f any man will come after me’’ (Luke 9:23)
Discipleship means ‘’discipline!’’ The disciple is that one who has been taught or trained by the Master, who has come with his ignorance, superstition, and sin, to find learning, truth, and forgiveness from the Saviour. Without discipline we are not disciples, even though we profess His Name and pass for a follower of the lowly Nazarene. In an undisciplined age when liberty and license have replaced law and loyalty, there is greater need than ever before that we be disciplined to be His disciples.
Discipleship requires the discipline of conversion, wherein we recognize our lost estate because of rebellion against God, and with penitence come to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We assent from our hearts that ‘’all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way’’ (Isa. 53:6), that ‘’all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’’ (Rom. 3:23), that ‘’the Scripture hath concluded all under sin’’ (Gal. 3:22), and that we ‘’were by nature the children of wrath, even as others . . . strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world’’ (Eph. 2:3, 12).
This discipline is difficult for the natural heart of each one, for we will not humble ourselves to admit our sin and shame; but it is easy for the honest and good heart that sees itself in the light of Calvary’s Sacrifice for sin. In the dispensation before the Cross, David, seeing himself, cried, ‘’I have sinned against the Lord’’; to which God replied through His servant, ‘’the Lord also hath put away thy sin’’ (2 Sam. 12:13). When Peter saw himself in the light of the Lord’s presence and power, he fell down saying, ‘’Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord’’ (Luke 5:8). A woman wept as she stood by His feet, which she washed with her tears of repentance; and she heard the Saviour’s word, ‘’Thy sins are forgiven . . . thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace’’ (Luke 7:48, 50). The penitent Publican smote his breast in genuine sorrow for sin, and prayed, ‘’God, be merciful to me a sinner’’ (Luke 18:13), and went home justified.
Thus it has been down the ages; the despondent, despairing of themselves, have come to the Saviour for mercy, and have been saved. ‘’Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us’’ (Titus 3:5). ‘’But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name’’ (John 1:12). Without salvation no sonship; without sonship, no discipleship!
It is His sons whom God disciplines that they might bring honor to His name. He wants to teach and train them, to soften and sweeten them, to strengthen and steady them, that they may show forth the excellencies of Him who told them, ‘’Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls’’ (Matt. 11:29). Without discipline we are not His sons; but as His own we need the exhortation, ‘’My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son who he receiveth’’ (Heb. 12:5, 6). This discipline at the moment may not seem ‘’to be joyous, but (rather) grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby’’ (12:11).
Discipleship requires the discipline of cost. Our Lord’s words search deeply into the depth of our souls, as He says, ‘’He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’’ (Matt. 10:37). On a later occasion He amplified that statement to divine principle by saying, ‘’If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple’’ (Luke 14:26).
What can be the meaning of this strong, unsubdued standard, to ‘’hate’’ all, even one’s own life? We are to love and cherish parents, brothers, children; we love others more because we belong to Christ. What then, does our Lord mean? Is it not, that we all, like Saul of Tarsus, truly ‘’count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ’’ (Phil. 3:8)? We are to make our Lord Jesus supreme, permanent, pre-eminent in our hearts, so that no person nor anything shares that place in our lives. No price of parents or loved ones, possessions or life itself, is too great for His sake.
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