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The Code of Discipleship - What it Means to Follow Jesus - Shepherd of Hope

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” – Luke 14:26

 

At the end of Luke 14, Jesus speaks of what it means to follow Him. Earlier in the chapter, in the context of being invited by His enemies to dine, Jesus speaks of what I call The Code of Discipleship. Jesus extends an invitation to us to follow Him. But what does that mean to follow Jesus? Take a moment and familiarize yourself with the first twenty-four verses of the chapter, and then continue with this study below.

What message do you think Jesus was trying to convey by speaking these parables, each of which involve an invitation? The first parable of the wedding feast invitation speaks about how we should accept an invitation; humbly (Luke 14:1-11). The rulers of the Pharisees needed to learn humility. In the second parable Jesus speaks to us about how and who we ought to invite to dine with us. We shouldn’t use invitations to scheme to build prestige and benefit. We shouldn’t invite people based on how they could profit us. Instead, we should invite those who can’t benefit us (Luke 14:12-14). We should invite the poor, maimed, lame and blind; those who are unwanted and needy. The next parable of Jesus speaks of people who turn down a gracious invitation to a grand supper, and that when they do, they miss out on a rich blessing. We also learn from this parable that Jesus wants His house filled (Luke 14:15-24).

The Code of Discipleship is Anchored in the Cross of Christ. Now in this last section of Luke 14, Jesus is going to speak about what it means to accept His invitation and follow Him. Jesus in these last verses is going to speak about The Code of a Disciple. The Code of a Disciple describes Jesus’ expectations for those who follow Him. You might think this code extreme or unreasonable. You might look at this code and think “that’s fanatical!”   But many have lived by codes and given their lives for causes of temporal worth.

The three-corner flag fold. I got the following from a friend on social media:

Ever wonder why the American flag is folded into a triangle shape at military funerals?

After Taps is played, the flag is carefully folded into the symbolic tri-cornered shape. A properly proportioned flag will fold thirteen times on the triangles, representing the original thirteen colonies with each fold representing a uniqueness of its own as explained below. The folded flag is emblematic of the tri-cornered hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, no red or white stripe is to be evident, leaving only the blue field with stars.

Have you ever noticed that the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the United States of America Flag thirteen times?

The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.

The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life.

The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.

The 4th fold represents the weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in the time of war for His divine guidance.

The 5th fold is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.’

The 6th fold is for where people’s hearts lie. It is with their heart that they pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

The 7th fold is a tribute to its Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of their republic.

The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.

The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born.

The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding them of their Nations motto, ‘In God We Trust.’

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today. [1]

All this is part of the code lived for a temporary country in a temporary world that is winding down to the end. Jesus’ Code of Discipleship, on the other hand, is lived for an eternal future kingdom of eternal destiny and worth.

Jesus’ Code of Discipleship is anchored in the cross of Christ.  The Code of Discipleship is anchored in the cross of Christ. As you go through Jesus’ Code, keep the cross of Christ before you. As you consider the Code, see Jesus’ outstretched arms nailed to the cross, inviting you to follow Him. The cross of Christ puts the Code of Discipleship in proper perspective.

The Apostle Paul was inspired to write of this code and how it should impact the follower of Jesus. The church in Corinth was very gifted, but also very carnal. The church at Corinth was self-centered, cliquish, puffed up and proud. They were caught up in one-up-man-ship. They had “love feasts” with little love in them. They weren’t following the Code of Discipleship laid out in Luke 14 by Jesus. So, the Apostle Paul was inspired to give them some firm corrections.

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul told the Corinthians they were “saints,” and saved (1 Corinthians 1:2), and he was thankful for them (1 Corinthians 1:4-9), but they were divided (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). They were relying on human wisdom more than the wisdom that comes by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:16).   As a result, they were spiritually immature, “babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). The result was they weren’t serving with the right attitude (1 Corinthians 4). They allowed gross immorality to go undisciplined in the church (1 Corinthians 5). They were seeking secular courts to settle disputes for things they should have worked out in the Spirit in the church (1 Corinthians 6). Their marriages were a mess (1 Corinthians 7). They were allowing themselves to be divided over differences of opinion because they cared little for other people’s feelings (1 Corinthians 8). They even brought accusations against Paul! (1 Corinthians 9). They had forgotten the lessons to be learned from God’s children of old (1 Corinthians 10). They even desecrated the Communion Table of the Lord! (1 Corinthians 11). They had all the spiritual gifts, but weren’t administering them in an orderly way, or in love (1 Corinthians 12-14). They even doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15-16). There was a lot for Paul to correct in this carnal spiritually immature church.

Paul addressed the Corinthians, with all their problems, by reminding them of and emphasizing, the cross of Christ. He said:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:1–2 – And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The cross of Christ, according to Paul and his inspired word from God, was all that was needed to address and solve the problems they were experiencing. Looking at the cross first reveals our spiritual need. When we look at the cross, we see how foolish and selfish and carnal our immature spiritual behavior has become. When we look at the cross, we discover the solution to our spiritual immaturity. To the Galatians Paul was inspired to write:

  • Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The cross of Christ is the solution to spiritual immaturity and is at the heart of the Code of Discipleship. A.W. Tozer explained it like this:

There are three marks of the one who is crucified: one, he is facing in only one direction. Two, he can never turn back. And three, he no longer has any plans of his own.

The cross of Jesus presents us with the heart and soul of the Code of Discipleship. The cross of Christ embodies and defines and calls us to the Code of Discipleship. At the cross of Christ, you come and die. At the cross of Christ, you place all your faith in Jesus. At the cross of Christ, you learn you are not your own but have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:19-20). These are all necessary parts of being a disciple of Jesus. Therefore, if you want to be a disciple of Jesus, and if you want to implement the Code of Discipleship in your life, you MUST go to the cross of Christ.

Well, the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians indicates they made some changes for the better. Some afflictions or persecution may have awakened them to this (2 Corinthians 1). Trials have a way of purifying the heart. Paul speaks of their repentance (2 Corinthians 2). He speaks of their advancement spiritually (2 Corinthians 3-4). And then in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul shines some bright light on these still shaded Corinthians. Paul, in his own inspired words, but with the same Spirit, shares the Code of Discipleship with the Corinthians. Paul is inspired to put it like this:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14–21 – 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

These words are a powerful description of The Code of Discipleship and what it means to follow Jesus. The Code of Discipleship is the vehicle that will drive us out of carnal Christianity and into a deep abiding rewarding discipleship with Jesus. This is true Christianity. This is what Jesus referred to as “the abundant life” (John 10:10). This is the Spirit-filled Spirit empowered life of Romans 8. Just look at these words and what they say.

A prayerful consideration of Paul’s words here yields the following insights about The Code of Discipleship:

  1. The love of Jesus should be the compelling force in all we do – 5:14a.
  2. Jesus demonstrates His love in dying for us – 5:14b.
  3. And because Jesus died for us, we are not our own (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20), we in effect are dead – 5:14c.
  4. And the purpose or reason for which Jesus died, was that we would no longer live for ourselves but live for Him who died and rose again for us – 5:15
  5. This should have radical change on us; we should no longer see those around us or life in general according ot limited material fleshly things, but with an eye to spiritual eternal values – 5:16
  6. When we came to Christ the old ways passed away and we were made new in Him – 5:17
  7. God made a way of reconciling the lost to Him and this now is our ministry; to make known the reconciliation we can have with God – 5:18
  8. God showed us what this means in “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” which is our example to live out – 5:19
  9. We are ambassadors of this message and God is using us to implore the lost to be reconciled to Him in Christ – 5:20
  10. It’s all about Jesus who was made sin for us and so that His righteousness could be put to our account when we trust in Him – 5:21

This is Paul’s version of The Code of Discipleship. These inspired words are the outflow of Jesus original Code of discipleship delivered here in Luke 14. This is what Jesus invites us to. Will you accept His invitation to follow The Code of Discipleship? Let’s see what Jesus said about this Code.

25 Now great multitudes went with Him.

The privileged religious leaders had been given an invitation to follow Jesus. They chose to refuse that invitation. Therefore, as Jesus said in the parables, He would go to the “highway and hedges” an invite the poor, maimed, lame, and blind. Jesus offered His hand to the religious leaders. They brushed it aside. Therefore, Jesus is going to move on.

There is a time to move on. Sometimes we try to argue people into heaven. We spend a great deal of time and effort on a person. And still they don’t come. We need to remember that while we are spending time on someone who isn’t interested in receiving Jesus, it causes us to neglect someone who might want to receive Jesus.

The Code of Discipleship. What follows is what I refer to as Jesus’ Code of Discipleship. If you want to walk with Jesus and be used by Him in eternally productive ways, this is the code you must follow. Now, this is a code followed in the power of the Spirit, but it needs to be followed nonetheless.

And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

First, your relationship with Jesus must be your most important relationship. Now, let me say from the start that this statement by Jesus should not be construed in any way to support a neglect of one’s marriage or family responsibilities. A disciple of Jesus should be the best spouse, best parent, best friend, best at whatever station in life God places you. Being a disciple should never be interpreted in a way that causes someone to mentally or actually abandon their marital or familial or societal responsibilities. Being a disciple of Jesus shouldn’t make us less of what we should be, it should make us more of what we ought to be.

Jesus ordains marriage and family. We serve Jesus by being a good husband and parent. We should never cast aside marriage and family to selfishly pursue some “call” from Jesus. If Jesus is indeed the One calling us, He will work in the hearts of all those involved. He won’s have us rely on manipulation or scheming. He will move upon our situations by the Spirit.

Having said that, our relationship with Jesus must be our priority and top relationship. We should give Jesus the best of our day and time. Again, this doesn’t mean we neglect our other relationships. In fact, it means quite the opposite. When we keep our relationship with Jesus first, it makes us a better spouse and parent and whatever it is we might be. Our relationship enriches and edifies every other facet of our lives. Loving Jesus most enables us to love others more. Loving Jesus most, teaches us to know what love us. Loving Jesus and being close to Him and walking with Him not only teaches us what love is, it empowers us to live out such love with those around us.

The meaning of Jesus words here should be taken in a comparative sense. Our love for Jesus, should be so great than any other love for anyone or anything else seems like hate in comparison. If we are going to be a disciple of Jesus, then we will have to love Him supremely.

27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Second, bear your mission. The word “bear” (Greek bastazei – Present/ Active/ Indicative of bastadzo) means here a continuous picking up, lifting up, sustaining, carrying, bearing. The “cross” (Greek stauron) referred to a cross upon which a criminal was executed. Now since Jesus said this prior to His crucifixion, He is calling His disciples to follow Him even if it means execution. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must set aside all selfishness and self-seeking. When we pick up the cross, it means we lay down our claim on our life and everything with it; our hopes and dreams and everything.

The cross our mission. The cross was the mission objective of Jesus. He came to go to the cross and pay the penalty for the sins of humanity. That was His mission. For us our cross might be something else. Our cross is the mission Jesus calls us to. That mission might be staying put and serving Him where we are. Or it might be going somewhere else to serve Him.

The cross is essential. Bearing the cross Jesus gives us is essential. There can be no compromise on this. If you are going to be a disciple of Jesus and follow Him, then you must be willing to receive and submit to His mission call on your life, whatever that might be. If you don’t pick up your cross, or the cross Jesus gives you, you cannot be His disciple.

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Third, count the cost. Jesus says, the person who builds, needs to make an accurate estimate of the cost of the building. A miscalculation will lead to being shamed and mocked for being “not able to finish.” Before a king goes into battle, they assess their resources for the battle which will determine whether they go to war or sue for peace. To be a disciple of Jesus is costly. That’s why Jesus says, “whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” We need to think clearly and prayerfully about any building or warring we embark on in the name of Jesus.

Many a person has missed the mission call of Jesus because of delusions of grandeur. they answer a “call” to “BIG” things which are nothing more than a thinly veiled cover for exaltation of self. And such people miss the call of Jesus.

Others miss the call of Jesus because they refuse to go where Jesus calls them to go. Because of fear or comfort, they turn a deaf ear to the call of Jesus. And they too miss the call of Jesus.

Both these examples of missing the call are unfortunate. For those seeking to discern the call of Jesus in their lives, I encourage you to put your self on the cross Jesus gives you. How do we do that? Paul was inspired to tell us with the words:

  • Romans 12:1–2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Only when we extract self out of the equation and humble ourselves before God, will we be able to clearly see the call of Jesus in our lives. Only then.

34 “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Fourth, don’t be stale.  Salt adds taste and flavor. Salt purifies and preserves. Salt is good and needed, if it is fresh and salty. But if it becomes old and stale and loses its taste and purifying and preservative properties, it’s good for nothing. Jesus says such salt is not even wroth throwing on dirt or on a dung hill. And He punctuates that final statement by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Listen up! These words are important.

Being a disciple of Jesus is challenging. Following Jesus will cost you. It cost Him and it will cost those who follow Him. The great revivalist and preacher Leonard Ravenhill once said, “If you want to be like Jesus, remember, He had a wilderness, a Gethsemane and a Judas.” That’s a little bit deeper than cotton candy religion that promises everything to be sweet if you follow Jesus. That’s a much different cost than those health and wealth heretics who use Jesus to enrich themselves by fleecing the flock of God instead of feeding them. No. When we follow Jesus, there will be lonely wildernesses, Gethsemanes where you sweat drops of blood in prayer, and a Judas or two who will betray you with a knife squarely in your back.

Culture in our day is trending toward self-love, greed, pride, blasphemy, disobedience, unthankfulness, unholy living, unloving living, unforgiveness, slander, little self-control, brutality, rioting, despisers of good, more inclined to be act like traitors than loyal, headstrong, haughty and arrogant, lovers of pleasure rather than seekers and lovers of God, having a form of godliness or religious pursuit, but denying the true power of true religion, just as the Bible said it would be (cf. 2 Timothy 3:3). But there are some who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The story behind a photo. A number of years ago I came across one of the saddest photos on social media that I have ever seen. It is a Memorial Day photo of a young woman laying across a military grave with a caption that reads, “In case ou thought it was national BBQ Day.” It’s a photo that breaks my heart every time I see it. The rest of the story behind that photo is worth our somber consideration. I quote in part from an unknown author:

The young woman here is Mary McHugh, taken this day in 2007 (after, her fiancé, Sgt. James John Regan, was killed by an IED explosion in Iraq in February 2007) at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mary moved a thousand mourners to tears with her touching tribute at his funeral. “Jimmy was a hero to many, but he was always very humble,” she said of her beloved. “He always sought team success and not personal glory.”

“Jimmy and I were so excited to stand up in front of God, our family and friends and declare our love for each other,” McHugh said. ”Only God knows why we were deprived of that opportunity, but it doesn’t change the sentiments I have.”

Regan, an All-American lacrosse player and All-State football scholar at Chaminade High School in Mineola, graduated from Duke University. He was deeply affected by the 9/11 terror attacks, which claimed many lives in Manhasset, and turned down a position at financial services firm UBS and deferred a scholarship to Southern Methodist University Law School to join the Army in 2004. He had earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.  . . .

James J. Regan, in his brief life, did not choose the predictable, cushy jobs his background and ability afforded him. Regan, at 26, gave his life for his country, a United States Army Ranger killed in Northern Iraq, having already served four tours of duty – two in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. A fellow Army Ranger recalled, “James Regan was the guy you want next to you at all times.” . . . .

James Regan was raised in a large family in a small town and he carried this sense of family and community with him into every new situation. . ..  His family extended to the Army when he enlisted with the sole objective of being good enough to be a Ranger.

James Regan left for his fourth Tour of Duty to Iraq in January 2007 and was promoted to Sgt./E5 Feb. 1. Regan was a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the premier light-infantry unit of the United States Army. Their mission is to plan and conduct special missions in support of U.S. policy and objectives. Regan was on such a mission when his vehicle was struck by an IED while conducting combat operations in northern Iraq, on Feb. 9. Sgt. Regan, a fire team leader, was moving his unit to an objective when he was killed.

James Regan’s awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge and Ranger Tab. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Regan planned on a March 2008 wedding to his fiancé Mary McHugh and getting a master’s in education. This seemed a natural, Regan was always reading, and instead of the usual college dorm or Army base toys such as PlayStation, Regan had an enviable library. His favorite gift was a Barnes & Noble gift certificate. With his love of history, his master’s in education, and his sports record, he was looking forward to a career in teaching and coaching.

NEVER FORGET.

Such a young man. Such a great man. Such a great sacrifice. Such a great loss. Such a great legacy.

Why do I share this heartrending story? Because, if people such as Sergeant James John Regan are willing heroically to set aside temporal earthly benefits to sacrifice for temporal earthly causes, how much more should we who are called to the eternal causes of Christ be willing to set aside temporal earthly benefits for eternal heavenly causes?

There are tremendous blessings in being a disciple of Jesus. But they are blessings that are much different than how this world defines “blessing.” More often than not the blessings we receive from following and serving Jesus in this life, come after this life. Remember what the Spirit says in the final book of the Bible: “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:13).  And remember, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). And always remember, “this one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee” (C.T. Studd – missionary). Will you accept Jesus’ invitation? Will you accept His call to live by this holy Code of Discipleship?

 

 

 

[1] See https://nationalflagfoundation.org/the-meaning-behind-the-13-folds-of-the-united-states-flag/#:~:text=This%20is%20what%20the%2013%20folds%20mean%3A%20The,the%20defense%20of%20our%20country%20to%20attain%20peace.

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