The Discipleship Test

by Chip Brogden
Abraham Lincoln once asked his cabinet members, “If we call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” The president’s counselors considered it and replied, “If we call a tail a leg, then a dog has five legs.” Lincoln shook his head. “No. A dog has four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.”

In the same way, calling Jesus “Lord” does not necessarily mean you have submitted to His Lordship. The proof of His Lordship over you is not in what you call Him; it is in the obedience to what He says. Discipleship is implied within the confession of Lordship; if I really confess Jesus as Lord, and really believe that He is Lord, then I will naturally do the things my Lord commands. The Master looks not at the words, but at the actions.

The kind of fruit you get is determined by the kind of seeds you plant. You get exactly what you ask for. When the British explorer Ernest Shackleton needed men to accompany him on his first expedition to Antarctica, he allegedly placed the following classified advertisement in the newspaper:

Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful.
Honour and recognition in event of success.”

This “invitation” did not bring many responses, but the few men who did respond were exactly the kind Shackleton wanted.

Likewise, Jesus knows exactly the kind of disciple He wants, and He knows exactly how to ask for them: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). There is great joy in following Jesus, and the possibility of ruling and reigning with Him in His Kingdom is certainly appealing. But following Jesus is not easy. Taking up the Cross is difficult.

Of course, there is another way. The Easy Path that “many find” (Mt. 7:13) makes discipleship into an option for those who get serious later on. Ironically, those who take the Easy Path in the beginning never really “get serious” later. Why should they? There is no expectation, no hard sayings, no Cross to embrace daily, no difficult demands or need for self-denial – and so there is no spiritual growth, no maturity, or deep knowledge of God. This Easy Path leads to destruction. Could it be that “the many” who take the Easy Path are all the while calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” but not actually doing what He says?

The Way of the Cross is a narrow way, a difficult way, but a necessary way if we ever intend to find Life. Entering the Gate is not the end of the journey; it is the beginning of the journey. It is at the end of the Path that one finds Life (Mt. 7:14), not the beginning. Jesus never made a distinction between being saved and being a disciple. He is not “Savior” for new Christians and “Lord” for older, more deeply committed Christians. Either He is Lord of all, or He isn’t Lord at all.

About the Author

CHIP BROGDEN is a best-selling author, teacher, and former pastor. His writings and teachings reach more than 135 nations with a simple, consistent, Christ-centered message focusing on relationship, not religion. Learn more »


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