If you are a true disciple, your Christian walk will be challenging and exciting, and you will have a sense of purpose and direction. A disciple is defined as a learner, a pupil, one who comes to be taught. The relationship between the disciple and his teacher is not merely that of a student listening to a lecturer, or a passively interested listener. A disciple listens with attention and intention. He drinks in every word of his teacher, marking every inflection of voice with an intense desire to apply what has been learned.
The Requirements of Discipleship
In Luke 14:25–35, Jesus laid out the tests and requirements of discipleship.
25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus makes it clear that when it comes to personal discipleship, He is more interested in quality than quantity. The words He spoke that day are perhaps the most solemn and searching words that ever fell from His lips.
Requirement #1: Love God More Than Anyone Else
Jesus begins with some very strong words: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Jesus was not advocating that in order to be disciples, we must actually hate family, friends, and ourselves. In this verse, Jesus was using sharp contrasts to make a point. Here He uses the word hate as the opposite of love. He did not choose something easily hated, like sin. Instead, He chose the most noble love we could have in this world—the love of family. He uses this analogy to show that our love for God must take pre-eminence over all others.
The Cost of Discipleship
If ever there comes a time when the call of the highest earthly love and the cross of Christ are in conflict, the call of Christ must prevail. According to Jesus, a disciple is someone who loves God more than anyone else—even family and friends.
Requirement #2: Deny Yourself and Take up the Cross
"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:27).
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Luke 9:23)
The greatest barrier to discovering all that God has for us is our preoccupation with self. We have become a self-obsessed society—Jesus' mandate goes against the grain of popular culture. In fact, many in the church today have been advocating that the answer to most of the problems in our society is to build up our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
Bearing your cross means dying to oneself
Why did Jesus use this particular illustration? He used a radical symbol to get people's attention. He was not simply speaking of an individual's personal problem or obstacle. In that day and age, a person who was bearing a cross was walking to his death. Bearing your cross means dying to self—laying aside your personal goals, desires and ambitions so that God can reveal His desires, ambitions and goals for your life. In essence, it is living life as it was meant to be lived: in the will of God.
Requirement #3: Forsake All That You Have
"So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
To forsake means to surrender your claim to; to say goodbye to.
Until I recognize that everything I have belongs to Jesus Christ, I am not His disciple. Consider Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler who asked Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17).
Jesus was not implying that to follow Him, we need to take a vow of poverty. He asked this man to "sell all he had" because He could see that possessions were the god of this man's life. If something else had been on the "throne of his life," Jesus would have asked him for that.