A True Disciple

Title: A True Disciple

Bible Book: Luke 9 : 23

Author: Jerry N. Watts

Subject: Disciple; Discipleship



Were I to ask this group of people, “Who wants to be a disciple of Christ?” Most everyone would raise their hands and honestly would do so without giving any thought to what being a disciple really means. One of the classic books on discipleship was written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and is entitled, “The Cost of Discipleship.” Bonhoeffer knew firsthand what was required to be a true disciple of Christ and in the book stressed the cost and content of intentional obedience to Jesus. Ultimately he died an unusually brutal hanging and death at the hands of the Nazis because of his discipleship.

Today in America, where we enjoy freedom, opportunity, and liberty, a new concept seems to exist. This concept can be defined in two words, “simple and easy.” In cooking, we can microwave. In communication, we enjoy multiple options of instant communication. In automobiles, a key is no longer needed, just press a button. In our minds, all things are “S and E.”

Yet, when we take an honest look, we know better. In our vocations we know that to rise to the top takes hard work. We go to school to get prepared, apply ourselves to become the best in our field, and we let little get in the way. Any successful person will tell you that nothing of worth comes by a “simple and easy” method. This is true in all areas of life.

Yet, absent any persecutions or serious challenges to our faith, the consensus in America has become that it’s easy to be a disciple of Christ.

It is also in this pattern of thinking that “church members” expect “Christianity” and “Church” to be both simple and easy? And it is neither. Jesus never said it would be simple or easy. The call of Christ is not a call to “ease and comfort”, but rather, a call to mission, maturity, ministry and to make disciples. It is a call to commitment, consistency, and character. It is a call to “make disciples of all nations.” Don’t miss this; “For us to “make disciples” we must “be disciples.” A disciple is one who “learns and follows” as well as “one who adheres to the disciplines of another.”

Are we “true disciples of Christ?” Do really want to be disciples? If so, what does that really mean? The Bible passage (Luke 9:23) of today speaks to the issue of what being a true disciple really means. (READ)

Recently, I read about a graduation ceremony speech which was rather disturbing. The speaker was the valedictorian of his high school class. He stood up to the podium and he thanked his father, which sounded good, at least at first? “My father taught me an important lesson,” the young man said. “He told me throughout my entire life that I am the most important person in the world.” Over and over through his speech, he talked about how true it was that he was the most important person in the world. He looked out at his fellow students and told them, “Don’t ever think that there is anyone more important than you. Do what you want to do, not what other people want. Your happiness is all that matters.” When I read this, I was saddened as I thought about how this mindset has not only changed the dynamic of our culture, but the mindset of our churches.

It is this kind of mindset which allowed Timothy McVeigh to think of himself first, and on his own decided that he had the right to plant a bomb at a government building in Oklahoma City. Through that effort he took the lives of so many people, including a number of children whom McVeigh callously described as “collateral damage.” He died self-centered and self absorbed and never showed any remorse at all. His last statement was a hand written note that included words from the 1875 poem ’’Invictus,’’ which concludes with the lines: ’’I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.’’ The attitude of a disciple resembles that of an apprentice, who learns by doing.

I submit that anything less than complete, total, and unswerving allegiance, does not constitute a “disciple.” From our text, let me offer 4 words or better said, 4 concepts which are required to be a true disciple of Christ.”

I. Focus

Jesus begins His words with the conditional phrase, “IF”. The word “if’ denotes that we actually have a choice in the matter. This is still amazing to me. God allowed His son to die for me and then give me a choice. What an amazing God! Seems to me we are given the ability to become what we desire. If we desire to become a disciple, we can. If we desire to become a reprobate, although we do it over His dead body, He allows us to do it. If we chose to become self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed, He allows it. Certainly, He desires something better in mind for us, but just like He allowed Adam and Eve the free choice of the fruit over immortality, He still allows is to choose. Here’s the payoff, “Generally, we become what we are focused on.” I say “generally” because this does not always hold true. If it was always true that we become what we focus on, then teenage boys would become teenage girls.

Think about what it is that you are focused? For some their focus is their vocation, for others their avocation or hobby, for others it can be anything from sports to woodworking. In talking with people it is amazing what consumes people’s lives.

The words of Jesus which says, “IF we WANT (i.e. desire, wish, etc) to be HIS disciple (I.E follower, ambassador, or person) speaks clearly of a focused life. That is a life FOCUSED on HIM.

A quarterback in football and catcher in baseball always look to the bench, focus on His coach and make the call for the next play or pitch. The disciple is focused on Jesus and does what He says.

An eye-opening truth is this; a guest can see the true focus of a church body just by visiting and a friend or an acquaintance quickly recognizes the focus of our life by our actions, attitudes, and words.

SO –“IF” I desire to be a true disciple, then what must follow?

II. Forsake

Jesus gives us these instructions, “If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself.” The principle is that we have to forsake ourselves. Honestly, I don’t want to forsake myself. I like me. And I don’t want to be told that the one I like the most, I have to forsake. What is that? Yet Jesus says that I have to deny or forsake the one person I like best.

So what exactly does it mean to forsake or deny self? The Greek word literally means to “disregard one’s interest or act entirely unlike you.” While most “translations” use the word “deny”, paraphrases may offer us an easier to understand picture. Consider these; “ignore self”, “say no to the things they want”, “must put aside his own desires and conveniences,” and “Has to let me lead! You’re not in the driver’s seat.” Based on all these words, we could spend all day developing all these lines of thought, but they all lead to Christ’s call for “self-denial”.

Have you ever considered why that is? I don’t know it all, but I do have a thought. If we don’t forsake ourselves, we tend to raise our own status to the level of God. The worship, honor, trust, and more that we should offer God, we will offer to self.

North American Mission Board Team leader Thomas Hammond came to our area to lead the First Impressions seminar. In this seminar, he offered the different thinking of a dog and cat. The dog, treated well, thinks his master is god. The cat, treated well, thinks HE must be god.

Jesus is clear, “If you want to be my disciple, you must have a focus on me and additionally, you must forsake or deny yourself. You must put my interests above yours and know I am in the driver’s seat, not you.”

There are dozens of ways to apply this personally and collectively.

III. Forget

We must not simply forsake self, we must also forget self. Jesus says, “Take up your cross daily.” Who among us, will take up a cross even yearly, if we are in the self-protection mode. By the way, Jesus knew we would be in the self protection mode as He responded to that tendency in verse 24. Jesus says, “If you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. However, if you’ll simply trust me with your life, take your hands off and turn it loose, I’ll take care of you.” What a hard concept.

Only as I was studying for this message did a different thought pierce my spirit. For most of my life I have considered my cross to be burdens, hurts, trials, and the like. The words “take up” indicate that we must make a decision to engage. Knowing the object is ‘forget self,’ and the outcome will be a cross, many times we decide to not “to decide”. We all can admit this happens when confronted with a moral, ethical, or spiritual issue which runs against popular opinion. We are faced with a decision and we decide NOT to decide. Jesus says, “Not good enough, you must ‘take it up’.” Next, He calls us to understand what “OUR CROSS” is. The cross we are called to bear is a distinctive cross; it is not someone else’s. It is ours. Finally, Jesus says, “take it up DAILY.” This reminds us that we are “strangers and aliens” here. Taking up my cross will likely strain every spiritual muscle which I possess.

The only way, in our human strength, we can deny ourselves and ‘take up our crosses daily’ is to forsake self, forget about self, and focus on Jesus. If we don’t focus on Jesus and being His disciple, we will NEVER be able to forsake and forget. The results will be the local church in turmoil. She’ll lose her way, her sense of mission, and her sense of purpose because the Bride of Christ is energized by disciples and not by casual members or believers. Never forget, the church is people.

Would you think about this with me for just a moment? Jesus never gave the option of “half-hearted Christianity.” He spoke concepts like, “Let the dead bury the dead”, and “Whoever puts His hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy.” Total commitment is His call.

This leads us to the last and obvious thought.

IV. Follow

Jesus ends this call with the seemingly simply, “Follow Me.” However, it is not so simple, nor is it easy. He gave this call to the fisherman and they didn’t add Him to their list of scheduled events, they left it all. He called the tax-collector and Matthew didn’t wait for tax-season to end, he left it all. Everywhere He went and to every person He met, He gave the same call. And to everyone He expected the same and never lowered His standards. When the Rich Young ruler heard the call of Jesus, he felt Jesus wanted too much and so he walked away. Please remember that Jesus was not a Baptist preacher. Can you imagine a Baptist preacher letting a rich man get away? It would be easy to make the case that Jesus, while never lowering the standards of His call for anyone, had a tear in His eyes, when the rich man walked away.

Jesus’ call is the same today. He says, “If your focus is to become a disciple, forsake and forget yourself and then come follow ME.”


Somewhere I heard or read about a dog movie that was being filmed. Everything was set up for the scene that was to be shot. It was costing thousands of dollars to create this most important scene in the movie. At the wrong moment the dog barked and the entire scene was ruined. It cost the filming company a lot of money because of the mistake. The dog was famous, well trained and as a rule did not make this kind of mistake. What caused the problem? It was simple. A cameraman had walked between the dog and the dog trainer. When the dog lost contact with his trainer, he barked. In essence, the cameraman had gotten between the dog and his master.

Jesus calls us to Forsake and Forget ourselves and Focus on and Follow Him.

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