Jesus did not shoot from the hip. His goal of reaching the world with enduring help and eternal hope was not based on random acts of kindness or sentimental moods. He had a plan for defeating the devil, dealing with human depravity, and developing His church. At first glance he had no plan and seems to be, at most, a fantastic teacher and miracle worker of his day. But a closer inspection of His life as revealed in the accounts of eyewitnesses reveals the genius of Jesus for changing the world.
When we consider the gospel narratives and the story of the early church we see three things concerning the world conquest plan of Jesus: (1) it is surprisingly simple, (2) it works wonderfully, and (3) there are absolutely no alternatives. In our first look at the how of Jesus’ plan we saw selection. Selection is prayerfully picking people to mentor. After that we saw the indispensible place of association. Association is life-on-life teaching another Jesus follower the ways of Jesus. That brings us to the candid communications of Jesus Christ about the call to follow Him; he expected obedience – consecration.
The Character of the Call to Follow Jesus (Luke 16:13)
What are the characteristics of the call to follow Jesus? That is, what do I tell new disciples about the expectations of Jesus?
- Exclusivity (Luke 14:25-26; Matthew 11:37; Luke 16:13) — The call to serve Jesus does not allow for a multitude of masters. What about just two or three? The answer is no! Jesus turned to those who were following to let them know the cost of coming to Him (Luke 14:25-26). But what does He mean by hate? Looking at Jesus statement through the lens of other Jewish writings we can see that it involves the idea of a lesser love and a lower priority (Romans 9:13; Genesis 29:31; Malachi 1:2-3). Jesus makes it clear that the call to follow Him is to make Him first in all things; if not, Jesus says of the person who will not put him first, “he cannot be My disciple!” (Luke 14:26)
- Excruciating (Mark 8:34-38; Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 9:23-25; John 12:25-26) — The call comes with a cross (Luke 14:27). Some will try to say that is only for discipleship; against the idea that the cross is only being carried by saved folk that want to learn from Jesus are passages where the Lord talks clearly about the consequences of living in disobedience (Luke 9:23-25; Matthew 7:21-23).
“to torture, torment, inflict very severe pain on,” as if by crucifying, 1560s, from Latin excruciatus, past participle of excruciare “to torture, torment, rack, plague;” figuratively “to afflict, harass, vex, torment,” from ex “out, out from; thoroughly” (see ex-) + cruciare “cause pain or anguish to,” literally “crucify,” from crux (genitive crucis) “a cross” (see crux). (etymonline.com, 2022)
It is better to say that the call involves self-denial (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 6:18; 10:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Revelation 21:8) and a willing acceptance of the suffering that comes with setting oneself aside for Christ (consecration).
- Caring (Matthew 5:43-48; 1 John 5:1; ) — Coming to Christ involves caring for others. The Lord has clearly stated how we are to interact with others. The basis for all of our actions has to be love – first for the Lord and then for others with preference given to fellow Jesus followers (John 13:35).
- Obedient (John 14:21, 23, 24; 1 John 2:5) — The idea of obedience is archaic in our society and we do not like using it in relationships. But where there is authority obedience is a good and natural part of the relationship. With
We cannot rely on our native tongue if our spouse does not understand it. If we want them to feel the love we are trying to communicate, we must express it in their primary love language. (Chapman, , p. 18)
Your love language my fall into one of the five categories identified by Chapman: (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Quality Time, (3) Receiving Gifts, (4) Acts of Service, and (5) Physical Touch. In relationship with the Lord (Romans 7:4) we demonstrate and shower Him with love by keeping His commandments. The love language of our Lord is obediance. He makes it clear that those who love him will keep His commandments (John 14:21, 23-24). And this is the essence of what his disciples understood (1 John 2:5). If we are going to do more than invite people to church attendance, worship functions, and humanitarian activities we must impress on them the importance of keeping the commands of the King.
- Humble Service (John 13:1-20; 1 John 5:1) — Prestige and power has become associated with many pulpits. That association is not a crime. But the unwillingness to forsake those things in the service of Jesus and His people is contrary to the example and command of Jesus (John 13:1-20; 1 John 5:1). The mentoring we do cannot be considered complete if those we are teaching do not understand the importance of humble service to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
Counting the Cost of the Call (Luke 14:33)
We are not inviting people to a party. The gospel is an invitation to eternal life, to forgiveness, to favor, to family, and to the problems that come with belonging to Christ. No one is served by hiding the hard parts, covering up the cross, or being silent about the suffering that goes with faith in Jesus. We do well to tell those that have made the decision to be His diciples that there is a cross in and to sit down and count the cost.
25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Coleman put it this way:
One simply could not follow Jesus through the course of his life without turning loose of the world, and those who made a pretense of it brought only anguish and tragedy to their souls (Matt. 27:3–10; Acts 1:18–19). (Coleman, 2006, p. 45)
The Happy Consequence of Answering the Call (John 8:31-32)
But what about the doctrine piece, the teaching, and the deep things of God? When will we learn the truth? The answer is going to surprise you. The truth is known in obedience.
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). I know the truth the moment I come to him by faith for salvation. In keeping his commands I am led into a deeper understanding of who He is and am thereby set free from old patterns of life.
The Action Plan
- Put Jesus first in our family.
- Put Jesus first in our friendships.
- Put Jesus first in our faith.
- Put Jesus first in our finances.
- Put Jesus first in our fitness.
- Put Jesus first in our fun.
Chapman, Gary. () The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (p. 18). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Coleman, R. E. (2006). The Master Plan of Evangelism. Revell
Online Etymology Dictionary, 2022, https://www.etymonline.com/word/excruciate