Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Whoever does not persevere and carry his (her) own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14: 27
“There is always the shadow of the cross resting upon the Christian’s path. Is that a reason why you should avoid or not undertake the duty? Have you made up your mind that you will follow your Master everywhere else, save when He ascends the path that leads to the cross? Is that your religion? The sooner you change it, the better. The religion of the Lord Jesus Christ is the religion of the cross, and unless we take up our cross, we can never follow Him.”
W. Hay Aiken
Today’s Study Text:
“Peter started to say to (Jesus), ‘Behold, we have yielded up and abandoned everything (once and for all and joined You as Your disciples, siding with Your party) and accompanied You, (walking the same road that You walk).’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has given up and left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for My sake and for the Gospel’s who will not receive a hundred times as much now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.’”
Mark 10: 28-30
“Behold The Man” – Part 15
“What’s The Price Tag on Discipleship?”
“The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old (person) which is the result of (our) encounter with Christ.”
What does it mean for me to be called to be a disciple of Jesus?
“The Lord doesn’t ask about your ability, only your availability; and, if you prove your dependability, the Lord will increase your capability.”
“Choose this day whom you will serve;
we will choose the living God.
The road is narrow that leads to life;
we will walk the way of Christ.
Faith is not our holding on;
faith is letting go.
We offer more than words, O God;
We offer You our lives.”
Many years ago, when Jim and I still lived in California, both his family and mine, including our siblings, lived within an hour of each other. Holidays turned into a free-for-all as we traded places from year-to-year, having as many people as possible to our annual celebrations. One tradition that developed was that Jim’s sister Irma and her husband and children came out to our house to stay every New Year’s holiday. Without fail, Irma and I would spend one day hitting the local mall, trying to find the best “deals” in the after Christmas sales. I still remember one year going into a larger department store, only to find rows of clothing racks shoved together so tightly you could scarcely move in the cramped space. I had been looking for a couple of dresses I could wear to client events and so I began the search, going through those racks with my eyes focused on one thing – the price tag on each item. The first criteria I was using was the cost. And just to report, I found two dresses for less than $25.00 each. I was thrilled with my bargain hunting. As I reflected on that experience over the past few weeks, during my study of the wealthy young ruler, it hit me like a glass of ice water in my face that at times in my own life, I’ve looked at “discipleship” or what I will call the “following” of God’s call upon my life, just like I looked at the sales rack in the store. In the past, when it came to God’s asking me to follow Him, I always checked the price tag to see just what the cost would be. Here’s where I really covered up the darkness in my own heart. I could perform the church duties; work for a myriad of Christian organizations; pray and sing at all the right moments in time yes I could, because it didn’t cost me a lot. I was one of the group, part of the party, as the Amplified Bible quotes the Apostle Peter, who very piously reminded Jesus of all he and the other disciples had given up to follow Jesus. Shouldn’t it just be automatic to get a reward for doing the right thing?
Frankly, this was the very logic the rich young man used when trying to get the formula from Jesus for entrance into heaven. This young man, and even Jesus’ closest friends, wanted to get a pass code they could punch that would open the gates of glory. And before I scoff at them, I need to pull back the curtains on my own motives and heart for just like those individuals so long ago, I’d like the easy road in. Into heaven, that is. This is why Jesus was so direct with the young man. One of the things I love about sharing the words penned by some of the old-time pastors and evangelists is that there was a blunt clarity to their messages. Matthew Henry embodies this direct spirit in his comments on Mark 10. Jesus knew it would be from the group of disciples around him, even though few in number, that the new Christian church would get its life blood once Jesus’ went back to heaven. This young church would face “tribulation and persecution because of the word”…So the question on that day became: “Could the young man find it in his heart to go through the hardest, costliness of services he might be called to as a disciple of Christ?” Then Matthew Henry continues with an insight that made me think he had looked into my thought process: “We are tempted to wish that Christ had (softened) the saying which frightened the young gentleman from following Jesus and by any explanation taken off the harshness of it: but Jesus knew all the hearts. He would not court the man to be His follower because he was a rich man and a ruler. If he would go, let him go. Christ will keep no (one) against their will and so therefore we do not find that Christ called him back, but took this occasion to instruct His disciples.” And I’ll add, it is instruction for His followers down through time, right to today in a place called Transformation Garden.
Probably no one has penned more about “discipleship” than the Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer who upon learning he was to be executed for plotting to kill Hitler wrote, “You must never doubt that I’m traveling with gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where I’m being led. My past life is brim full of God’s goodness, and my sins are covered by the forgiving love of Christ crucified.” The price of discipleship, of following Jesus, no matter where it led was not too high for Pastor Bonhoeffer whose life of faithfulness is a testament to Jesus’ followers to this very day.
And if you are wondering about those disciples who surrounded Jesus that day long ago when He was laying out the cost they might have to pay for following Him – well, here’s a glimpse of where their earthly path led. In their book World Christian Trends A.D. 30-A.D. 2200, authors David Barrett and Todd Johnson share this information on the ending of the lives of Jesus’ disciples:
1. Peter: Crucified upside down.
2. James the son of Zebedee: Beheaded. The first disciple to die.
3. Nathaniel: Crucified.
4. Andrew: Crucified.
5. Mathias: Burned.
6. Matthew Levi: Stabbed.
7. Dr. Luke: Hanged
8. Phillip: Hanged.
9. James the Less: Stoned
10. Thomas: Speared
11. Judas Thaddeus: Clubbed.
12. John the Beloved: Banished to the Island of Patmos.
The price wasn’t too high for any of these twelve. Nor was it for the Apostle Paul who wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, “I give thanks to Him who has granted me the needed strength and made me able for this. Christ Jesus our Lord, because He has judged and counted me faithful and trustworthy, appointing me to this ministry. Though formerly (I) blasphemed and persecuted and was shamefully and outrageously and aggressively insulting to Him, nevertheless, I obtained mercy…and the grace of our Lord flowed out superabundantly and beyond measure for me, accompanied by faith and love that are to be realized in Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 1: 12-14, Amplified Bible). You see, the Apostle Paul was really the rich young ruler, too. Being groomed by the religious elite of his day to be a leader in their “party.” But on the road to Damascus, Jesus came to him, just like He did to the young ruler and as He does today to you and me and said, “Follow Me I need you as my disciple.” For the Apostle Paul – no price tag was too high – not when he looked at what Jesus had done for him.
I love these words which were found in the diary of Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who died at the age of 29 in Auschwitz, Poland:
“God, take me by Your hand, I shall follow You dutifully, and not resist too much. I shall evade none of the tempests life has in store for me, I shall try to face it all as best I can. But now and then grant me a short respite. I shall never again assume, in my innocence, that any peace that comes my way will be eternal. I shall accept all the inevitable tumult and struggle. I delight in warmth and security, but I shall not rebel if I have to suffer cold, should You so decree. I shall follow wherever Your hand leads me and I shall try not to be afraid.”
“Today, in our Affirmation, I chose to use the words penned by Bill and Gloria Gaither to their song, “I Will Serve Thee.” Recently, I receive an e-blast from the fantastic vocal duo of Reggie and Ladye Love Smith. I like to have “heavenly” music playing in the background as I work on the devotionals each day and much to my delight, their new CD- “Thank You Lord” came by mail yesterday. I believe it was providential for on this CD is, what I believe to be one of the most beautifully written songs, “I Will Serve Thee” which is our answer to Jesus’ call to you and me today.
“Dear Lord, let my life today be the channel through which some little portion of Your divine love and pity may reach the lives that are nearest to my own.”
“I will serve Thee because I love Thee,
You have given life to me,
I was nothing before You found me,
You have given life to me.
Heartaches and broken pieces
Ruined lives are why You died on Calvary,
Your touch is what I long for,
You have given life to me.”
Lyrics: William J. Gaither
“What God asks us to do, He equips us to do.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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