The Cost of Discipleship

Dear BPCWAians, In my Pastoral on Easter Sunday, I wrote about the church’s charter to make disciples of Christ. A disciple is a learner and follower for Christ. Discipleship begins with ourselves, before we can be disciples of Christ. What was our response to that? Perhaps some of us may have thought in our hearts “Yes, I have believed in Christ and so I am His disciple”. Certainly, salvation is the first step to discipleship, but it doesn’t end there. In Matt 4:19, we see Christ calling the brothers Peter and Andrew to “Follow me”. We teach our children how Peter and his brother “straightway left… and followed him.” (Matt 4:20) But following comes with a cost. Many are not willing to “go all the way” in discipleship because they are not willing to give up something in their lives.

Following may cost us physically. Peter left his nets and livelihood behind. So many of you may be thinking … yes, that’s for those called full time. But it does not mean that there is no relevance for lay people here. All of us have our calling on earth. But Christ calls all believers to this same principle of discipleship – to learn from and to obey Him at all costs. Christ declared that “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6:24) Mammon refers to money. Even when we work, it is not for the money. But the world has a saying, “follow the money” when it comes to making choices in studies, careers, even where to live. At some point of time in our lives, that test of discipleship may come. Satan may throw a bait in the form of a job that is against God’s commands. Or it may come in the form of worldly pursuits that will help you to advance in this world – academically, materially, or socially. It may come in the form of living a more comfortable life. Don’t mistake me – God may, in His Sovereignty, give some riches and comfort. We do not teach ascetism – there is no spiritual glory to be derived from being poor. But that bait may come at a cost of discipleship to be an ongoing student and follower. It may be a cost between obedience and a life of physical ease and luxury. You know from God’s Word that that’s wrong, but the enticement of the pleasure of that bait is so appealing to the fleshly lust that is in us. When that bait comes, will you bite? If you do, it will ensnare you. You may make a decision and commitment that is very difficult to undo later down the road. Remember, discipleship can cost us physical comforts.

Following may cost us emotionally. True discipleship can cost us relationships and friendships. Perhaps some of the other fishermen didn’t understand why the brothers Peter and Andrew had to leave. Many are willing to leave friends at work places to join another company for better prospects or pay increases. Or leave family and friends to go study and work in another country if there are better prospects there. But would we be willing to leave relationships and friendships for the sake of Christ’s glory if it is needed one day? Emotional ties built up over many years are perhaps the most difficult to untie when following Christ, “(34) Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (35) For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (36) And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. (37) He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:34-38). Even to the closest relationships, Christ wants our unwavering loyalty and priority in love. We should not compromise our beliefs to please others. But this is not about a martyr syndrome too where one feels he must always pick a fight. Neither is it about being an isolationist. It is about forgoing some relationships that is keeping us from living a life of full obedience.

Following will cost us in pleasing self. What happened before the “Tell Peter” when Christ resurrected? We are all familiar with the account – in the face of choosing between self-protection and loyalty to Christ, Peter chose to protect himself. When he saw what happened to his Lord, abused, scorned, battered, he played the coward and denied his Lord. Ultimately, this is what discipleship boils down to. Every Christian that is true to Christ must be willing to deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Christ. Peter started well, he was well warned (Matt 26:34) but stumbled. But Peter repented and never denied His Lord after that and was willing to die for him. Let us learn true discipleship.

Yours in our Lord’s service