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it never cost a disciple


All genuine believers of Christ are on a journey… a journey to be closer to the Lord. None of us started out having already arrived. Hopefully by now you have grown closer to the Lord by some degree.

  • Have you learned discipleship is hard?
  • Have you learned there are no shortcuts?
  • Have you learned suffering through obedience?

A western Christian co-worker was visiting the Chinese city of Dandong which borders North Korea. He shares his challenging experience at a local house church meeting:

“It was the first time I had ever been called ‘Satan!’ But no one could fault the careful exegesis as this fiery Korean preacher bellowed to the 200-member house church.

‘The third temptation of Jesus,’ he declared, ‘was when the devil offered him the kingdom without the cross. The devil was basically saying, Don’t go off and make all those sacrifices, touch all those lepers, spend nights in agony praying, and end up being tortured by soldiers and dying a horrible death. Just take it all now…from my hand!’ He went on, ‘The church often has the same temptation. The devil offers us power without suffering. And… I’ve got to say this even though our western friend is here…this is a temptation one part of the church tempts another part of the church with. We have to call that part of the church ‘Satan,’ just as Jesus had to call Peter ‘Satan’ when he made the same suggestion later in his ministry.’

Good rip-roaring stuff, and thoroughly biblical. But I was intrigued as to why this pastor had singled out the western church as the tempter. He was happy to explain over a meal.

‘I hosted five pastors from North America last year. All Koreans. They came with reading material. Good stuff as far as it went, and they were supplying a sort of formula for church growth. But could one of them even bring himself to mention suffering? No! And when I heard those Korean pastors preach, it was also absent.’

He leaned forward and whispered, ‘When these pastors preach to the persecuted church, and mention everything but suffering, they are taking away the cross from the Christian life. That’s why I have to say that they are bringing a satanic suggestion. Anyone who says you can follow Christ but not carry your cross is no better than the old deceiver himself. Jesus said so. He said it to Satan, and he said it to Peter. And I’m going to say it to anyone else who dares to think they can be a witness for Christ from anywhere else but on a cross.'”

(Standing Strong Through The Storm – by author Paul Estabrooks)

This Korean pastor understood what Jesus understood about the process of discipleship. It is extremely difficult and the devil tempts us everyday to take the easy road. Jesus always referred to His followers as disciples. In fact, the term “disciples” occurs 269 times in the New Testament, while the term “Christian” only occurs three times. We are who Jesus says we are.

This is why Jesus turned around to speak to the large masses of people following Him. They were following for many reasons but He knew the reality of the situation. Some were only wanting to see more miracles. Others wanted to gain another free meal. Still others were tantalized by Jesus’ radical ways.

So Jesus began to cull this crowd by laying out five marks or descriptions of what it meant to be a real disciple. From all outward appearances these crowds were willing and even anxious to follow Jesus, providing the cost was not too high or the demands too great.

They were not unlike many people today who do “Christian things” like go to church, pray, sing Christian songs, etc., but are not really committed to real growth in Jesus. In a sense, they were “along for the ride” but were unwilling to give up everything in their lives which conflicted with following the Lord in a committed way.

They also are not unlike many today who look to Jesus to solve their money problems, relational problems, health problems, etc., but quickly grow disillusioned and unwilling to obey. When following Jesus doesn’t readily solve these issues or when following Jesus requires real sacrifice… they fall away until they need something from Jesus again.

As Jesus’ time on earth drew to an end and His own personal cross loomed on the horizon… the process of discipleship was on His mind. In the next few blogs I will examine Jesus’ five demands of a real disciple.