A True Disciple


Do you consider yourself a Christian?  There are many variations of self-definition when it comes to faith and Christianity.  Some are cultural Christians, some are Christians by birth, some just want to go to Heaven and some are radically transformed sinners who love and serve God.  Jesus defines a Christian – his disciples – as those who die to themselves, who have been born again, and who submit to God out of love and thankfulness for the grace given to them.  In short, we must surrender our lives to God in order to receive life from Him.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

– Matt 16.25

What does this mean, exactly?  Theologians have coined a term that defines/explains this reality:  Lordship salvation.  Or simply, Lordship.  If we want to be Christians (mini Christs, followers of Christ), we have to submit to His leadership and authority.  Simply, He is in charge.  Paul says it this way:

“…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”

– Rom 10.9

When we recognize our sinfulness and helpless state, we turn to Jesus for hope and help.  When we confess our sins and inability to honor God, we submit to Jesus for direction and admit that He is the way to righteousness and eternal salvation.  He is thus Lord over our lives.  He is in charge.  He is the authority.  Until we recognize the fact that Jesus is indeed the final authority, we are not believers.  We must confess with our mouths – and live out the reality that Jesus is Lord because we believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead in order to be saved.

Sometimes our logic would tempt us to disbelieve a command or teaching from Scripture.  We may try to follow Jesus as a good teacher, picking and choosing the parts of the Bible we like.  Sometimes the Bible is taught as a buffet of nuggets of wisdom from which we can choose.  But the reality is that we must take it all or none of it.  As long as we consider ourselves authoritative to decide the parts we like, the parts we believe, or the parts to which we will submit, we have not made Jesus Lord and are therefore not saved.

Adoniram Judson was the first missionary to Burma (now Myanmar).  He gave up his life to serve in this extremely dangerous and difficult place and ultimately left a tremendous legacy of believers behind.  While serving, a Buddhist teacher told him that the Gospel he was preaching was unbelievable because no king would allow his son to suffer such indignity.  This was Judson’s response:

“Therefore you are not a disciple of Christ.  A true disciple inquires not whether a fact is agreeable to his own reason, but whether it is in the book.  His pride has yielded to the divine testimony.  Teacher, your pride is still unbroken.  Break down your pride, and yield to the word of God.”

– Adoniram Judson

Our pride and self autonomy often keeps us from true belief.  Either we harbor a sin, or we allow our logic to facilitate disbelief, or we simply treat the teachings and expectations of Scripture as optional.  Pride is a wicked enemy against which we must fight continually.  Have you confessed Jesus as Lord over your life?  Have you recognized His power?  Are you submitting yourself to Him and dying to yourself?  Or are you still just enjoying the little pearls of wisdom from the buffet of Scripture?  Do you have a verse or promise that makes you feel better, even though you make your own decisions, you practice things that God calls sin, and you live life the way you want to live it?

Let us break down our pride.  Let us submit to Jesus who is Lord over us and over all of reality.  Let us recognize that God has revealed Himself in Scripture and given us everything that we need for life and godliness therein (2 Peter 1.3).  Let us turn to Him, submit to Him and die to ourselves so that we might have eternal life.


If you do not obey Jesus, You are not a Christian.

People at the Cross

Many people around the world consider the United States to be a “Christian” nation.  Even though many in the public forum push back against this label, if you took a cross section of the average Joe on the street the majority will still claim to be Christian.  Research indicates, in fact, that 77.3% of Americans are professing Christians.  Many consider themselves to be Christians because their families are historically Christian.  Some claim the faith because they go to Church on Christmas and Easter, and some think that they are saved because they “said a prayer” and secured their eternity by one sentence.

Jesus, however, made radical claims and set high expectations for those who would follow Him.  If we want to be Christians or “mini Christs”, then we have to obey Him:

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

– Luke 6.46

In order to be a Christian, in order to follow Christ, Jesus plainly said that we have to do what He said.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

– Matt 7.21

We can call Jesus “Lord”, but in order to enter into Heaven we must do the will of the Father – and that is to obey Jesus.

Jesus gave His life up for us because He loves us (John 15.13).  God Himself is love, and we cannot know love nor can we love unless we know God (1 John 4.7-8).  It is God’s desire that we come to love Him and abide in Him the same way in which Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit abide with one another (John 17.11, 21).  And the natural response to loving Jesus is to want to please Him by obeying Him.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

– Jon 14.15

And we learn this by following the example of Jesus.  He loved God and spent all of His energy and life seeking to obey God and fulfilling His will:

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

– John 6.38

Scripture teaches us that when we come to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation that He actually writes His law on our hearts (Heb 10.16, 8.10), and He gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us to obey those laws (1 Cor 3.16).  Thus we see that we are incapable of obeying Jesus in our own strength, but when we become a Christian we are transformed into a new creature in which the Holy Spirit resides (2 Cor 5.17), and it is actually no longer us who are living but Jesus living in and through us:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

– Gal 2.20

So if God is indwelling us and empowering us by the very law that He has written on our hearts, we have the conviction when we disobey, we have the desire to obey, and we look like Jesus.

What exactly, then, did Jesus command us to do?

Many go immediately to the “Great Commandment” to answer this question.


– Matt 23.7-39

Jesus gave these simple yet impossible commandments.  If you are a Christian, you will be someone who loves God with every inch of your being, and who loves your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.  Do you watch your neighbors to make sure that they have good food, nice clothes, that their cars are functioning and that they have a job?  Do you make sure that they have fun, that they have good exercise habits, that they have community and activities in which to be involved?  Do you splurge on their happiness?

Sometimes we dull down this greatest commandment and think that giving God lip service is enough and sing the mantra, “all we need is love”, and yet we truly and genuinely love no one.  What is love?  It is sacrifice.  Jesus offered His life for us.  For whom would you die?

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.  “You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’”  And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”  Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

– Matt 10.17-22

Jesus is concerned about our hearts.  This man had kept the law, given preference to others, done everything that God had commanded.  But Jesus wanted him to love his neighbor as he loved himself, and this man was unable to do so.  He could not sell his possessions and give the profit away.  He could not trust God.  Therefore he was not a believer, and he went away saddened.

We must love God with all of our hearts, love our neighbor as ourselves, and die to the deeds of the flesh.  What are the deeds of the flesh?

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

– Gal 5.19-21

If you partake in immorality, impurity (think sexual), sensuality (indulging your senses), witchcraft (think good luck charms along with spells and darkness), enmities (do you have any enemies?), strife (is there someone with whom you cannot get along?), jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes (are you in an argument?), dissensions, factions (have you just written someone off?), envying, drunkenness or carousing?  Often times we think about the big things when we think of obeying Jesus.  And yes, there are some big things listed here like witchcraft.  And while this list is not exhaustive, it reveals the heart of God being concerned with our driving force and our hearts.  If the Holy Spirit is residing within you, you cannot be jealous.  You cannot have strife.  You cannot hold grudges and break yourself away from other believers.

Sure, we will continue to fight with our sin and fail.  And Jesus understands that:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

– 1 John 2.1-2

But these things cannot mark us as people.  We might be fighting against these things, and seeking to replace these things with those attributes which honor God:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

– Gal 5.22-23

Jesus says that we if we love Him we will obey Him.  If you do not obey Him, you prove yourself to not love Him.  And you have not kept the great commandment.  And you are not a believer.

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”

– Matt 7.22-23

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

– 1 John 3.24

Do you want to be a Christian?  Then begin with confessing your sins, asking for forgiveness and asking God to give you the Holy Spirit to enable you to obey Him.  Then begin the joyful life of following Him, loving Him, and you will begin to desire to obey Him and He will empower you to do so.  If you are not fighting sin and looking like Jesus, then you are not a Christian.  You are not a mini-Christ.  Let us all seek to become mini-Christs.

Dear Christian, you cannot date Jesus.


Ok girls, let’s get real here for a minute.  Dating sucks.  It is terrible.  You meet some guy, he says he is a Christian and he’s pretty cute, so you chit chat and wait for him to stalk you on facebook or show up to church, and finally he makes the move.  Coffee.  Is it a date?  Who knows, he didn’t make his intentions clear, but hey, at least he asked, right?  We call our best friends, fuss over our hair, our makeup, what to wear and freak out until it’s time to meet up.  Maybe it goes well.  Maybe it crashes and burns.  But we have to spend hours asking the get-to-know-yous, seeing if you have the same dreams, visions and goals, discerning if he truly does love Jesus, and looking for common hobbies and interests.

It is exhausting.

And often disappointing.

So Christian girls these days tend to give up.  We take seasons off from dating to focus on ourselves.  Spiritual, right?  In fact, we want to make it sound so lofty that we say, “I’m off the market, I’m dating Jesus right now”.


Not only is that bologna, it is borderline sacrilegious.

Yes.  There are seasons in our lives where God calls us to a season of fasting or discipline.  There are seasons where God may reveal to us a personal weakness or sinful tendency and show us that we must take time to wrestle that battle on our own, and not clutter our lives with frivolity.  Sometimes we thrive on the attention of being pursued and find our worth in what men think of us, and God sets us down and has to teach us humility…and sometimes that comes through a season of intentional singleness.  Sometimes even married people have to take a season of solitude or even abstinence to focus on prayer and God.

Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

– 1 Cor 7.5

But let’s consider this concept of dating Jesus.  What does it mean?  If you simply mean that Jesus is taking up the bulk of your time and attention, that instead of texting your beau throughout the day you are intentionally spending time in prayer, that you go to the park for a walk and pray or sit and read your Bible on a Friday night instead of going out to dinner with a guy, then yes.  Do that.  But we must carefully evaluate our verbiage and consider what it is exactly that we are saying, and unintentionally developing false concepts in our minds.

Jesus is not, and will not be, your boyfriend.  Jesus is your Lord.

Yes, the beautiful picture of the relationship of Jesus to His Church is marriage.  God gave us marriage to be a physical representation of that relationship here on Earth (Eph 5.22-33).  But the Jewish method of betrothal, and the picture that is painted here is vastly different from the 21st century Western dating habits.  Jewish betrothal consisted of close friends or parents of the bride and groom making the arrangement together, a dowry being paid (either in money or service), and the bride returning to his father’s house to build a room on the house for he and his new bride.  The two were never alone together, the two never asked each other get-to-know-yous or went out to dinner.  The groom would pay the family the price required to remove her from their household, and only on the day of the marriage would he come get her and take her to his house.

Jesus promised His followers that He, the bridegroom, has paid the dowry on the cross, has gone away to prepare the room on His Father’s house for us, and He will come back and get us when He is ready.

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

– John 14.2-3

It is in this sense that we are His bride.  It is also important to note that the bride takes up her full time to get ready for this marriage.  She is making her linens, collecting things to make herself the best wife that she can be and going through beauty rituals to beautify herself for her wedding day.  This is our sanctification.  We have been purchased with the dowry, and now we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh so that we may be without spot or wrinkle (Eph 5.27).

The culture and context of the analogy used in Scripture does not correlate to our perspectives and traditions in dating.  Period.

But what we do know is that Jesus is our Lord.  He is our Savior.  He purchased us so that He could love us, send His Spirit to indwell us, and empower us to be holy and die to sin.

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

– Luke 6.46

Jesus has a position of authority over us.  He has given us instructions and expects us to obey them.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

– John 14.15

“Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

– John 14.23

Jesus does love you.  He wants your best.  He will work all things out together for your good, because He is sovereign and in control over all of creation.  If He has begun the work of salvation in you, He will complete it.  He is concerned about your holiness, your joy and your eternal satisfaction.  But He is God.  And He is concerned about His glory and His primary focus is not you, or dating you.  His primary goal is His glory, and He establishes that in part by your sanctification.

Up until this point, we have seen that the verbiage can be deceptive, but perhaps not detrimental.  If you simply mean that you are setting aside your time to Jesus instead of others – if you are committing yourself to a season of prayer and personal spiritual discipline, then perhaps the terminology is not lost.


Where we see the greatest danger in this thought process is the idea being conveyed that you must cut out other relationships in your life in order to focus on Him.  Paul does teach that the one who is unmarried is better off, because he is not distracted by the necessity of pleasing his wife (1 Cor 7).

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

– 1 Cor 7.32-34

But even though one is married, He is privy to the same relationship with Christ as a single person.  And God does not honor a married person ignoring or depriving his spouse under the guise of Spirituality.  Yes, it is more difficult for a married person to serve God in the manner a single person can, but the picture of dating Jesus paints the picture that when you are done dating Jesus you will date a human being, and when you date a human being or get married, part of that intimacy is lost.  The cannot be the case.  Your focus on and intentionality with Jesus should not and may not fluctuate by your relational status.

If God has called you to singleness and celibacy, that is a beautiful calling.  But He is not going to date you.  He is not your significant other, He is your God.  He is your Lord.  He purchased you by dying on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin, so that you can be found holy and righteous before a just God who will punish all sin.  He has given us commandments and statutes that we, as believers, are expected to obey.  He loves us perfectly and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to love and obey.  So cherish Him.  Love Him.  Serve Him.  Honor Him.  Focus on Him.  And do that all whether you are single or dating or married.  Because Jesus is your Lord and will be that in all phases of your life.

What is important to you?

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

– Matt 10.37-39

Jesus often made radical statements that left the disciples and hearers asking, “Who then can be saved?” (Matt 19.25, Mark 10.26, Luke 18.26).  Recently I was chewing on Jesus’ teaching that it is harder for a rich man to be saved than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle – and the disciples were left asking this question.  But today my heart came back to this world-shattering statement.  I am in the phase of life where most of my friends are married and having children.  My Facebook news feed is full of cute family photos, growing baby bumps, little league soccer, football, and every other event that we force upon our toddlers, wedding announcements and the like.

And Jesus said, in this passage, that if you love that little baby more than Him, you are not worthy of Him.  If you love your mom and dad more than Him, you are not worthy of Him.  But these seem to be normal parts of life!  When the Bible talks about fighting sin, we can understand that He does not want us to embrace lying, stealing, adultery, anger, or any of the list of offenses.  But how can He say that about loving our little babies?  Our spouses?  Our parents?

My Spiritual journey has been wrought full of amazing people.  But I have also experienced first hand when people fall in love with the things of the world.  It is difficult to see until the person has given over fully to his passions and lusts, but Paul speaks of one who did this to him:  Demas.

“Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.”

– 2 Tim 4.9-10

Demas was Paul’s partner in the ministry.  They had been out on missionary work together, and he is listed as a fellow worker in the Gospel in both Colossians and Philemon.  But in 2 Timothy we hear the very disturbing truth that he fell in love with the world and abandoned the calling, the work, and Paul – while he was imprisoned and in a great hour of need.

We do not know exactly what this “love of the present world” is.  Maybe his momma was in Thessalonica.  Maybe a girlfriend?  Or a lucrative job?  Maybe he just wanted to live in the big city and experience the easy life?  Or maybe he was tired of being persecuted for the Gospel and wanted to relax?  Paul does not tell us, but whatever it was, it became strong enough to draw him away from the work.

Rarely do people snap and start sinning boldly.  There is usually a progression of failure.  Perhaps it starts with something apparently good:  we love our little babies.  We will do anything to keep them safe and happy.  We start giving all of our finances to buy the latest toys, the cutest clothes, the best stroller…and then we realize we need more money to give them everything they could want.  So we fudge our hours at work.  Or skim a little off the top of a corporate investment.  Maybe we accidentally forget to scan that onesie at the self-checkout line, or conveniently forget to return the car seat that we borrowed.  Or perhaps we just build up the balance on our credit card without the money to pay it off, and live in perpetual debt.  Then, once we sear our consciences to these small offenses, we get more bold.  We boldly lie, steal and cheat.  And then, by the time someone recognizes our sin, we are so engrained in our habits and “needs” that we no longer care what God has to say about it.

This, friends, is how loving family more than God makes us unworthy.  God does not want to be #1 on the list of things that you love.  He is the only one on the list.  He is the list.  And it is through loving Him that you can truly appreciate family, money, success, ministry and life in a Godly way.  If you pour out all of your energy loving God, He will love your family through you.  In a pure way, that seeks their best and keeps you from sin.  If God is a hobby, and you love anything else, eventually the two will collide.  Eventually you will have to make a choice.  We cannot serve God and anything else (Matt 6.24).

Recently I have seen many people who, like Demas, appeared to be passionately in love with God, but gave in to a sin that overtook their lives.  When confronted by friends or the church, the answer is the same:  a cold stare, a hard heart, and the statement, “This is the decision I have made.  I do not care what God says about it.”  None of us are beyond the power of sin to draw us into its grasp.  The heart is deceitful above all else, it will lead us astray (Jer 17.9).  Sin is alluring, and will feel good in the moment, but will lead us into deception.

Do you love your momma?  Or do you love God and let Him love her through you?  Would you put your child’s well being above serving God?  Caring for the children which God has entrusted to you is part of the responsibility of parents, but they cannot overtake your world such that you neglect God and your commitment to Him.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

– Gal 2.20

pleasures of the world

Go, sell your possessions.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

– Matt 19.21

The cost of discipleship is steep.  But yet, salvation is a free gift.  There is an apparent paradox exemplified in the reality that “it is by faith you have been saved, through grace and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so that no man may boast”, and “if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Eph 2.8-9, Luke 9.23).

While it is true that God gives freely His salvation unto all who call upon His name, it is understood then that the calling upon His name is in complete and utter surrender and sacrifice.

Jesus, as fully God, had insight into the hearts of people who would question Him.  He called the twelve disciples.  He went to them and chose them before they even knew who He was, and called them by name.  And they left everything and followed Him!  Then throughout His earthly ministry, others came wanting to follow Jesus, but were unwilling to lay down their lives fully.  A scribe (religious leader of the day) told Jesus he would follow Him wherever He went, but yet turned away because to follow Jesus meant he would have no home; “no place to lay his head” (Matt 8.20).  Another man wanted to follow Jesus after burying his father and receiving his inheritance, yet Jesus said that the one who loves father and mother or son and daughter more than Him is not worthy of Him (Matt 10.37).

And then there is the story of the rich, young ruler.  He had kept the points of forbiddance of the Law, but devoid of the spirit of the Law:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

– Deut 6.5

Jesus exposed his heart in the command to sell everything that he owned, give it to the poor and come after Him.  Jesus is not making the blanket statement that all who desire to be saved must sell every possession they own, but He is making the heart matter clear that the one who is unwilling to do so has not fully surrendered to God, and therefore is not saved.

Rarely do we see people literally do this.  Even missionaries do not do this, on the whole.  Most of them sell all of their belongings in the states, collect the revenue from the sales and then re-buy everything once they get to their place of service.  It is not super-spiritual to buy things locally in a host country.

Jesus is also not saying that all believers must own nothing.  But Jesus is saying that if there is anything which we are unwilling to give up, we have a god other than Him.  Something is more important to us than Him.  And this can be a material possession, it can be family, it can be a sin or a hobby.  And it is because of the severity of this statement that the disciples were led to ask:

When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

– Matt 19.25

And Jesus very simply responded:

And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

– Matt 19.26

It is impossible for us to generate a true and full surrender of our lives to God in love and unto salvation.  Only God can work that in our lives.

I have moved a lot during my lifetime.  In fact, since I was 18 years old, I have not been in the same house/apartment for more than 3 years.  Much of that was natural transitioning between college, grad school and work, but it also included a move halfway around the world.  Leading up to the age of 26, I knew I was headed overseas, so for the entirety of my independent life pre-moving, I did not collect many material possessions.  I minimally decorated my apartments, kept a cheap car, and saved most of the money that I made.  (Well, what was leftover after paying for school!)  Why?  Because I knew I could not take things with me, and it was worthless to buy fancy furniture that I was going to turn around and sell in a year or two.  This was not a spiritual discipline, it was simple economics.

Much in the same way, Jesus wants us to maintain an eternal perspective.  When we get to the judgment seat of Christ, He is going to require of us an account of how we used the blessings He bestowed upon us.  How did we use His money?  How did we use His house?  How did we treat His children?  And did we cling to any possession, person or sin so much that we were crushed or devastated at its loss?  Or did we so value something that we were unwilling to give it up to follow Christ?  Jesus says it is impossible for us to do this on our own.  But God will do it in and through us, working His will in us unto salvation, if we call upon His name and ask Him for the free gift of salvation.

What do you love?

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Matt 6.20