The Path of True Discipleship is a Lonely One
The call of a believer to leave all and follow the Lord is literal and essential for the growth of the believer. It is not just a mental symbol accomplished by the “what if” theory.
"Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt 19:27-29).
Many preachers teach that the above scripture is figurative and not literal, but that is not so, they only teach that because they do not want to suffer for Christ. All of the disciples left those they loved, places they worked, and cities they lived in to follow Christ. In St. Matthew 4:18-20, Jesus called Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, who were fishermen. Immediately, they left their ship, and business, and followed Christ.
Then Jesus called James and his brother, John, who were also fishermen away from their father Zebedee, “And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matt. 4:22). Farther into His ministry, Jesus called the other disciples, who left their jobs and homes and families to follow Him. Each of the disciples counted the work of the gospel much more important than any of the traditional things the world had to offer.
At this point, true discipleship begins. A person has to deny and forsake all that they have and dedicate their entire life to Christ if they want to be a successful disciple that understands the Lord fully. Many people would find it difficult to leave those they love behind and an estate they have spent half their lives building and working hard to accomplish. The standard of the world controls what a person should and should not value.
Yet, the disciples valued the words of Christ far more than any substances or standards of the world. As Paul says in Philippians 3:8 which reads, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Paul’s desire to win the approval of Jesus Christ outweighed his desire to live according to the standards and values of the physical world.
The knowledge of Christ is far more valuable than the wisdom of the world; and ironically, it is by the knowledge of Christ, and of God, that the world stands. Jesus himself, when it was time for His ministry, denied His mother and His family relationships to fulfill His ministry from God. In the passage of St. Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus intends to show that His biological mother and brothers are no one to Him unless they are doing the will of His father. Those who do the will of God are the family of God, as brethren and sisters.
A person called of God can literally discontinue family relationships. In fact, family members are then foes and enemies after God calls a person to do His will. “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matt. 10:36). However, if a man or woman has a spouse and or children before the call, they can bring them along. "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed." 1 Corinthians 7:27. "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" 1 Corinthians 9:5.
The reason family members’ turn against the believer is that they have lost someone they love to something they do not understand. Parents get upset with children and children get upset with parents because the opposed feel that they have first rights to the believer’s heart, soul, and life. If the believer continues to walk deeper into the gospel, they possess power and learn to do things differently than they used to.
They talk, walk, and think differently. They live their life differently and are dedicated to a cause unlike what family members are used to, and sometimes family members do not like the change in the believer so it angers them. Therefore, they try to discourage and or hinder the believer from walking any further into the gospel and they will try all the old tricks to capture the attention of the believer. They will talk of old times and good times, and if necessary, bring in old friends as a type of intervention.
This is where the believer’s faith is tried, giving them the opportunity to leave family behind and follow Christ. Sometimes the family traps the believer into family obligations and the believer is deceived into loosening their grip of the gospel.
Not only are the believer’s immediate family members resentful, but close friends and associates also, and the same attempt to discourage the believer from following the Lord occurs. There are times when some people will use very hurtful and deceitful ways to discourage the believer. A person would not think that their old friends or family members could be so ruthless until they attempt to yank the believer away from the Lord.
People resort to making up lies about the believer to destroy their reputation in the family or in the workplace. They use jealousy tactics such as stealing the believer’s old male or female friend. Sibling rivalries intensify, mother-daughter, and father-son relationships come to the point of breakup. Some resort to bribery, spitefulness, and backstabbing to anger the believer and draw a reaction from them.
If the believer survives these attacks, the devil will approach them in another way, usually through the believer’s weaknesses. He uses the love of money and status through job promotions or an upgrade of a relationship that would have never come naturally; for instance, more money in exchange for servitude. The believer would receive extra in return for their servitude but the relationship is wrong and based on the believer’s loyalty to the briber and not to the Lord.
In a coed relationship, sex is an alternative to the believer’s relationship with the Lord when at one time it would not have been. Most people offering the believer these options are not aware that it is the devil working through them, therefore, the believer must be careful how they handle the situation and not to hurt the person’s feelings. It is principalities believers' war against and not the actual person. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).
Personal relationships are not necessarily the most difficult bonds for a believer to break when called of God. As stated earlier, the devil will attack the believer’s weaknesses and maybe the believer never really had strong family ties with his or her family in the first place. Other weaknesses such as the love for homes, cars, or immaterial projects constructed by the believer while in the world are some treasures they hold to after called of God.
There are parables that address those issues also. In St. Luke 12: 15, the scripture says, “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Different people value different things, be it family, material things, or status quo positions of authority, yet once called by God the believer is propositioned by the Lord, as Jesus did the disciples, to choose between what they value in the world and the Word of God. Those who choose to leave all behind and follow Christ make the best disciples by far, because nothing can hinder or distract them from loving the Lord and doing His will.
"There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life" (Mark 10:29, 30).
In the St. Mark discourse of leaving all, Jesus adds the rewards in the parable for those who succeed in forsaking all for the gospel’s sake. Whatever and whoever they forsook during the time of trial, the Lord promised He would repay a hundredfold the same. The difference in the first mother, or brother, or land, which the believer left, from those that the Lord promises them, is eternity.
Things given by the Lord are eternal and no one can take them away from the believer. Relationships are stronger, filled with true compassion and understanding, material possessions are more secure, and not threatened by the world’s system, and children are more faithful and under the guidance of the Lord. On the whole, life is better and more secure if given by the Lord and not by the world.
“I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Eccl. 3:14). The second life is the better life, that is why it is not only important to be born again, but a believer must fulfill the will of the Lord after their calling. To receive the new birth and not fulfill the call is possible.
As the parable of the Sower says, some receive the Word in the beginning with joy, but persecutions drive them away and back into their old sins. Material things of the world and the status and recognition of society distract some people and they turn from God: therefore, they remain in the same situation and will never grow in God’s grace until they forsake that which holds them in bonds. Whether a family relationship, a job, money, or anything they refuse to let go of for the sake of Christ.
Nevertheless, God is longsuffering and will give the believer ample amount of time to return to Him. In the book of Revelation, chapters two through 3, the parable describe situations where the Lord is admonishing believers to break free from the bonds that hold them hostage and to return unto Him. Before the believer can break free though, they must recognize what it is that holds them.
This is where faithful and true witnesses serve. Either they humbly admonish those bound by the principalities or they live a holy and sanctified lifestyle before the bound believer to demonstrate what the true ways of the gospel are. Some who are bound acknowledge their mistakes and repent but others get prideful and harden their hearts. Something in the world has them hostage and they refuse deliverance. Nothing in the world should take precedence over knowing the Lord, not even paternal family relations.
This does not mean that the Lord allows believers to be cruel toward parents, children, or friends, but that a believer should begin to see that those forces could be hindrances in their walk with Him. The initial job of a believer is to gain those close to them so that they also become believers. Nevertheless, the warnings still apply, that family members can be the worst enemies, but this is a good opportunity to forsake the worldly relationships and hope in the God-given ones.
The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies, that they receive salvation also. Most of them “…know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Bible tells us to pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Matt. 5:11). Abiding by the Word helps the believer to overcome the attacks of the devil.
The Holy Ghost in the believer acts as a barrier that protects them from all manner of hurt and pain that people once close to them may try to cause them. The Lord protects believers from the evils of the world by refining their hearts to love and not to hate or take vengeance, but to wait on Him and have faith in His promise. The promises are those of new relationships that encourage the soul and not destroy the soul and regardless of all the persecutions of the earth, the promise of eternal life in His kingdom.
To be precise, the call of a believer to leave all and follow the Lord is literal and essential for the growth of the believer. It is not just a mental symbol accomplished by the “what if” theory. “If he did ask me to leave all I would therefore it is done and I qualify as a disciple.” No, it is literal and expected. If a believer desires the hundredfold blessing that God has for them once they do leave all, they must receive the Holy Ghost and allow God to refine them and their lives.
They must prepare to suffer against the adversities of the devil and against family members and friends. They must prepare for the inevitable and the unexpected and especially for the miracles that God wants to reveal. The believer cannot take the call of leaving all lightly, but seriously, and they must fulfill the call throughout the entire ministry.