Follow the Leader
INTERSECT: The Demand of Discipleship
In recent years, Twitter has become one of the most popular forms of digital technology. For those who might be unfamiliar with this app, the object is to share short bursts of text called “tweets.” These tweets range from popular quotes to experiences, pictures, daily updates, and so on. You can follow other people on Twitter and, of course, people can subscribe to your Twitter feed and follow you as well.
The number of followers varies greatly. Pop singer Justin Bieber has 46 million followers, Lebron James has 19 million, and ever-popular Free Will Baptist youth pastor Jon D. Forrest (@jondforrest) has 865 followers.
Following someone on Twitter really carries no great demand. You can stop following him or her just as quickly as you started with only a simple tap on the screen. Twitter requires no real investment—no real cost.
It does cost to follow Jesus, however. While the basic meaning of the word disciple is to follow or to learn, it involves much more for the Christian. In Luke 14, Jesus clearly spelled out the primary and life-altering demand of discipleship for the large crowd who followed Him: your relationship with Jesus must be more important than any other.
Let me be clear: salvation comes by grace through faith. Salvation doesn’t come by the work of following Jesus, but by His finished work on the cross.
Jesus called for loving allegiance that makes all other human loves pale in comparison. In Matthew’s Gospel, this particular demand is worded this way, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” No human relationship is omitted. It is impossible to be a disciple of Jesus without giving Him rightful place on the throne of your life.
This demand is really no different than the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”
We sometimes think of “gods” in terms of the Happy Buddha statue at the local Chinese restaurant, but a god is anything or, in this case, anyone who takes Christ’s place. Jesus took this command a step further with the phrase “yes, even his own life.” The reality is, your favorite person in the world is you! Jesus demands us to love Him even more than we love ourselves. Ultimately, only one person can call the shots in your life, and it can’t be you. Otherwise, you cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Let me be clear: salvation comes by grace through faith. Salvation doesn’t come by the work of following Jesus, but by His finished work on the cross. Salvation is free, paid by the Savior’s redemptive work. But His grace has implications. His call to salvation is the call to follow Him, to be His disciple. Have you decided to follow Jesus? If not, why not? Accept His call today, and you will never regret it.
If you have already made the decision to follow Him, to become His disciple, have you allowed another relationship to rival your relationship with Him? Father, mother, spouse, children, boyfriend, girlfriend—even your own life? We must not allow anyone to keep us from following Christ. This is the demand of discipleship.
About the Writer: Barry Raper chairs the Pastoral Ministry program at Welch College: www.welch.edu.