Who are the True Followers of Christ?
By Todd Linn
Friday, November 11, 2011
What does it really mean to follow Christ? Frequently, hearers of Christian preaching are told they may receive eternal life if they will “repeat a little prayer” after the speaker. The preacher then says a prayer, asking the hearer to repeat after him and, if done sincerely, the hearer is told he will go to heaven when he dies.
Is this method biblical? Is there someplace in the Bible where one reads about getting into heaven simply by praying a certain prayer? What Scripture does indicate is that people were carefully presented the full Gospel message, a message including the call for total surrender of one’s life to Christ.
Jesus speaks of total surrender in passages such as Luke 14:25-35, where he turns to a large crowd and provides three conditions to be met by those wishing to be Christians, true Christ-followers. He adds that if a person fails to meet any one of these three conditions, he or she “cannot be my disciple (26; 27; 33).”
What are these conditions? First, one must love Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. This is the meaning behind the Hebrew idiom requiring one to “hate his father and mother, wife and children … and his own life (26).” Jesus does not ask a Christian to literally hate his family, as this would contradict other Scriptures such as the Fifth Commandment. Rather, one is to love Christ so much that all other love by comparison looks like hate. This is an immense love!
The second condition for discipleship requires the Christian to be totally loyal to Christ, even to death. This is the meaning behind the phrase, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (27).”
In our day, the cross may be regarded as little more than a beautiful piece of jewelry. But in Jesus’ day, the cross was a symbol of cruel execution under the Roman empire. To “bear one’s cross” meant to die to oneself daily and be prepared to die physically for one’s faith.
The third condition is total abandonment of all one has for Christ. Jesus says in verse 33, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” This does not require one to sell all possessions or take a vow of poverty, as the Bible speaks elsewhere of saving and providing for one’s family. This does mean, however, that if called to give up everything, one is willing to do so.
Given these conditions one understands why Jesus encourages would-be followers to “count the cost” of discipleship. Following Christ is more than “praying a little prayer.” Just as a builder or battlefield commander thinks carefully through his or her immediate plans (28-32), so men and women should carefully consider the cost of following Christ. It is not a decision to be made hastily — and yet, the cost of not following Christ is far greater.
The Rev. Todd Linn is pastor of First Baptist Church in Henderson, Ky.
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