I’ve heard it said many times that whenever Jesus taught He used stories (i.e. parables). However, as I read Scripture, I find that Jesus taught in straightforward directness most of the time, and challenged His listeners with some soul jarring truth. For example, His words about discipleship were deep, and continue to stretch us as much today as they did two thousand years ago.
In Luke 14:33 Jesus uttered what is probably the most unpopular verse in the Bible when He said “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”. You won’t find too many sermons on this verse (after all, we must make the congregation comfortable), and many Christians seem to either ignore it or just don’t delve into what Jesus meant by these profound words. However, these words of Jesus are timeless and are as relevant today as they were when He said them.
But what did Jesus mean by this statement? Did He mean that we need to liquidate all of our assets, quit our jobs, and go to Papua New Guinea as missionaries? While God does call some to the mission field or full time ministry, for the majority of Christians the answer to this question is probably “no”. Well, what, then did Jesus mean?
Jesus was telling His listeners, and all of us today, that He, and He alone must be Lord of our lives. He must be the object of our devotion, our love, and our worship, even over our portfolios, pleasure, careers, calendars, and “self”. He must be number one in our lives. He is telling us that we are to hold everything we call “mine” with an open hand, willing to give up everything for His sake if He should ask us to do so.
True discipleship requires an absolute surrender of everything to Him, even our very lives. While salvation is a free gift from God (we are saved by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone), discipleship, on the other hand costs us everything. It requires dying to self so that He may live through us. It means giving up all rights to ourselves to Him, and becoming His bond slave for life. It is to be so in love with Him that surrender is actually considered a privilege. It’s being a Christian of conviction, and having an unquenchable passion and hunger for Him.
Jesus expected that all believers would be on the journey of discipleship. Why, then do the vast majority of Christian avoid it like the plague? Because we have bought into the worldly philosophy of pleasure, possessions, and power. We consider the cost of discipleship too high, or rationalize that it is only for those select few “super saints”. We don’t want to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. We are content with our comfortable, casual, and convenient Christianity and don’t want Jesus to interrupt our lifestyles and agendas with His plans. We like our easy generic brand of discipleship which, in reality, is no discipleship at all. We basically treat Jesus like we treat our insurance agent: “Don’t bother me unless I need you. When I’m in trouble I’ll call you and expect you to get me out of the mess I happen to find myself in. Then, when you fix everything, you can leave me alone until I need you again”. So sad, but so true.
My friends, there are way too many mediocre Christians filling churches today. There are way too many believers entrenched in the temporal pleasures of the world instead of experiencing the awesome, intimate presence of God.
However, for those who take Jesus’ words in Luke 14:33 to heart, life takes on an incredible transformation. When we dare to plunge into the depths of discipleship we find that the cost is nothing compared to the abiding presence of God, that in being His bond slave we find the greatest freedom one can experience, and that in surrendering to Him we experience the greatest victory in life.
Please keep in mind that discipleship doesn’t mean a trouble free life. Trials still come but we can still have peace and victory through them Nor does discipleship mean a life of cold legalism or distasteful drudgery. On the contrary being a sold out follower of Jesus is the most fulfilled life one can live. Finally, remember that no one “arrives” in this life, and we will struggle and fall at times along the way. Discipleship is a lifelong journey that necessitates a daily surrender to Jesus, an intentional path that we, by an act of our will, choose to be on because we love Jesus so much. We count the cost, and determine that the cost is nothing when compared to the intimacy with Him that we will experience.
Yes, the cost of discipleship is high. Jesus told us that it is everything. But it is the only journey for a true believer to be on. Jesus is asking you and I to open our hands in total surrender to Him and let Him be Lord of our lives. What will our answer be?
Webster’s dictionary defines the word “desperation” as a loss of hope. When we think of someone who is desperate, our thoughts usually paint a picture of someone who does everything he or she can to either escape an unpleasant situation, or to hold on to something or someone at all costs. Desperation is often one of the more frightening experiences in life.
However, if you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ, hopelessness is gone. You have the assurance of sins forgiven and eternal life. You have everything to hope in because of the cross and blood of Jesus, and thus you need not be desperate over the circumstances of life. The One who saved you is the One watches over you and keeps you strong in the ups and downs of life.
However, I believe that every Christian needs to live in “holy desperation”. By holy desperation, I don’t mean we should live in a state of empty spirituality. Holy desperation must not be viewed in the same context as the desperation defined in Webster’s.
Holy desperation means that you are passionate for God’s presence in your life. It is to come to the realization that without God, you are nothing and can do nothing. Holy desperation is having a hunger for God, not so much for what He can do for you, but because of who He is.
And who is He? He is the all powerful, holy, righteous, merciful, sovereign lover of your soul. He created you, loves you, saved you, and keeps you. Without Him, you would be an empty shell heading like an out of control locomotive straight to hell. He is truly your all in all.
Unfortunately, too many Christians have no real desire for God’s presence in their everyday lives. They live in self reliance, self sufficiency, and self righteousness. And the result? The shallowness of many believers. These folks are deceived by the false claims of worldly things and grasp tightly to these counterfeits. When anyone clutches tightly with both hands to materialism, pleasure, recreation, and to the almighty “self”, it is impossible to cling to God.
You can only cling to one thing at a time. If you try to cling to two or more things at a time, your strength and attention are divided, and you will lose your grip on everything and end up with empty hands. You cannot hold on to God and the world at the same time. The worldly things that we cling to only lead to hollow emptiness.
Well, then, you may be thinking, “what does it take to live on ‘holy desperation'”? It takes an absolute surrender to Jesus Christ. The relinquishing of all rights to yourself to Him. A brokenness that cries out your deepest need of Him in every aspect of your life. A “falling in love” with Him that leads to an insatiable hunger for Him and His awesome, incredible presence. it takes dying to self so that He may live for you. Holy desperation means all these things, and nothing less.