In his classic book The Cost of Discipleship, German Pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes the very sobering statement, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” To many, these sound like extremely fanatical words. Anyone speaking like that today, especially in our Western culture, would be considered mentally unstable. However, we should note, Bonhoeffer was not stating his own personal feelings when making this statement, he was simply expounding the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:34). In this verse of Scripture, Jesus makes it clear that the first requirement of the Christian life, is self-denial and cross-bearing. The cross was a symbol of death and suffering. So basically, Christ was teaching that in order to be his disciple, one must die with him. We learn from the outset, that the Christian life is a way of self-renunciation and suffering. This requirement is not reserved only for Pastors and Christian leaders, but Christ states that this is the case for anyone who would be his disciple.
How many of us truly practice this? How many of us are meeting the most basic requirement of discipleship? Where are your scars? In what ways are you suffering and dying with Christ (Rom. 8:17; Phil. 1:29; 2 Cor.2:10-12)? I’m afraid that this is an aspect of the Christian life that is almost completely lost in today’s evangelical church. So many of us have completely embraced the values of our American culture of comfort and worldly pleasure. On Sundays, we get more excited for the football games than we do the worship of God. Through the summer, we do hardly anything for God’s Kingdom, because we’re constantly on vacations and family trips. We spend most of our time and resources on fixing up the house, going out, little league, television watching etc. The fact of the matter is that we are way too comfortable in this world. We seem to have forgotten what our real priority is as followers of Christ. The Church was left here in this world primarily for one reason, to be salt and light in a dark, fallen world. We are the body of Christ, it is our responsibility to finish the work begun by him. Christ came into this world in order to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had come near. He came to call all men and women to respond to this coming Kingdom by repenting of their sin and believing the gospel (Mark 1:14-15). Christ also came to gather together, all those who would believe his message of the Kingdom, into one great, holy assembly. The Christian Church is that holy assembly. Before ascending back to heaven, Christ commissioned this holy assembly to go and proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). As Christian people, if our days, months and years are almost completely absorbed with family, fun and entertainment, to the neglect of suffering for the Kingdom of God, then we are woefully derelict in our most basic duty.
What then should we do? First of all, we must obey Christ and deny ourselves. It’s not about us. We are not here in this world to be pampered and amused. We should not be seeking our happiness and fulfillment in the things of this world, not even in our families. Neither should we be seeking our identity in jobs, careers, education, nice homes or other symbols of worldly success. Next, we need to take up the cross. The way of the cross is a way of suffering. Suffering is painful, it is uncomfortable. Suffering drives you to your knees, it is heart wrenching, it produces tears. In some way, we should be suffering for the Kingdom of God. In some way, we should be pouring out ourselves for the gospel. If this blog is speaking to your heart, and you feel the need to respond, but don’t know where to jump in at, let me suggest that you jump on-board the team of a new Church plant. Church planting is the best way for fulfilling the great commission of Matthew 28. Studies have shown that there is no more effective way of advancing God’s Kingdom than to plant new churches. There are many, many, new church plants in your area, that are in desperate need of core team and launch team members, my church plant; 5point7 Community Church included. We need leaders, Sunday School teachers, helpers, tech people, planners, managers, worship leaders, musicians, you name it. If joining the team of a new church plant is not for you, then, find a way to serve the church where you are a member. Give your time, talent and treasure to your church and help it to make Christ known throughout your city. You bet, it will be hard work, it will be costly, it will be very discouraging at times. But, for those who walk such a path, your’re in good company. You are suffering with Christ. And he has promised, that those who suffer with him shall reign with him in his glory. Do something radical, give your self away for Christ and his gospel.