And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 20: 18-20 NKJV)
We’ve gotten off track. We’ve blinded ourselves to God’s truth and to the commandments he’s placed on our lives. We’re too busy getting by to realize God is trying to settle the bill on our soul. We’re too self-involved, trying to build our kingdom, so we’ve forgotten we weren’t called to rich and fame. No, we were called into the discipleship.
I wrote this piece a few years back. Curiously, I felt God putting this back in my heart. Not as it’d been, but more, better, bigger. I’ve been struggling with faith lately. As many know, 2020 has been a hard year. We have a major pandemic afflicting the world. We Americans had an election. There have been mass killings. There has been so much evil. And many of us have just given up. But, if you believe in God, if you want to follow the teachings laid out in scripture, I’m here to tell you God knew this year was going to be like this. He knew and still called us to serve.
If you were ever told following Jesus was easy, someone lied to you. It isn’t easy and it isn’t supposed to be. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the GREAT commission. Faith requires fire to temper it and hardship to test it. So, how do our lives really serve God? Sure, we go through our hardship, but the end goal is not a closeness with Him; it’s the paycheck at the end of two weeks and a few days breathing room. That’s not putting Christ before ourselves. Christ wants our discipleship, not adherence to our daily idols.
But, what is a disciple? A disciple is a follower of Christ. Jesus laid out the requirements to be a disciple in Luke 14:25-35. You have to love Him more than anyone else. I love my wife more than anyone on this earth. Except for God and his glorious son. Next, you have to deny yourself and take up the cross. Our comforts, ambitions, and perceived necessities pale in comparison to doing His work. You have to forsake all you have. That’s not a call to live in squalor. It’s more that our material possessions have become our idols and the gods we sacrifice to. Finally, you have to count the cost; do you truly have what is needed to follow Him? Are you in a place where you’re willing to let the frivolous go and set out on a truly great adventure?
Discipleship is not easy. To truly follow Jesus, we must understand that our priorities need realignment. We spend our free time playing video games, existing on social media, socializing with friends, and just going through the grind. It’s a daily struggle. It’s easy to get bogged down and forgetful. It doesn’t always seem like things are preventing our pursuit of God. We go to church, maybe even join a community group or Bible study. We talk about Jesus and His love from time to time. But our passion and devotion fixates on the lives we are living. It’s on accumulating things that will make our existence on this planet just a bit more bearable. So what do we do? How do we really follow Jesus and throw away the things that shouldn’t matter?
I think it comes down to realizing that nothing outside Jesus Christ can save our souls. Sure, having money, friends, and things to do improve the quality of life. Being able to pay our bills ensures comfort we’d not have on the streets. But, having faith in God’s Son ensures our souls enter into the holy doorway so we may join Him in the kingdom.
I am not saying we should not take care of our responsibilities. Bills won’t stop coming- boy, we wish they would! But, we have to decide where the glory goes and who we’re really seeking. Are we seeking God’s glory or our own well-being? Now, I’m burdened by the sheer apathy we see in Christians. We want His blessings, but we’ve formed gods out of the day to day things. We have lost true discipleship and many have traded true discipleship for getting by. Are we any better than Judas, selling Him out for our 30 pieces? Christianity is not about our convenience! It is not. If we waited for our time, if we waited until we felt ready, then our new gods and idols will have won. And, if we keep waiting, we’re not talking to others about Jesus. Or, to use a phrase I’ve heard recently; we’re not sharing our Jesus story.
Faith isn’t just a battle. It’s a street fight. We are going to get bloody and wounded. The world is going to be at our throats. Its god will scrabble for your soul. Who will win? Jesus? Or, these things you sacrifice to every day? When we’re living a life based on our own needs, God tends to tumble- no, we shove Him- to the wayside. Don’t have time to talk about Jesus today, have to pay the power bill! I understand. I really do. I’m sure God does too.
Name one time when He tolerates putting anything above Himself. Remember Luke 16:13? You cannot serve two masters. Now, I don’t want to sound preachy and patronizing. I’m not telling you that life is fair and you can do better. I’ve worked sixteen-hour days to put food on the table only to realize it just isn’t enough. I have woken up angry because I didn’t know what to do about bills due several days before a horribly insufficient paycheck. It isn’t fair. It’s easy to put these things first, to hope something better comes along. When you’re weary and miserable, do you really want to read your Bible and give thanks? Do you really want to tell others about how loving our God is? Not always.
To make disciples, we must first be a disciple. We must talk to our Father. We must talk to our spiritual leaders. We must pray. We must read our Bibles. We must strip away the excess. We must submit to His authority. And we must not let our sin get in the way of bringing others to Him. Friends, we live in a world that’s hellbent on crushing us, on distracting us with pleasure and pain, so there are no real warriors for God.
To be a disciple, we must first love God. To love God, we must first know Him. To know Him, we must read His word and pray. Also, we must risk looking foolish for His glory. I think it’s a perfect time to turn this around and give our lives back to Him. That way, it’s not just God’s Great Commission. It’s ours too.