This is a wonderful explanation of what Discipleship is all about. What we are taught by many churches today (my previous one included), pales so significantly compared to this below. This one will enrich your understanding and personal relationship with the Lord as to how He works with us and brings this miracle about in us, if we will only let Him.
I really encourage you to read it all and look up the scriptures as you go.
Be so richly blessed
All is accomplished and the work is done:—
Though with thine earliest dawn thou shouldst begin it
Scarce were it ended in thy setting sun.
Discipleship must always be a personal matter; we can never become disciples in crowds, or even in twos. It is so easy to talk about what “we” mean to do—“we” are going to do marvellous things, and it ends in none of us doing anything. The great element of discipleship is the personal one.
The disciples in the days of His flesh were in a relationship to our Lord which we cannot imagine; they had a unique relationship which no other men have had or will have. We may use the relationship of these men to Jesus as illustrative of those who are devoted to Him but not yet born from above John 3:3,7 or we may take them as pointing out lines of discipleship after the work of grace has been begun. Discipleship may be looked at from many aspects because it is not a dogma but a declaration. We are using discipleship in this study as an illustration of what happens after salvation. Salvation and discipleship are not one and the same thing. Whenever our Lord speaks of discipleship He prefaces what He says with an “IF.” “If any man come after Me . . .” Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on adherence to a doctrine.
Potential Position by Grace
Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee; what then shall we have? ( Matthew 19:27 Luke 18:28 15:24 )
Potential means existing in possibility, not in reality. By regeneration in its twofold phase of salvation and sanctification we are potentially able to perform all the will of God. That does not mean we are doing it, it means that we can do it if we will because God has empowered us (see Philippians 2:12-13 ). A man in whom the grace of God has begun its work—the grace of God does not respect persons, so I mean any kind of man you can think of—is potentially in the sight of God as Christ: the possibility of being as Christ is there. Whenever the grace of God strikes a man’s consciousness and he begins to realise what he is in God’s sight, he becomes fanatical, if he is healthy. We have to make allowance in ourselves and others for “the swing of the pendulum,” which makes us go to the opposite extreme of what we were before. When once the grace of God has touched our hearts we see nothing but God, we do not see Him in relation to anything else, but only in relation to ourselves on the inside, and we forget to open the gate for gladness. (Acts 12:14) Fanaticism is the insane sign of a sane relationship to God in its initial working. The joy of the incoming grace of God always makes us fanatical. It is the potential position by grace, and God leaves us in that nursery of bliss just as long as He thinks fit, then He begins to take us on another step; we have to make that possible relationship actual. We have not only to be right with God inside, we have to be manifestly rightly related to God on the outside, and this brings us to the painful matter of discipline.
Practical Path in Grace
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones. ( Matthew 19:28 Luke 22:28-30 Matthew 10:38 )
To abandon all, to strip one’s self of all, in order to seek and follow Jesus Christ naked to Bethlehem, where He was born, naked to the hall where He was scourged, and naked to Calvary where He died on the cross, is so great a mystery that neither the thing, nor the knowledge of it, is given to any but through faith in the Son of God.
The practical path in grace is to make what is possible actual. That is where many of us hang back; we say, “No, I prefer the bliss and the delight of the simple, ignorant babyhood of ‘Bethlehem,’ I like to be carried in the arms of God; I do not want to transform that innocence into holy character.” The following in the steps of Jesus in discipleship is so great a mystery that few enter into it. When once the Face of the Lord Jesus Christ has broken through, all ecstasies and experiences dwindle in His presence, and the one dominant Leadership becomes more and more clear. We have seen Jesus as we never saw Him before, and the impulsion in us by the grace of God is that we must follow in His steps . (1 Peter 2:21) As in the life of Mary, the mother of our Lord, a sword pierced through her own soul (Luke 2:35) because of the Son of God, so the sword pierces our natural life as we sacrifice it to the will of God and thus make it spiritual. That is the first lesson in the practical path of grace. We go through bit by bit and realise that there are things Jesus says and the Holy Spirit applies to us, at which the natural cries out, “That is too hard.”
The Practice of Pain in Grace
And every one that hath left houses . . . for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold. ( Matthew 19:29 Mark 10:29-30 Luke 14:26-27 )
“If any man come to Me, and hate not . . . , he cannot be My disciple.” The word “hate” sounds harsh, and yet it is uttered by the most human of human beings because Jesus was Divine; there was never a human breast that beat with more tenderness than Jesus Christ’s. The word “hate” is used as a vehement protest against the pleas to which human nature is only too ready to give a hearing. If we judge our Lord by a standard of humanity that does not recognise God, we have to put a black mark against certain things He said. One such mark would come in connection with His words to His mother at Cana, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John 2:4) Another would come in connection with John the Baptist; instead of Jesus going and taking His forerunner out of prison, He simply sends a message to him through his disciples— “Go your way, and tell John. . . . And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” (Luke 7:22-23) But if we could picture the look of our Lord when He spoke the words, it would make a great difference to the interpretation. There was no being on earth with more tenderness than the Lord Jesus, no one who understood the love of a mother as He did, and if we read this into His attitude towards His mother and towards John we shall find the element of pain to which He continually alludes, that is, we have to do things that hurt the best relationships in life without any explanation. If we make our Lord’s words the reply of a callous nature, we credit Him with the spirit of the devil; but interpret them in the light of what Jesus says about discipleship, and we shall see that we must sacrifice the natural in order to transform it into the spiritual. All through our Lord’s teaching that comes—“If you are going to be My disciple, you must barter the natural.” Our Lord is not talking about sin, but about the natural life which is neither moral nor immoral; we make it moral or immoral. Over and over again we come to the practice of pain in grace, and it is the only explanation of the many difficult things Jesus said which make people rebel, or else say that He did not say them.
Have we begun to walk the practical path in grace? Do we know anything about the practice of pain? Watch what the Bible has to say about suffering, and you will find the great characteristic of the life of a child of God is the power to suffer, and through that suffering the natural is transformed into the spiritual. The thing we kick against most is the question of pain and suffering. We have naturally the idea that if we are happy and peaceful we are all right. “I came not to send peace, but a sword,” (Matthew 10:34) said our Lord—a striking utterance from the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) Happiness is not a sign that we are right with God; happiness is a sign of satisfaction, that is all, and the majority of us can be satisfied on too low a level. Jesus Christ disturbs every kind of satisfaction that is less than delight in God. Every strand of sentimental satisfaction is an indication of how much farther we have to go before we understand the life of God, it is the satisfaction of a smug self-interest which God by circumstances and pain shocks out of us as we go in the discipline of life.
Protest of Power through Grace
. . . ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones. ( Matthew 19:28 Luke 22:28-30 )
Physical power is nothing before moral power. A frail simple girl can overcome a brute who has the strength of an ox by moral superiority. Think of our Lord’s life. The New Testament does not refer to the scene in the Garden as a miracle— “when therefore He said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground” (John 18:6)—it was the inevitable protest of power of a pure holy Being facing unholy men from whom all power went. The wonder is not that Jesus showed His marvellous power, but that He did not show it. He continually covered it up.
And scarce less wonderful than those He wrought!
Oh, self-restraint, passing all human thought,
To have all power and be—as having none!
The great marvel of Jesus was that He was voluntarily weak. “He was crucified through weakness,” and, says Paul, “we also are weak in Him.” (2 Corinthians 13:4) Any coward amongst us can hit back when hit, but it takes an exceedingly strong nature not to hit back. Jesus Christ never did. “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not”(1 Peter 2:23) ; and if we are going to follow His example we shall find that all His teaching leads along that line. But ultimately, at the final wind-up of His great purpose, those who have followed His steps reign with Him (Luke 22:28-30, Matthew 19:28) . Those who reign with Him are not the sanctified in possibility, in ecstasy, but those who have gone through actually. Equal duties, not equal rights, is the keynote of the spiritual world; equal rights is the clamour of the natural world. The protest of power through grace, if we are following Jesus, is that we no longer insist on our rights, we see that we fulfill our duty.
That is the philosophy of a poor, perfect, pure discipleship. Remember, these are not conditions of salvation, but of discipleship. Those of us who have entered into a conscious experience of the salvation of Jesus by the grace of God, whose whole inner life is drawn towards God, have the privilege of being disciples, if we will. The Bible never refers to degrees of salvation, but there are degrees of it in actual experience. The spiritual privileges and opportunities of all disciples are equal; it has nothing to do with education or natural ability. “One is your Master, even Christ.” (Matthew 23:8 ) We have no business to bring in that abomination of the lower regions that makes us think too little of ourselves; to think too little of ourselves is simply the obverse side of conceit. If I am a disciple of Jesus, He is my Master, I am looking to Him, and the thought of self never enters. So crush on the threshold of your mind any of those lame, limping “oh I can’ts, you see I am not gifted.” The great stumbling block in the way of some people being simple disciples is that they are gifted, so gifted that they won’t trust God. So clear away all those things from the thought of discipleship; we all have absolutely equal privileges, and there is no limit to what God can do in and through us.
Jesus Christ never allows anywhere any room for the disciple to say, “Now, Lord, I am going to serve Thee.” It never once comes into His outlook on discipleship that the disciple works for Him. He said, “As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you” (John 20:21) How did the Father send Jesus? To do His will. How does Jesus send His disciples? To do His will. “Ye shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8 )—a satisfaction to Me wherever you are placed. Our Lord’s conception of discipleship is not that we work for God, but that God works through us; He uses us as He likes; He allots our work where He chooses, and we learn obedience as our Master did ( Hebrews 5:8 ).
The one test of a teacher sent from God is that those who listen see and know Jesus Christ better than ever they did. If you are a teacher sent from God your worth in God’s sight is estimated by the way you enable people to see Jesus. How are you going to tell whether I am a teacher sent from God or not? You can tell it in no other way than this—that you know Jesus Christ better than ever you did. If a teacher fascinates with his doctrine, his teaching never came from God. The teacher sent from God is the one who clears the way to Jesus and keeps it clear; souls forget altogether about him because the vision of Jesus is the only abiding result. When people are attracted to Jesus Christ through you, see always that you stay on God all the time, and their hearts and affections will never stop at you. The enervation that has crippled many a church, many a Sunday School class and Bible class, is that the pastor or teacher has won people to himself, and the result when they leave is enervating sentimentality. The true man or woman of God never leaves that behind, every remembrance of them makes you want to serve God all the more. So beware of stealing the hearts of the people of God in your mind. (2 Samuel 15:6) If once you get the thought, “It is my winsome way of putting it, my presentation of the truth that attracts”—the only name for that is the ugly name of thief, stealing the hearts of the sheep of God who do not know why they stop at you. Keep the mind stayed on God, and I defy anyone’s heart to stop at you, it will always go on to God. The peril comes when we forget that our duty is to present Jesus Christ and never get in the way in thought. The practical certainty that we are not in the way is that we can talk about ourselves; if we are in the way, self-consciousness keeps us from referring to ourselves. The Apostle Paul looked upon himself as an exhibition of what Jesus Christ could do, consequently he continually refers to himself—“And though I am the foremost of sinners, I obtained mercy, for the purpose of furnishing Christ Jesus with a supreme proof of His utter patience, a typical illustration of it for all who were to believe in Him and gain eternal life” ( 1 Timothy 1:15-16 moffatt -