18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20At once they left their nets and followed him.
21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.(Matthew 4, 18 – 22)
Yes, the above verses describe a scene in which Lord Jesus choosing his disciples. As you know the ones that Jesus selected first were Peter and his brother Andrew. Both were fishermen and were at the seaside fishing. As soon as Lord Jesus saw them, He offered them an invitation to follow Him.
Though, in Matthew 4, we get only a very little information regarding the events that preceded the choosing of Peter and Andrew, in Luke 5 we get more details about those events.
5Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
As you know, in Luke we see Jesus performing a miracle before offering Peter and Andrew an invitation. Peter and his companions were fishing the whole night but could not catch anything, they were disappointed, but Jesus ask them to let down the net for a catch and miraculously He provides them with a huge catch.
This miracle, in fact, had convinced Peter that he was in the presence of someone with Supernatural Powers and so, he wholeheartedly accepts the invitation of Jesus to follow Him.
While reading the above verses in Matthew 4 and Luke 5, what caught my attention was not the miracles that Jesus performed nor the promises He gave them but their immediate response. The verse says:
Yes, at once they left their nets and followed Him. The same things happened when Jesus Invited James and John too.
They both left their boat and their father and followed Jesus. Again, we see the same response from Levi too, who gives up his tax – collector’s position and decides to follow Christ.
Again, let us look at one more example in which Apostle Peter confirming what we have seen above. From the above verses we know that – those who followed Christ, left their former way of life and everything they possessed in order to follow Christ. See the verses of Apostle Peter.
As you understood from the above verses; all who followed Christ, left everything they possessed before they began their journey with Him; actually, that is what Christ also expected from them.
As you know, Christ, when He walked up on the face of the earth possessed nothing that attached Him to this world. He was completely free to do His Father’s work and nothing hindered Him as he had no encumbrances.
Similarly, he also expected His disciples or followers to be free from worldly possessions or attachments, so that they can be completely devoted to God and His Kingdom. And Lord Jesus clearly speaks out this intention a few times while speaking to the people who came to listen to Him. The following is just an example.
Yes, in the above verse Lord Jesus unequivocally makes it very clear that; a person cannot be His disciple unless he gives up everything he possesses. Yes, this is a very controversial topic and you might have heard a hundred times your Pastors just interpreting the above verse in a very soft manner – they might often say:
“Well, Jesus did not really mean it” Really?
Read the above verse very carefully – Jesus did not speak anything for the sake of speaking, He did not speak anything for fun either – what He spoke, He really meant it.
Liberal evangelicals who love this world with all their strength, with all their soul and with all their heart cannot accept and digest the above verse.
Saints; we cannot love the world and Christ at the same time. The disciples were aware of this truth; so, they chose the best; gave up what the world offered and accepted what Christ offered; because; what Christ offered was eternal and what the world offered was temporary and perishable.
When we examine the lives of first century believers, we could find that -they too did the same thing. They gave up the world in order to be the disciples of Christ. See the verses below:
Yes, the first century believers had everything in common, they did not possess anything for themselves. They gave up everything for the sake of Christ and they lived as His true disciples.
Saints, let us look at the final instructions that Christ gives his disciples before His ascension into heaven; What did He command them before His departure?
He commanded them to: “Go and Make Disciples”
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28, 19-20)
Saints, please read the above verses carefully. In Verse, 19 Jesus says:
“Go make disciples of all nations.”
He did not ask them to enrol people into Christianity or to any particular denomination or church– He instructed them to go and make disciples
Well, whose disciples? Disciples of Peter and John – No! – disciples of Christ.
So, what are the characteristics of a true disciple?
- A True Disciple of Christ possesses only one thing in this world – that is Christ and Him alone.
- A True Disciple lives by the Commandments of Christ.
- A True Disciple will not hesitate to give up his life for the Kingdom of God.
- A True Disciple does not love the world or anything in this world.
- A True Disciple’s goal is – “He must increase and I must decrease”
- A True Disciple will pick up his cross and follow Christ.
- A True Disciple gives up his dreams and aspirations for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
Yes, the whole possession of a true disciple in this world is Christ and nothing else. He is attached only to Christ and not to anything else. Apostle Paul knew this truth very well and he embraced it with his whole heart and as a result he became a classic example of a true disciple. That is why He says: I know only Christ and Him Crucified.
So, now, comes the big question – Do you and I come under the category of a true disciple of Christ?
Please let me be honest with you. No! we don’t come under this category. We are really too far from being one.
You might wonder why I say this – it is because; we haven’t given up anything much for the sake of Christ. We still hold on to this world and its perishable pleasures. We love Christ and this world at the same time. There are many things in our lives that we love more than Christ. Let me remind you again the words of Jesus:
Yes, you cannot be His disciple unless you give up everything you possess. When you give up everything for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom, then, you receive the title
“Disciple of Christ”
Saints; please remember, here, I am not denying your faith in Christ, you and I are believers in Christ; we have faith in Christ, we are inheritors of Christ and His Kingdom. As long as our faith is intact, we will stay eligible to be in the Kingdom of God.
However, being a disciple is a different story altogether; the cost of being a disciple is too high to pay and most of us do not want and will not pay that price.
A disciple is someone who is part of the inner circle; he does not belong to the world anymore; the Bride belongs to the Bridegroom; and his heart leaps in joy when he hears the sound of the bridegroom; exactly like John the Baptist. See the verses below:
29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. (John 3, 29)
In the above verses we hear the words of a true disciple. Yes, John the Baptist was a true disciple who set himself apart for the Kingdom of God. He lived in the desert; ate locusts and honey; wore clothes made out of camel’s skin. He did not set his eyes on any of the pleasures of this world; in fact, he was completely detached from the world.
But how many of us are willing to choose a life that is completely detached from this world? Very few. Most of us have our own commitments to the things of this world. Moreover, we are also not willing to walk out of those commitments for the Kingdom of God.
Saints, there is a huge difference between a true disciple of Christ and a true believer in Christ. Both belong to Christ; but both may not receive equal rewards in the Kingdom of God. As I said earlier, a true disciple belongs to the inner circle. Their rewards will possibly be greater than our rewards; because they have made more sacrifices than most of us have made.
Next, let me give you an example of the higher status enjoyed by a true disciple who belongs to the inner circle. Read the verse below.
27Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife e or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.(Matthew 19, 27-29)
As you see above, when Peter asks Jesus what rewards are, they going to receive for leaving everything behind and following Him; Jesus answers:
“At the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne; you who have followed Me will also sit with Me on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel”
Furthermore; He also promises that those who have a left everything to follow Him will also receive a hundred-fold of blessings and also eternal life.
So, here we see the difference between an ordinary believer and a true disciple who left everything and followed Christ. As you see in the above verses; the rewards for both the groups are entirely different.
Now; this leads us to the following questions:
- How many among the contemporary born-again believers are really True Disciples?
- How many have left everything in order to follow Christ?
- How many really belong to Christ’s inner circle?
In my observation – Not many; the percentage might be really small and we seldom come across these few who really have given up everything for the sake of following Christ.
As a matter of fact; they don’t appear on Television channels; they are not among the rich and the famous; they do not own any Christian Ministries, They do not hold any power or authority in this world, they do not have titles and designations, most of them are like aliens in this world; and the world, including majority of the so-called Christians, do not recognise them.
These true disciples mostly live in the darkest corners of this world working among the poor and the disadvantaged. They toil for the Kingdom of God without expecting anything from anyone. They do not have their own dreams and aspirations; they have given up those things for the sake of Christ; their only desire is:
“He must increase and I must decrease”
Finally, most of them do not get or seek support from those big mission organizations that you and I are familiar with; they just survive on what Heaven provides them with. Though they are unknown to the Christians of this world; they are well known to the Angels in Heaven and they go before and after these saints in order to take care of them.
Unfortunately, many of us have not grown spiritually mature enough to love Christ to the extent of giving up everything we possess in order to be a true disciple.
Though we talk tall and long about our love for Christ and sing sweet songs to praise Him, we still do not love Him strong enough to give up everything in order to be His true disciple.
Saints, here, I am not blaming you for not being one among the true disciples; I am just simply re-stating the reality that I see around.
Finally, by the time you reach this part of the article, some of you might feel a bit unhappy about your Faith life as you are unable to be one that belong to the inner circle of Christ; but please do not trouble yourself over this.
As you know, we all are unique in God’s eyes and each one of us have a unique purpose and calling in our lives. Besides, we all are at different stages of our Faith Life and we all have different levels of faith.
Some, like Peter and John, reaches at a higher level of faith as soon as they have that divine encounter with Christ. However, majority of us still take a long time to mature in our faith and as a result, we are unable to bear much fruit for the kingdom of God.
Anyway, being a true disciple of Christ is a difficult task; unless you have that divine calling, you cannot truly be one. If He calls you out like He did in the case of the twelve disciples, definitely He will also fill you with the Grace from above in order to fulfil that calling.
But instead, if you try to be one by imitating somebody, that is going to be a difficult endeavour; you might even miserably fail as many have failed in the past.