Our Calling: “Come to Me”
Discipleship Lesson #02
July 29, 2018
“Our Father, again we express our gratitude to You because You have revealed Yourself to us. You have revealed Yourself to us in Your Word, and You have challenged us to study Your Word that we might be thoroughly equipped to serve You.
“That it is through Your Word that we are sanctified—that is, set apart—to serve You. It is Your Word that transforms our thinking, that we may think as You would have us to think, value what You would have us to value, and that we would prioritize that which is of eternal value.
“Father, as we continue our study now on this topic of becoming a student of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that You would challenge us with understanding where we are and where we ought to be in our own spiritual life.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Last time we began a study of discipleship coming out of our study in Matthew. Basically, the term “discipleship” in the Bible just refers to that process of learning, growing, maturing in the spiritual life. It is a challenge to us in two ways because as our Lord commanded in Matthew 28:19-20 that we are to make disciples.
That means that we are first to be disciples, we are to be learners, we are to be students of God’s Word. Then in turn, we are to make others students of God’s Word. We will all be involved in that process one way or the other, depending on who we are, where we are in our spiritual life, and how we are gifted.
Almost everyone in this congregation has a child or grandchildren. That is your primary area of making a disciple, as a parent and as a grandparent. The opportunities that you have are just tremendous, and especially if you are a parent and you have young children.
This is a tremendous opportunity for you to instill in them from the time of their birth those important values of learning the Word, reading the Word. One of the great ways that you as a parent can do this is to read Bible stories to them.
When they’re small, when they’re infants, just because they don’t respond to you by talking to you or giving you necessarily facial signals that they understand what’s going on; nevertheless, they’re hearing it, and that is shaping their mind. That’s building a framework, and the more you read, the more you do this, the more it builds those neurological pathways that prepares them for later on.
So that when they get to that stage where they truly do have a comprehension of what is being said, it’s not unfamiliar to them because they have heard those words and they have heard those stories over and over again.
It is part of your responsibility as a parent to do this because, just as it is in public school, it’s still your responsibility as a parent to teach your children at home recognizing that what goes on in the classroom at school should be viewed as simply a support for parental instruction and parental teaching.
The same is true with our prep school and Sunday school, that what will enhance your child’s involvement, understanding and growth in terms of what goes on in prep school is how you support that through the reading of the Scripture with your children, reading of Bible stories to them when they’re young and talking about these things as they grow older. That is a great way to be involved in discipleship.
Other ways in which you make learners, may be involved where you are in terms of your work, in terms of your business. That’s going to vary depending on who your employer is, but in many cases, you may be in situations where you can influence people, and maybe you can also get people thinking.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have heard of one testimony or another where the way that person got to a church that taught the Bible was because somebody they worked with, somebody they worked for, someone who worked for them invited them to church.
That’s just one of many ways that people find their way to good Bible teaching. All of these are ways in which we as individuals have a responsibility to carry out the Great Commission.
Last week I looked at the topic of being an imitator of Christ: The challenge of being a disciple. This is true for every one of us as we read through and study through what Jesus says about being a disciple.
Just because I’m the pastor doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact me. None of us are perfect. None of us have risen to the heights of responding to the challenge of being a disciple. Every one of us has a long way to go because none of us are perfect.
We all need to follow the mandate of 2 Peter 3:18 to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Under this commission in Matthew 28:19-20, our Lord directed it to His disciples, but through them to every one of us. It is our responsibility to one degree or another to be a disciple, to be made a disciple, and second then in turn, to one degree or another, be involved in discipling others. But we have to grow as a prerequisite for being able to disciple others.
As I thought about what I taught last time in terms of the responses to the message of the kingdom that we studied in Luke 8 and parallel to Matthew 13 in the parable of the soil, sometimes is referred to as the parable of the sower, you see different responses.
What I see here is that the gospel itself is a call. A call is simply a summons to respond to something. Sometimes we make this sort of a mystical thing or an internal thing, but it is just an invitation. That’s what a call is.
We are called to the gospel, every believer is, but there are other arenas of calling within the Christian life. We all have natural talents, and in terms of those natural talents, if you have a proclivity in different areas, then that may indicate where you serve in terms of a job or career, and that has traditionally been called by the term “calling.”
It’s been identified as a calling, and that doesn’t mean that it is restricted to the idea of a ministry, because one of the things that came out of the Protestant Reformation is that everyone has a calling, and your calling is related to your vocation.
In fact, the word from which we derive our English word “vocation” is the Latin word vocare, which is the Latin for KALEO, to call, which is what we have in Scripture.
We have a calling or an identification in terms of our natural talents and natural abilities, but we also have a spiritual calling, because at the moment of faith in Christ we are given certain spiritual gifts, and that is a calling related to our spiritual life.
We have the calling of the gospel for salvation, we have a calling related to service in terms of our spiritual life, and there is also a calling related to discipleship. This is why I have phrased it this way in this list.
- Those who are called, but they do not believe. They hear the invitation to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and they say, “Hmmm, maybe not:” they’re not convinced and they do not believe.
- Those who are called and they do believe. They trust in the gospel, they believe Jesus died on the Cross for their sins. They are justified, they are regenerated, but as the parables describe, there is life. But that life is quickly choked out, or life does not continue to grow because it is not fed or nourished by the Word. Therefore, they choose not to grow, not to go beyond spiritual infancy. They will spend eternity in Heaven, but they will not have grown in this life.
So you have those who are called but do not believe and those who are called and do believe.
- Those who are called, they believe and they follow intermittently, but are not convinced to continue.
These are those that are described in Luke 8:13 where the seed falls on rocky soil, and Jesus says, “… but the ones on the rock are those who when they hear, received the word with joy …” That is belief: they believe it. Receiving is often a synonym for believing.
“… and these have no root, who believe for a while,” so they clearly believe the gospel. “… and then in a time of testing, they fall away.” They follow intermittently.
- There are others who are called, they are convinced, but they’re comfortable. Then when the storms of life come or the tests of life come, then it’s revealed that they are not committed. They are the ones who hear, but when there are the tests of life, they’re choked out by the riches and the cares and the distractions of life, then they too fall away.
- It comes down to an issue of commitment.
Categories 3 and 4 represent believers who are involved to some degree, they were positive to the gospel, but they really aren’t committed to growing. They’re involved but not committed.
They’re like the Kamikaze pilot who was involved and not committed, and he flew 15 missions. (Audience laughter) Takes a little while sometimes; that’s a slow one.
We need to ask ourselves a question, are we committed? To what degree are we committed? That’s going to change over time. There are seasons in our lives when we succumb to the distractions of the world, the cares and concerns of the world, and we get our eyes off of the Lord, and they’re on enjoying the pleasures of life. Not that they’re pleasures that are necessarily wrong, but it’s a problem with priorities.
We are engaged in this study to challenge us with what the Lord said in terms of being a disciple or becoming a disciple, becoming convinced, and we become more and more convinced the more we study the Word. I think most of us would say that.
As we become more and more convinced, we become more and more focused and committed students of Jesus Christ. That is the process of spiritual growth.
What I’d like to do this morning is take us a little further in understanding this calling, understanding Jesus’ command to follow Him. I want us to turn to John 1. We touched on this last time, but I wanted to drill down a little bit more into this, as we see the initial calling of the first disciples described in this chapter.
John 1:29: this is really the second day. There are three days that are described here in John 1. Then there are a couple of days that go by after that, and then we start John 2 on the third day. That would be three days following these first three days. So that takes us through a cycle of a week.
On the second day John saw Jesus coming toward Him and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John is not alone; his disciples are with him, and that shows a use of the word “disciple” as a follower of a teacher. In this case they’re the followers of John the Baptist. We will look in a minute at a passage that we’re going to, where in that context there’s also a reference to those who are disciples of Moses, then those who are disciples of Jesus.
The term “disciple” in and of itself does not necessarily mean a believer, but in some contexts, it certainly does.
Here we have John making this announcement about who Jesus is, and then when we come down to John 1:34, he says, “I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God.” He’s identifying Jesus as the Son of God.
The next day the crowds aren’t with him, but he is with two of his disciples, and in John 1:36 he says, “… and looking at Jesus as He walked he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ ”
In John 1:37 those two disciples hear Him speak and what happens? They follow Jesus.
The word “follow Jesus” or “following Him” or sometimes He says, “Follow Me” is a term that is used many times in the context of the requirements, the expectations of a disciple. This is a word, like disciple, that has a range of meanings.
There are those who followed Jesus, but they were not saved. There are those who followed Jesus who were saved, but did not have any spiritual growth. There are others who followed Jesus who stepped to a higher challenge and a higher commitment.
This word for following, AKOLOUTHEO in the Greek, is used over 60 times in the Gospels in reference to following Jesus. But sometimes it simply means they physically walked in the direction Jesus was going or they walked where He was going.
That’s what I believe is happening here, as they hear John the Baptist again identify Jesus as the Lamb, that they leave John and they start to walk with Jesus.
As they walk with Jesus, along the way Jesus turns and He says to them, “What you looking for? John 1:38, “‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi, where are You staying?’ ”
The reason they asked that question is because that was typical if someone was attaching themselves to a rabbi or to a teacher at that time, then they would be expected to physically go with them wherever they were traveling.
They would live together with him; that’s how they would they would learn from him. All of this is just related to the basic concept of following, meaning physically following after Jesus.
At this point I do not believe that these are believers in a justification sense, and the reason I say that becomes clear at the end of John 2. But it’s that process: they see Jesus; they identified Him as they heard John the Baptist say, “He’s the Son of God;” they have heard John say, “He’s the Lamb of God.” As they follow Him, they will learn more about what that means.
The reason I say I don’t believe that they are believers yet is John who writes this says that they believe on Him in John 2:11 after the miracle at Cana. I think that that’s a summary statement and could even indicate that by then all of these initial disciples had believed in Him. I think that’s a possible inference.
We come down a little further to John 1:43 and we see another use of the word follow, “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”
I think this is an intensification of the following. This is not just following after Him physically or literally, but there’s a greater implication here of staying with Him as a disciple, and Philip seems to understand that.
We are told in John 1:44 , he’s from Bethsaida, which is a fishing village that’s north of Capernaum on the northern shore, almost at the 12 o’clock position on the Sea of Galilee. He would have known Andrew and Peter and James and John. These are not huge towns; they would have known each other.
Philip also knew another individual named Nathanael and found him. Listen to what he says, John 1:45, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
He makes it clear that he’s got an understanding that Jesus of Nazareth is the One who fulfills the Law and the prophets. I believe that at this point we can say—even though the text doesn’t say it—that Philip at this point is saved, and he has taken this message to Nathanael.
John 1:46, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ ”
Nazareth didn’t have a great reputation. It was a very small town and had the reputation of being a backwater, and the people there not very well educated or sophisticated, so Philip says to him, “Come and see.”
John 1:47, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile or no deceit!’ ”
I think what Jesus is saying there is he’s focused on spiritual truth from the Word and he is truly seeking the Messiah. John 1:48 Nathanael says, “ ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus said, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ ”
There are a lot of implications there I don’t want to go into.
Then you have Nathanael’s confession in John 1:49, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
I think that’s a clear statement that he understands who Jesus is as the God-man, as the Messiah, and that Nathanael at this point is a believer.
John 1:50, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, ”I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe?’ ” Jesus says ,so you believe already, so He’s clear that He is saying that Nathanael is saved at this point.
Three days later John 2:1, they go to the wedding in Cana, after which we learn and read the statement in John 2:11, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”
That phrase to “believe in Him,” as I pointed out last time, is the Greek phrase that is used again and again and again throughout the Gospel to refer to what is necessary to have or receive the gift of eternal life.
I think this is a summary. The disciples at this point would be James and John, Peter and Andrew, Philip and Nathanael, these six. It is simply a summary statement that at this point, all of them truly understood who Jesus was and believed in Him. By this point, all of them are definitely saved.
Look at the word “to follow.” At this point we’ve seen the one use that it simply means to physically follow after somebody. Then we’ve seen an intensified use where it involves leaving, even though it doesn’t state that, but for Philip to follow Jesus and go to Galilee means that he’s going to leave whatever it is he’s doing and go and follow Jesus.
But the term also comes to be equivalent to believing in Jesus, and that is seen in John 10. When we look at the John 10, we must recognize there weren’t chapter divisions in the original text, and the events of John 10 immediately follow the episode of John 9.
In John 9, Jesus has healed a blind man. Look at John 9:28. He healed the blind man on the Sabbath, which immediately put Him in conflict with the Pharisees again. Actually, in John 4-5 we see an intensification starting of the opposition to Jesus by the religious leaders.
In John 9:26-27 after the man born blind has been healed, “Then they said to him, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’ ”
The use of the word “disciple” there suggests believing on Jesus, because that is what the blind man did.
John 9:28, “Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.’ ”
I just want to point that out so you see those two different uses of the word “disciple” there in John 9:28.
In the midst of that conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus begins to clarify who He is in John 10. By the time we get down to John 10:27, Jesus is clarifying who He is and the nature of salvation:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
In the context of John 10 Jesus has told a couple of different parables to indicate and emphasize the fact that He is the true Shepherd, He is the good Shepherd in contrast to the evil Shepherd.
The background here is in both Ezekiel and Jeremiah, where there is a condemnation of the false shepherds, the false religious leaders. And so when Jesus calls Himself the good Shepherd in contrast to the Pharisees, they know exactly what He is saying, and He is not winning any friends among them by calling them false shepherds.
He talks about those who hear His voice and that’s equivalent to the call, to hearing the gospel, to understanding who Jesus is. He says, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me.”
Following Jesus then is more than physically walking after Him at this point. It is clarified in John 10:28, “And I give them eternal life …”
At this point the idea of following Jesus is synonymous with believing on Him, because this is the basis in John for receiving eternal life. Then there’s the additional promise that “… they will never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
This is a strong affirmation of the security of every believer is that we are not held by our behavior. We are not held by “fruit bearing”. We are not held by doing the right thing, so that if we sin, we can lose salvation or somehow escape the hand of Christ or the hand of God, because the passage goes on to apply this same statement to the Father.
In John 10:29 we read, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
John 10:30, Jesus makes a strong statement regarding His identity with the Father, “I and My Father are one.”
What we’re focusing on here is this idea of following. If you follow Jesus in this context, it’s believing on Him because the result of following Him is receiving eternal life.
Here are several passages I want to go to that emphasize this. In John 3:14 we have a very important passage that explains what faith is.
We have the word “received” Jesus in John 1:12, “As many as have received Him, to them He gave the authority to be called the sons of God.” That’s eternal life.
In John 3:14 Jesus uses this illustration of faith. He says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This comes out of an episode in Numbers 21.
The Exodus generation had left Egypt; they were somewhere in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, and were wandering in the wilderness.
The Lord had prevented them from going into the Promised Land because of their unbelief. So they’ve got to go through approximately 38 years of divine judgment in the wilderness until that generation of unbelief dies off.
One of the ways that God brought punishment on them for their grumbling, complaining, and rebelliousness towards Moses and God in the wilderness was that in this location they ran into an enormous nest of vipers, that when bitten it was fatal and they would die.
As many are dying, thousands are dying, Moses calls upon the Lord to deliver them, and God gives him instructions to make the bronze serpent, to wrap this bronze serpent on a pole like a cross, and all they’d have to do is look at the serpent on pole, and they were instantly healed. Now that is an incredible illustration of faith.
The “Lordship” heresy is promoted by John MacArthur and a large number of others: whole seminaries are devoted to Lordship salvation, many in the Southern Baptist Convention. Some Southern Baptist seminaries are completely devoted to a Lordship salvation.
It comes out of the commitment to Reform Theology and Covenant Theology, but not all. I want to make sure that that’s clear. There are a lot of Southern Baptists who understand a free-grace gospel.
But it dominates a lot of seminaries today. Dallas Seminary is dominated by a Lordship salvation. Of course, The Master’s Seminary is, although I understand that even though MacArthur is such a huge proponent of Lordship salvation, that is not necessarily true of everyone on the faculty at The Master’s Seminary.
But it is this emphasis that faith is commitment, that all of these discipleship passages we’re going to look at are describing salvation: what is needed to be saved. So understanding the meaning of faith is crucial, and we have this great simple illustration here.
It doesn’t mean commitment. That’s one of the things that the Lordship theologians will say, is that faith means to be committed to Christ. They will also say faith means to be faithful, that it means to consistently persevere in your walk with the Lord.
They will give a caveat there that sometimes you will sin, maybe there will be seasons when you are a little rebellious, but in the end game, if you are truly a believer, you will never fall from obedience for very long, and you will persevere until the end.
That is what they hang that on is the “P” in the Calvinist acronym of TULIP. The “P” standing for perseverance of the saints, that the true believer will persevere.
But all of that falls apart when you look at the analogy of what went on in the wilderness. All that was necessary was for them to look at the serpent in order to be saved. That is the perfect illustration of what saving faith is.
That just simply looking, glancing at the serpent in response to understanding that if you look at the serpent, you will instantly be healed. You can just imagine somebody, “I’m not sure, what’s going to go on here. Okay, I’m just going to glance at it.” But he’s glancing at it because he’s told, if you look at it, you’ll be saved. And that’s enough!
Our faith can be, Scripture says, like a mustard seed. The faith of a person who becomes saved and regenerate is not the faith of a strong believer who has become convinced in a profound way of who Jesus is and what He did. He is simply looking to Jesus and His death on the Cross as the means of salvation.
It is very simple; it is not commitment, it is not faithfulness, it is not perseverance. That’s adding works at the end of the gospel instead of at the beginning.
There are many denominations and people who have said, “You have to believe and be good, you have to believe and be part of our denomination, you have to believe and be baptized.” Those are upfront conditions on salvation added to faith.
But there are others who say you have to believe and then there’s an asterisk that says true belief means that you will persevere in good works. That’s adding works at the end as a secondary option instead of a primary, but it’s still necessary.
The way for them to know if you have saving faith is if you have works that are consistent with saving faith. They have problems with things like the thief on the cross who simply turns to Jesus and says, “remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
That is his expression because he has come to recognize Jesus is the Messianic King. He’s saved; it’s just faith alone.
We see in this illustration that as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, John 3:14-15, “… so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
This is the same phraseology that we have in John 10, that the one who follows Jesus will not perish. It is conditioned only on belief in Jesus. This is that same phrase I mentioned earlier, it is the verb PISTEUO in the Greek, plus EIS, which is a preposition translated “on” or “in.” Then AUTON, which is the pronoun for Him, “Believe on Him.”
He is the object of faith, so it’s not the kind of faith that saves you. That’s what perseverance Lordship salvation says. You have a different kind of faith because the faith that saves is given to you by God.
What the Scripture says is that it’s not the kind of faith I have that saves me, it’s the object of faith. Just as by looking at that serpent on the cross that was held up by Moses, they looked at that and they could believe anything. But if they looked at it—which was a sign that they believed what Moses said about looking at the serpent—they would be instantly saved or delivered from that disease.
It wasn’t eternal salvation, it was saved in the sense of being saved from the poison, the death by the serpent.
John 3:16 states the same idea, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him—see that same phrase again—whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
A of couple verses later states the same thing, uses the same phraseology, John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe—same verb—is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
It ties all of these verses together. It’s faith alone in Christ alone. We understand that the Bible says Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. And if we believe in Him we have eternal life, we will not perish.
This is what Jesus is talking about in John 10, and following Him they received eternal life.
John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.”
How do you receive everlasting life? By believing in Him. In John 10 when Jesus says to follow Him, that they receive eternal life, that means they have believed in Him.
He makes that clear again, just a few verses later in John 10:37-38, He says, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me.” He makes it clear that this idea of following in context means simple belief.
John 10:38, “but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”
John 6:40, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
When we see the words “follow Me,” that is related to believing in Me. “Follow Me” can be physical following, “follow Me” can have the idea of becoming My disciple; “follow Me” has a simple meaning of believing in Jesus.
A related, synonymous phrase that is used along with “follow Me,” “Come to Me,” is used by Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me” all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
This is an invitation, a call, to trust in Jesus as the Messiah, in context. When He says, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden,” laboring and heavy laden is related contextually to the yoke that they have on them.
That phrase “to take on a yoke” was a common phrase used in rabbinical theology at the time and among the Pharisees, that to take on the Mosaic Law for your lifestyle was to take the yoke of Moses.
Jesus is saying this puts a burden on people to try to earn their way to salvation. He is saying in contrast to the legalistic teaching of the Pharisees, “Come to Me. My yoke is easy.” It’s not legalism; it’s grace. “I will give you rest.”
In our study on worship in the last two or three lessons in Samuel on Tuesday nights, we have seen is that this phrase “rest” goes back to a Hebrew word that always has these connotations of rest in the presence of God.
It ultimately looks forward to the rest that comes when the Millennial Kingdom is established, and so it refers to that future rest. Jesus is connecting this to His kingdom message in Matthew.
When we turn to Him—and again this is similar to believing in Him—you’ll find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-30 is related to the gospel and the call in the sense of “follow Me,” “believe in Me.”
John 7:37, “On the last day of the feast—this is the feast of Tabernacles—that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let Him come to Me and drink.’ ”
Again, this is a metaphorical way to express belief in Him, “Come to Me and drink.”
John 5:40 is the flipside: those who are not willing to come to Him will not have life. Jesus said, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
Again, that is coming to Jesus, following Jesus, receiving Jesus, accepting Jesus as the Messiah. These are all synonyms for simply believing in Him. So, we see that “follow Me” can in some context relate to simple salvation or justification.
In other passages which are repeated several times, Jesus uses the term to describe an advanced commitment.
In Mark 8:34, “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me …’ ” Here we see “come after Me” used in parallel with “follow Me.” “ ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’ ”
If you were to interpret this passage as Lordship salvation advocates do, as talking about salvation, then salvation is not a gift, it is something you earn. That you would earn it because you have to deny yourself and you have to do something called “taking up your cross.”
We will look at this in a little more detail in later lessons, but taking up your cross was an idiom at that time. It’s related to what certain criminals who were going to be crucified would have to do. Only the worst rebels in the Roman Empire were crucified, and by taking up their cross, it was a symbol of their forced submission to the authority of Rome.
Taking up your cross was a simple idiom meaning to submit to the authority of God. This is not salvation; this is something subsequent to salvation. It is not a free gift here. It’s something that’s worked for and something earned.
Luke 9:23 says, “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’ ”
Several times in different contexts Jesus used this statement. That is the intensified commitment of the believer that wants to truly serve the Lord and advance spiritually. It means submission to the authority of God.
We have another use where “follow Me” relates to the command Jesus gave to the disciples, to the Twelve, to leave what they were doing, leave their occupations and to follow Him.
We have this in passages such as Mark 1:17, “Then Jesus said to them—that is the disciples, those who were fishing—‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ ” This is Peter, Andrew, James, and John. That’s calling them.
That’s not John 1; this is sometime after John 1 when they are called to a higher level of commitment related to discipleship. Luke 5 tells us the results, that when they brought their boats to land, they forsook all and they followed Him.
Mark 2:14 we’re also told about the call of Matthew, “As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alpheus—that’s Matthew—sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him.”
That’s the use of the term in a restricted sense, referring only to the calling of the Twelve.
The question that we have is, where we are on that line?
Where are we in terms of being called to be a disciple?
Are we called but not saved?
Are we called and saved but not convinced?
Are we called, convinced but not committed?
Where are we?
Every day we have to ask ourselves the question. I think every day we’re at different places along that spectrum. Hopefully, we’re at a spot where on a good day, we want to be a truly committed disciple of Jesus Christ.
In Luke 14:25 we read, “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘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.’”
That’s ratcheting up the commitment to put the Lord in front of everything else in life, including your dearest loved ones and closest family.
In Luke 14:27 He then repeats that same statement I read earlier, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Discipleship involves a commitment, submission to authority, and responding positively to the challenge that Jesus has given us.
The question for each of us is, are we willing to commit?
Are we willing to do whatever is necessary to grow spiritually?
Are we willing to commit to the cost of living our life in such a way that when it’s over with and we’re in the presence of the Lord, we hear the Lord say, “Well done good and faithful servant?”
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study and reflect upon what our Lord taught about being a student, a follower, a true learner of who Jesus is, someone committed to seeing God the Holy Spirit transform our lives through Your Word and conforming us into the image, into the character of Jesus Christ that You might be glorified.
“Father, this is not necessary to have eternity in Heaven, but it is necessary for living a life that is well pleasing to You and experiencing the fullness of blessing that You have for us.
“Father, we’re thankful for the many ways in which You provide for us and for our spiritual growth through the teaching ministry of this church. Father, we pray that You would continue to do that.
“Father, we also want to emphasize that if there’s anyone listening, who’s never trusted in Christ as Savior, that is the free gift. It’s simply believing on Him and we are freely given eternal life. But once we’re saved there is a next question and that is, are we willing to truly follow Jesus? And that’s the challenge of discipleship.
“Father, we pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”