Summary: Jesus gives us five vivid images teaching us lessons about discipleship and the total commitment it requires
Five Marks of a Real Disciple
by David O. Dykes
The main job Jesus left us to do was to make disciples. There is a difference between a believer and a disciple. There is no such thing as an instant disciple; like the word, it takes discipline. A Russian comedian, Yakov Smirnoff talks about when he first moved to America, he was amazed at the variety of instant products he could buy in the store. There’s powdered milk: just add water and you have milk. There’s powdered orange juice: just add water and you have orange juice. Then he saw Baby Powder and thought, “What a great country! If you want a baby, just add water!” Some people think that’s how discipleship works. You take a believer, add a little baptism water, and “poof” you have a fully-devoted follower of Jesus–a real disciple. But it takes more than water to make a disciple. Disciples are made, not born.
In Luke 14, Jesus was getting closer and closer to the cross. People who wanted to see a miracle or get a free meal from Him were mobbing Him. The crowd is about to become much smaller because He started setting forth the cost of discipleship, and it’s not a popular message. It requires total commitment.
A hog and a hen sharing the same barnyard heard about a church’s program to feed the hungry. The hog and the hen discussed how they could help. The hen said, “I’ve got it! We’ll provide bacon and eggs for the church to feed the hungry.” The hog thought about the suggestion and said, “There’s only thing wrong with your bacon and eggs idea. For you, it only requires a contribution, but from me, it will mean total commitment!” That’s the cost of discipleship.
In this passage of scripture, Jesus provided five vivid images, and used each one to teach a lesson about discipleship. Let’s number them as we read the text:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. [That’s mark #1] And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. [That’s mark #2]
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ [That’s mark #3] Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with then thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. [That’s mark #4]
Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile, it is thrown out. (That’s mark #5) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
People choose to Jesus on several different levels of intimacy. It’s like a set of concentric circles. On the outside you have the crowd. The mob following Jesus knew who He was, but they would soon be gone. Today, the people in East Texas who express an interest in Jesus represent the crowd, but they seldom ever worship with other believers. It’s like the crowd of over 6,000 people who showed up here last Easter–where are they today?
A deeper level of commitment is the congregation. These are people who attend church on a fairly regular basis. In other words, they “congregate” with other people to worship, but are not an active member of any local church. They call themselves church-shoppers, but they are more like church-hoppers. They are like a butterfly flitting from one church to another, never really committing themselves to serve Jesus. A deeper level of commitment is the church. This circle represents those who have affiliated with a local church and have a deeper level of intimacy with Christ and His body. But there is a level deeper than that which we could call the committed. These are the ones within the church who are real disciples–they are radical Christians–sold out to Jesus. Like in many organizations, in our church about 20% of the people do 80% of the work and give 80% of the financial support of the church. That’s the committed core.