I am becoming more and more bothered when I read prayer requests for discipleship movements. A popular refrain among churches today is they want to be creating disciples who create disciples who create disciples. This is a worthwhile goal. At the same time, if churches aren’t creating disciples, then what are they creating? What is it they were teaching before discipleship? I am convinced one who is not a disciple is not a follower of Jesus.
To follow Jesus is to be His disciple. You cannot separate the two. To be blunt, to be saved is to be a disciple. You cannot be one without the other. For too long we have pedaled a cheap grace, allowing people to profess a belief in Christ without explaining the level of commitment a true confession requires.
Discipleship is not something we commit to once and are then done with it. It is not something we achieve, but something we live. Following Jesus is a decision we must make every day of our lives. It is a lifelong journey to live and love like Jesus. Too many who claim to have surrendered their lives to Jesus give no thought to living in obedience to Him.
Obedience is not a word many of us like. It implies another pushing their will on us. We prefer freedom and autonomy, not an adherence to the rules of another. And yet, living in obedience to Jesus is what discipleship is all about. It is surrendering our will in deference to His. We welcome the opportunity to subject our desires to His.
A disciple never goes their own way. They do not pursue their own agenda. Discipleship means surrendering every ounce of your freedom to Christ. The beautiful reality is until we do this, we weren’t free anyway. So long as we are living for our own desires, sin is enslaving us. We aren’t free; we only convince ourselves we are. When we surrender our supposed freedom to Jesus, that is when we find true freedom in the love and will of God. It is only when we are living as God designed us to live that we can experience life as we never imagined.
The road to true freedom is not an easy one. It will be more difficult than you probably expect. In many places in the world, you will pay for it with your life. You may be tortured, spit on, or denied employment and housing. Discipleship is not something one should decide on lightly. It is far more than raising your hand or filling out a card. Discipleship is a radical redirection of everything you have known until now. Your life will change, and you will never be the same.
What is discipleship? It is the total surrender of everything you’ve ever thought you wanted. Discipleship means letting go of all you love and possess and turning it over to Jesus. Discipleship means turning over every thought, every action, and every decision to Jesus. There is no “me” in discipleship. There is only Jesus. You either devote every part of your existence to Him or you are not His disciple. God sees our hearts. He doesn’t look at how well (or not) we follow Him. He looks at our intent and devotion. But make no mistake. God knows your heart. And so do you.
Do you want to be a disciple of Christ? Are you ready to give up everything to follow Him? It is the only way to salvation and the only way to spend eternity with Him. The road is hard, but it’s the only one on which you will ever experience true freedom. There is no other way. There is only Jesus.