by Bill Denton
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it'" (Matt. 16:24-25).
"Jesus Christ always talked about discipleship with an if.' We are at perfect liberty to toss our spiritual head and say, No, thank you, that is a bit too stern for me,' and the Lord will never say a word; we can do exactly what we like. He will never plead, but the opportunity is there, If '" - Oswald Chambers
This is one of the paradoxes of Christianity. The Lord wants everyone to be His disciple, but He will force no one to be His disciple. There are many who will decide that the call of the gospel - the "real" call of the gospel - is simply much too difficult. They may be interested in a social gospel that turns the church into a club where people can attend a few meetings, pay a few dues, learn some club slogans, and participate in a few rituals. They are not interested in a Christianity that calls them to die to themselves, or to pick up their own cross, and follow Jesus.
Let's be clear about something. Christian discipleship is all about being Christ-centered. It is not about being church-centered. It is not about a focus, an emphasis, or any other kind of intensity that misses the real target-which is Jesus. It is about following Jesus, learning from Him, becoming like Him, and proclaiming Him. Nothing else will do.
And here's the necessary follow-on: Those who are Christ-centered are also to be disciple-making followers. It is simply not enough to "be" a disciple. We can't really even use the terms this way, for Jesus called His followers with a two-fold idea. Part of following Jesus is helping others to become followers, who also help others follow Jesus. Jesus never called people to follow Him and stop at that. We follow. We help others follow. The two are inseparable partners.
One cannot follow Jesus unless he or she is truly Christ-centered. Jesus is our focus. We are not only to learn about Him, we are to become like Him. He is not just a "role model," He is our life. As the Apostle Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Disciple-making makes sense when you understand that this was Jesus' own mission. He came to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). He bore His cross in order to save people. Why would we ever think that bearing our own cross would somehow be unassociated with the same goal? He called people to Himself to save them, and He sent His disciples into the world to keep on calling the lost to follow Him. Christ-centered, disciple-making. What a great concept!
© Copyright 2004, Bill Denton