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(CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP – Part 4)

[The Purposes of Discipleship, Cont.]

 

[ Purpose 6: To Develop an Unshakeable Faith ]

In the last article on this study in "Discipleship", I was dealing with the Purposes of Discipleship, having concluded with No. 5, which I thought was to be the last. However, the Lord has made it clear to me that there is a sixth that I should briefly deal with. There are no doubt more, but some tend to "overlap," so I believe that this No.6 will conclude this section. In "discipleship," Jesus is seeking to develop in us an unshakable and uncompromising FAITH in HIM and His WORD, that through that "channel" of faith, we might not only enjoy and profit from the blessings and benefits of His Kingdom Rule, but that He might cause to grow (through His Divine impartation) the FRUITS that reflect "Kingdom living."

First, it must be clearly understood that there is a difference between "head" (intellectual) belief or assent to truth, and "heart" faith. Jesus made it clear that the "seed" of His Word must "take root" in the heart in order to produce that which He desires: "but that (seed) on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Lk. 8:15). The "heart" stands for the entire "inner man" (Ephes. 3:16; I Pet. 3:4), which involves thoughts, motives, emotions, conscience and will. ALL of these are involved in true heart faith.

In light of the above, we might say that "heart faith" involves a number of "ingredients." Without seeking to go into all of the scriptures to confirm this perspective, just let me mention some of the ingredients that are inseparably connected with (and make possible) heart faith, such as repentance, confession, obedience, patience, steadfastness,  commitment, confidence (or assurance), hope, a clear conscience, rest, trust, and love. I simply cannot elaborate on all these in this present study. I have written an article on the "Three Elements of Divine Faith " which gives the basic essentials of faith and is available upon request. [Ed note: This article is not made available through First Love Ministry, but may be obtained from Shepherdsfield in a compendium of articles published under the name Biblical Threes.]

 

[ The Necessity of Repentance to Faith ]

I do believe I should make a few comments on repentance. For, repentance is that which prepares the "soil" of one's heart to receive the "seed" of the Word which causes faith to "take root" and grow into "fruitfulness." Without repentance there can be a head (intellectual) belief in facts or truths of the Word of God, but certainly no heart faith which makes possible the "new birth" experience and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The importance of repentance in connection with true heart faith is a study in itself and will not be dealt with in detail here, but we need to go no further than to note that Jesus began His preaching ministry with the words, "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent [  ], and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

 

[ - More Than a Change of Mental Assent ]

In the Greek, “to repent" means "to think differently after" after one has heard the truth of God's Word and realizes he must change his thinking to agree with what God says. The Greek word is metanoeo (verb form). The "meta" is a prefix meaning "after," and the rest of the word comes from the Greek nous, which means "mind." In the Greek, however, "mind" has a somewhat broader meaning than in the English.  Quoting Strong’s concordance on the Greek word nous: "the intellect, i.e. mind (divine or human; in thought, feeling, or will)." Thus "repentance" means more than just an intellectual change of thinking. It also involves the feelings and the will (implying conviction and action). Thus it indicates a total "about face" in one's life a complete "turning away" from one's former "way of life" (thinking, feeling, acting) to  GOD'S WAY. We might say that repentance is the "breaking up of the fallow (undisturbed, unattended) ground" (Jer. 4:3) of our hearts , that the "seed" of the WORD (which produces heart faithsee  Rom. 10:17) might "take root" and bring forth FRUIT!

I believe I have alluded to "fruit" before so will not elaborate now. But Jesus makes it clear in John 15:8 that "bearing fruit" is one of the primary evidences of discipleship: "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples." "Fruit" is a figure of speech indicating the attributes and character qualities that the Lord purposes to develop in our lives.   Just as fruit grows and matures slowly over a period of time, so does it require the continual submission of our lives to the Lord's working IN our lives to enable Him to produce the fruits of righteous, goodness, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance, mercy (John 15:8-17; Ephes. 5:9; James 3:17). You will notice that the New Testament mentions twelve fruits. Just as the tree of life in the New Jerusalem bears twelve kinds of fruit, so are we (as trees planted by the LordPs. 92: 12-13; 52:8; 1:3) are to also "bear" (by the Lord's working IN our lives) twelve kinds of spiritual "fruit."

But back to faith and repentance. The two cannot be separated. Jesus said, "Repent [  ] and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Peter, on the day of Pentecost declared, "Repent, and be baptized (an act of faith). Paul testified to both Jews and Greeks, "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 2:38, 20:21). Rom. 10:10 says that "with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation."   Now listen to my words: It is impossible to believe with the heart unless one has first repented. The reason is explained in the second to last paragraph above, and need not be repeated here. I quoted Rom. 10:10 that "confession" is to be made with the mouth; vs. 9 tells us what we are to confess; "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord." Now if you will just think for a moment, you will realize that if one truly confesses Jesus as LORD, it is an important indication that one has truly repented.

 

[ - A Surrendered Acknowledgement of New Divine Ownership ]

My reasoning for the above is as follows. The Greek word for Lord kurios means "to have dominion over," "to rule," to be supreme in authority," and "belonging to." It was used in Bible times to indicate one as a "Master" who owned slaves, and thus had supreme authority over them. Now, when a person comes to the place where he is willing to truly confess Jesus as LORD, it indicates that he realizes that he is "not his own," but that he has been "bought with a price" (I Cor. 6:19-20), for when Jesus died on the cross He “purchased" the fallen human race, and that we are His "slaves." The Greek word doulos is used many times in the New Testament to indicate one who is a slave, although the King James Version invariably translates the word "servant." The New American Standard vacillates between "bond-servant" and "slave." [Here is] a scripture correctly translated by the NAS, and although I have quoted it before, I will use it again to vividly illustrate the point I am seeking to make: "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and a slave as his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household (Mt. 10:24-25)." Jesus also declares in John 13:13: "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right; for so I am." (NAS version)

Now back to my main point.  Jesus as LORD means that He is supreme in authority. For one to "confess Jesus as Lord" (see Rom. 10:9), and really mean it, indicates that he has come to realize that he is "not his own"that he no longer has any right to govern or rule his own life and "do his own thing"for he must submit his life to the authority and supreme rulership of Jesus Christ. And this is the evidence of true repentance. This also confirms the Biblical perspective which I have been seeking to convey, that "salvation" (the "new birth"imparting the GIFT of eternal LIFE), comes only through true repentance and heart faith. We must realize, however, that when a newly repentant heart believer confesses Jesus as Lord, this does not mean that such a one fully realizes ALL the implications and ramifications of surrendering his life to Jesus' LORDSHIP. It becomes a learning and growing experienceeven a lifetime of ever-increasing understanding of just what Jesus' Lordship over every aspect of one's life (in word, thought, attitude, motive, and action) really meansand all the "ways" in which it is implemented. And this is where discipleship comes in, because a true disciple of Jesus Christ never quits learning and changing.

My "burden" in sharing the foregoing is based on my conviction that the vast majority of professing Christians have never been "born anew ." They are simply "head believers," assenting to certain knowledge of facts about Jesus Christ and His redemptive work, but only intellectually. They have never come to a personal (experiential) knowledge of Jesus Christ, to where He is a "living reality" in their hearts and lives. This is because they have never truly repented, with "godly sorrow" (II Cor. 7: 11), renouncing the sin and selfishness which caused them to "run" their own lives the way they wanted todoing "their own thing," and with humbleness of heart acknowledging the claims of Jesus Christ on their lives as their Lord (redeemerowner and master) and turning their lives over to Him as their supreme authority to seek to do His will. Christianity is not a "religion" but a "relationship"a personal "knowing" of Jesus Christ, and then a continual "building" of that relationship through daily communion, prayer, praise and worship, meditation in the Word, fellowship and interaction with other "born again" Christians in love, etc.

 

[ - But Not the "Means" of Salvation ]

Before leaving this phase of our study, I want to give a warning to what I believe is a serious error. Although conditioned on our heart response to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, salvation is clearly indicated by God's Word to be a GIFT (as a "seed" is a gift to the soil that has been preparedeven so we receive the gift of "eternal life" within when we are "born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God" (I Pet. 1:23), pass from death to life at that instant (John 5:24), and can know that we have eternal life (I John 5:10-13). Some are teaching, however, that only after we have become disciples and have learned to follow, Jesus can we receive eternal life. This is like putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Discipleship is to train us in the ways of the Lord AFTER we have been "born" into the Kingdom-family of God. I sought to make this clear in the first article in the section on "The Position of Discipleship," but felt to re-emphasize it here.

[Ed. Comment: Bro. Earls skillfully negotiates between the pitfalls of false repentance teaching which either denies the necessity of repentance in order to receive the gift of spirit new birth ("easy believism") or makes the gift of new birth dependent on discipleship acts of repentance (hence no longer truly a gift, but a works salvation contrary to Paul's teaching). In his later teaching, The First and the Last, Bro. Earls does acknowledge a lesser "provisional" stage of salvation through faith that can indeed be lost. This would be a salvation by faith without adequate repentance to produce new birth of the heart. While Bro. Earls does not acknowledge it, I would also advance that there is a further salvation of soul beyond spirit rebirth that is dependent on obedience to the Spirit (not the letter) of discipleship which Paul describes as being "worked out with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12) and Peter indicates is received as the "end" of our faith (I Pet. 1:9).]   

 

The Priorities of Discipleship

A "priority" is that which takes precedence over everything elsethat which must come first. Jesus made it very clear that there are certain requirements for those who would be His disciples. In general, the substance of what Jesus declared as necessary to discipleship is stated in Mt. 16:24: "If any man will come after me (read the last articlePart 3 to understand the ultimate implication of going "after Him"), let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." But Jesus gave detailed specific requirements which we need to examine carefully. The passage which gives the greatest detail is found in Luke 14:26-33. Three specific requirements are given that we need to consider.

 

[ Priority 1: Christ Before Family ]

First, in Lk. 14:26 Jesus deals with that which is probably the closest and dearest to all of usour relation to our immediate family members, and makes it very clear that if we are to be His disciples, our relationship to Him must take precedence over every human tie.  Quoting Jesus' words: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."

According to Strong's concordance of Greek words, the Greek word for "hate" can mean, not only what we usually associate with that word, but also by extension can mean "to love less." Jesus never taught us to carnally hate anyone. But just as there is a godly jealousy" (II Cor. 11:2; see also Ex. 20:5, 34:14) in contrast to carnal jealousy, and a "godly sorrow" in contrast to the sorrow that works death (II Cor. 7:10), so there is what we can call "godly hatred." This is a divinely inspired "resistance" to anything or anyone that would try to keep us from making our love and obedience to Jesus the supreme priority of our lives.

Jesus gave this requirement because He knew that inevitable conflicts would arise in households over priorities. In Matthew's account we can get a more complete picture of this priority conflict by words of Jesus not given by Luke. Quoting Mt. 10:34-37: "Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

Certainly Jesus is not deliberately trying to divide families, but He is simply "telling it like it is." He is "jealous" of the LOVE of those who aspire to be "worthy" (fit) to be chosen to be among the "elect" company who will be with Him in His heavenly glory as His Bride and Household. At all costs, our love and allegiance to Him must take precedence over every other relationship.

 

[ Priority 2: Christ Before One's Own Life ]

In order to give Jesus such absolute love and allegiance, it is necessary to fulfill another requirement, which actually has two phases to it. Both phases are given in Matthew's account in chap. 16:24: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." The essence of these two requirements is SACRIFICEwhich is actually LOVE IN ACTION. When I commented on Lk. 14:26 where Jesus indicated that we must "hate" all other relationships in comparison to Him, I did not emphasis the fact that Jesus said that such "hate" must include "yes, and his own life also."

The Greek word translated "life" in that passage is psuche, and is translated many places in the New Testament as "soul." The soul is the focal point of our selfish desire nature. If we are to be Jesus' disciples, we must learn to "hate" our selfishnessour self-centered desires to "govern" our own lives, direct our own affairs of life, do what we want to do, etc. To "deny self" means to absolutely refuse to let "self" reign in our lives, but to turn our lives over to the Lord Jesus so completely that He alone rules our lives and His will in all that we do is our consuming passion. One supreme lesson that every disciple must learn is that we can never hope to be prepared to rule WITH Christ until we are willing to be ruled BY Christ.

The correlative phase of "self-denial" is the requirement to "take up our cross and follow Jesus." In Luke 9:23 there is an added word which is important to note.   Jesus said: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Taking up our cross to follow Jesus is a DAILY commitment. Now WHAT does this mean? What did the cross mean to Jesus? If we know what the cross meant to Jesus, then we can understand what it means to "take up OUR cross" and follow Him.

In Philippians 2:8 we read that Jesus "being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross."

 To Jesus, the cross meant OBEDIENCE to the Father's will, not out of compulsion, but out of LOVE. He willingly and gladly gave His life, not only because it was the Father's will, to make possible the salvation of mankind, but because it was a joy for Him to give His life in sacrifice FOR OTHERS. So often we think of Jesus only laying down His life by His death on the cross, but actually, His entire life was "laid down" as a "living sacrifice" for others. "Taking up OUR cross daily, to follow Jesus, means that we are committed to following His example in these two basic areas: (1) above everything else, we desire to know and DO only the WILL of our Heavenly Father, as it was revealed in word and deed by Jesus in His life upon this earth; (2) as a necessary correlation to the first, and as an "outgrowth" of it, is that we are motivated by Jesus' love in us to GIVE ourselves in service to OTHERSthat we might be instruments in the hands of the Lord to meet their needs.

To help "impact" this truth upon our hearts, I will quote some scriptures to show that Jesus "bore His cross" during the entirety of His lifejoyfully, not grudgingly. The Hebrew writer tells us that because Jesus "loved righteousness, and hated iniquity," that God the Father "anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows" (Heb. 1:9). This tells us that Jesus was the most joy-filled, happiest, man that ever lived on the face of this earth. But let me quote some of Jesus' own words from the NAS version. "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does these things the Son also does in like manner… I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 5:19, 30). "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me" (John 8:28). "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak… Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?   The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 12:49, 14:10).

 

According to the pattern which Jesus manifested in His life, the things that God desires from us more than anything else is OBEDIENCE from the heartjoyfully, out of LOVE; and the willingness to give our lives in sacrifice to others. This is the essence of "taking up our cross daily and following Him (His example). John in his first epistle admonishes us: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." But I think we all realize that this is easier to give mental assent than to put into daily practice. There is a two-fold reason for this.   First, even though we may be "born-again" Christians, we have the carnal propensity to the self-centered and too often the selfish desire to put ourselves, and what we conceive as our own interests first, instead of the Lord and others. But as we have seen, discipleship requires that we deny self. What we fail to realize is that the greatest joy and fulfillment comes to us when we live first to seek to please the Lord and do only His will, and also "lay down" our lives in service to others (beginning with those of our own household). But because of that innate selfish propensity, we have to DAILY lay down the self-life and take up our cross. This means that daily we must let the Lord "dig" into the inner motives our hearts, and yield to the inner cleansings of His Word and His Spirit, giving ourselves to "watching and praying." I will amplify on this shortly.

 

But secondly we must realize that we have an adversary. In I Peter we read: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour." The devil will lie to us, deceive, misrepresent to us circumstances and people, and use every other "trick" possible to get us off the "path of the cross" back into the path of self-indulgent, "me-first" syndrome.   This is why in Luke 14, where Jesus enunciates the priority of “cross-bearing” in order to follow Him, He amplifies with a parable to “drive home” the point. I will quote the whole context so that you can see the connection. “And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. FOR which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn't sit down first, and counts the cost, whether he has sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14:27-30). The key point of this parabolic illustration is that we must COUNT THE COST of discipleship to Jesus Christwhich means total commitment to Him and His will above every other interest and relationship of our lives. And we have already seen that this involves sacrificeeven separation between family members at times. But there is ANOTHER COST that is the main teaching [regarding] this man in the parable who would build the tower. We need to understand the purpose of a “Tower” as it was used in Bible times. A tower was a fortified structure rising to a considerable height on walls of a city to enable a watchman to see in every direction to detect any approaching enemy. Towers were also built in vineyards as an almost necessary appendage to them (Isa. 5:2; Mt. 21:33; Mk. 12:1). They were used to watch for thieves or marauders who would come to raid, plunder or destroy, or for small animals who could “squeeze” through the outer hedge and spoil the vines. Song of Solomon 2:15 says that it is the "little foxes (sins) that spoil the vines." Such towers in vineyards served as lodges for the keepers of the vineyards.

"Building a tower" refers symbolically to our spiritually oriented devotional and prayer life in communion with Christ our Lord, that we might "watch" (be alert) against our adversary the devil and all of his evil devices. After "laying the foundation" (see I Cor. 3:10-11), we begin to "build" on [ it ] the "tower" of our spiritual relationship to Christ Jesus. In the context of our study, we must "count the cost" of the time and effort that MUST be given to prayer and communion with the Lord. Jesus said to His disciples, "tarry [ ] here, and watch with me" (Mt. 26:38), and again, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mt. 26:41). The Greek word translated "watch" means literally to "keep awake." In the New Testament, "sleeping" is symbolically associated with spiritual lethargy and indifferencea state of careless apathy. (See Rom. 13:11; I Thess. 5:5-6; Ephes. 5:14.) To "watch" means to be spiritually alert, vigilant, actively praying and seeking the Lord that Satan not ensnare us in His wiles and temptations. Some New Testament admonitions along this line are: I Pet. 4:7, "But the end of all things is at hand: be [ ] therefore serious, and watchful in prayer;" I Cor. 16:13, “Watch [ ], stand fast in the faith… be strong;" Col. 4:2,  "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" I Thess. 5:6, "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be serious." Are you daily "building your tower" UPWARDS in your spiritual communion, prayer, and love-relationship with Jesus Christ?

Another implication of the "tower" is the symbolic representation of the Heavenly Kingdom in contrast to the Earthly. I mentioned that a tower in a vineyard served also as a lodging place for the keepers of the vineyard. God's Kingdom people (both under the Old and New Covenants) are likened to a vineyard, husbandry (field or cultivated land NAS version of I Cor. 3:9); see Mt. 21:33-43, Lk. 13:6-9). All "born again" Christians who have received the gift of eternal life are a part of God's Kingdom people. But this "gift" only restores to us what Adam lost when he sinned "life" for the soul now, and resurrection to an immortal body on this earth in the coming millennium. However, a part of the gospel"good news"is that for those who are willing to fulfill the conditions of discipleship, and thus "press on toward the mark for the prize of the high ('heavenly'see Heb. 3:1) calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14),  God is preparing a "lodging place" in the "tower" of the Heavenly Kingdom and glory, [for those] who will be the "keepers" (rulers with Christ) OVER those in the earthly Kingdom. The reason that the man in the parable of Lk. 14:28 is pictured as "counting the cost," "whether he has sufficient to finish it," is because Jesus Himself said that with reference to the Heavenly Bride and Household (attendants), "many are called, but few (relatively speaking) are chosen" (Mt. 22:14). See also Rev. 19:7-9.

 

[ Priority 3: Christ Before All Material  Possession ]

The third priority of discipleship as given in Luke, chap. 14, starts with Jesus giving a parable and then following it with the requirement. I will first quote the whole passage. "Or what king, going to make war against another king, doesn't sit down first, and consults whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation, and desires conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple (Lk. 14:31-33)." Jesus was speaking of spiritual things. But first we must understand the purely material aspect of this parable. Remember that a parable contains "veiled" truth, and it can be understood by revelation of the Spirit. To reduce the 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers of the two kings down to the material realm, we divide by 10 and get 1,000 and 2,000. In dealing with material time factors, we know that a day is with the Lord as a thousand years. The Jews of Jesus day were looking for the restoration of the earthly kingdom of David. From the time that David began his reign over Israel until the time of Christ was almost exactly 1000 years, and from the time of Jesus' first coming until His second coming is to be approximately 2000 years. We know from Scripture that David is to be raised up to rule over the earthly kingdom (Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24). Although about 2,000 years in material time separates Jesus' first and second coming, we know that His Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36), and is to be set up in the "heavenlies" above the earth when He returns, but to supervise the earthly kingdom.

The king with the 10,000 has a decision of maketherefore he sits down and consults with himself. He knows that the king with 20,000 (Christ) is coming to establish His Kingdom over the earth and nothing can stop HimHe has superior strength to do it. The true disciple, regardless of when he has lived down through this age, has recognized the claims of Christ on His life, lets His life to be totally "conquered" by the coming King, that the glorious purpose might by fulfilled to have his life "raised" to the "higher realms" of the coming Heavenly Kingdom. He considers the "cost" of resisting full and unconditional surrender (and be "disqualified" for the prize of the high calling"see I Cor. 9:27 NAS version), having to settle for the "lower" or earthly kingdom, and he "sends a delegation" while the king is yet at a distance (with reference to His second coming) and expresses a desire (joyfully and willingly) for conditions of peace (through total submission and obedience). THAT is the spiritual essence of the parable; the "price" for inheriting the heavenly Kingdom.

Jesus then gives the "bottom line" in plain terms: "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple" (Lk. 14:33). The Greek word translated "forsakes" means literally "to say adieu (by departing or dismissing); or figuratively to renounce, to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot).” To those of us who really mean business about our discipleship, I believe that this requirement means that we "release ownership" of EVERYTHING that we have and "assign" it over to Jesus.  We merely become stewards (trustees) of that which belongs to God, and is at His disposal to use, or to assign for His ministry and glory in any way that will forward His purposenot only for my life, but for the lives of all who belong to Him. My possessions and my relationships are unconditionally turned over to Him, so that my primary task is only to seek to know HIS WILL and DO it, for only He knows what is best for me and all others that my life is related to or "touches" in some way.

In terms of the parable we have just considered of the two armies, we can say, "I have considered the consequences of wanting my own way and trying to direct my own affairs, and in terms of the on-going, "flowing tide" and inevitable conquest of the KING of kings and LORD of lords, I have made a quality decision to give up my way, my plans, my life, my possessions, my relations and submit totally to His love plan to discipline my life according to the precepts and instructions of His Word. I will not compromise or turn back. I will rather "suffer loss" in terms of what man thinks rather than "hang on" to anything that would hinder my "following after" Him until I reach that "prize" of belonging to HIM in the totality of my being, and a part of that company of saints who will ultimately "lodge" in that "tower" of His Heavenly Kingdom and Glory."

By His grace, I can say with Bob Moorhead: "I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won't look back; I won't slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, taint vision, mundane talking, chincy giving and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotion, plaudits or popularity. I don't have to be right, I don't have to be first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, walk by patience, lift by prayer, labor by power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my God reliable, my mission clear. I can't be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I'm stayed up, stirred up, prayed up, paid up, fused up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus!"

To "forsake all that we have" in order to be Jesus' disciples, means the same in principle as it did when Jesus walked this earth. However, our perspective is somewhat different. When Jesus was on this earth as a man, those who chose to follow Him and be discipled by Him, had to literally leave behind home, family, etc. This was especially true of the "twelve," whom Jesus chose out of all His disciples to be apostles, and also to be WITH HIM all the time (see Mark 3:13-19). There were other disciples who followed Him and were taught of Him at various times, but were not with Him all the time. Among these were the "seventy" whom He appointed to go out "two by two" to go before Him into every city where He would enter into. There were others who followed Him at times, among whom were women, who ministered to Him out of their material substance (see Lk. 8:1-3). Yet all were disciples.

We no longer have a literal [ed.i.e., physically manifest] Jesus to follow after, even as the apostle Paul says, "though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more" (II Cor. 5:16). Our "following Him" now is a spiritual pursuit. But the principle of "forsaking ALL" to follow Him remains the same, even though its practical outworking may be somewhat different. IS IT WORTH IT? Peter had the same question in mind, when, as recorded in Mt. 19:27, he asked Jesus: "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed you, what shall we have therefore?" In the verses following (28-30): "And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, that you who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." Jesus deals first with the twelve, assuring them that they would be a part of His ruling Kingdom because they had been willing to follow Him for the purpose of having their lives "regenerated" (the Greek word not only means that re-birth which infuses the soul with Jesus' own life and nature, but also that spiritual renovation of the inner being which continues throughout one's life IF one "follows after" (pursues) Jesus with all of his heart).   He then gives assurance that anyone who would have to forfeit possessions or relationships for their wholehearted devotion to Him would receive "an hundredfold"besides being assured of "eternal life."

[Ed. Note: For more detailed discussion of discipleship in the regeneration, please see the final paragraphs of Bro. Earls' teaching The Voice of the Bridegroom. Also, please note a distinction between "having" eternal life through the free gift of new birth (Jn. 3:36; 5:24; 6:47) and "inheriting" eternal life (Mt. 19:29 as discussed here and also Jn. 6:27) which only comes as a result of completing one's course of discipleship. These are separate dimensions of the same Life applying to different realms of salvation which must not be confused.]

 

Although we do not have a right to try to "read into" the words of Jesus something He did not say or mean, we must also realize that He did not speak as an ordinary man; therefore we must not treat His words as those of an ordinary man.  He spoke from God's perspective of His plan for man. Therefore many times in what we might consider ordinary conversational teaching, are "veiled" truths ("hidden nuggets") that can only be revealed by the Spirit. I believe that when Jesus promises that those who are willing to "suffer loss" for His name's sake shall receive an "hundredfold," this is a reference to the 100-fold category of Christiansharking back to the basic parable of the Word-seed yielding three categories the 30-fold, 60-fold, and 100-fold. I have clearly demonstrated in my other writings that only the 100-fold Christians are candidates for the Heavenly Kingdom and Glory. The 30- and 60-fold groups will have their lot on this earth.

Some might question this, since in Mark's account of these words of Jesus, there is given an added thought. Quoting from Mark 10:29-30: "There is no man that has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."

 

Those who have gotten into the extreme prosperity teaching, have used this scripture to try to prove that for every one dollar we give to the Lord,  He is bound by His Word to give us a hundredfold, or one hundred dollars back.    I do believe there is a spiritual law that what we give to God or others (with the right motive) will eventually return to us many-fold (in one way or another). However, that is another subject and I will not deal with it here. The Scripture I am now dealing with, as quoted above, has nothing to do with our giving to God, although the "prosperity" teachers misuse it that way. It has to do with those who are willing to "suffer loss" rather than compromise their commitment to Jesus Christ. In some way they have been rejected, cast out, disinherited, and thus have had to "forsake" possessions or relationships. And Jesus is assuring them that their loss will be made up to them in the context of the larger family of God, wherein they shall receive (in care, love and fellowship) "an hundred-fold" more in houses (that they would find "refuge" in), as well as brethren in Christ; and also Christian sisters, mothers, children, etc., in the Christian community. Seeing this application, however, does not negate what I previously suggested concerning the fact that Jesus was giving a "veiled" reference to the 100-fold category of Christians. Jesus spoke from the perspective of infinite wisdom, even the "manifold" (many-sided) wisdom of God (see Ephes. 3:10), and we are therefore justified in seeing more than one application to many of His words.

Beloved, we have seen that discipleship requires "priorities." Our commitment to Christ must come first IF we want God's highest and best. We must seek the wisdom of God as to just how to implement such priorities with reference to all our relationships and possessions, and also the will (determination) to carry them out. This does not mean that we neglect our natural responsibilities in daily routine of life. Much could be said about this but my space has run out. Next issue will deal with the "proofs" of discipleship.

 

[Next: The Priorities of Discipleship, Cont., & The Proofs of Discipleship  ]

 

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