by Ken Finney & Bob VanGelderen
"And he said unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
"But Jesus said to him, Follow Me and leave the dead to bury their own dead."
"And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him. And He said to him, You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor and you will have the treasure in heaven--and come, Follow Me."
No one who reads the Gospels can miss our Lord's constant call for those who would follow Him--for disciples. This call was simple, direct, and was for men to leave their life and simply be with Him. It sounds simple, and actually not necessarily so, for Jesus seems always to be in a place of controversy and tumult in this world. In the Gospels, to be with Jesus was to be with One who was calling into question things that were highly respectable and even sacred. He called men to lay down their nets. Their money, whatever they were doing, and to follow Him who was but a little-known radical. They must devote their lives to listen to His t eraching and commands and to lay down their lives in obedience to that message.
That call still rings clear today. The need for disciples is desperate. Do you love Jesus? He asks you to come and die! Don't reason! Don't prepare! Just begin following hIm right where you are.
All of the early Christians were disciples. Acts 11:26 says that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. to live in that hostile world as a Christian forced that early band to fulfill Christ's description of a disciple. Their faith in Jesus Christ was not bound up in dusty commentaries but was full of purpose and destiny. It is true that they were despised, hated, and often even hunted, tortured, and slaughtered; but their hearts were full of victory and joy and a passion to bring glory and honor to the Name of Jesus here in this evil world.
One thing you must decide if you are going to be a disciple today. You must make up your mind that you are willing to be a radical, a revolutionary. Jesus refused to pour new wine into old wineskins. [Even the great evangelist John Wesley tried to pour new wine into old wineskins, the life of the Spirit-Led Christian and church into the state, tax-supported Anglican Church, the legally-sanctioned Established Church of England, and it didn't work, so his followers created the Methodist Church, which in time became just another old established wineskin of a church denomination!--Ed.] A disciple has one loyalty, and that isn't to tradition but to Jesus. Nothing else can have a remaining hold on him. When we first receive the call of Jesus we are attracted; but as we come to know Him better we begin to love Him. Then, as He moves, we find we have other compelling loyalties. They begin to pull, and the disciple who continues in His Words begins to struggle to break them. Oh, what a perplexing struggle this is! These other loyalties are often highly accepted in life and there is shame and misunderstanding in the breaking of them [Imagine a man who didn't go to his parents' funeral, because he chose to follow Jesus instead--no doubt his whole family afterwards would call him an unfaithful, ungrateful, disrespectful son, and beat him and throw him out of the house, and yet that is what Jesus called him to do: to follow Him and "let the dead bury the dead," as Jesus himself put it so "heartlessly."--Ed.].
It costs ALL to be with Jesus [Really? Yes, really! I remember a young ministering evangelist, however, who was visiting us at a local church-ministry outreach, and who spoke so approvingly of a certain bishop over in Britain, indicating how much he would like favor from this man. Time will tell, and I now see what he was after in his heart. He was seeking the favor of man, now that I think more about it, and so he really wasn't giving all to the Lord, he wanted the favor and approval of a bishop to serve the Lord!--Ed]. And this price does not purchase blessing or even credit, nor will it achieve for us some place of honor and heroism. He does not give blessings in exchange for our sacrifice. This idea, born in men's minds, is an abomination to God, for He doesn't bargain (tell this to the prosperity gospel preachers!--Ed.] It is simply that we get to be with Jesus if we follow Him. That is sufficient reward! [you can just hear most Christians groan, is that all I get? Just Jesus?--Ed.] If we do all He commands we are still unprofitable servants; we merit nothing. When we get to know Jesus as He really is, we find that just He Himself is worthy of all.
In this world--yea, even in the Christian world--there is nothing heroic about being a disciple. More often than not a disciple becomes like the Apostle Paul, the filth of the world, the offscouring of all thigns. But it is for Jesus' sake, and this knowledge and His presence is worth all. THE PATHWAY OF A DISCIPLE
The question at once arises, How will Jesus direct His disciples of today: We are usually led to think that that they become crusading evangelists, daring missionaries, or perhaps those who give much money tot he Lord's work. But let us not be too hasty. Brethren,w e need to take a long and perceiving look at the Christian world of today. It is natural to think that popular conceptions are right, and since our religious scene appears so secure and solid, things have always been this way. But let us think--let us look deeper and face reality in the light of the unchanging Word of God. We trust you will read this little book carefully, taking what you read prayerfully to Jesus. Submit your heart to Him and ask Him what you should do. It may bwell sart you down the path of a vital, soul-satisfying walk with your Savior and Lord--though not without persecutions.
First, let us see that discipleship, or following Jesus, means concern for His Body, the Church. Youy cannot be a disciple of Christ and disregard His Church. The moment you set your eyes to follow Jesus, He says, "I laid down My life for the Church--Love the brethren; feed my sheep." Will you follow Him? Jesus said, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you."
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if you do the things which I command you." (John 15: 12-14). Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for it. he did this in order to sanctify it, cleansing it by washing of the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, holy and without blemish, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
From these and countless other Scripture passages, we can see the burden of the heart of Jesus. If
we are to follow Him we will find ourselves involved in His Church, for there is where His interest lies."
"But," you may say, "Look at the Church! Denominations, sects, independent break-offs, splits, reforms, reorganizations--all in a confused mess of emphasis, tangents, and winds of doctrines. How can I give my life for this? It is true that this appears to be an impossible question--yet it is a most important one for the disciple. If we are to follow Christ, how can we follow the most important and first command He has given us?
In answering this we first must see clearly that the large array of organizations and denominations which represent Christianity are not the Church of Jesus Christ, although they in the main contain the Church of Jesus Christ. All through the vast network of evangelical Christianity is scattered those who love Jesus. These are the brethren. Oh! How important this is to see!
Your brethren are those who love Jesus. They are tied to you by something greater than doctrinal unity or denominational loyalty. But, you ask, How am I to judge who loves Jesus? The answer to this is more simple than it first appears, and in that answer lies a key principle. In essence, if you make love for Jesus more important than anything else, you will soon find those who love him. As you love and ask Jesus what He would have you do, He will tell you, "A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John, in his first epistle, also reaffirms this. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." This is the test of both a disciple and, to a lesser extent, of "life" itself--love for the brethren. In the negative the Apostle Paul says, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed." Love of Jesus, and the brethren, is the text of a disciple. It is not doctrinal purity or perfection of life or seeming success in spiritual activity.
To love Jesus is not simply to have sentimental feelings toward Him. We only know and love Him through an experimental knowledge of His death on the Cross. This means heart repentance and brokenness over sin and a testing of His grace and life as the last desperate hope. This bears fruit in the life. As we draw close to a brother and desire to love him as Jesus did us, we can begin to sense a kindred love in him. This isn't just one personality drawing another personality. This is more than a natural relationship.
This brother who loves Jesus loves to talk of Jesus and his personal relationship to Him. Those who love Jesus desire to share their hearts, their struggles with sin. They desire prayer, they confess their sin, they desire to get right with their brothers; they are more interested in your heart than in winning an argument; they will give up their rights and humble themselves for Jesus' sake. Sometimes a disciple can be walking in coldness and sin, but if he senses your love for Jesus manifested in this way he immediately begins to respond. The life within him jumps to meet the love of Christ in you or another disciple. This love transcends doctrine, church affiliation, race, culture and personality.
Where do we find these disciples? We find them usually in the groups of professing believers who make up the bulk of the evangelical churches of today.
A large part of these professing Christians are those who have had an actual work of the Spirit in their hearts. They have been drawn to some extent but have just not continued on. Others have had no work of the Spirit at all, but are in the organization because of conscience trouble. They are not disciples, and they are not even our brothers. We should love both of these classes and encourage them to go on to know Jesus; but our hearts do not go out in glad response to them like they do to a disciple of Jesus. If we do not make this distinction in our hearts we will soon be mystified and frustrated.
In almost every church across the country there is a varying number of these disciples locked up in this way. This is where the Church of Christ is today, to a very large extent. This is the master-plan of Satan. Are you willing to give your life for these imprisoned disciples? Will you follow your Master? It will be a literal laying down of your own ambition, reputation, and success.
One of the first things a disciple must lose is his high regard for sanctity of all this organization, denominationalism, religious form, religious loyalty, and religious activity. God does not own all this. He owns the Church encased within it. He does not regard or respect it. As long as we do, we will be blocked from laying down our life for the Church of Christ. This true Church belongs to Christ and is the longing of His heart, but not all the vast visible religious structure of man which, in defensive pride, vaunts itself rather than exalting Him who alone is worthy.
It may at first sound a bit alarming to say it, but, beloved, a disciple must not regard so-called ethics. These ethics very often are simply the written and unwritten rules or laws to protect the tomb of the Christian Church. They are man-made and man-kept; yet they become so highly important, like the washing of hands and the keeping of Sabbaths of yester-year. Remember, thieves have a certain code of "honor" they adhere to, and even gangsters have ethics among themselves [I have heard two former drug dealers (criminals who were armed and dangerous men when they were in the streets) say that they exercised ethics in their deals and how they treated some people, rather than beating up and even shooting people so brutally and indiscriminately as other drug dealers they knew were doing; that, in their opinion, made them better than the other drug dealers, because they refrained from the most savage acts of retaliation or aggression the others used to intimidate both customers and rivals!--Ed.]; but there is nothing God-like or sacred about them. The Church of Christ and its witness of Christ to this dying world is more important than the rules by which we play church today.
You may lose your reputation, you may be persecuted, but to follow Jesus is the one thing that is important to you. Pastors may say, "This is my church." But the real Church does not belong to them. If they are real pastors they will lay down their lives for the flock. A real pastor is an example in all aspects of the faith. He is the most humble of the flock. He will be easily entreated. He will care more for the glory of His Lord than for his reputatin or position. He will be willing to uncover and expose sin, even if it cost his life. If he is not this, then he is not a true shepherd but simply an appointed representative of man, nothing more.
If we follow Jesus He will lead us to the Church. He will lead us into contact with others who want to follow Him. If we are within the casket of organized Christendom, we must enter it and meet them. As we are led to one or more we simply minister Christ--"Life." Inevitably, however,--for it is naturally what disciples do--there will be the desire, yes, the necessity of meeting together around Jesus with gladness and singleness of heart. We pray together, share our hearts, and encourage one another. We love the brethren. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently." There is nothing exclusive or restricted about this fellowship, except the atmosphere of loving Jesus and one another.
Soon other brethren may join this loose spontaneous fellowship, but somewhere along the way the inevitable occurs--there comes a line, unmade by man, between those who love Jesus and those who don't. This demarkation may take a little time, but sooner or later the issues will come up. You are now facing Satan in all his fury. Here the disciple is tested.
If you really follow Jesus you will find yourself offensive to those who do not keep following Jesus in truth. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." Controversy is hard on the soul and it tends toward pride and self righteousness. Persecution can deal with this pride. Praise God for it.
L Such a little group of disciples should continue to meet and provide an environment for their own growth and development. But the group must never mean anything to itself as a group. Its meaning is found in love of the brethren. It is a place to train disciples, etc.--a place of spiritual experience and nothing more. The most common expression of human pride is to identify oneself with a group or project through pride in the organization, group or project. This doesn't seem so offensive as personal haughtiness but it serves the same purpose to our hearts.
When a "work" is identified with Jesus in our minds, we think it very spiritual and proper. Soon we can begin to serve this "project" instead of Jesus. It becomes something to defend, serve, build up, and give more life for. It's success means more to us than walking in the truth and simplicity of Jesus, and we leave Him. A disciple gives his life to jesus. he builds up faith and love in people and does not promote programs, activities, and organizations [this ought to make us really question what we are involved in at church, are we committed more to promoting organization and activity than to promoting Jesus? After all, aren't most churches terribly active and organized already, but where is Jesus in all that hubbub they create--hasn't he been forgotten, sidelined, and even forgotten? You can tell unmistakably that He has been pushed out from these churches, since there is no real love for Jesus and for others there; they are just social gospel organizations, not true churches. And this is the main tendency, for churches to become social gospel organizations, with Christ pushed out, though he is may still be named a lot.--Ed.].
Disciples should meet "from house to house" in spontaneous fellowship [if this is foreign to your church family, ask why? why is there no real spontaneous fellowship, why is fellowship restricted to the church building at set times and hardly anywhere else?--this can be very revealing to you as to where you and your church really are, spiritually. I can recall such spontaneous meetings of the brethren. Where I attend now, there is no such thing, nor has there ever been anything of the kind, so that tells me something is really lacking in true fellowship, the people just do not know what disciples naturally do, they just think they do. I am sad to have to report that this is the truth, rather than deny it. What is needed is a true revival at this church, and true discipleship.--Ed.].
If one is discouraged or has a problem he can get in touch with the others. They can pray, deal with one another, share with one another or encourage one another. The fellowship is functional, not traditional. It doesn't just meet on Sunday mornings or Wednesday night. It may meet at midnight or early morn. It meets when it can or should. Sometimes they all meet together; sometimes two or three. They do not have meetings with purposes designated by tradition. The purpose is designated by the situation, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. And, certainly, the place to meet should never become a project that would characterize the group.
This is a hard path. One long line of controversy and nothing to show for it but some individuals walking with Christ and keeping His Words. We do not end up with organizations, buildings, programs, projects or funds. God help us not to! We end up with disciples and a few scars on our souls--and often from those whom we once though were our brothers. Jesus gave his life for the Church; will you? You cannot help the Church by sitting in the present situation and contributing to its success. The good men involved in, and the apparent success of this visible organized church, are outward trimmings and only make the whole of it and its total effect more difficult to discern.
Here in the United States many are looking for revival and are praying earnestly for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to reform and refine the church. They think back on things of the past and of revivals of the past. But there never has been a revival that did not spring out of the issues that Christ has with the Church--and these issues being made very clear. The men who made these issues carried these issues right into the church. However, the organized church of today will not permit this. If God would pour out spiritual blessing on this present church condition I fear He would deny Himself. The very blessings would only curse us. God does not put us to sleep and wake us up revived.
The reason we are not in life is because of sin and carnality. God must judge this to bring life. Organizational pride and religious self-righteousness are so entrenched in the church today that the church will not face itself. The fundamental, Bible-believing church of today looks so big, so right to itself that it will not judge itself. Its reasonings are like that of the Laodicean church, "I am right, I have prospered and I need nothing." The only way for God's issues to be carried into His Church today is for His disciples--plain ordinary people--who love Jesus to carry them in an unorganized way. This would be done not to start new churches or splits; but to find disciples, teach them, train them, fellowship with them, liberate them, give them an example.
The present church set-up will not accept voluntary judgement. We may pray and pray for revival, but God will not send full revival until the issues are made clear. Everything is prepared of Satan until this religious system has become so valuable in its own eyes that it will die to protect itself. It has done just this spiritually.
Jesus had almost the same picture in His day. He faced a God-ordained exactingly-correct system that had the social approval of that day. Jesus was an unknown country-boy with no approval or claim of authority within this system [if you don't get what is said here, just go walk into a huge corporate complex like Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, and start telling the supervisors and department heads and the staff employees how to conduct their software operation, and see what response you get! That is what happened to Jesus when he came announcing and defining and preaching the kingdom of heaven had arrived! The "corporation leadership" of the religious system, which ran vast and powerful corporate enterprise involving huge amounts of money, a huge staff of tens of thousands of priests and workers, a physical plant that was one of the biggest in the world (the Temple), defied him immediately and tried to show him the door, pure and simple, by physically throwing him through it--killing him, in fact. He could not avoid the leadership, they came to him to stop and hinder and do anything they could to silence him, and when that failed they tried early on to kill him outright.--Ed.] He did not carry on a crusade within this system. He chose a few disciples, walked with them, trained them and sent them back into the teeth of this system. We know what He faced; we know what His disciples faced; is the disciple today above His master?
The issues are the Words of the Master. Jesus died to save us. Are we willing to listen to Him? These issues may be many, but they must all center around the one central issue, love of Jesus and the brethren. Any other issue must be tied into and be of lesser importance than this one. Love, however, does not bury othe issues. True love always works in truth. The atomosphere of discipleship is one of walking in the light and trust in the Blood. The issues are never purely external; as the way we perform ceremonies, the way we hold abstract doctrine, some spiritual experience, name, tradition, any form of worship or church order.
A disciple must ruthlessly judge his own heart. He cannot let his head swell with the pride and bluster of a crusading spirit or become bloated with self-righteousness. Most of the issues raised will have their roots, and sometimes fruit, in the heart of the disciple who raises them. He must not hold back from raising them, but must judge his own heart in them.
A disciple is always painfully aware of his own heart, but the glory of Jesus and His Church is more than a good feeling about himself or even his seeming spirituality. In controversy most all carnality comes into visible action. This is not good, but it can be turned to good purposes if the disciple will judge himself in it, confess it openly, and seek the cover and victory of the blood of Jesus.
To face the church of today and not take responsibility for it in our hearts is to become critical and self-righteous. We will draw away and become separatists, cold and hard. To take responsibility means that we must painfully face it, prayerfully enter it and remain true to Jesus. If we start a new church we only become competitors in the same system and soon enter into the same spirit. "If anyone serves me, he must follow me...," (John 12:26). There is no alternative for the disciple.
It is not a matter of success. Success is the god of this religious system. Leave success alone and follow Jesus. Do you really want to see Jesus increase and yourself decrease? This does not mean that you will appear wonderfully humble to yourself. It means you will actually decrease in your own eyes--and in the eyes of the world, which includes the religious world.
Jesus continually faced the curious, blessing-seeking crowd with the cost of being with Him. It is never on the basis of earning favor with God by our sacrificing. This idea is an abomination to God. Being with Jesus is the reward--andalso the cost. To be with Him is all that a disciple asks. To be with Him is to face with Him the world and its attitudes and hate. The only way the twelve disciples could escape the cross was to leave Jesus, which they did. Jesus, however, asks us to take up our own cross. And our cross is not our personal trials and difficulties which all the rest of the world has. No, our cross is our voluntary facing of death in favor of the rights and purposes of Christ in this world. This is done for the praise of his glory, to bring Him joy and pleasure. Our cross is not some mystical abstraction or state of being. It is just as practical as that old splintery, wooden cross on which Jesus hung. It is only through the cross that we really get to know Jesus. Do you want to know Him?--End of Article.
Saved for what, pray tell? Saved to be disciples, that is the truth! You may be saved and manage to just squeek by into heaven, so to speak, but what will you have in heaven when you--gasp, gasp, thank you, God, thank you, God!--crawl like a worm into heaven? You didn't do what the Lord asked you to do, you didn't become a true disciple! Well, what is a disciple? Here is a good explanation, and it comes from Ken Finey and Bob VanGelderen in NEW WINE MAGAZINE, December 1969. It is just as "today" as today, as the truth of it never becomes outdated, as it is completely scriptural, and the Word of God never dates but is eternal. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away," says the Lord.
By the way, since 1969 the Charismatics in the mainline church denominations and the Catholic church too sought to pour new wine of the Spirit into their old wineskin churches and denominations,a nd failed to revitalize those churches and denominations! The lesson remains to be learned from this.
At my local church I tried twice to act out a skit using chains on myself and a bunch of old bottles that portrayed this scriptural lesson, and they didn't get it! They had read the verses many times, even no doubt heard them preached upon, but they couldn't understand what on earth I was showing them! Even when you give Christians such clear, graphic illustrations, they don't get it. The pastor's daughter-in-law (now the pastor's wife, after her father-in-law passed away) kept asking me, what was it I was meaning? If the scripture, Jesus's own words, couldn't tell her, and my illustration couldn't, well, how then could my mere words? Since I have returned to worship at this church, I have seen indications that she and the others continue to try to make the old wineskins of their denomination, an old established Pentecostal denomination, hold the new wine, and it didn't work years ago and it isn't working for them now, sad to say.--Ed.