The Hardest Three   (by Jon Shuler​​)

In only another few hours the church will begin to celebrate again the birth of the Savior of the World. It will be a time of beloved memories, family gatherings, and joyful adoration before the one born to be king. The church has tried valiantly to take captive the mid Winter Solstice of ancient Europe, and for many of us this will be a time of true worship and joy. But there is also this painful reality to face: most of the Christmas Celebrations of our land will not be about Christ Jesus. The cost of following him is too great.

That brings us to the last three verses where Jesus tells us what he means when he calls someone his disciple. They are all found in the fourteenth chapter of Luke. The first is stark. We are to “hate” our very own family and our very life. (14:26) The perceived harshness of this word has caused many to block this passage from memory, but our Lord says if we will not do this we cannot be his disciples. How can this be? He is using the word hate in a very Hebraic way, to mean a thing in absolute contrast to what is right. He is making clear that if we put any loyalty higher than him we are not understanding rightly what it means to follow. He must be the center. And if he is, he will teach us to love our family as he loves us. He will not make us hateful to them, or them to us, he will make us Christ to them. And if we lose our life we will gain it.

Second we must take up our “own cross” or we “cannot be [his] disciple.” (14:27) Cannot. How are we to understand that word? It must certainly mean we are to gladly take up in every day and in every way the work that God has for us to do. To die to self to live to God.

Third, and last, we are told that we must “renounce all” we have or we cannot be his disciple. (14:33) It is as if he is hammering home the same message for the third time. To follow Jesus, to become his disciple, we must want only what God wants for us. Nothing else can come between us and him. If it does we must move it to a secondary place. Three times he has emphatically told us “cannot be my disciple.” These words were not spoken in vain. They are from the heart of the Father’s love for us  through his most beloved Son. They are to lead us to joy, but they are costly.

As we sing “Joy to the World” in only a few more hours, let us all remember the amazing reality that is the call to be a disciple of the one born in Bethlehem. Let us not take it lightly, but reverently. And let us affirm to him once more that we desire his life to be lived in us. We want to truly abide in him. We want our love to show forth his glory. We want our lives to “prove” we are his disciples.

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The Next Blog will be posted on January 6th, 2021. May God bless your Christmastide!

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