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"One day when large groups of people were walking along with Him, Jesus turned and told them, 'Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters - yes, even his own self - can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me, can't be my disciple.'" Luke 14:25-27 (The Message).
What is Jesus demanding? It sounds as though He is bent on breaking up families, almost as though He is on an ego trip. Is this really His intention? Once again, as we peer into the issues of the kingdom, like peering into a rock pool, we see things in the depths which are obscured in a casual glimpse.
What is discipleship? Unlike other religions that demand adherence to rules or rituals, to be a disciple of Jesus means to be reconnected and fused to Him who is the source of life. Jesus never demands an allegiance to Him that makes us losers. His promise is that our commitment to Him means that we will never be diminished.
So what does He mean?
Discipleship is much more than answering an altar call or signing a decision card. It is not a free ticket to heaven, leaving us to carry on with our own lives with the guarantee of eternal life when we die because we carry our 'passport' in our back pocket. So much of what is preached as the 'gospel' today is a distortion of the truth. Jesus did not come and die to save us from hell and take us to heaven.
That may be true if we understand the concepts correctly. Yes, He did come and die to rescue us from hell, but the hell He talked about was not the hell of eternal fire but the hell of a wasted life that completely misses the point of our existence; God created us to be mirrors of Himself so that the whole of the created order can 'see' the glory of God in our attitudes and behaviour.
Jesus came to show us the Father and to remove the barriers that separate us from Him so that we can enjoy His fellowship and favour all the days of our lives. In that intimate connection with Him, we grow to be like Him and reflect Him in our daily journey through life. Jesus promised to take us to the Father, but that demands submission and obedience to Him as Lord. It demands a revised attitude towards those who are closest to us and even towards ourselves because we have become espoused to a new lover.
We do not lose our connection with family and friends - we redefine it. Our obligation to them and to ourselves changes. They are no longer our first consideration - Jesus is -and He determines the way we relate to them. For example, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Now that's a radically different way from the way that husbands usually treat their wives. That does not mean renouncing them; it means loving the way Jesus loves, bringing us nearer to the model Jesus shows by the way He treats us who are His bride.
When we recognise the beauty of this new way of life, drawing our life's energy and direction from Him, we also realise that, instead of renouncing our earthly relationships, we redefine and purify them from selfishness to loving service in the pattern and power of our Master. But this can only happen as we let go of the old ways of relating to them and strengthen our allegiance to Jesus as our Lord and then learn to imitate Him in the ways He related to people.
Jesus' intention is to change society by changing people, and that only comes as we renounce our old selfish ways and live in intimate and uncluttered connection with Jesus, our source because He insisted, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." John 15:6 (NIV).
But it's your choice...
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