Disciple . . . Learner . . .Follower
Disciple, learner, follower--these words describe different aspects of the same relationship. Whatever else we know about Jesus, we do know this for sure. No one ever stays the same after they encounter Him. For some, the change is gradual. For others it is radical from the start, but change is inevitable.
Change is unsettling. For a creature of habit, change can even be threatening. We get used to thinking about things a certain way. When our assumptions are challenged, our tendency is to retreat to what has been comfortable in the past. Jesus never promised that we would be comfortable. In fact, he says a number of times that following Him will exact a toll.
We are called not to be colleagues or observers or even critics. We are called to serve. Servants, as a rule, are not privy to the rationale behind the instructions given by the one they serve. Bob Dylan wrote a song that represented a radical departure from his sixties image. It was “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” One lyric says, “now it might be the devil, or it might be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
I have a friend who was part of a team that was involved in discipling Dylan after his conversion to Christianity. He attests to the genuine nature of Bob Dylan’s decision. A year or two later, I learned that Dylan walked away from his new found faith in Jesus to embrace some sort of Jewish mysticism. Apparently the music industry turned on him so bad that his career took a tailspin. The music moguls, it seemed, wouldn’t allow the icon of rebellion to change his mind.
Just last night, I watched a special on Carlton Pearson. He was the most famous protégé of Oral Roberts. At the height of his popularity, thousands of people attended his church in Oklahoma. One day he decide that he couldn’t believe that there was a hell and that he would preach a “Gospel of Inclusion.” Basically he now teaches that everyone is already saved. They just don’t know it yet. He then went on to say that he no longer believes that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. Over time the ministry dwindled to the point where he lost the big building. He then accepted an invitation from a lesbian to come to San Francisco, where he could be accepted.
This morning I want to take another look at what Jesus told His disciples to expect. He told them clearly that following Him would not be easy and that they were, in effect, giving up their lives as they knew them. We are guaranteed that the Lord will never leave us. We are not guaranteed that we won’t ever leave Him. These are perilous times and I think we need to stop sometimes and count the cost.