The Cost of Non-Discipleship

A question popped into my mind one day as I was driving: What is the cost of non-discipleship?

We have heard much about the cost of discipleship and many books have been written about it – I am personally challenged by the one written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Drawn from the teachings of Jesus, we have many biblical references to quote from.  And I think we know these quite well.

For sure, the cost of discipleship is high.  Disciples are expected to love Jesus more than anyone and anything (Matt 10:37).  Disciples are to deny themselves, forsaking everything to follow Jesus (Matt 16:24).  Disciples must expect to be persecuted for the sake of Jesus, and some may even be killed along the way (Matt 10:23,28).  Now, whether we take these seriously or not is a totally different matter.  After all, it is all too easy to spiritualise these, or consider the slightest discomfort we face as suffering as disciples of Jesus.  But this is not the point of this post at all.

Even with the lowering of the discipleship bar, there are many who are still not responding to the call to be disciples, much less the commission to go and make disciples.  These are just content with being believers, resting on the assurance of their salvation (or so they presume).  Think about it: Why go through all that trouble since we’re all going to meet in heaven one day.  So when challenged and provoked by discipleship messages and initiatives, they simply smile and shrug it off as not relevant or applicable.  It’s the typical “here-I-am-send-them” mentality!  Sounds nice, but honestly, this discipleship thingy is really not my cup of tea.

Without doubt, it is costly to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  But I am wondering if it is just as costly, if not costlier, not to be one?  If not, why be a disciple?  If not, why choose the road less travelled?  These believers then appear to be the smarter ones, enjoying all the blessings and promises while those crazy enough to be disciples get maligned, persecuted, beheaded, burnt and sawn in two!

But read again, the words of Jesus in Matt 16:26 after He challenges His disciples to the denial of self and the taking up of their crosses: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”  Who is this hypothetical man that Jesus referred to?  An unbeliever or a non-disciple?  Is it not true that we read it and automatically assume that it refers to an unbeliever, and so we readily and quickly presume that our souls are thus saved?  But if we read this in context, does it not apply to the one who does not want to deny himself, to take up his cross, to follow Jesus?  Is this not the one who refuses to accept the invitation to be a disciple of Jesus?

Or consider the assuring words of Jesus in Matt 10:30 & 31: “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  So poetic and beautiful, romantic even.  But were these words spoken to disciples or to non-disciples?  Quite obviously to disciples who were being prepared for upcoming persecution and martyrdom, no less!  Is it not interesting that believers are all too ready to receive the promises, assurances and rewards attributed to discipleship without ever wanting to be a disciple?

Is there a cost of not being a disciple of Jesus?  I don’t know for sure.  But from the above thoughts, I believe the deception of thinking I am a disciple when I am not might prove costly in the days ahead.  More significantly, one may enjoy the “whole world”, appropriating the blessings of God as some are teaching in Christian circles, but might not the loss of one’s soul be considered costly?

As I said, the question came into my heart all too suddenly.  I don’t pretend to have the answer.  In fact, as you would have noticed, I have only thrown up more questions.  For now, all I know is that Jesus has called me to follow Him, and that I will do as His disciple.  Most certainly, I am aware of the cost of discipleship and God knows I struggle to always put Him first and above all others.  Yet more than the cost of discipleship, I must keep my eyes fixed on the cross of discipleship.  Jesus counted the cost and paid the price for me on the Cross.  What choice do I have but to also count the cost, to respond and to follow Him?

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.

Attributed to S. Sundar Singh

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