We’ve been talking about discipleship. But not just any kind of discipleship; we’ve been talking about the kind of discipleship Jesus talked about, and lived out – revolutionary discipleship!
What is discipleship?
Discipleship is the ongoing process of becoming like Christ.
- Process – it takes place over time
- Ongoing process – it never ends (in this lifetime)
- Becoming like Christ – that’s our goal; that’s what we’re after – to become more and more like Jesus. Discipleship is the ongoing process of spending so much time with God that we start to look like, sound like, feel like Jesus to the world!
Discipleship is about character development – developing the character of Christ. And developing character takes time, and there is always some difficulty along the way!
“No pain, no gain.”
I remember seeing signs with this message on it in the gym I used to work out in when I was in high school and college. It was a reminder that if you’re going to improve your physical condition, it involves some pain, pushing your muscles to the limit. But in the end, it will be worth it!
Discipleship is about Jesus!
John 6 begins with Jesus feeding thousands of people. As a result of that incredible miracle, Jesus sensed the people were ready to take him by force and make him king. So he escaped into the hills. Later, he rejoined his disciples, who were in a boat, by walking on the water.
And the next morning, Jesus had a conversation with the crowds who were still in awe of this miracle. But they weren’t satisfied; they wanted to see another miracle, one like manna being provided in the wilderness for God’s people, in Moses’ day.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst.”
You see, it’s all about Jesus!
- It’s not about me
- It’s not about you
- It’s not about building a great church
- It’s certainly not about a building
- It’s not about doing what you or I want
It’s simply about Jesus …
- Getting to know Jesus
- Becoming like Jesus
- Getting hungry and thirsty for Jesus
- Getting passionate about Jesus
- Getting together, as often as you can, with other people who are passionate about Jesus, too
How did the crowds respond to Jesus’ words?
They started murmuring, complaining, and even arguing with each other. They said, “This is too hard for anyone to understand. How can anyone accept it?” And they walked away!
Discipleship is Costly!
Discipleship involves great responsibility. You must deny yourself; take up your cross, and follow Christ. You must give up your life, for Jesus and the Gospel.
Sometimes the road gets difficult, and we don’t understand. Sometimes we don’t understand what’s going on; sometimes we don’t understand what God is doing or saying.
And when the crowds are not getting Jesus, instead of “lowering the bar” and making it easier to people to cross the line of faith, he makes it harder.
“I don’t have to survive!”
You see, Jesus lived by a motto that every leader must follow: “I don’t have to survive!”
“Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1.10)
Jesus was not a “people pleaser.” He didn’t change or even soften his words; he didn’t lower the requirements when he saw that the people weren’t getting it.
The sad thing is that, in the midst of great blessing and encounter with God, the people missed it! It was about getting bread from heaven, or seeing a sign; it’s about a journey, a journey of following Jesus.
I think Jesus is saying at least two things …
- We need to have such an intimate relationship that I become a part of you! When you eat something, it becomes part of you. “You are what you eat!”
- You need to participate in my death.
Isn’t it Jesus’ death that we remember when we have communion? Through communion, we participate in the death of Christ, and remember and celebrate the life Christ brings us!
And through the other sacrament, baptism, that’s also a participating in the death of Christ, which brings life. Through baptism, we share together in the death and the life of Christ!
“This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
This statement wasn’t just made by the crowds, the onlookers; it was made by his own followers, disciples. Discipleship was getting hard; it was getting a little too revolutionary for their comfort!
Discipleship involves testing, lots of testing!
Have you seen the new Staple’s commercial? There are a series of scenes of difficult situations, and each time, the person involved presses this big read button with the word “easy” printed on it. A father must change diapers of twins, so he presses the “easy” button; a surgeon is about to start an extremely difficult procedure, and he presses the “easy” button. Sometimes I wish there was an “easy” button in life. But there isn’t one!
“God is not as concerned about our comfort as he is our character.” (Rick Warren)
It takes time!
The sculptor who carved Mount Rushmore was once asked if he did a perfect job of sculpting the faces of the four presidents. “No,” he replied. “The nose of George Washington is about an inch too long, but it’s okay. In a thousand years, erosion will make it just right.”
“It takes twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make the man.” (E.M. Bounds)
“Are you going to leave, too?”
Jesus asked the Twelve, “Are you going to leave, too?” Peter said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life.” Following Jesus along the revolutionary way takes passion and commitment!
“I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20)