Welcome to part three of the first course of Red Bricks. In this part we shall be looking at what the cost of discipleship means. There is always a personal cost involved in following Yeshua. It is essential that we grasp this early on our journey with Him. Without self-sacrifice we cannot share in true fellowship with God.
We have seen over the previous two sessions the events that Yeshua chose to enact. We have discussed His baptism and His temptation. It was after His temptation in the wilderness that He started what is generally known as His ministry. Try not to get too bogged down by the terminology you might hear or read about Yeshua. Concentrate upon what He said and did, instead.
We know from the accounts by Matthew and Mark, that He began to tell people about the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) after John the Baptist had been imprisoned. John had been declaring that the people should repent and be baptized, but Yeshua came out of the desert proclaiming that the people should repent because the Kingdom of Heaven (or God ) is at hand.
You will notice from the readings that Matthew uses the phrase ‘the kingdom of heaven‘ whilst Mark uses the term ‘the kingdom of God‘. Although there is some uncertainty and many different intellectual theories around this subject, for the purposes of this study we are taking that both are one and the same. It is worth noting that Matthew’s gospel was written to the Hebrews and use of the word ‘God’ may well have caused offence among certain legalistic scholars, and so the author deliberately used ‘heaven’ instead. To this day, many Hebrews do not write or say God, instead they refer to Him as HaShem, or The Name. This is a tradition invented by men. God wants us to use His name. He is very clear about that throughout the entire Bible. His name is Yehovah, pronounced Yeh-Hoe-Var.
To be clear, Yeshua came declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that the people should repent. The kingdom He was referring to is the unseen ‘heavenly realm’ that exists all around us. He was in effect saying that the unseen world where God rules was within reach of everyone who chooses to believe.
Note that Yeshua came to the Hebrews first. He said that His message was for the ‘lost sheep of Isra’el‘ (see Matthew 15:24). They were expecting God’s king to come from the house of David and rescue them from Roman rule and restore David’s kingdom. However, they were expecting a kingdom that you could see, one of force and power, not one unseen.
That Yeshua, like John the Baptist before Him, used the term ‘repent‘ is highly significant, especially to the Hebrews.
WORD KNOWLEDGE: REPENT – In the New Testament, of which we only have Greek translations (the originals were highly likely to have been written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek), the word from which we get ‘repent’ is metanoia. This is made up of two words – meta – which means changed after, and noieo – which means to think. Today, many are watering down the true meaning of John the Baptist and Yeshua’s message to say, that to repent is to change one’s mind. However, this is a short-sighted view because, although the New Testament was recorded in Greek, both John and Yeshua would have spoken Hebrew. The Greek word metanoia is a transliteration from the Hebrew word shub, which means to return to God. Today’s preachers, who teach all about God’s grace, will tell you that you only have to change your mind to receive God’s forgiveness. However, the Hebrews of the 1st century knew exactly what the true meaning of repent was – God had been telling them to return to Him and His ways since He rescued them from Egypt. The repentance that God asks for means to change your mind and your behaviour. To return to God means to humble yourself before Him, admit that you were wrong to ever turn your back upon Him, and to start walking with Him once again.
Check out what John the Baptist says to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they came to him for baptism:
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” [Matthew 3:7b-8 NIV]
The fruit which John speaks of is actions which are in line with repentance, thus showing it to be more than just a change of mind or to think differently. The apostle Paul also explains the full meaning of repentance to King Agrippa:
“First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” [Acts 26:20]
What follows after Yeshua begins His ministry is the calling of His first disciples. Each of these men would have heard both John’s message and Yeshua’s. And they would have known exactly what they were getting themselves into. With at least four of them, they were fishermen who worked as part of the family business. In Hebrew culture this wasn’t something you simply walked away from. Their fathers would have perhaps disapproved bitterly, if it hadn’t been for the fact that Yeshua already had the reputation of being a Rabbi of great authority and respect. Each of the disciples had clearly already heard something in the message of both John and Yeshua – enough for them to give up everything the moment that Yeshua called them. Imagine that!
Their readiness to leave whatever they were doing and immediately follow Yeshua is there as an example to all of us. The moment we feel the call of God on our lives, we must be ready and prepared to give up everything in order to follow Him. Yeshua constantly spoke of following Him and the cost which was involved. Much of today’s church doesn’t teach about the cost. Much of it talks about wealth, health and happiness. Do not be deceived by such teaching. Ask yourself if what is being taught is in line with what Yeshua taught. It is true that God wants us to lead full lives, but the road too such fullness involves following the example of Yeshua. The fullness which Yeshua talks of is actually a spiritual fullness, rather than a fleshy or materialistic one. It is a life of sacrifice. This is highlighted in the following texts:
Read Luke 9:57-61
Here Yeshua warns anyone who would be His disciple that there will be great costs involved and that we should consider this cost before following Him.
Read Luke 14:25-33
Again Yeshua points to the cost and encourages all believers that they should weigh all this up before undertaking a life devoted to Him.
Read Mark 10:17-31
The account of this wealthy and devout man wanting eternal life is an important image for all of us, even those without the burden of wealth. Yeshua doesn’t tell him to keep all the commandments, but instead mentions the ones that are easier to keep. Note that in verse 21 Yeshua looked at him and loved him. Yeshua knew what was blocking his deliverance, and had great compassion for him – He told him directly the answer he wanted. Many people didn’t get such straight answers from Yeshua, but this rich man did. The account tells us that he had great wealth. It is likely that the man’s money was tied up in a covenant from his family’s estate and he wouldn’t be able to give it away even if he had wanted to.
Throughout the Bible you will see that God chooses people on the basis of the condition of their hearts. That is to say, if He finds someone with a willing heart, God can readily work through that person. We need to be ready and willing to answer His call whenever it comes, and in doing so, we need to be prepared to give up everything that we hold dear.
Once you make the decision to accept God’s deliverance from our sinful nature – a gift that God gives freely – we must be prepared to remain faithful to Him forever if we are to fully benefit from all that He promises is available to us. Always count the cost. Don’t end up like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:15-26).
Take a look at this conversation between Peter and Yeshua:
“Peter said to Him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” “[Mark 10:28-30]