“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
As disciples of Jesus we have dedicated ourselves to having Jesus’ vision, his heart and his way of life. We know that we live in a world where true discipleship has been all but destroyed under the weight of Satanic lies; false religion, fear and selfishness. Yet, in our generation disciples valiantly gather in small groups all over the world to fan the embers of discipleship into flame. Together, as a unified movement of SoldOut Disciples, we carry in our hearts the dream of an evangelized world and the growing excitement of seeing that dream become a reality before our eyes. We sacrifice everything we have in order to build churches of fully committed disciples that are truly refugee camps in a world of sin and pain.
We strive every day to be more and more like him. However, truth is, no matter how long someone is a disciple, no matter how much they have experienced, there are always gigantic lessons to learn and to re-learn. This is the struggle, the joy and the daily work of every disciple of Jesus. Here are some things about the way of Jesus that stand out for me.
Jesus had a deep and profound love for the lost. Though he was in fact God in the flesh, Jesus the Messiah came to Earth with great humility and he came to serve. Even when a guilty prisoner next to him reached out to him as he suffered the agony and humiliation on the cross, “Jesus answered him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 Even on the verge of death, his pain and suffering did not stand in the way of the mission to seek and save what was lost; and that is our souls. As disciples, we must be the same mindset. Schedules, finances, other priorities even fear of being scorned or persecuted cannot get between us and the lost souls who need Jesus’ saving grace so badly.
Jesus was so full of commitment and courage that he was never deterred, even though he knew in advance of the betrayals, the suffering and ultimately even his own death. Jesus never allowed a fear of being hurt or of anything that anyone could do to him. His faith in the Father was so strong that it left no room for faithlessness and the fear that it brings. He never wavered for a moment; his commitment to cause was greater than any soldier, warrior or liberator who ever lived.
Jesus spent his entire ministry life making disciples. He reached them, loved them and called them to a radical standard. “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. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27
Jesus called for loyalty, commitment and dedication from those who wished to follow him. In fact discipleship has never been an entitlement; there were and there are standards if anyone wishes to come to Jesus. Jesus was not afraid of the word ‘must’. If anyone wants to be a disciple, they must prioritize Jesus above all other relationships; they must be willing to carry their cross daily. As disciples, we must submit to these standards and call others to do the same. Making disciples on a daily basis was his passion and occupation and it must be ours as well.
Even in the face of this biblical teaching some still believe that Intellectual belief can save you. Intellectual belief was never enough to be called a disciple. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 Jesus saw through their intellectual belief and called them to obedience to his teachings.
Jesus called his disciples to live in the way of sacrifice and faith. In many ways, some might even have considered him a failure! He was in his thirties with no property, no wife and no children. Nevertheless, Jesus called his disciples to the same life as he did. “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:33
To this day, if anyone is not willing to give up everything for Christ, they cannot rightly call themselves disciples. In a world where the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth are constantly seeking to dominate our lives and choke us out, making us immature and unfruitful (Matthew 13:22) we must hold to the way of Jesus. When it comes to the all of the things that people want and need, Jesus’ call was simple: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 We must build the tower until the end, no matter the temptations or fears we may have as we approach the finish line (Luke 14:28-30).
Jesus wanted and still wants to build a unified Church. As disciples, we are “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…” 1 Peter 2:9 Never does the Bible suggest that the Christian Church should be anything but a unified movement with a mission to “go and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:19 baptizing and teaching obedience to Jesus commands. Indeed, Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35 We must be ”brought to complete unity” John 17:23 Without unity and love, we hold no legitimacy.
Disciples are unified in part by our willingness to submit to the leadership of other disciples and by our willingness to seek and follow advice. Today, for disciples who live in the western world, we live in a wealthy and individualistic society where people want to spiritualize Christianity instead of obeying and walking with Jesus. This was never Jesus’ intention. He was never obligated to leave Peter with the keys (Matthew 16:19), and yet the bible commands obedience to leaders (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:13) and describes a thriving, organized church that was able to overcome major obstacles (Acts 15:12-21).
Over and above the practicalities and daily life of the Church, Jesus wanted a Kingdom of the heart. He trained his disciples to hold to a level of mercy and tolerance that was unthinkable: The forgiveness and love for enemies. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44 As disciples, we win the person and not the fight. We give our land and property to win souls instead of fighting people to gain more land and property. The territory that we fight for is the geography of hearts.
If that is how we are to handle conflict outside of the church, the standards are even tougher on the inside. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2 Timothy 2: 23-24
We are commanded to not even talk about things that will ensnare you and cause arguments. When we are hurt, we are commanded to forgive and not keep a record of wrongs. The Lord’s servant is not resentful; the Lord’s servant does not “re-feel” past hurts, but forgives from the heart because he knows he has forgiveness himself. The church has always had false brothers. Bitterness is one of the surest ways to detect them: “They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction…” 1 Timothy 6:4-5
Disciples must hold to the highest standards even in the midst of conflict. Rather than give into fear and distrust, we have the heart of a child with their father. To be sure, as Jesus said: “Unless you become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3 Disciples have ultimate trust in God and in this trust we find our strength. “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1
Jesus was loving but uncompromising when it came to eliminating sin. “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” Mark 9:43 Jesus taught that unrepentant sinners would go to hell, even as he wished that everyone would reach out and take his mercy. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13
Jesus was not a mere wise man nor a philosopher; waxing poetic. He was a man who claimed to be God in the flesh. Either he was God in the flesh, as all the prophecies he perfectly fulfilled testified about him, or he was a madman. He taught the narrow road. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6 That is the same narrow road we have faith in and walk today.
For us as disciples, following in the Way of Jesus is not a buffet where we leisurely pick and choose what parts of him we like and what parts we don’t. We wander back from time to time, overdoing it on one aspect, rejecting others until we are full and cannot hold any more. Discipleship is an all or nothing proposition where we give our lives to follow God’s plan for the world. It is only by living in his teaching and learning day by day that we can learn the truth, that sets our hearts and minds free from darkness.
We can say that we know Jesus and are his friends if we have his heart and follow his directions. There will always be liars who say they know him but refuse to obey his instructions. But those who truly obey get closer and closer to God. This is how we know we are disciples: we live like he did. (1 John 2:3-6 Paraphrased)
Jesus believed in giving it all to reach the lost, in sacrifice, in making disciples, in righteousness, in practical obedience, in forgiveness, in mission, in uncompromising call to repentance and in love. As disciples of Jesus let us hold to exactly the same heart, the same convictions and the same dream!
To God Be All the Glory!