What does it take to be Jesus’ disciple?

In Luke chapter 14 Jesus highlights key ideas we must be willing to forsake to follow Him and be a part of His kingdom. He tells several parables in this section. These parables help us to see a number of things.

Jesus wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom must not immediately expect that they are kingdom people (vs 7-24).

The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, believed themselves to be kingdom people because they sought to keep the law. They believed they pleased God through their works and deserved to be a part of the kingdom as a result. But Jesus flips the script on them. He reveals it is not those who believe they are deserving, but those who are humble, who recognize they are not deserving that are invited into the kingdom.

Jesus also wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom are willing to forsake all for Him (vs 25-33)

This is the point that landed on me this morning as I read the Bible in my devotional time. At the end of His teaching on the cost of discipleship, Jesus wraps the section up by saying:

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:33)

I have read this Scripture a number of times in the past, referred to it in conversation, and even included it in my preaching and teaching. Though I am familiar with the passage, today it landed on me differently.

How did it land on me?

Jesus reveals that His disciples must be willing to renounce all that we have in order to be His follower. I am afraid that those of us who live in the West hear those words, champion them, preach them, teach them, but don’t take them to heart. We want to add Jesus to our comfortable lives, to the American and cultural dream of what it means to be happy and successful. I am not saying we shouldn’t be successful, we shouldn’t work hard, or that we shouldn’t have things that make life more comfortable. If the Lord blesses us in that way, praise God. Instead, what I am driving towards is that we can’t make those things ultimate. They can’t be those things that define us. Our relationship with Jesus should define us. It should be what makes us happy and joyful. It should be what gives us meaning and purpose, as well as peace in life.

We must not add Jesus to our cultural idea of success.

Instead, we must allow Jesus to define success. I am afraid that is where many of us fail, myself included. We chase after the things of the world as if they are ultimate. We get frustrated when they are not manifested in our life. We believe Jesus has abandoned us. Jesus, however, hasn’t abandoned us. He is right there with us, teaching and guiding us. He wants us to see that He is the One to whom we should look to for ideas of success, not the world.

If we are going to be Jesus’ disciple, we must renounce all worldly ideas and be willing to live according to biblical ideas and convictions, regardless if they are popular or not.

“All things” is all things.

We must be willing to forsake, to abandon and renounce all things, pledging our full allegiance to Jesus. But more than that — we must find our life and being in Jesus. As believers, our kingdom is not of this world. We must live as if that is true.

Once we are able to renounce all things, living in the world, no matter how blessed or how difficult life might be, we will be joyful and peaceful because we will be living as Jesus’ disciples, allowing Him to dictate and determine what should and shouldn’t bring us joy, meaning, and purpose in life.

How Can You Experience True Freedom?

We live in a post-modern society. Post-modernism casts off any and all meta-narratives as power plays by authoritarian systems. In an attempt to escape oppression and experience freedom, meta-narrative are traded for individual narratives that allow one to construct their own truth. In this way there is no absolute truth, just that truth you derive from yourself and your own experiences. We see this transition in phraseology such as “You be you”; “Be your authentic self”; etc. These ideas are why we are currently experiencing so much transition in every area of life.

The Promise of Different Gospels

Different gospels that promise salvation have been preached for centuries. Post-modernism is another gospel in a long list of gospels hoping to cast off the restrictions of a Judeo-Christian worldview to provide freedom without submission.

But does a disregard for the Christian meta-narrative provide true freedom? Does creating our own individual narratives divorced from any overarching narrative, especially a Judeo-Christian narrative, provide an escape from bondage?

The Galatians were not confronted with Post-modernism, but they were confronted with a worldly gospel. Paul, the author of the letter to the Galatians, addresses their fall away from the biblical gospel when he writes in Galatians 4:8-9

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal. 4:8-9)

Different Gospels Don’t Provide Freedom

The elementary principles of the world represent those ideas that are fundamental. They serve as the building blocks for a particular system of beliefs. Everyone operates according to closely held building block beliefs. They are those beliefs that drive our worldview and the actions that follow.

Worldly religions and philosophies, those things we build our life on a part from the biblical worldview, do not provide us with freedom. Instead, they enslave us. They entrap us in a cycle of performance, worry, and anxiety. We are left to wonder if we have done enough in order to experience that religion’s or philosophy’s form of salvation. In the case of our modern movement, we might wonder if we gone far enough in divorcing ourselves from a Judeo-Christian worldview. In other words, are we properly secular? Are we championing secular causes well enough?

Cancel Culture as an Example of Bondage

It is here that cancel culture enters the picture. All those who are not in the main are seen as being on the wrong side of history. They are not able to represent modern day culture. They shouldn’t be applauded or championed. Instead, they should be punished for their lack of adherence to the current cultural movement, which results in them being “cancelled”.

Those who believe themselves to be on the right side of history today feel liberation, they feel as if they have been saved from oppressive structures. But “today” is not “always”. Tomorrow always comes. Tomorrow brings change in one’s ideas and thoughts. In modern day vernacular, we might say people “evolve” over time.

Tomorrow, and the evolution it brings, is why cancel culture exists. Cancel culture doesn’t care what side of history you were on in the past. It only cares about what side you are on today, which is why many past cultural champions find themselves forced to change or be cancelled.

The irony is that cancel culture requires truth and an overarching narrative to work. The very thing Post-modernism denies it uses. The truth claims made by those of cancel culture are seen as dominate and ones that should be embraced by all people. If one doesn’t embrace the current cultural meta-narrative truth claim, they are oppressed. In an attempt to create freedom from bondage, Post-modern thought has actually created bondage and oppression. There can be no dissenting voices only those who agree or cancel culture comes for you.

True Freedom Does Exist

There is no freedom in the elementary principles of the world. There is only slavery. You can, however, experience freedom in Christ. He has come to set you free.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

How can you experience freedom? Jesus has come, He has died, paying the penalty you deserve. He took your sentence of eternal death for you. He sat in the cell of hell, He experienced God’s wrath in your place. Jesus has done your time. You have been pardoned. He has also freed you from the need for self-salvation, releasing you from the bondage of performance culture.

The good news is that His provision is open to all who would humble themselves and submit to Him as Lord and Savior. If you want freedom, don’t turn to the elementary principles of the world. Instead, turn to Jesus! Allow Him to be your King, your Savior, your all in all. Allow Him to guide and direct your life.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

As a child, my friends and I would sit around in the park near my house discussing what we wanted to be when we grew up. The most common answers we all would give, besides a professional athlete, was a doctor or lawyer. You know why we gave those answers? It wasn’t because we cared about medicine or the law. Many of us didn’t even know what those jobs involved. Instead, we answered in those ways because we knew doctors and lawyers made a lot of money.

I lived in a lower middle class neighborhood as a child. We didn’t have all the luxuries many kids grow up with today. We always had clothing and food and a little bit more, but we didn’t have many of the luxuries of life. We saw a career as a doctor or lawyer as a way to get those luxuries. As a way to “make it” so to speak. I’m sure if you think back to your childhood, many of you probably had similar conversations.

Many of us are still chasing those luxuries. Many of us are still seeking to “make it”. We are working ourselves to the bone. Sacrificing every chance we get to make an extra dollar, to build another relationship, to connect with someone we think can help us get ahead. We miss time with our family, with our friends, with our church. We bend the rules at times, operating in the grey because it benefits us.

But here is the thing. Money can’t buy you happiness. It can’t buy you friends. It can’t buy you what you really need. It is temporary. When it is gone, the lifestyle you were striving to sustain, the possessions you were after, they are gone. Seeking to “make it” is one big lie and an even bigger let down.

When this young man ran out of money, his friends didn’t come to his aid. They were no where to be found. He had to hire himself out to feed pigs. A Jew feeding pigs. That is about as low as it gets. But here he is. At the bottom of the barrel, all because he thought money could buy him happiness.

Money can’t fill that whole in our heart. It didn’t for this young man. It won’t for you either. So don’t put your hope and trust in the wealth of the world. Instead, put your trust in the Lord. He is the only One who will ultimately satisfy.

Please God, not man!

In today’s world, cancel culture is alive and well, which makes it is easy, and even necessary at times, to slip into a people pleasing mindset. If you get on someone’s bad side or go against a cause they are championing, you might find yourself the victim of repeated attacks that are meant to ruin your life and career. I don’t know anyone who wants their life and career ruined. We generally want our life to improve not spiral out of control. We are creatures who desire comfort, peace, and security, not the opposite. So many tow the line even if they disagree in an effort to please those around them.

For all the talk of being genuine, people pleasing is about as far from it as you can get. We might make it seem like we are championing a cause because we care so much about it but all we are really doing is looking out for our own self-interest. At our core, we are selfish people who want to travel the smoothest road through life.

The broad, smooth road, however, can easily turn into a bumpy, pothole filled road that will destroy our comfortable ride in a matter of moments. We can’t please everyone no matter how hard we try. Even if we are successful for a time, trying to please one group at one cultural moment, might result in us offending another in a future cultural moment. This is why so many who want to stay in the good gracies of the culture “evolve” every so often.

But the apostle Paul makes it clear in today’s passage that if we are going to be a servant of Christ, we must purpose to please Him and only Him.

Look at Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Paul draws a hard line in the sand. His life’s focus is to please one person and one person only. His life is focused on pleasing Jesus Christ, who is the only person that matters. Culture changes, people change, opinions of what is right and wrong change (sometimes daily), but Jesus and what He stands for never changes. What pleased God thousands of years ago will still please Him thousands of years from now.

As our Creator and Savior, pleasing Jesus is the only thing that matters. His opinion of us is the only one that holds any weight. A relationship with Him is the only one that will provide that for which we are looking — peace, comfort, and security.

Stop toiling to please the world. Unhinge yourself from the heavy burden you are carrying. Turn to Christ! His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Please God, not man!

The Glorious Gospel Brings Us Together

Ephesians, at least the first several chapters, highlights the glories of the gospel.

The Glorious Gospel

Paul desires the Ephesians and, in turn, God desires we see the greatness of the gospel as well. Indeed the good news that we are saved by God Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf is amazing. It is unfathomable. God experiences a condemnation He doesn’t deserve so that we might escape the condemnation we do deserve.

The gospel didn’t just happen. It wasn’t an afterthought. We are told it was God’s plan from before time began (Eph 1:3-14). How amazing it is thatGod thought of us before the world even began and purposed to provide us with salvation!

Breaks Down Hostility Bringing us Together

While the gospel redeems us from God’s wrath, which is no light activity, it does more, much more. It redeems all of life, including our relationships with one another. In Ephesians 2 beginning in verse 14 we read,

[14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2:14-16

In these verses, Paul is referring to the Jew / Gentile relationship. He reveals that Jesus makes peace between the two people’s. He does what nothing else in the world could, he breaks down walls of hostility that spans millennia.

Not only does Christ break down walls of hostility, but He brings the two together so that they no longer exist as two separate people but as one. In Christ, their is no longer a Jew / Gentile divide. In Christ, there is one new man. A singular people of God who are able to live together with one another in love and care.

The gospel does what no political message or law could. The gospel breaks down hostility between people of different races and nationalities. It is the gospel that creates unity. It is the gospel that brings us all together.

Several points of application:

(1) The gospel is what will heal our country, which means we need to preach Christ to our communities.

(2) The gospel is what will heal our churches, which means we need to focus on preaching the gospel to one another in the body of Christ.

(3) The gospel is what brings us together in community with one another.

Not that affinities aren’t important. They are important. But it is ultimately the saving grace of God and our desire to understand, apply, and share it that brings us together as a people. Yes, we want all want to be a part of community with which we connect. But are affinity connects the end all be all?

While we might not have everything in common with those in the local church to which we belong, we do have the one thing in common that matters and that brings us together — we have the gospel in common. We have the hope of Christ in common. We should have the desire to understand and apply God’s Word in common. The gospel is what brings us together.

When you are looking for a church with which to join, find one that preaches the gospel, that seeks to apply the gospel, and share the gospel with the community. Find one that is faithful to God’s Word and wants to see you grow in the understanding and application of God’s grace. Don’t look for the one that can meet all your needs or checks all your affinity boxes.

The Lord is just in all He does

And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” 

(Rev 16:7)

Judgement is coming. It is unavoidable. God has providentially purposed to judge all those who do not submit to His reign and rule. In this section of Revelation, we see God pouring out judgment on those who have taken the mark of the beast — those who have chosen to follow the satanic world order, rejecting the Lord and His right to rule over them. Judgment is poured out in a number of ways in this section. 

What is interesting is that as judgment is poured out the people do not repent and turn to the Lord, pleading for Him to exercise grace and mercy on them. No, they curse the name of the Lord (Rev 16:9). They gnaw at their tongues for the pain and curse the God of heaven (Rev 16:10-11). Even as hailstones a hundred pounds each fell on them, they continued to curse God for the plague (Rev 16:21). 

Man, apart from God’s intervention will continue to run from the Lord even as great and powerful plagues are being poured out on them. Man hates the Lord because He is a threat to their reign and rule. Ever since the garden we have desired to reign and rule in God’s place. Instead of submit to God, we rage against Him (Ps 2). We desire to call the shots, to be the big “K” king. 

While these plagues are horrendous, the Lord is just in His judgment. He does not act unfairly. He is absolutely justified in pouring out His wrath on mankind for their continue and unceasing rebellion against Him. 

We must recognize our proper place in this world. It is not to reign and rule. Rather it is to bring the Lord glory as we submit to His reign and rule, recognizing His wisdom is greater than our own.