Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Have you ever found being a disciple of Jesus Christ challenging? Have you ever found it difficult to genuinely live a Christian life? Have you ever been hard put to witness and testify – in word and deed – because of the words and actions of others? Probably not to the extent of early believers who were warned by Jesus that they would be “…persecuted because of (their) righteousness.” And more to the point “…insult(ed)… persecuted… and lied about… because of me.” Encouraging them however, to “Rejoice and be glad… because great is your reward in heaven,…” Matthew 5:10-12
At another point Jesus assured them, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:20 This concept permeating much of scripture, Paul explicitly writing that, “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,…” 2 Timothy 3:12
Thankfully, most people today have not been persecuted to the extent many early believers were. Still, we must heed Christ’s call for us to count the cost of discipleship ( Luke 14:28-33); and thus avoid bringing ridicule on ourselves and shame to the cause of Christ. Jesus ending this lesson by directly challenging his listeners with, “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
John Stott, writing over 60 years ago said that, “The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers – the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on their cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called “nominal Christianity”… large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.”1Equally true of many sitting in the pews today.
Scripture characterizes a Christian as one who doesn’t merely buy “fire insurance” against the possibility of hell but one who genuinely believes and expresses this belief in faithfulness to God’s word and will through submission and obedience. Jesus setting the standard for discipleship as recorded in Matthew 10:32-39 & Luke 14:25-27. (Luke’s reference to hating one’s family not meant to abrogate the clear scriptural commands for us to honor our parents ( Exodus 20:12) and love our spouses ( Ephesians 5:25). The point being that we must be unreservedly loyal to Him, even if that makes it appear we are at cross-purposes with our family.) The rewards of choosing selflessness over selfishness, enumerated in Mark 10:29,30.
At the heart of genuine discipleship is orderliness, obedience and self-control – a commitment to being like Christ. That means acting like he did and following his dictates while accepting the same treatment He experienced as normal. As a result, he promises to affirm his loyalty to us if and when we proclaim our loyalty to him. ( Matthew 10:32.33) The pattern of our lives revealing the reality of our claim to knowing God; His judgment of our lives reflecting not just what we’ve claimed but what we’ve done as well. ( Matthew 25:31-46)
Quite frankly, Jesus isn’t interested in recruiting half-hearted, lackadaisical followers (see Matthew 19:16-24 & Luke 9:57-62), but genuinely committed adherents of his way. Those who aren’t willing to lose all they have are characterized as not worthy of him ( Matthew 10:38), losing the opportunity of being described as a disciple. ( Luke 14:27) Jesus’ reference to cross-bearing ( Matthew 10:38 & Luke 9:23) immediately created a mental picture of sacrifice – even death – for his 1century listeners. This, however, is not to be understood as an allusion to salvation by martyrdom, but is a decisive reference to the idea that whenever we are faced with deciding between serving self or serving the Lord, a true disciple chooses to serve the Lord regardless of the consequences and personal cost.
Jesus is repeatedly referred to as our Lord and Master, as well as our Savior throughout the New Testament, no less than 747 times. The foundational book of Acts calling him Lord 92times while surprisingly referring to him as our Savior only twice. His Lordship over his natural surroundings ( John 14:11) and his death and resurrection declaring him to be God’s Son ( Romans 1:4); entitling him to be our Lord as well as our Savior. Again, a title instantly recognized by his 1century followers as one denoting a ruler of others, except this ruler set the standard of kingly service by modeling it for us throughout his life and particularly in his death. (See John 13:13-17 & 15:18-20) In fact, Jesus couldn’t be a Savior if he were not Lord of his and our circumstances; because inherent in the idea of deity is authority, dominion and the right to command. Our realization of that fact causing us to exclaim with Thomas that He is our, “…Lord and God!” John 20:28 (See also Acts 2:21; 2:36; 16:3; Romans 10:13 & 2 Peter 1:3) In consequence of which, “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will (likewise) be saved.” Romans 10:9
1 Basic Christianity, Inter-Varsity Press
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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