Is there a way to know that we’re truly a disciple of Jesus? Actually, there is, and more ways than one.
Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24), and said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40), and those who are like Christ will suffer persecution like Christ, although not to the same extent of course. This means, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), and “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), so every Christian should know, if they don’t already, it will be narrow path to eternal life that is difficult, and that’s why so few will find it (Matt 7:13-14), “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). If we value our family more than Christ, can we truly say we’re denying ourselves? One couple a few years ago were gone about 3 out of every 5 weeks at church and the wife was our Sunday school teacher, so we had to tell her that we need to find another teacher that will be here every Sunday for the children. This couple valued staying at the lake or visiting with family more than Christ.
When people say they follow our church services on You Tube, I tell them that this cannot replace corporate worship and if they’re following me and not Christ, I’ll lead them into the ditch. Watching sermons on the Internet is no replacement for being with the Body of Christ. If they are truly following Christ, they will not be forsaking the assembling of themselves, as is the custom of many (over half) believers (Heb 10:24-25). Instead of following Him, they follow their own agenda and walk according to their own interests and not the interests of Christ. Jesus sought out and choose the twelve disciples, not the other way around (John 15:16), and then He told them to “follow Me” and He will make them “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). We weren’t the ones who choose Christ (John 6:44), but He choose us before the earth even existed (Eph 1; Rom 8:29-30). After we are called, He tells all of us to follow Him, but if we truly want to be His disciple, it means that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross (Matt 16:24) and follow Him daily, not just on Sundays. It’s hard to follow Christ and be “fishers of men” when you are in isolation. The fact that there are over 50 “one another’s” means that we need each another to encourage one another, build up one another, and pray for one another. We don’t follow man but Christ and that shows up in shoe leather.
Counting the Cost
When we had to redo our floors at home, we had to sit down and see if we had sufficient funds to do this, and although it was tight, we were able to do it. We had no choice, but we still counted the cost to see if we could do it, so in the same way, if we want to deny ourselves and follow Him, we must count the cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book on the cost of being a disciple of Jesus, and then almost prophetically lived what he likely thought was the direct outworking of that teaching. Ultimately, the cost of being a disciple of Christ was his death in a Nazi prison camp, but he said if you want to be a disciple, look to Jesus! Dietrich Bonhoeffer desired to be a disciple of Christ and then entered into the sufferings of Christ. Paul says, that’s what He desired in order “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10), and that’s exactly what he found, or as Bonhoeffer has said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” To be a disciple of Jesus, we must deny ourselves, follow Him, and count the cost of commitment. Are we willing to pay this price?
Willing to Offend
When I say a disciple of Christ must be willing to offend, I don’t mean that we are rude or we treat people badly and offend them. What I actually mean is we should be willing to offend in order to save. You probably already know that the Word of God comforts the afflicted but it afflicts the comfortable, so we must realize that the gospel will be an offense to some and will bring comfort to others, but the Word of God wounds in order to be healed. Just like a surgeon cuts into us, he or she must do this to heal us, so we must accept the fact that when we share the gospel, to one it will be “a fragrance from death to death [but] to the other a fragrance from life to life,” so don’t take it personally, however we must not back down from the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) because it would be like not warning a sleeping family that their house is on fire. You must be willing to get them up in the middle of the night, which is less than convenient, in order to save their lives! How much more precious are these souls in eternity that will die being separated from God forever, unless they trust in Christ? If you don’t tell them, who will? Think of it that way!
I don’t believe God wants more religious people or other Christians as much as He desires disciples after His own heart, and that means we must deny ourselves, we must follow Him, we must count the cost, and not be afraid to offend if necessary. We must walk them down the Roman Road to make the Roman Road kill so that they will see their need for the Savior. Unless we are willing to tell others about the wrath of God, the grace of God will be meaningless (John 3:36).