To Follow Jesus

Luke 14:25-33

There’s a strong connection in Scripture between picking up and carrying one’s cross and following Jesus. According to our Lord, there’s a direct link between that and being his disciple.

 Luke 14:27 says,

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me
cannot be my disciple

That’s a fairly absolute and unambiguous statement.

According to Luke 14:33, picking up your cross and following Jesus is the same as dying to self… dying to your own agenda… dying to your own lordship. To that mentality, Jesus shares these sobering words,

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

In John 12:25-26, Jesus says something similar.

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be.”

I could continue adding to this list because this is a very common theme in the teaching of Jesus. And yet, as clear as this theme is in Scripture, it doesn’t seem to be one of our Lord’s most embraced or beloved teachings. Instead, the Church today (and perhaps throughout all generations) appears to run toward…

  • comfort
  • convenience
  • ease
  • self-esteem
  • cheap grace
  • easy believism
  • consumer/entertainment mentality
  • etc., etc., etc.

Not a lot of dying to self and picking up crosses. Such is our fallen condition. Yet, for the redeemed of God, this should not be. However, this has also been found in the church throughout her history as well. This is no doubt why Bonhoeffer wrote the following oft-quoted words…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.”


Instead, both Jesus and Bonhoeffer call us to pursue “costly grace.”

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price, to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.”


Following Jesus in this way is a call to…

  • Obedience
  • Repentance
  • Submission
  • Commitment
  • Perseverance
  • Dying, yet being raised from the dead

Let me hasten to add this isn’t the call of a cruel and legalistic taskmaster. It’s the call of One who loves us dearly and who is full of grace and truth. It’s the call of One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. It’s the call of One who does not ask us to follow him in our own strength, but by the power of his Spirit. In fact, he promises to live his life through us.

In our Scripture, Jesus tells us that the wise person will count the cost of discipleship before following him. And then Dallas Willard throws cold water on us by reminding us there is indeed a steep cost to discipleship. But, he points out, there is also a greater cost to “non-discipleship.”

To be sure, it will cost us our lives to follow Christ. But it will cost us infinitely more not to.


Kingdom Discipleship

Luke 13:20-21 – And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.

A Definition

A Kingdom Disciple is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase, Kingdom Disciple, is my shorthand way of communicating what it means to live faithfully as Christ’s follower, under his Lordship, and for his Kingdom. This distinctive is not mine. It’s neither innovative nor original. However, my goal in emphasizing Kingdom Discipleship is to help men see more fully what God has revealed in and through his Word about following Christ.

Jesus Christ is Lord

By using the phrase, Kingdom Discipleship, I wish to remind disciples of Jesus Christ that our calling is to faithfully and obediently follow Christ in everysphere of life. This is imperative because Jesus Christ is Lord over every sphere of life. It was God who granted Jesus authority over heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18) and gave him the name above every name (Phil. 2:9). It would, therefore, run counter to the biblical witness regarding our Lord’s authority, for men to live compartmentalized lives as his followers. God doesn’t want us to submit to Christ for just 70 or even 95 percent of our lives. He wants all of us. To paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, there is not a square inch in all the universe Christ has not claimed for himself.

Therefore, our calling as his followers is to intentionally, faithfully, obediently, and joyfully extend his Kingdom – his rule, reign, will, and influence – into every sphere of our lives (in every area of responsibility, interest, relationship, and authority). Everything, the common and the uncommon, the sacred and the secular, is to be done for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and according to his will.

God’s Kingly Influence

The influence of the Kingdom of God and of his Christ must come through gracious, loving, and truthful persuasion, modeling, and witness, never through coercion or manipulation. The kind of transformed individual, family, church, state, society, and world God desires will not, indeed, must not, come through violent political revolution or rebellion but by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent “salt and light influence” of God’s people.

The Local Church

The primary means, humanly speaking, by which God’s Kingdom is extended in this way is through local assemblies of God’s people. It is in and through the life of the local church that the life-giving, life-transforming Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed, taught, and lived out. It is only as men, women, boys, and girls are reborn by the Spirit of God that they can enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-8). Then, as they grow in their faith, having their minds continually renewed and lives transformed, they become better educated, equipped, and encouraged to take this good news of the Kingdom into every sphere of their lives. And just as the woman’s yeast is mixed into the dough and worked until it permeates all of it (Luke 13:20-21), so too is the Kingdom of God extended into every sphere of life by his disciples.

Walking Points

  • Based on this devotional, how would you explain what it means to “extend your faith into every sphere of life?”
  • Have you tended to compartmentalize your faith or does it permeate and influence the different areas of your life?
  • What are some ways your faith ought to influence your home, workplace, and community?
  • What are you presently doing to be such an influence?
  • How can you help other Christians gain a larger vision of the Christian life?
  • Meet with two or three Christian brothers and pray for such a “kingdom expanding” revival among God’s men to begin today.


My great God and King, Lord of all, I ask you to forgive me for not submitting all my life to you and, therefore, not seeking to advance your rule and reign into every sphere of my life. Awaken me with your Spirit and enable me to see and hear more clearly the needs of the world around me. As your ambassador of salt and light, use me how you will to hold back the darkness and slow the decay of this world. Let my life be a shining city on a hill that cannot be hidden so that, upon seeing my good works, you will receive all the praise and glory in heaven. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Every Sphere of Life

Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Compartmentalized Living Won’t Do

I remember when I first started using the phrase, “faith for every sphere of life.” It began as I started studying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It just made sense that if Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth, then he is Lord of everything. And if he is the Lord of all there is, then I must submit to him in every sphere of my life, or else I should stop calling him Lord. Jesus said as much in Luke 6:46,

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (NRSV)

This notion is in marked contrast to the way many people think and live, including myself in the early days of my faith. I, like plenty of others, had long been an adherent of a compartmentalized faith. Men, you especially know the drill: the Christian faith is fine for Sunday mornings, but it has nothing to do with the rest of your life. It’s embarrassing to admit, but that’s where I was.

Personal, Not Private

Instead, the Christian faith should be understood as a comprehensive view of life. The secular world around us, however, still prefers the church to remain silent about anything not having to do with personal prayers and worship on Sunday mornings. Faith, they say, is private. Sure, you can practice it at home, or even with other Christians on Sunday mornings, but don’t dare bring it into the public square. Jesus, however, doesn’t give us that option. The Christian faith certainly ought to be personal, but it should never be private. To paraphrase the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, “there is not a square inch in all the universe about which the Lord Jesus Christ does not declare his own.”

As a United Methodist, I have rejoiced that John Wesley took just such a view of the Christian faith. He called it Scriptural Holiness and said it was his purpose in life to spread such Scriptural Holiness over the land. For Wesley, holiness was inward but also outward. It was personal and it was social. There was no picking and choosing. Faith must permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life – prayer, personal devotions, worship, marriage, parenting, work, economics, politics, education, the arts, personal morality, relationships, civic duty, and serving the community, just to name a few spheres of life.

This Includes Your Life

I encourage you to prayerfully ask yourself what it would mean for you to understand there is not even the smallest corner of your life about which Jesus Christ, as Lord, is unconcerned. How would acknowledging and submitting to that truth change your life? How would it bless your relationship with your family and friends? What consequences would it have for you in your workplace? Can you imagine the possibilities? Christ is calling you to follow him in every sphere of your lives. Do you hear his voice? Will you follow him?

Walking Points

  • Look again at those questions in the last paragraph. They are not rhetorical. They are questions Christ requires we ask ourselves, as well as answer. More than that, we must live out those answers before a world in desperate need of godly men and women.
  • Write down as many “spheres” of your life as you can think of. Which of those spheres are you submitting to the Lord? Which ones are you keeping from him? Why?
  • How would submitting to Christ’s lordship in those spheres of life change the way you are living your life in those areas? Be as specific as possible.
  • Write your answers to each of those questions down in a journal or on an index card. Then pray over them, asking God to lead you to greater faithfulness. Meet with some accountability partners and discuss the questions and your answers and then pray about how each of you can help one another in this pursuit.


Lord of heaven and earth, remind me this day that there is not a square inch in all the universe about which you are unconcerned. While I rejoice that I have seen changes in my life through the gracious work of your Spirit, please show me those areas I am attempting to keep from you. Convict me of my sin and rebellion in those areas and turn my hard heart to flesh and joyful obedience. Please let my life faithfully bear witness to you as I serve as your ambassador to other men who are struggling with handing you the reigns in their lives. Together, may we extend your glorious Kingdom into every sphere of life here on earth, as it already is in heaven. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords I pray. Amen.

A Model of Pastoral Ministry

A Role Model

Question: Who has been a leadership role model for you (outside of Biblical characters) and what have you learned from him/her?

Answer: The leadership role model who has done the most to shape my ministry is Richard Baxter. Richard Baxter was a pastor in the 1600’s who served a local church in Kidderminster, England. He was much admired as a pastor by the Wesleys.

“John Wesley’s father Samuel, once a nonconformist wrote: ‘I wish I had [The Reformed Pastor] again: Directions to the clergy for the management of their people which I lost when my house was last burnt… [Baxter] had a strange pathos and fire.’”

“John [Wesley] himself told the Methodist Conference: ‘Every travelling preacher must instruct them from house to house… Can we find a better method of doing this than Mr. Baxter’s? If not, let us adopt it without delay. His whole tract entitled The Reformed Pastor, is well worth a capable perusal.’ On another occasion he challenged his preachers: ‘Who visits the people on Mr. Baxter’s method?’”

“Charles Wesley and William Grimshaw of Haworth conversing together agreed that preachers should ‘visit from house to house, after Mr. Baxter’s manner.’”[1]

A Living Example

Baxter was a living example of all he wrote in his book, The Reformed Pastor. By “reformed,” Baxter meant “revived.” His book was originally written to clergy in his area and appealed to them to rediscover their calling as shepherds of souls – to really care for their flocks as Christ loved the church. The book is moving and was used of God to pour conviction on my soul as a pastor. However, mere words often fall flat. There must be a life behind those words that matches their eloquence. His was such a life.

Baxter was known throughout England as a godly man. He sought to live a life that was above reproach and one that could never be attacked as hypocritical. Like Wesley would a century later, Baxter lived a modest life because it was more important for him to give his money to the poor, as well as to purchase books and Bibles for them.

Loving Pastor

He truly loved his flock at Kidderminster. He developed the practice of visiting every family in his church at least once a year at their home (over 2,000 people). There he would pray with them, make sure they knew the life-transforming truths of the faith, and see about any areas of their lives in which they needed help. He did not then leave them, go home, and forget about them. They were continually on his heart.

His preaching and teaching concentrated on the essentials of Christian doctrine and holy living. He did not have time for those who focused only on divisive and nonessential matters. His view was that life was too short for such things.

His Impact on My Ministry

These are some aspects of his life and teaching that have impacted mine. Though my ministry falls short of his, humanly speaking, it is my goal. I have tried to develop a ministry that ministers to the deepest needs of those entrusted to my care. I want to create a warm and friendly environment where folks can share their hopes, joys, fears and struggles with me. Throughout my years of teaching, I have attempted to concentrate on those things that matter most, those things of eternal significance, such as knowing God and his Word, living holy lives, and bearing witness to Christ as salt and light in every sphere of life. Baxter has helped me expand my view of ministry.

How does this relate to leadership? Well, Baxter modeled what he taught. God has been unfolding before me the idea that our lives must be lived with profound consistency. If I say something from the pulpit, in a Bible study, or in a one-on-one discipleship experience, and then live in a way that is inconsistent with what I’ve said, then I have demonstrated poor leadership indeed. Why? Because my hypocritical words will soon begin to fall on deaf ears, and rightly so. Leadership must be regularly and consistently lived and modeled before those one is leading, and that is one of the most important things I have learned from Richard Baxter.

[1] From J.I. Packer’s Introduction to The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. Page 15.