesus with no retreat?

But another young man came to Jesus. Look in verses 59 and 60 (read). These words of Jesus are harsh on the surface, but not so harsh when you begin to examine them. Do you know what the young man was saying? That young man was saying this. His father hadn't just died or else he wouldn't have been at the side of the Master at all. What that young man was saying was simply this: "Master, I want to follow you. You seem to be a popular figure. You give bread to the hungry. You open the eyes of the blind. You heal the sick. I'd love to follow you, but somehow I think following you is a bit insecure. Let me go live with my father who is very, very old. He is soon to die, and as soon as he does, the portion of the inheritance that belongs to me will come to me. And when I have buried my father and I have a good fat bank balance, then I will come and follow you, because somehow I feel I need some security before I follow."

Jesus said, “You're talking the language of the unregenerate. You're talking the language of the dead men. Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

You know, I believe there would be a revival if some of us were prepared, at the risk of our promised inheritance, and even our homes and everything else, to stand up and proclaim Jesus unashamedly.

Jesus said, "One other thing." Look in verses 61 and 62 (read). You see, following the Lord Jesus means going all the way, without turning back.

Do you remember the story of Lot's wife? I can never read that story without trembling in every fiber of my being, for it is one of the great dramatic stories in the Bible. God broke through into that city of Sodom and rescued Lot and his wife and his children. Lot shouldn't have been there in the first place, but he got caught up in the worldliness of Sodom. Though his spirit was vexed, he could never have an influence in that city because of compromise himself. But God, in grace, pulls him out of the city and tells him not to look behind, not to turn back, but to go all the way.

You remember what happened. The battle came as they ran from that fiery, burning city. Lot's wife began to think of the old life. She began to think of the things she had left behind. She began to think of her relationships and friends. And she turned back and became a pillar of salt that stands today as a monument to the shame of a woman who turned back.

Now, in contrast to Lot's wife, let me tell you about Manaen. His name is mentioned in Acts 13. Manaen is a rather obscure biblical character. And yet, in the book of Acts, we are told that he, along with Paul and Barnabas, was one out of five men who volunteered, out of hundreds and thousands of others, to be involved in the initial missionary work of the early church. Manaen, this insignificant man, gave up security to be a pioneer missionary for the Lord Jesus Christ who had taken his heart by storm.

What we know about this man is limited, but very interesting. It was a custom in biblical days that when a young prince was born he was to pick a playmate from the peasants and the common people. In fact, the king's son could pick anyone that he wanted to be his special friend. That person came to live with him in the palace. It so happened that when king Herod was born to the older Herod, he chose this little boy by the name of Manaen. Manaen came to live with young prince Herod and they grew together as boys, as teenagers, and as young men.

Close as they were, loving as they were, as bonding as that friendship came to be, as young prince Herod and young peasant Manaen grew up together, becoming brothers in the court of his father Herod - something happened when manhood came that put a strain on that relationship.

Imagine what young Manaen must have seen living in the court of Herod. He heard all of the words that were spoken about the man called Jesus. He may have been there when Christ stood before Herod and had witnessed the illegal court proceedings.

But I believe that there was something in Manaen that militated against those illegal court proceedings. His spirit must have bristled when he heard slanderous and evil remarks about Jesus.

The time came when Manaen had to choose between the royal entanglements and the friendships of the court and the cause of Jesus Christ, whom he had come to see as a wonderful, loving, powerful, good, wholesome and righteous man. He made his decision and became one of the first missionary supporters the church ever had. How he came to know the Savior we're not really sure, but we know for certain that he decided to follow Jesus.

No man ever amounts to anything for Jesus unless he has given up something for Jesus. This man looked at all the advantages of royalty. He looked at his friend Herod, and he thought to himself, "What am I going to do?"

Well, he chose Christ. He chose the path of the Lord. I can just imagine that one day Herod came to Manaen and said, "Manaen, come into my chamber. Is it true that you're going to follow that nasty Nazarene? Could it be true, Manaen, that tie boy I picked out when I was just a boy to belong to me and to be my playmate could turn his back on me now? I fed you. I clothed you. You had every privilege of royalty and you're going to follow that filthy carpenter?"

And Herod must have said, "No, Manaen, no. You must not follow Him. Come back to the court. Renounce this foolish Christianity."

And I can envision Manaen turning to Herod and, in a voice that vibrated against the columns of the court, saying, "I have decided to follow Jesus. There is no turning back, no turning back."


Folks, these are the terms of discipleship. And we'll never see our church penetrating the unbelief of atheism and the hardness of humanism and the aggression of secularism unless we have disciples like that. We shall never see our members tithing and giving and evangelizing and breaking through the community in which we exist until we have disciples like that. But what is more, we will never have disciples like that until you and I are disciples, and until we understand that there must be no rival, no refusal, and no retreat in the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. It means a life so utterly and totally committed that you can say, "I have decided to follow Jesus, and for me there is no turning back."

I remember some years ago, Martha Jean would call the children to come to lunch or dinner. She would say, "Come, dinner's ready." The children would say, "We're coming."

A few moments would pass and there would be no sign of the children. And again Martha Jean would call, "Come, dinner's ready."

Again the children would say, "We're coming." But once again there would be no sign of the children. And then for a third time Martha Jean would call out and say, "Come, dinner's ready." Back came the reply, "We're coming." That time Martha Jean replied, "Stop coming and come."

Some of you have been saying, "I'm coming," for a long time. And I believe now that God is saying to you, "Stop coming and come."