Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Are you a disciple of Jesus?”
Mark 1:16-20 (ESV)
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ? The topic of discipleship is something that I’ve thought about since my time in seminary. I vividly remember our New Testament professor asking the class, “How many of you consider yourself to be Christian?” I wasn’t sure if this was a trick question, but it certainly was the easiest question we’ve been asked in seminary; so all of us raised our hands confidently. But after our response, the professor asked the hardest question in my years of theological training: “How many of you consider yourself to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?” I remember looking around the room, and at first no one raised their hand, and then about five of us in a class of twenty reluctantly put our hands up. Now you need to realize that this was a class of third year seminary students, many of whom had decided to make ministry a full-time career. Yet we were unsure and confused about what discipleship to Christ meant. And then my professor taught me a lesson that I will never forgot and one that I hope you will never forget. In the New Testament, there is no distinction between being a Christian and being a disciple of Christ—they are one and the same.
When we read the Great Commission in the book of Matthew, Jesus calls his first disciples to make more disciples by going out to the nations. But it’s in the book of Acts where we find that the word “Christian” was first used to identify the disciples of Jesus, which simply means those who belong to Christ or who claim to be His followers. For those of us who consider ourselves to be a Christian—and really take that calling seriously—we are committed to a lifetime of discipleship. But what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Does it mean going to church every Sunday, belonging to a Christian fellowship, and praying and reading our Bible daily? I believe being a Christian means so much more than that. If I were to summarize what it means to be a disciple in two words, it would be “FOLLOW ME.”
Christianity at its core simply means to follow Christ—no matter where, no matter what, and no matter the cost. And when we look at the Scriptures, the best example of someone who followed after Christ in this manner was one of his first disciples—Simon Peter. I love the example of Peter because it personally gives all believers hope that they can follow after Jesus. Peter’s relationship with Jesus began with a decisive action, as he left his nets and his father’s business in order to become a follower. However, Peter’s path to becoming a disciple was not without difficulty. As you study the Gospels, you realize that Peter was uneducated, prideful, and cowardly, making one mistake after another; yet Jesus never gave up on him. And ultimately, he learned how to follow his Savior. Like Peter, Jesus calls us to follow Him, and we can be encouraged that He makes ordinary fishermen and transforms them into extraordinary disciples.
Prayer: Lord, help us to heed Your call to follow after You. We are grateful that You take ordinary people like us and call us to live extraordinary lives for You. We realize that this is not easy and that our strength will fail us, but teach us how to depend upon You and to count the cost of discipleship. Give us the courage to pick up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow where You lead us. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 23
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 14: 25-33 (ESV): Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Questions to Consider
- Why does Jesus tell the crowds to hate our families and our own lives in order to become His disciples?
- What is the cross that we were meant to bear?
- What is the cost of discipleship?
- Jesus is teaching us that our old allegiances to family and personal identity must be replaced with a new commitment to Him and a newfound identity as His disciple. The large crowds that were following Jesus didn’t all have a fundamental change in the priority of their lives; their loyalties were still divided. Jesus makes it very clear that His true disciples must place Him as the highest priority in their lives. He is not suggesting that we abhor our parents or ourselves but simply to reprioritize our relationships so that He comes before anything else.
- Although all of us will have different crosses to bear, at the bottom line, the cross does refer to some degree of suffering and rejection by the world. There is no way to follow Christ completely without experiencing some level of sacrifice. Following Jesus will cost you something and although this loss may be rewarded with something far better later, there is still an initial investment that will have to be made.
- Jesus tells us that we have to be prepared to renounce everything that we have in order to follow Him. A disciple of Christ cannot hold onto anything too tightly or attempt to control his own destiny. The cost of discipleship may be a loss of a job, a relationship, wealth, or even your own safety and security. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the personal sacrifice necessary to follow Jesus and prepare accordingly.
Did you sense Jesus guiding you by the Holy Spirit recently? Did you follow or resist? Is there anything holding you back from wholeheartedly obeying God? Take a few moments to renounce the things that are competing for your allegiance, and consider how you can be a more effective disciple.