Pastor Juan Carlos Ortiz of Argentina tells the following story in his book called “Disciple”. Pastor Ortiz felt that something was wrong in his ministry, so he stopped all pastoral activities and went alone to a place for about two weeks to meditate and pray. Then, he heard a shocking message from the Holy Spirit.
“You are preaching the gospel the same way the Coca-Cola Company sells Coca-Cola, the same way Reader’s Digest sells magazines and books. You are using all the tricks you learned in school. Where in the world will you find my hand in all your work?” The second thing he heard was, “You’re not growing. You think you’ve increased your membership from 200 to 600, so you think you’re growing, but you’re not growing, you’re getting fat.”
Through this word of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Ortiz’s eyes were opened to the discipleship ministry.
Saints, are you a disciple? Do you know what the core ministry of Jesus, the Son of God, was during his three-year public life on earth? It was to raise the 12 disciples. Do you know what Jesus’ last words that were like a will were to the world before ascending to heaven? It says to go and make disciples of all nations. So the important question is this. Am I a regular church member? Or am I a disciple of Jesus as the Bible says. The Lord wants me to become a true disciple of Jesus. Because when I change, the world changes. Jesus himself had a vision to change the world through his 12 disciples. You are well aware of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because there were not 10 righteous men. The difficulty and problem of our church, family, or society today is that there are no true disciples of Jesus. The question we need to ask today is not how many saints gather in the church to worship, but how many disciples there are in our church. So, what our church, our family, and our society really need today is a true disciple of Jesus.
Who is a disciple? A disciple is one who follows Jesus, the teacher, and one who becomes like Jesus and lives like Jesus. In the book of Acts, all those who decided to believe in the Lord were expressed as disciples of Jesus. However, in the Gospels, Jesus clearly distinguishes between the crowd and the disciples. Jesus said that those who stay in the Word become disciples, and if they love each other, the world will know them as disciples, and that if they bear much fruit, they are disciples of Jesus.
Today’s text speaks more clearly of the difference between the crowd and the disciples.
Are you a disciple of Jesus? I hope you will be dedicated to live the life of a disciple of Jesus through today’s message.
1. Loving Jesus as the First Place
(Luke 14:26)“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple”.
Jesus says that in order to be his disciple, we must hate our parents, our wives, our brothers and sisters, and even our own lives. But can you easily accept this word? In the Bible, God even promises blessings through the Ten Commandments and tells us to honor our parents. And those who disobeyed their parents were to be stoned to death. And he said to love his wife as the Lord loves the church. He also taught that anyone who calls Ragha (fool) against his brother will be thrown into hell fire. In 1 Timothy 5:8, it says, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” But now he tells us to hate them.
Then what is the true meaning of the words to hate? To hate here is not to literally and practically hate.
The Greek word for hating is ‘miseo’, but the actual meaning of this word is ‘to love less’.
This can be clearly seen in Matthew 10:37, which contains similar content to the main text.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)
This does not mean that we hate or forsake our parents or siblings as human beings. In order to become a disciple who follows the Lord, the priority of love must be clear. In order to become a disciple of the Lord, the priorities of what I love must be set correctly. It means that I cannot neglect or distance myself from the Lord because of my parents or siblings. It is a paradoxical expression that emphasizes that no human relationship can take precedence over that with God.
We must honor our parents and obey their words. We must love our wives and our children. But in some cases, you have to be prepared to be hated by them. You have to be prepared for the fact that the relationship may even end. Only then can you become a disciple of Jesus.
Do you love Jesus the most? Is your relationship with Jesus your highest priority? First, take a look at what you think of most? Always think of the beloved Jesus. Also take a look at yourself where you spend your time. Are you spending the first hour of your day, the precious time of the morning, listening to the Lord’s Word, praying, and fellowshipping with the Lord? You keep missing the person you love, you want to keep meeting them, and you have a desire to have fellowship with them. I hope you will also spend more time fellowshipping with the loving Lord. Why did the Lord rebuke Martha and praise Mary? The reason Jesus rebuked Martha for her hard work was because of her priorities. Serving the Lord is precious, but the Lord does not want you to serve with a busy mind. Rather, the Lord said that he needed only one thing, praising Mary, who did not serve, but instead listened to the Word. What is that one thing? That one thing is loving fellowship with the Lord, which takes precedence over ministry or service. What the Lord really wants is for us to live with the direction and power of life through intimate fellowship with the Lord through the Word and prayer.
But the strange thing is that if you love Jesus supremely, you will also love your parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters, and yourself even better. Who is a disciple? A disciple of Jesus is someone who loves Jesus more than anyone else.
2. The cross
(Luke 14:27) And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Jesus died on the cross for the salvation of mankind, according to the will of his Father. The cross refers to the price and sacrifice that must be paid in order to accomplish God’s will.
Therefore, our personal cross refers to the price and sacrifice that we must pay to fulfill God’s will for us. There is God’s will in each person’s role and position. As a mother, as a wife, as a father, as a husband, there is God’s will in the positions given in the church. In order to achieve that will, there is a price that must be paid. He says that those who take up their cross and follow it are disciples of Jesus.
Peter confesses his faith to Jesus. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16).” Then, Jesus suddenly said that he had to suffer, be killed, and rise again on the third day.
At that time, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”” (v. 22).
“Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”” (verse 23).
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (v. 24)”
What did Jesus want to point out? Jesus said that Peter must deny himself in order to be truly a disciple of Jesus. Peter’s thoughts, his human dreams, his values, and his outlook on life all had to be broken and changed. Jesus tells Peter to deny these things, take up his cross and follow him.
What does it take to take up my cross? In order to bear the cross, we must first discern Father’s will for us. Knowing the Father’s will for me, my family, and our church will enable us to carry our own cross for that will, vision and mission.
The cross is the way of blessing and the way of glory. No cross means no crown. There is no crown without a cross. The cross is a sacrifice and a difficult one, but it is a way of blessing for oneself and others. John 12:24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
The Lord says to take up your cross and follow Him, take up your own cross and not someone else’s cross and follow Him. That’s right. We all have our own cross to bear. There is a cross that only I have to carry. There is a family cross that I must bear. There is also a cross of mission that I must carry.
Do you know how hard and difficult it is to take up your cross and follow the Lord? Sometimes it’s painful and frustrating. Because of this there are times when many people compromise and don’t bear their crosses. But remember clearly. You cannot be a true disciple of the Lord without paying the price of bearing the cross for the Lord.
Who is the disciple? He is the one who takes up his cross with joy and follows the Lord.
3. Unless you give up all your possessions
(Luke 14:33) In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
To give up one’s possessions also means to give up being the master in all areas of one’s life and entrust sovereignty to God. It means to live every moment of life with the ability that God supplies. Why does God take issue with possession? Because possession is the biggest desire of human beings and is a desperate problem. Those who do not overcome the desire for material things cannot become disciples of the Lord. To give up possessions means to actively offer all possessions, knowledge, gifts, abilities, and material things to God to use for His glory and for good.
As people of God, we are the ones who have transferred all ownership to the Lord. The Bible calls this a life of stewardship. What is the life of a steward?
‘Lord! The owner of everything I have right now is the Lord. The Lord entrusted it all to me for a little while. Time, material things, children, and businesses are not mine. They are simply things that the Lord has entrusted to me for a little while. Therefore, I will properly manage and use the things the Lord has entrusted to me, and then return them back to the Lord.’ This is what it looks like to live a life of stewardship.
Do you know how the natives of Africa hunt monkeys?
Hunting monkeys is actually very simple. Fruits are placed on the branches of the monkeys’ pathways, and then gourds are hung. Then, a hole is drilled in the gourd to allow the monkey’s hand to fit through. The monkey checks the delicious fruit in the gourd and puts his hand into it. However, the hole in the gourd is so small that the hand holding the fruit cannot get out. When the hunters come, the monkey can leave the fruit he is holding and run away, but the monkey does not let go and so gets caught by the hunters.
The monkey could live if he let go of his hand. However, because of their greed for the fruit, they hold on to it and are caught by hunters without even getting to eat the fruit. The story of this foolish monkey teaches us that giving up our desires isn’t that easy.
Today, more than one billion people around the world live and die in extreme poverty. Today, they are barely surviving on less than $1 a day. If you include those who survive on less than $2 a day, the number approaches 2 billion. Half of the world’s population struggles to find food, water and housing for less than the cost of a hamburger. Today, 26,000 children are dying of hunger and preventable diseases. When I went on an outreach trip to Kolkata (Calcutta) in India with the DTS training team, I could see countless children and their parents living in slums. There, families with three, four, and five children lived in small rooms. Drinking water was limited and food was scarce. Such slums lined up for several kilometers. If we know that our neighbors right around us are dying because they don’t have a dollar or two, we all have to make a choice by looking at their faces. You can share what you have and embrace the Lord, or you can accumulate wealth and therefore ignore Jesus.
We must use our materials sparingly. Luxuries should be sold and distributed to the poor who are trembling at our doors. The way to be free from material greed is to share. There must be a change in our lifestyle. Give to God what belongs to God. Give tithes and give to God missionary and special purpose offerings.
Christian truth is a paradoxical truth. Blessed are those who give more than those who receive; those who die live again; those who give up all their possessions for the sake of the Lord will receive more in this life and in the age to come. Those who love riches more than Jesus give up eternal life. If you love material things more than Jesus, it is an idol and spiritual adultery (Matthew 6:24). Just as one cannot serve two masters, so he cannot serve both money and God. We need to see if we can really give up everything for Jesus. Noah gave all he had to build an ark, and Abraham gave his only son Isaac. We need to make sure that what we have is always available to the Lord if He wants it.
Jesus tells two parables to illustrate the cost of discipleship. One is the parable of the tower and the other is the parable of the warring kings. What does building a tower or waging war have to do with being a disciple? When building a tower, you should check in advance whether you have enough money. If not, if you start with the construction and don’t complete it, you won’t be able to build a tower, and you will only become a laughingstock for people. Jesus is not talking about architecture here. Jesus is saying that to follow Jesus he has to pay a price. The second parable is the same. A king who wants to go to war must first consider whether he is able to fight and overcome his opponent with his army. If he can’t possibly win a war, it’d be wiser to send an envoy to make peace. If you don’t do that and wage war recklessly, you’ll bring a bigger disaster. Jesus is not talking about military strategy here. He is saying that following Jesus should not be emotionally determined as if you are following a friend to Gangnam. Following Jesus means you have to think carefully and seriously and make decisions. He asks you to think seriously about what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a true disciple of Christ.
The life of a disciple is a blessed life, but it is a life that requires a heavy price.
Have you heard of William Borden? Born in the late 1800s as the heir to a dairy company, he was a billionaire and earned degrees from Yale University and Princeton University. Despite this, he wanted to be remembered as a disciple of Christ. So, he left millions of dollars behind, and followed Jesus’ call to a distant land of Muslims.
After William graduated from high school, his parents encouraged him to travel the world. So, while traveling in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, he felt God’s calling to go to places where the gospel could not reach. So he sent a letter to his parents saying that he would dedicate his life to missions for Jesus. Then he wrote a sentence in his own journal.
William knew that following Jesus required total commitment. Entering Yale University at the insistence of his father, he decided to love only the Lord and started to meet with a friend to read the Bible and pray every morning. Since then, Bible reading and prayer meetings were created in Yale University. By the time he was in his fourth year, there were 1,000 such meetings. At that time, he wrote in his diary, “I will always deny myself and obey Jesus.”
Also, while in college, he started helping the homeless on the streets of New Haven and founded the Yale Hope Mission, which helps alcoholics and other addicts rehabilitate. He inherited a huge fortune when his father passed away while he was still in school.
He heard the voice of the Lord calling him to world missions and decided to preach the gospel in Gansu, China. However, he contracted meningitis there, died at the tender age of 25, and was buried in Cairo.
He who caused the spiritual revival of Yale University and evangelized countless people will be remembered forever as a ‘true disciple of Christ’. After he passed away, three sentences were found in his journal.
How do you want to live? Would you like to be remembered as a disciple like William Borden?
Love Jesus above all else.
Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow the Lord with gratitude and joy.
Give all that you have and everything for the kingdom of God. I bless you in the name of the Lord that all of you will become disciples of Jesus and also make disciples this year.