Dietrich Bonhoeffer pulled no punches. In his classic, “The Cost of Discipleship”, he wrote, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” I write extensively on discipleship for the same reason. If you aren’t pursuing a life of discipleship with Jesus, I believe the Bible is clear: Jesus does not know you (Matthew 7:21-23; John 14:15). That’s a strong statement, I know. But we’ve been dancing around this subject for too long.
We don’t want to seem judgmental or offensive, so we add caveats and couch our words to make them seem less harsh. The result is that millions of people who believe they are Christians are not. It is perhaps the most sinister and ingenious deception Satan has ever unleashed. He continues to deploy this strategy today. It has so infected our churches that most don’t even realize the deception under which they are living.
Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey His commands (John 14:15). That is discipleship in a nutshell: living and loving like Jesus. You know, doing the things He told us to do. We can rationalize and make excuses all day long, but it’s difficult to argue that if every person who claims to believe in Jesus were living as if that were true, our world would not be in the depraved and decaying state it is. “Racism” (I put this in quotes because there is only one race, and this term does nothing but further divide what God created to live in unity with each other and Himself) exists because we don’t see every individual as unmistakably bearing the image of God. Poverty and hunger exist in part because we don’t love our neighbor as ourselves. Evil continues to spread because we have not gone into all the world preaching the good news of Jesus. Our world is a mess because generations of believers have sought to secure their eternity without ever experiencing the transformation of a life lived in discipleship to Christ.
In short, we do not love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-30). If we would obey this one command of Jesus, everything else would fall into place. If we were to love God with all that we are, we would indeed be His disciples. We would love as He loves. We would care for others more than we care for ourselves. But we don’t do that. We live our lives in selfishness, accumulating as much as we can, so we can be as comfortable as we can, while we live as safely as we can. It’s all so sickening in light of the cross of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t have a selfish bone or thought. His entire being is love, and His mission is to love others more than Himself. Nothing Jesus ever did was self-serving. He did it with you and me in mind. His entire life was lived for others and the glory of His Father. Can you say the same about your life? I can’t say it about mine. But thanks to our incomparable Creator, He endows us with free will. We can change. Today, we can live differently. No matter what our past holds, today we can live as disciples of Jesus. We can live in a way that honors Him and is worthy of His sacrifice for us. If you love Jesus, discipleship is not an optional component of salvation. It’s a requirement for the here and now if we want to spend eternity with Him.