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Disciple or Deserter?

Disciple or Deserter?

Last week, I asked, “Will Jesus call me a sheep or a goat?” A couple years ago, we asked ourselves, “Am I a fan or a follower of Jesus?” This week, I am restating the question, “Are you a disciple or a deserter of Jesus?” How can we know the answer to these questions?

We need to examine ourselves like this periodically, because when God, the Holy Spirit, gives us a clear vision of His will through His Word, we must “walk in the light” of that vision. Disobeying the “heavenly vision” will make us rationalize ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ, thus making us a deserter who no longer walks in His light. We may call ourselves a “Christian”, but we have wandered off the path of life.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them—that is between Jesus and them.

John 21:21-22 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

Our tendency is to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we had when we were saved. However, that is only the beginning of our walk with Jesus. We are to be continually changing into the image of Christ as God reveals His truth. Each moment of the day marks us as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter. If we don’t try to follow Jesus, or even feel inclined to do so, then we will desert Him.

In contrast, a disciple is one who obeys and follows a teacher. Jesus said in Luke 14:26-27  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Any one of the relationships Jesus mentions in this verse can compete with our relationship with Him. I may prefer to belong to my parents, or to my spouse, or to myself, but if that is the case, then, Jesus said, “You cannot be My disciple.” Jesus must be our first love. All others come second. Love for Jesus enables us to bear a cross; otherwise, we will lack the grace to be His disciple and we will desert Him when suffering for His Name comes.

Not only does Jesus call us to be disciples, He also commands us to make disciples.

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Make disciples—not church members, not followers of a denomination, not better people, not people like ourselves—but disciples of Jesus, who follow Him and obey all that He has commanded. That is our task and purpose. Only disciples can make other disciples.

Are we willing to be used by the Holy Spirit to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ by obeying Him in everything we do and say? Or will we desert Jesus in this task and pursue our own interests, acting according to our feelings and desires? Making a disciple can be wearisome, for it takes a lifetime. So be patient with others and with yourself, as God is patient with you.

Jesus said in John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.  

Just because we have listened and obeyed one thing from Jesus (i.e. following Him in baptism) does not mean that we listen to and obey everything He says. Some of us show incredible disrespect to Jesus because we don’t even hear Him! We show Jesus our lack of love for Him by ignoring or forgetting what He says. We don’t read His Word. He might as well never have spoken to us.

We are to have such a close relationship with Jesus Christ that we always hear Him and do what He says. If we are a disciple of Jesus Christ, we hear Him all the time. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey His message to us. What hinders us from hearing is our attention to other things. It is not that we don’t want to hear Jesus, but we are not devoted in the right areas of our life. We are devoted to things, to our own convictions, and even to church service.

Therefore, Jesus may say whatever He wants, but we don’t hear Him. The attitude of a disciple should always be, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” If we have not developed and maintained this devotion of listening, we can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times, we become deaf to Him because our attention is on other things—things which we think we must do. We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey Jesus—we simply don’t listen to Him. Jesus has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them—not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love Him above other things, including ourselves. Therefore, pray, communicate, listen continually to Jesus. Stay focused on Him regardless of what you are doing.

Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Jesus wants to speak to us directly throughout the day. We show how little love we have for Jesus by preferring to listen to a preacher once a week rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want Jesus Himself to speak to us, because we know that when Jesus speaks, we must either do what He says or tell Him we will not obey. We must choose to be a disciple or a deserter.

But if it is simply one of His preachers speaking to us, we feel obedience is not imperative. We respond by thinking, “Well, that’s only your own opinion, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”

Beware of refusing to hear and follow Jesus. Everyone who is saved is called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Will you respond to His call, or will you desert Him?

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Disciples of Jesus Christ deny themselves of the right to determine what they will do or where they will go. They follow Jesus. Once someone begins to hear that call, “come after me”, suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Woe to the soul who tries to head in any other direction, because he wants to be in control of his life, or he fears he doesn’t have the grace to succeed as a disciple.

Listen to what Jesus gives His disciples. Luke 10:19-20 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.  

Sin is not the trap that most endangers us as disciples, because a disciple quickly repents. The trap we fall into is desiring spiritual success; that is, success measured by, and patterned after, the form set by the world.

Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have a worldly view of success—we count how many attend church, how big is the offering, and we think everything is all right as long as those things are increasing. But we don’t consider how many disciples of Jesus Christ we are making.

Salvation and sanctification are the work of the Holy Spirit, and our work is to disciple those He saves until they are totally yielded to the Lord. Jesus did not say to make disciples to your way of thinking, but to see that His sheep get nourished in the knowledge of Him so that they know His voice and can follow Him on their own.

How do we do that? Jesus said, Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

God conforms us to His Son through the grace of the Holy Spirit. We are responsible for continuing to follow Jesus and be further conformed to His image so that others can see Jesus living in us. Then our lives and what we say will be a testimony of who Jesus is because we reflect His character, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we have love for one another. Therefore, be continually filled with the Holy Spirit and we will be Jesus’ witness with power and grace to disciple others.

Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Unless a disciple lives a life that “is hidden with Christ in God”, he is apt to become a deserter and a dictator instead of a loving disciple. Deserters dictate their doctrines to individuals and to groups. They are religious, but they are not like Jesus. They become “wolves” in “sheep” clothing.

Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular cause or doctrine. A person touched by the Spirit of God recognizes who Jesus is. That is the foundation of their devotion. That is why the apostles left all (homes, family, and careers) to follow Jesus. They saw Who He Is—Almighty God!

Unfortunately, too many in the Church are devoted to causes and denominations instead of Jesus Christ. They prefer to be devoted to an ecstatic religion that has Jesus as its mascot! They are unwilling to change and let Jesus be their master and Lord. They are deserters, not disciples.

A disciple is someone in whom the Holy Spirit has brought about the deliberate giving up of oneself to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit interprets and explains the nature of Jesus to us to make us like our Lord. He is patient and continues to change us all of our life to be more like Jesus.

One characteristic of a disciple is meekness. If we love Jesus passionately, we will serve Jesus by serving others, even though people may treat us like a “doormat”, which we are not—but such treatment doesn’t upset us. A disciple considers it an honor to suffer for the Name of Jesus and to be treated like Jesus was treated.

John 12:24-26 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The desire of a disciple is not one of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him. The disciple’s joy is truly being able to rest and say, “I am His, and He is accomplishing His work and His purposes through me.”

There is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him. Whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced His words with an “If,” meaning, “You do not need to do this unless you desire to do so.” Discipleship carries with it an option, leaving a person the choice to walk away. When they do walk away, Jesus doesn’t run after them and compromise the truth to get them to stay. He never changes the conditions of discipleship to get more followers.

Jesus stresses very definitely what we ought to do, and He lays out the consequences, but He never forces us to do it. We have to obey Him out of love and a desire to be one with Him.

Luke 9:23-24 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

In other words, the Lord does not give us a law, but He makes His standard and the consequences of our choice very clear. If our relationship to Him is that of faith and love, we will desire to do what He says without hesitation. Again, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If we hesitate to obey, it is because we love someone we have placed in competition with Him, namely, ourselves.

John 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

They were disciples. They were following Jesus, but they became deserters. Jesus Christ will not force us to follow Him, but love for Him compels us to follow. We may not understand why He commands something, we may be fearful of the direction He is taking us (the apostles were afraid when Jesus turned towards Jerusalem), but we trust and obey Him.

When the Holy Spirit brings someone to the point of obedience, it always produces a disciple. If we continually obey Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will flow through us to the lives of others, because—behind the deed of obedience—is the reality of Almighty God living in us!

Our personal life may be crowded with small, petty happenings, altogether insignificant. But if we obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become ways through which we follow Jesus, and others see Jesus doing these simple things (like washing feet). When that happens, our routine life is transformed into the life of Jesus. Later, when we stand face to face with God, we will discover that through our obedience, thousands were blessed.

Can you answer the question now? Are you a disciple of Jesus, listening to Him and following Him, having given up all your rights to yourself? Or have you deserted Him by doing what you want? If we discover that we have deserted Jesus, today is our opportunity to repent and return to following Him.

If you have never become a disciple, you can begin today by believing and confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross to atone for your sin. Repent of that sin—of being your own god—and begin following Jesus by being baptized. Your sins will be forgiven and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will begin making you a disciple, teaching you to say “No” to all ungodliness and “Yes” to Jesus in every aspect of your life.