The Cost of Non-Discipleship

Is following Jesus hard or easy? Obeying Jesus demands our total allegiance, but a lifestyle of discipleship brings the joy of life as it was meant to be. Jesus said, “Take up (your) cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). But He also said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). So which is it? Is a life of discipleship a comfort or crucifixion?

C. S. Lewis points out the seeming paradox. On the one hand, Jesus proclaims the delights of discipleship; on the other, the seemingly crushing cost. Faced with the high cost of discipleship, many Christians compromise by attempting to ensure their self-interests while still trying to be good. But a halfway approach to discipleship is impossible:

Christ says, “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down….Hand over the whole natural self….I will give you an new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself.” ** Taken from “Giving All to Christ” in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). There will ultimately be a conflict of interest between self-will and God’s will. A choice will have to be made between surrender and self-rule. With this tension in mind, it is vital to reexamine the emphasis of the Great Commission. Jesus tells us to make disciples who learn to do all that He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). However, what it means to be a Christian has taken on a different definition in many Western church traditions. It has usually come to mean someone who has agreed to a set of beliefs about Jesus, or has become a member of a church. What is omitted is the necessity of actually following Jesus (apprenticing ourselves to Him).

The result is that churches are full of members who have affirmed the tenets of faith in order to get to heaven, but have no intention of obeying Jesus on earth. Ironically, these converts feel prepared to die, but they are not equipped to live.

Many church members would be shocked if confronted with the necessity of a life of continual obedience to Jesus, since that is not what they signed up for at their conversion. Could it be that this is what Jesus meant when He described masses of self-professed Christians coming to the end of their lives only to stand before God and be told, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23)?

The heart of true discipleship is a settled intent to become like Jesus. A disciple is like the man who in his joy went and sold all he had in order to buy the field with the great treasure (Matthew 13:44). Disciples gladly rearrange everything in their lives around Jesus because of a firm persuasion that He is everything they want.

So, it is hard to follow Jesus? Yes, because He demands total allegiance. Only those who give all to Christ find all. This is the paradox of Christianity. But disciples of Jesus obey Him because they believe He is the way of eternal life. Their confidence in Jesus and the joy of life with Him greatly outweigh the price. Consider for a moment the alternative – the life of non-discipleship. If Jesus is right, the failing to follow Him will cost the very things that He alone can bring: peace, love, hope, power for good, and life with God, now and forever. It turns out that the life of non-discipleship is the costliest life of all.

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