Most people that I encounter really like Jesus, or at least their concept of Him. They see Jesus as loving, gracious, forgiving, and anti-establishment. That concept is not entirely wrong. It is difficult for them to imagine Jesus promoting any type of exclusivity. But, He is the one who erected certain discipleship roadblocks.
In Luke 14, Jesus turns to the great crowds that accompanied him and says three times, “you cannot be my disciple if…” Let that sink in for a minute. Jesus turned. He stopped what he was doing to front-load the expectations and define the relationship. Here are three roadblocks—expressed as if statements—that, according to Jesus, would preclude one from being His disciple.
If you love your family and your life more than Jesus.
In verse 26 Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is not commanding us to hate our families. He is, however, saying we have to be more devoted to him than to our earthly blood relationships.
I love my family and I loved my life in Oklahoma. But, Jesus called me to plant a church in Arizona. I loved my proximity to wheat fields, working cattle, hunting, and actual winters. But, Jesus called me to plant a church in Phoenix, where there never really is a winter. I loved Christmas Eve at 5:30 pm with my momma. But, Christmas Eve services in Phoenix are huge opportunities to present the gospel to pre-Christians.
If you will not bear your own cross and follow Jesus.
In verse 27, Jesus says, “Come after me.” Discipleship is really just this: following Jesus. If you will not follow, you can’t be a disciple. And following after Jesus necessarily means some suffering and cross-bearing.
Planting Valley Life Church is harder than I feared or imagined, but it has been totally worth it. Jesus has saved and is saving his people here. His people are being born again and I have been invited into the delivery room. That joy far outweighs any “loss” I have suffered. I have learned more about myself and more about the sufficiency of Christ in doing planting this church.
If you will not renounce all that you have.
Before moving to Phoenix we had a massive garage sale. I sold vehicles, trailers, equipment, saddles and tack, guns—all kinds of “stuff.” With each monetary exchange, I felt the sting of loss. Loss of safety, comfort, and security. Loss of a way of life. But, again, it has been totally worth it.
Jesus demands worth-ship above everything. Our possessions, relationships, and traditions, while not necessarily evil, are all too often idolatrous. Jesus will not suffer any idols in our lives. For his glory and our deepest joy, he will expose, confront, and purge our hearts and affections.
Here is what I am learning. First, following Jesus is about moving toward him and letting go of what we hold most dear. Second, Jesus was up front about the cost of following Him and I should be also. Finally, because Jesus has been kind enough to save, I will spend an eternity of infinitely better Christmas Eves with family than the previous, earthly forty-two.