HOW DO YOU BECOME A DISCIPLE OF JESUS?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
A fellow Christian once said to me in a joking manner, "I don't mind
being a servant of Jesus Christ, I just don't want to be treated like one."
His words have come back to me many times as I have sought to live out my
life as a follower of Jesus Christ. On occasion I find myself wanting to
be a disciple of Christ but on my own terms.
This setting of pre-conditions for discipleship was familiar to Jesus during
his ministry. He said to one man, "Follow me," only to hear in
response, "Permit me first to go and bury my father." Another
man told Jesus, "I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say
good-bye to those at home" (Luke 9:57-62). True discipleship, however,
has no pre-conditions. Having placed our faith in Jesus as our Lord and
Savior, as 1 Corinthians says, "our life is no longer our own; we have
been bought with a price."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who gave up his life daily on behalf
of the German people during the time of the Nazis, and finally died for
his faith at the end of a rope in a Nazi prison, once said, "When Christ
calls a man, he bids him come and die." The concept of discipleship
has been greatly watered down in our modern age. From time to time it is
helpful to review the true definition of discipleship as it is found in
the Scripture. Let us turn to Luke 9:18-27 to find the answer to our question,
"How does one become a disciple of Jesus Christ?"
We are continuing our studies in Luke's gospel, and today we will look at
verses 18 through 27 of chapter 9. Between verses 17-18, according to the
other gospels, our Lord 1) blocked the people's attempt to make him king
by sending his disciples back to Capernaum by boat while he went up the
mountain to pray; 2) joined his disciples by walking some 3-4 miles on the
surface of the waters of Lake Galilee during a storm. They became afraid
and thought he was a ghost; Peter wanted to join him, but lost faith and
almost drowned. Then as the Lord got into the boat, Mark 6:51-52 says, "...the
wind stopped and they were astonished, for they had not gained any insight
from the incident of the loaves, but their hearts were hardened." 3)
after Jesus landed in Gennesaret he continued his healing ministry; 4) he
followed with a discourse on the true Bread of Life, in the synagogue of
Capernaum (John 6:22-59), which resulted in many disciples leaving him.
Next, he had a confrontation with the Pharisees over the tradition of ceremonial
defilement; 5) then the Lord and his disciples went northwest to the cities
of Tyre and Sidon and ministered to a Gentile woman whose daughter was possessed
by demons; 6) he then returned to the eastern shores of the lake in the
district of Decapolis, where the hearts of the Gentiles had been prepared
by the ministry of the former demoniac named "Legion." There he
healed many sick Gentiles and miraculously fed another crowd of 4,000;
6) he returned by boat to the north coast of the Sea of Galilee, was confronted
by the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, and he used that opportunity
to teach his disciples to "beware of the leaven (teaching) of the Pharisees
and Sadducees" (Matt. 16:12); 8) they then returned to Bethsaida, where
Jesus healed a blind man, and finally, they all headed north to Caesarea
Jesus was aware that the Pharisees in Jerusalem were seeking to kill him
at Passover, so he did not attend the third feast in April of the end of
his second year of ministry, but remained in Northern Galilee and Decapolis
(John 7:1-9). He gathered his disciples around him once again. At this meeting
he wanted them to clearly understand who he was and why he had to die on
the cross, be buried and raised again on the third day. He also wanted them
to know what he considered to be the marks of genuine discipleship. The
future of his gospel would depend on their being faithful to follow him
even unto death.
As we turn to Luke 9:18-27 today, let this passage challenge our own commitment
to Jesus Christ in our generation. Let us make sure that when we invite
men and women to become disciples of our Lord, we do not present some watered-down
version of what Jesus asks of each of his true followers. How do you become
a disciple of Jesus ?
I. Believe he is "The Christ of God", Luke 9:18-20
And it came about that while He was praying alone, the disciples
were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the multitudes
say that I am?" And they answered and said, ""John the Baptist;
but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the prophets of old has
risen again." And He said to them, "But who do you say that I
am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God."
Caesarea Philippi, lying on the southern slopes of Mt. Hermon, which was
snow-capped each winter, was one of the centers of Decapolis. One of the
many streams that flow through the town make up the headwaters of the Jordan
River. Through the centuries, the ancient pagans built many idols there
to worship the gods of the waters. Some think that Jesus asked this question,
"Who do the multitudes say that I am?" as he stood a high cliff
by the town which housed idols to Roman and Greek gods in its many caves
Following a time of prayer, our Lord asked his disciples this important
question. Jesus was asking, in other words, "In light these gods, who
do the people think I am?" (This incident is also covered in Matt.16:13-20
and Mark 8:27-30.) He was seeking to know if the people to whom the disciples
had been ministering for the last year in the region of Galilee really understood
who he was. Remember that the Pharisees had already denounced him as a law
breaker and a Sabbath breaker who performed all his miracles by the power
of Satan. News of this would have spread quickly into every synagogue in
Galilee and caused great confusion in the minds of these "sheep without
"John the Baptist," was the first answer Jesus received in response
to his question. In Luke 19:7, we read that Herod Antipas, governor of Galilee,
who had beheaded John, became perplexed when he heard of the miracles of
Jesus. He was told that some people thought Jesus was John the Baptist.
But why would the people think that Jesus was the deceased forerunner? It
was because they were looking for a Messiah who would introduce a physical
kingdom, but first they would see the forerunner of Malachi who would come
with a message of repentance and judgement. John and Jesus had the same
message. The disciples' second reply was Elijah, the prophet and miracle
worker who never died but was taken up into heaven by God some 850 years
earlier and was prophesied to return to earth as the forerunner of the Messiah.
Their third answer was, one of the prophets, like the miracle worker Elisha,
or even Moses raised from the dead.
Jesus then asked the disciples a second time, "But who do you say that
I am?" This was a very important question. Jesus was facing the cross,
and he needed his disciples to clearly understand his person and purpose
on earth, and the part they would play in bringing the kingdom of God into
the hearts of men and women after he returned to his Father. All his messages
and miracles were designed so that his disciples would in time become fully
convinced that he was truly the Messiah. But not the Messiah of popular
expectation, rather the one in harmony with Isaiah 53, the man who would
come to this earth to suffer and die for the sins of mankind and on the
third day be raised from the dead by the power of His Father. For the Messiah
to die on a cross was a stumbling block to the Jewish mind. Deut. 21:22-23
states, "...if a man has committed a sin, worthy of death, and he is
put to death, and you hang him on a tree, ...for he who is hanged is accursed
of God..." The disciples did not understand that Jesus was about to
go to the cross to become a curse for us (Gal. 3:13).
Now it was Peter's turn to answer, and by the power of spiritual revelation
he replied, "The Christ of God" (The Son of the living God, Matt.
16:16). He was saying, "You are the Lord's anointed, as prophesied
by the prophets of old. You are the promised prophet, priest and king come
to deliver us from our sins and our enemies." John would later write
of Jesus' incarnation, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among
us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). According to Matthew, Jesus said
to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood
did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say
to you that your are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and
the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the
kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in
heaven, and whatever you shall loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven
The cults and the world religions have not been given this revelation and
thus they continue to deny our Lord's incarnation. Here is what they say
of the Lord Jesus: "Jesus is the human man and Christ is the divine
ideal"; "Christ himself was nothing more than a medium high order";
"Jesus was not Jehovah God"; "Jesus is among the spirit children
of Elohim, the firstborn was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all
others are juniors"; "Christ is considered to be one of a long
line of 'masters' who had themselves realized divinity"; "Jesus
is the Son of God, but not God the Son or God himself." The apostle
Peter, however, here was given a divine revelation from our heavenly Father
as to the truth of Jesus' person: He was "The Christ of God."
How do you become a disciple of Jesus? You must believe in your heart that
Jesus is the Christ of God, the very Son of the one and only living God,
God come in the flesh. "...there is salvation in one one else; for
there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which
we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
How do you become a disciple of Jesus? You must believe that Jesus is the
Christ of God, and then, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit,
II. Take up your cross daily, Luke 9:21-23
But He warned them, and instructed them not to tell this to
anyone, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected
by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised
up on the third day. And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes
to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and
The reason Jesus warned his disciples to not tell anyone was that at this
time he was at the peak of his popularity with the common people. They wanted
to take him by force and make him their king. If that happened, he would
be forced to set up an earthy political kingdom and many of his followers
would be unbelievers who would resist denying themselves, taking up their
cross, and losing their lives to follow him. The leaders of Israel and the
majority of the Jewish people chose to not believe that he was the Son of
God in spite of his person, message and miracles. Jesus wanted his disciples
to be quiet about this truth until he could give his witness before the
Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. At that time the High Priest would said to him,
"I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the
Christ, the Son of God" (Matt. 26:63f).
Next, Jesus prophesied concerning his own death and resurrection (9:22):
"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders
and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third
day." This is the first direct prophecy our Lord gave to his disciples
concerning his forthcoming suffering and death at the hands of the elders,
high priest and scribes in Jerusalem. He also gave them word concerning
his physical resurrection from the dead. (All these events would take place
a year from this current Passover season.) His suffering, death and resurrection
were all prophesied in Isaiah 53, and Psalm 22, as God's plan to deal with
the sinful fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden.
To the disciples, this divine program was a startling revelation. As forceful
as Peter was to declare Jesus "the Christ of God," he was just
as ready to rebuke the Lord and his plans. Matthew 16:22-23 records Peter
as saying, "'God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.'
But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling
block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but on
man's.'" For God's interest was already prophesied in Isaiah 53: 3-4:
"He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted
with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised,
and we did not esteem Him. Surely our sin He Himself bore, and our sorrows
He carried. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed
for our iniquities; The chastening of our well-being fell upon Him, and
by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each
of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of
us all to fall on Him. "
"And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
To deny oneself means to choose by the power of the Holy Spirit to live
daily in the spiritual reality that Paul shared with the Corinthians, "You
are not your own; you have been bought with a price" (6:19-20). "To
deny oneself...is to turn away from the idolatry of self-centeredness"
(C.E.B. Cranfield). Once we place our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior
we become his bondservant, and we begin to learn to live our lives to fulfill
his will, not ours. We will need to deny our self-confidence, self-adequacy,
and self-sufficiency. Either Jesus is Lord of our lives or we are. We cannot
have it both ways. The key attitude of our new lives in Christ is stated
in the words of our Lord the night before he died on the cross for our sins:
"Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will,
but Thine be done" (Luke 22: 42).
"...and take up his cross daily ... " Jesus followed up his prophecy
by saying that if after confessing him as Messiah one still want to follow
him, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily." The
Roman cross was an instrument of shame, humiliation and death, used by the
government to punish criminals. When the Jews watched a criminal take up
a cross and be led by a squad of Roman soldiers to the hill of Calvary,
they all knew the man was making a one-way trip to his death. The criminal
takes up his cross under duress, the Christian does it willingly, by the
power of the Holy Spirit.
Taking up my cross means I admit that it was my sin of envy, rebellion,
pride, lust, murder, adultery, slander, etc., that put Jesus on that cross.
But when I placed my faith in him, I died once and for all to the power
of sin, and now because he lives I am able to life a new resurrected life
of righteousness by his resurrection power (Romans 6). The cross of Christ
is a daily reminder that our flesh needs to be put to death. The apostle
Paul said years later to the Galatians, "Now those who belong to Christ
Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live
by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5: 24-25). We
are not to coddle or cuddle our flesh, nor give it any encouragement or
even tolerate it. Instead we are to reject it together with its selfish
desires. We are to nail the flesh to the cross daily. Paul tells us that
if Jesus is Lord, then "...we who live are constantly being delivered
over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested
in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you" (2 Cor
4:11-12). In his book, The Cross of Christ, John R.W. Stott wrote, "The
cross undermines our self-righteousness. We stand before it with a bowed
head and a broken spirit, and there we remain until the Lord Jesus speaks
to our hearts his word of pardon and acceptance, and we, gripped by his
love and brimful of thanksgiving, go out into the world to live our lives
in his service."
"...and follow Me..." There were many disciples who were willing
to follow Jesus for a while, but then they left him because he continued
to offer them a spiritual kingdom when they wanted a political kingdom.
But the offer of the Lord was that true disciples would not only deny themselves
and take up their cross, but also follow him wherever he led them, even
to their own physical death on a cross if necessary, the same death Peter
would suffer later. The disciples were asked to trust the Lord as "he
set his face toward Jerusalem" (9:51), to suffer, die and be raised
again. To follow Jesus means to walk in obedience to his word so that our
lives bring glory to him and joy to our own hearts.
Most of us have seen the movie Chariots of Fire, the story
of two outstanding athletes in the 1924 Olympic Games held in Paris. One
of the athletes was Eric Liddell, a Scotsman and a Christian who won the
gold medal and set a world record in the 400 meters. Following the Games,
Eric was called of God to serve as a missionary in China. When the Japanese
invaded China in the '30's, Eric task of teaching and evangelism in the
countryside brought him face to face with the victims of that war. On several
occasion he was called upon to rescue wounded and dying men who were left
untreated because the local people feared reprisals from the Japanese. Just
before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eric was rounded up with all the other
"enemy nationals" and placed in a prison camp. There he taught
the other prisoners and children the word of God, and tried to met their
medical needs. He died at the age of 43, just months before the liberation,
and was buried in the little cemetery in the Japanese part of the camp.
Do you remember the last lines that came up on screen at the end of the
movie? They were: "Eric Liddell. Missionary. Died in occupied China
at the end of World War II. All Scotland mourned."
How do you become a disciple of Jesus? You must believe that he is the Christ;
take up your cross daily, and.
III. Be willing to lose your life, Luke 9: 24-27
"For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but
whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For
what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits
himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son
of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father
and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some of those standing
here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
The disciples were aware that John the Baptist had "lost" his
life daily from the time he was a youth up to the time of his physical death
at the hands of Herod and Herodias. Over the following 30 years, 11 of the
12 disciples would be placed into circumstances in which they would day
by day have to give up their hopes and dreams in order to remain faithful
to their Lord and their calling. They would be persecuted, arrested, tried,
placed in prisons, beaten, suffer cold, hunger, loneliness, fear and abandonment
for the sake of Christ. And in the end, all but perhaps John would die a
martyr's death. "Remember the word that I said to you," Jesus
said in the upper room, "a slave is not greater than his master. If
they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..." (John 15: 20).
Paul would tell his spiritual son, Timothy, some 30 years later that, "...all
who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim.3:12).
The writer to the Hebrews reminded the Christian community that they would
be made made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, partly
by becoming sharers with those who were so treated: "For you showed
sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property,
knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding
one (in eternity)" (10:32-35).
Jesus had preached earlier that he was the Bread of Life, and everyone who
believed in him would be given the gift of eternal life: "It is the
Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have
spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do
not believe. Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe,
and who it was that would betray Him. As a result of this many of His disciples
withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore" (John 6). This statement
may have been made directly to Judas, who was having second thoughts about
the person and claims of Jesus. Judas was a Jewish Zealot before he met
Jesus. He hoped the Lord would set up a powerful political kingdom that
would overthrown the Roman government. But the more he listened to the Lord,
the more it became apparent that Jesus was speaking of a spiritual kingdom.
Judas was not about to lose his life for a man he really didn't believe
was the political Messiah he had hoped would save Israel from Roman domination.
Thus he took steps to save his life, and in doing so began to lose it.
"For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses
or forfeits himself?" (Mark 8:37 adds, "For what shall a man give
in exchange for his soul?") Where are you investing your life? Remember
the words of Satan at the beginning of Jesus' ministry: "Again the
devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms
of the world, and their glory; and he said to Him, 'All things will I give
You, if You fall down and worship me' (Matt. 4:8-9). The Roman Caesars thought
they had approached this high water mark when they were declared to be the
gods of Rome and Emperors of the world, yet each died in their turn and
took into eternity all that they were born with-nothing but their soul!
The man who built his life on a sandy foundation lost his house, his life
and his soul when the deadly storm finally hit. This would be true of Herod
Antipas, the High Priest, the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, and finally,
Judas, who all thought this world was all there was and invested so heavily
in it they lost their souls.
"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of
Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and
of the holy angels" (9:26). Matthew adds, quoting Psalm 62:12 and Proverbs
24:12, "and will then recompense every man according to his deeds."
Here our Lord is speaking of his second coming, after his death, resurrection
and ascension, because he makes reference to the great white throne judgment,
in which all the deeds of men will be weighed and found wanting. Paul reminded
the Ephesians, "by grace you have been saved through faith and that
not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that
no one should boast" (2: 8-9).
"But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here
who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." Matt.
16: 28 adds, "...until they see the Son of man coming in His Kingdom";
Mark 9:1 says, "...until they see the kingdom of God after it has come
with power." None of this glory will be stopped by the rejection of
the Pharisees, the High Priest, the Supreme Court, the political powers
of Rome or even our Lord's death on the cross. In the immediate context
it appears that our Lord is referring to the time six days later, when he
will take his disciples out of Caesarea Philippi and move higher up the
slopes of Mt Hermon. There, Peter, James and John would see the Transfiguration
of Jesus and be allowed to look into eternity and see the risen Savior in
all his glory and power. This is the vision all the world will finally see
at his second coming when he assumes his rightful position as King of kings
and Lord of lords.
How do you become a disciple of Jesus? Believe he is "the Christ of
God" (Luke 9:18-20); take up your cross
Catalog No. 4142
Ron R. Ritchie
September 2, 1990
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