The Cost of Discipleship

gospel-of-lukeLuke 9:23   And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

This text follows two important events. The confession of Peter, where he confesses that Jesus was the Christ of God. And secondly, Jesus foretells his rejection, death and resurrection. (Luke 9:18-22) It is a passage that speaks to the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Discipleship flows from our confession. If we confess that Jesus is the “Christ of God” and we identify ourselves as a disciple of Christ, Jesus gives us the terms of that discipleship. Terms that are involve us trusting in God wholeheartedly and living a life of self-sacrifice every day till our death.

Jesus gives three aspects of discipleship. Denying, taking up a cross daily, and following him. In the short space here I will give an over view of these aspects, praying that may be helpful in understanding the thrust of discipleship. When we begin to comprehend what is being asked of us, we will understand how radical this call is. Jesus is is telling us that the Christian life doesn’t end at the confession of faith, but that there remains a life to be lived. A life where we die to our self and live in obedience to God.

Denying your self is part of sanctification in the Christian life. We understand that in sanctification there are two components: mortification and vivification. They occur through the Christian life as we struggle with sin. (Romans 7:7-24) Part of the Christian life, is to deny the sinful desires that remain in us and live for the holy tasks God has given us in the moral law. Disciples of Jesus live lives of purity and put to death those desires of immorality and other forms of idolatry. (Col 3:1,5)

“Take up his cross daily” is not our struggle with our current predicament. It is a radical expression of actively dying to our selfishness. A contemporary way of stating this could be “putting our head in a noose everyday” or “putting neck under the guillotine daily”. The Christian is the dead man made alive. This is the reality our baptism signifies

Col. 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

We are living out our baptism by dying to our sinful inclinations and desires. Baptism, a sign and seal of our dying with Christ and being resurrected with him is not meaningless. It is a font of grace for us, through which we participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus throughout our life. Taking up our cross (the dying to our sinful inclinations and desires) isn’t a one time event, it is a continual process through which we will grow in holiness. Part of the joys of discipleship is rejoicing in the power of the resurrection of Jesus, but we cannot forget that are also called to bear the cross of dying to self daily.

“Follow me” Jesus has already stated what will happen to him. That he will be rejected by the elders of the nation of Israel, the chief priests and scribes. That he would die and then rise again from the dead. This will be our example to follow. As Jesus faced total humiliation for us, we must be willing to live a life of obedience to him even if it means that we are rejected. Sharing the Gospel with someone and watching them reject it, or mock it, can be frustrating. It can be a strong force of discouragement. However, we are called to obedience. Jesus was obedient unto death and so he calls us to a radical form of obedience in the face of being mocked, ridiculed, and rejected till our death.

We may fail in this call. The disciples did. They left Jesus and denied him. Jesus however, graciously found them and spoke of the love he had for them, restored them, and then charged them to live a life of painful obedience. An obedience that would result all of their deaths, save John who was exiled. Many have not endured till the end, but many have because of the Gospel. The Gospel reminds us of the obedient one who forgives our sins and gives us life. In Christ we find the ability to be faithful disciples, and we can pray for perseverance, and victories over our weaknesses in this life for the sake of Christ alone.

3 thoughts on “The Cost of Discipleship

  1. Just read this in Mark as well. I found it helpful when you said, “Take up his cross daily” is not our struggle with our current predicament. It is a radical expression of actively dying to our selfishness.”..Also, what I wonder is how does this concept coincide with freedom we have in Christ? When I read this, Take up your cross daily, it is easy to get pietist so how do Christians find that balance between self denial and yet freedom in Christ?

    1. In Galatians 5, Paul writes that Christ has set us free and in light of that freedom we are called to live lives that are defined by faith in Christ and obedience to his law.

      The Christian is to stand firm against the temptation to work-based/merit-grounded righteousness. The Christian cannot again become slaves to the law from which they were just redeemed. This has been the argument of Paul throughout the letter:

      Gal. 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

      Gal. 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

      At the risk of being redundant, the believer has a freedom but it is a freedom from obedience to the law as the ground for their justification. The only ground for our justification can be the finished work of Jesus and we have that work credited to us by faith alone. Anyone who relies on their works/merits for the ground of their justification is to abide by all of the law. (Gal 3:10)

      Paul’s concern for the Galatians in chapter 4 is that the Galatians will return to a works-based understanding of justification. So he reminds them that God sent his Son to be born under the law to redeem those who were slaves to the law. Only Jesus is the law abiding Son who can earn justification. The question he asks them is:
      Gal. 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

      This all leads to the freedom in Christ passage in Galatians 5. However the freedom they have is for a purpose. They have a freedom in Christ so they can serve one another not to serve the desires of the flesh.
      Gal. 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

      Paul continues to exhort the Galatians to “walk by the Spirit” and contrasts the desires of the Spirit with the desires of the flesh. We as believers are to battle agains the desires of the flesh, and called to live in light of the desires of the Spirit. And this life is a life of gratefulness. We are given a spirit of adoption that desires to please our Father and we do this by obedience to his law as a response of the love shown. We now live lives that are characterized by love, compassion, and charity for one another. Loving each other out of freedom and not out of a burden and fear.

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