Study 4 DISCIPLES
CALLED BY A NEW NAME
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Luke 14: 26-35
Many times in the New Testament believers are called ‘disciples’ - a disciple being one who learns of Christ, who follows Him and obeys Him. Broadly speaking, of course, every Christian is a disciple, and yet it is possible to be a Christian, to be saved and to know that your sins are forgiven, and yet not to tread the path of discipleship - because to be a disciple means to be a disciplined Christian. Discipleship is a costly business. So with this thought in mind we begin by asking the question which was asked of Peter so long ago, when he was out of touch with his Lord and Master: ”You are not one of his disciples, are you?” (John 18:17).
The Man referred to is the Lord Jesus; the questioner was a young girl who was at the outer door of the High Priest’s house. The question is pointed, personal, challenging, disturbing and decisive. What is your answer to it? Perhaps it will be easier to give a definite ’Yes’ or ‘No’ after we have considered some of the clearly defined conditions of discipleship which Jesus laid down. If we are meeting these conditions we can justly claim to be His disciples in the true sense; if on the other hand we are not meeting them, we are not disciples in a practical and experimental sense. What, then, are the conditions of discipleship? What are the marks of a true disciple of the Lord Jesus?
1. The first condition of discipleship is HATING
This sounds strange, but a reference to Luke 14:26 assures us that it is true. This is our Lord’s first condition of discipleship, and notice how emphatic it is - “If anyone… does not hate… he cannot… ” But surely our Lord taught that we should love, and that we should not hate anyone! Must I hate my parents, husband, wife, children, or other loved-ones, if I am to be the disciple of Christ? What does this mean? It means that the Lord Jesus must come first. If a choice has to be made between my relatives and what they want, and Christ and what He wants, then He must come first. I must choose Him, and if necessary (and in contrast) hate all others! If the test comes - Christ or mother… Christ or father …Christ or son …it must be Christ first. Look up and compare Matthew 10:37-38. Is Christ really first in your life, your heart, your home, your business?
2. The second condition of discipleship is CROSS-BEARING
Look at Luke 14:27. Notice again how emphatic these words are - “Anyone who does not …cannot …”” Anyone who does not ”carry his cross” cannot be a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not referring to all the daily trials we have to bear - that is not the meaning here. To bear the cross and follow Jesus is voluntarily to share in His suffering and death, and to do it for His sake. If we are to be His disciples we must be willing to share these things with Him - to be hated, persecuted, misunderstood, as He was; to take up the cross means that we are willing for all this out of love for Him. How do we measure up to this test? Have you taken your stand openly for Christ? Do others know you are a Christian?
3. The third condition of discipleship is GIVING UP EVERYTHING
Luke 14:33 reads: “Any of you who does not give up everything… cannot… ” To be His disciple must I forsake all that I have? Yes! It means I must abandon all claim to all that I have. It means “hands off” my life, my home, my loved-ones, my money, my possessions - all that I have looked upon as ‘mine’ - I will now no longer have any claim to it. That is the meaning of true discipleship, and what a difference it makes to us when we come to this fulfilling place of renunciation, for if the Lord should take our loved-ones or our property away from us we at once recognise that He has only taken, in His wisdom and love, what is after all His own! How do you measure up to this standard? Will you always remember the precious truth embodied in Matthew 20:15?
4. The fourth condition of discipleship is CONTINUING
The scripture for this is John 8:31. Notice again how very clear it is - “If you hold to (continue in) my teaching, you are really my disciples”. To continue means to rest in Christ, to grow up into Christ, and to shape our lives in conformity to His Word and His will. It means to let His Word be the final authority in our lives and to seek every day to live in submission to that Word and in obedience to Him. Here is a very good test to apply when we are in doubt as to whether to take a certain course. Ask yourself, ‘Will it help me to continue in His Word? Will it help me to demonstrate in a greater way the reality and the sincerity of my discipleship?’ How do you measure up to this? Are you reading, meditating and feeding on His Word, and are you running to obey Him? - look up Psalm 119:97 and 103.
5. The fifth condition (or mark) of discipleship is LOVING
We read about this in John 13:35. Love is the badge of discipleship that the world will recognise. Notice that it says - “ …if you love …” - not, ’If you pretend to have it, or talk about it, or sing about it’! It is hard to be a real Christian, a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, as these scriptures show, but how wonderful it is to be whole-heartedly His, altogether His, a committed and determined disciple of the Lord!
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” Can you say, “Yes, I am!”