Today, we will continue our look at being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. A true disciple offers his own life. It is love of one’s own life that is often the greatest hindrance to full commitment to Christ. Jesus calls His disciples to total self-denial, including, if necessary, sacrifice to the point of death. (Matt 10:38-42)
In Romans 8:18 Paul writes that “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Outside of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there are few whose suffering approached that of the Apostle Paul’s personal experience of suffering. However, Paul always shook off that suffering in light of the hope God has given us in Jesus Christ. Paul does not merely suggest, but strongly affirms, that any suffering for Christ’s sake is a small price to pay for the gracious benefits received because of that suffering. The sufferings of this present time, that is, our time on earth, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Just as suffering was essential to Christ’s obedience to His Father, so to it is essential to our obedience to Christ. Those who do not know Christ have no hope when they suffer. Whatever the reason is for their affliction, it does not come upon them for Christ’s sake, or righteousness’ sake, and therefore cannot produce for them any spiritual blessing or glory. Those who live only for this life cannot look forward to any resolution of wrongs or to any comfort for their souls. Their pain, loneliness, and afflictions serve no divine purpose and bring no divine reward. Christians, on the other hand, have great hope, not only that their afflictions eventually will end but that those afflictions actually will add to their eternal glory.
Pastor and author John MacArthur summarizes these truths in his commentary on this passage saying “As followers of Christ, our suffering comes from men, whereas our glory comes from God. Our suffering is earthly, whereas our glory is heavenly. Our suffering is short, whereas our glory is forever. Our suffering is trivial, whereas our glory is limitless. Our suffering is in our mortal and corrupted bodies, whereas our glory will be in our perfected and imperishable bodies.”
Though the call to discipleship is definitely serious and costly, it is not for nothing. Jesus promised that those who gave up everything, including their own life, would ultimately gain everything from Him. A true disciple follows his calling and receives his reward. It is not about what we do, it is about what we receive. It is not experienced fully, in fact sometimes very little in this life, but it is primarily reserved for Heaven and is enjoyed now by faith and hope.
Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle puts the cost of discipleship this way, “Salvation costs you nothing, but discipleship will cost you everything. Salvation occurs in a moment, but discipleship takes a lifetime. Jesus asks whether or not you truly want to live a life of discipleship. If you are a disciple, do not quit. Everything that matters is hard. Everything that matters is costly. Do not quit. Don’t waste your life. Make your death count. Do not raise your hand unless you’re ready to see it through to the end.”
As followers of Jesus Christ, we must decide where our allegiance lies. Is it in the things of this world, or is it in the promises of a future reward? On multiple occasions, Jesus clearly states that to truly follow Him one must go down a sacrificial road. It is a road that is marked by risky and seemingly foolish lifestyle choices, especially to the non-believing world. However, nothing in this world is of greater value than the eternal reward that is offered to those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.