We’ve always been told that the cost of our salvation was great. It cost our dear Savior’s life, the Lord of the Universe. But this week I was made to realize that the cost of our discipleship is actually cheap, at least when compared to the rewards that come with it.
So, let’s not get too depressed with the negativity of following Jesus, with all the persecution and heartache it often brings. There is always a glorious ending to this sad, sad story. Our cost and sufferings here will seem like a hiccup that lasts for a second, when we enter eternity.
Memory Text: “Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” II Corinthians 1:7 ESV
Paul and the other disciples found comfort, despite their trials. We will look at the cost for their loyalty to God, but let’s also not take our eyes off the comfort that was never far away. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize, as Paul also put it (I Corinthians 9:24). The prize of heaven, but also the prize of having a peace and comfort that “passes all understanding” right here on earth (Philippians 4:7).
But here’s a brief look at the potential cost for us:
- emotional suffering (loss of family)
- social rejection (ridicule)
- financial deprivation
- physical torture
Sunday: Calculating Cost–First Priority (God or family?)
One doesn’t usually stop and consider how the cost of our discipleship will affect our families. But since the family is the primary social unit on earth, one might expect them to be affected by our decision to follow Jesus.
Even though families are highly valued by God (they are even mentioned in the Ten Commandments–“Honor thy father and thy mother”), we find some seemingly conflicting statements by Jesus in the Gospels:
- Matthew 10:37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” KJV
- Luke 12:53 “The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother…” KJV
- Luke 14:26 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” KJV
What is Jesus saying in these and other verses? Are we being told to hate our family members in order to love God? The lesson quarterly brought to us a sample of how the word “hate” was used in the Old Testament and it verified that the word “hate” can also mean to “love less”. Strong’s Concordance also rendered the Greek word “hate” in this verse as “love less”.
So what Jesus seems to be saying in these verses is that we must love God more than our families, which sounds like a reasonable requirement. After all, He is God.
Besides, we must not overlook the fact that loving God may cause some families to splinter and be divided, as we are warned in Luke. And the closer we are to end times, the more this will be the case. Just as persecution of all kinds will increase, so will family discord. God doesn’t cause it; it’s the natural result of sin.
Discussion Questions: How have you seen families divided over some religious issue?
How can we make the best of the situation when parts of our family turn against us for any reason?
How was Jesus own earthly family at odds about His ministry? Isaiah 53 says Jesus was “rejected of men”. Did that include some of His family?
Monday: Bearing Our Cross
Luke 14:27 says, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” KJV
Most would agree that this verse denotes action on the part of the disciple; but some theologians seem to be saying that any action on the part of the believer to live out his faith is legalism.
Legalists bear their cross out of duty (much like the second son in The Prodigal Son, the one who stayed home, and resented it). The true disciple, however, bears his cross out of love (as we saw in the prodigal son, who desired to stay home and be a servant).
To sum it up, our actions testify what’s already in our hearts, and likewise what’s in our hearts must also be shown in our lifestyle and actions.
Here are two reasons why bearing our cross is so important:
- “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” II Timothy 3:12 KJV
- “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:” I Peter 2:21-23 KJV
Finishing that last passage right to the end of the chapter, the language reminds us of Isaiah 53. Read this chapter in Isaiah and understand how patiently, lovingly, and willingly Jesus bore His cross for us.
Discussion Question: After reading Isaiah 53, discuss how Jesus bore His cross.
What are some of the ways we bear our cross for Jesus?
Tuesday: Disciplined Response
A life of discipline is, after all, what a life of discipleship is all about. II Peter 1:5-7 gives us a good list of disciplines that every disciple must be striving for. The verses previous to these describe a person who has already given himself to God.
So it is God working in the surrendered disciple that makes us able to exhibit these attributes. Peter warns his readers in v. 9 not to be shortsighted and even blind when it comes to these needed virtues, which are:
- brotherly kindness
The way the verse is constructed makes it look like a stair-step procedure, rather like a ladder. These are the virtues we are to strive for if we would fully represent Jesus as His disciple.
These disciplines seem all the more vital to our Christian experience when you realize that whatever isn’t surrendered to God becomes an idol, something that has the potential to keep us from exhibiting these disciplines.
“Reason, enlightened by the teachings of God’s word and guided by His Spirit, must hold the reins of control.” Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles,p. 311.
Discussion Questions: Is it necessary to fully immerse ourselves in spiritual disciplines all day, every day? A life where we never think a secular thought? Why or why not?
What were some of Jesus’ mountaintop experiences, spiritually speaking? How did He balance these times with His ministry among the people?
What does it mean for us to be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13)?
How do your friends, family, and neighbors know you are a disciple of Christ?
Wednesday: Comparing Costs
When you look at how difficult it is to love our enemies and to put ourselves last all the time, one does stop and wonder if it really is worth it to follow this God of ours. (See Matthew 18:8, 9 and Philippians 2:3)
Remember that all the gains we make for ourselves in this life are just temporary. And they don’t just end with death. Wealth, health, and happiness in this world can vanish at the drop of a hat. Then, what are you left with? Without God, not much.
But here’s what Jesus promises:
“Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he [Jesus] said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Luke 18:28-30 KJV
Discussion Question: Why is it important to remember the contrast of the pleasures of this world and the promised eternity spent with Jesus? What about the comparison makes it easy for you to decide who to follow?
Thursday: A Better Resurrection
Hebrews 11:32-35 talks about martyrs throughout the ages who gave all to God. But it says here that they did it to “obtain a better resurrection.”
This is explained more clearly in Revelation:
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Revelation 20:5-6 KJV
Discussion Question: Even if heaven weren’t true, is it worth it to be a Christian?
Summary: The principles of God’s kingdom–love, joy, peace, mercy, justice, and purity–can be experienced now by Jesus’ disciples. But we also look forward to a new heaven and a new earth that God has prepared for us.
Challenge: Consider what your family, friends, and neighbors would miss about you if you weren’t there. What would you want them to remember you for?
Make it a daily effort to include Bible study, prayer, witnessing, and service into your daily schedule, and you will join other Christian disciples in making a large impact on our world.
New Quarter’s study next week–Christ and the Law (see my introduction blog about this subject on Outlook Online)