Because very few, if any, ever completely rise above the background of the age in which they have lived and the society they grew up in, our background and culture becomes huge determining factors in how we as Christians interpret Scripture, or what we choose to believe and practice, according to our Biblical understanding. Unfortunately, if much of what we understand as Biblical truth has not come to us as a direct inspired revelation from the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, who posses the Spirit of truth, we are subject to error and deception because we are not able to understand and see things as God does, so in our natural mind things can and do get all twisted.
Woe to those who call evil (bad) good, and good evil (bad); Who put darkness for light, And light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, And sweet for bitter! WEB (World English Bible)
As carnal human beings we are blinded by our own ignorance; we are led astray by our own prejudices; our minds and eyes are darkened by our own errors (many of which we are blind to) and by our own passions. When this is the case, only Jesus, through His Holy Spirit of truth, can open our eyes until we are able to see the truth.
When the Apostle Paul was inspired by God to write what the Holy Spirit had revealed to him, as a founding Apostle of the Christian Church, he made it very clear, that what He wrote would also be received and understood by those who also had the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ residing in them. Many had a hard time understanding or even believing what God’s Holy Spirit had revealed to Paul. Thus, many started their own followings on their own private twisted interpretations of the Scriptures. Thus, many truths that Paul was given at the time did not become part of their Christian belief system.
(2 Peter 3:15-16)
“…our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you;
as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” WEB
Likewise, those who profess to be a “follower” of Jesus, but do not have the Spirit of Christ residing on nor in them, will again remain ignorant regarding the truth when it is proclaimed by those being inspired by the Holy Spirit. Those void of the Holy Spirit’s insight cannot discern spiritual evil from Good.
(1 Corinthians 14:37-38) If any man thinks himself to be a prophet (i.e. speaking what God has spoken), or (thinks himself to be) spiritual (i.e., possessing the Spirit of Jesus Christ) he will have superimposed knowledge (from the Holy Spirit) and will recognize the things which I write to you (i.e as being from the Holy Spirit), and that they are the commandments from the Lord. But if any man be ignorant (lit: lacks information or ignores the Holy Spirit), let him be ignorant (This is also translated according to Vincent’s Word Study: “he is one whom God knows not.”). ALT (These verses are an Alternate Literal Translation from the Greek interlinear Bible)
It is also worth noting that ONLY true disciples can have their eyes opened to the true understanding of the Scriptures by Jesus Christ who posses the truth.
Then (i.e., because they were disciples) he [Jesus] opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures.
This then, brings me to a very important aspect of the gospel preached by Jesus Himself, and one which is often glossed over by many, who are trying to reconcile sinners to God. I am referring to what Jesus said is REQUIRED of ALL who want to become a DISCIPLE (i.e. meaning, one who is taught the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ). I want to more closely examine what Jesus preached concerning what was required, He said:
“If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t hate his own father, mother, wife (i.e., spouse), children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also (NOTE: having to HATE these relationships mentioned above, requires renouncing these things as sin if they are more important to us than our relationship with Jesus Christ, this means we must repent for not “hating” these other relationships, otherwise, Jesus says if a person won’t do this…), he can’t be my disciple.
In order to get us to understand the impact that true discipleship is to have on our lives, Jesus said we must HATE what our carnal nature LOVES, when it comes to all human relationships and especially our own relationship with our worldly carnal life! When we don’t understand what Jesus is really telling us, this very first requirement for genuine discipleship cannot be met. So what does it mean to hate ourselves and other carnal human relationships?
The Greek word for HATE is NT:3404 miseo (mis-eh’-o); which by extension means: to love less; the CWSD (Complete Word Studies Dictionary) states: “hate” is used in an exaggerated and relative sense to express how much we must hate or detest our strong preference of loving something (i.e carnal human relationships) more than another (i.e., Jesus)… as also stated in:
(Matthew 10:37-38) He who loves father or mother more than me(G-NT:5228 huper) is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me… He who doesn’t take his cross (i.e., die to self) and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me …
As a counselor and teacher of God’s Word, I have found very few who are willing to choose to become a serious student who will obey and put into practice what they learn from the Word of God (i.e., Jesus – the Word of God).
Please understand that a TRUE DISCIPLE is not just a FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ, as many simply define discipleship. By that I mean, it is possible to be a follower of Jesus Christ without being a disciple; its like being a camp-follower without being a soldier of the king; or to be a hanger-on in some great work without pulling your own weight. Once I heard it said that someone was talking to a great scholar about a certain person attending his lectures. He said to the scholar, “So and so tells me that this person was one of your students.” The teacher answered sadly, “He may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students.” This has always been one of the supreme problems in the church, there are so many distant followers of Jesus and so few real disciples.
Many professing Christians love to hang out and follow “Christian events” that are happening, (e.g., in conferences, local churches, or even home Bible studies etc.) because it inspires their emotions or entertains their carnal nature or meets their desire for “socializing.” However, not many are willing to make being taught and becoming obedient to the Word (Jesus) their # 1 priority in their life. Jesus also faced this same thing when He began teaching the people and with the many signs and wonders He performed. But when it came time to receive what he taught them, many could not receive it.
Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” … But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? … At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked (followed) no more with him. WEB
Counting the Cost of Being a True Disciple
If your read the context of the above text, revealing that many followers of Jesus walked away from Him, you will see it was due to the fact they could not understand what He was teaching them, and it actually offended them. True Disciples have the willingness to trust the Lord, even when they don’t have the ability to understand all the Word of God, because they know who He is, the revealer of all truth to those who seek Him.
Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?” … Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life… We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Those who continued on as true disciples, were the twelve who had genuinely “counted the cost” for becoming a disciple, and were ultimately given the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, which is another proof or should I say reward of true discipleship
Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be (Literal ALT: is without authority, ability or strength to be) my disciple … For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough (i.e., authority, ability or strength) to complete it?
Being a true disciple is not something that can be accomplished through our own authority, ability or strength, because it requires that we become a martyr. A martyr is one who is willing to lay down their own life for a cause. All true disciples are willing to die to self in order to crucify their human carnal desires, and even be willing to be murdered for the cause of Christ if need be. Without being given the Holy Spirit from Jesus, a disciple will not have the strength or ability to do so, because Satan’s spirit of fear rules their life more than the Holy Spirit of Christ. Thus, the fear of dying to selfish desires (which may look good and even seem nobel but in reality are for self’s pleasure, security or comfort). Having to suffer the loss of these desires for the cause of Christ, is offensive to our carnal nature. It is only through the gift of God’s Holy Spirit’s dunamis power, which is God’s ability, power and resources given to us, which enable us to live the life of a genuine Christian disciple. When this is the case, all fears of being deprived of or laying down self’s desires, no longer rule the life of a true disciple.
Followers Do Not Have God’s Power but True Disciples Do
But you will receive power (GNT 1411 dunamis: God’s power, ability and resources) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses (GNT:3144 martus a “martyr”) to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”WEB
This is why we see so many professing “followers” trying to live the Christian life, but only through their own human strength or will power. Sadly, they only keep falling back into their “old carnal sinful ways” and struggle with all kinds of unhealed issues affecting their mind, will and emotions. All because they are not willing to renounce and forsake what they love and desire more than obeying Jesus Christ, so they can be filled with power from God’s Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, (lit: become fully matured) go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me (Jesus was inviting him to become a disciple).
But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions.
Being a disciple leads to living a sanctified life producing spiritual fruit that is proof of our spiritual maturity and wholeness, so we can then qualify to receive our inheritance as true saints of God.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you (i.e., as disciples) the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
18 so that the eyes of your understanding will be enlightened; that you may experience the hope of (lit: a total expectation to fulfill) His calling (i.e. to become a saint and receive), what are the riches of that glory of His inheritance through the saints (expanded literal meaning of this phrase says: saints serve as instruments to accomplish His ultimate goal).
It is a Christian’s first duty then, to count the cost of following Christ. We must honestly ask ourselves these questions:
- “have I really been willing to pay the price of death to self?
2. Do I love other things or people more than I love God’s Word and truth (i.e. Jesus who called the “word of God”) and lastly…
3. “am I really a true disciple who has forsaken all, or merely a “follower?”
If we are intimated by the high demands of Jesus Christ that require forsaking all to become a true disciple, we must always remember that he has not left us to fulfil His requirements on our own or by our own power. He who called us to His steep and narrow road will walk with us every step of the way and be there at the end to meet us with our heavenly inheritance, that all saints, who are the mature Christians, ware going to receive.
Hebrews 13:5-6, 8
Let your conduct be free from covetousness (i.e., self’s desires); be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” … So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear … Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. NKJV
If this truth is not a reality to us, we will give up our quest for maturity through holiness and there will be no building up of or maturing in, our Christian life. The sad truth is that a carnal (self-indulgent) Christian is a spiritually INCOMPLETE or immature Christian with (i.e., an un-healed/un-sanctified) areas in their life and cannot properly represent true Christianity to a lost and dying world. When a person is not spiritually maturing, they will have no power to remain steadfast in the true faith. Instead, they will be double minded (i.e. spirit led one minute, carnally led the next), disobedient, compromisers who become candidates for deception and back sliding. Those in this place become a humiliating affront not only to the body of Christ, but to God Himself, when there is no progress or fruitful growth in their life.
(Luke 14:29-30, 33)
Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, but is not able (literally means: having no “dunamis” or supernatural power/ability) to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, … saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able (literally: had no dunamis power/ability) to finish… So therefore whoever of you who doesn’t renounce (lit: reprioritize) all that he has (lit: posses), he can’t be my disciple. WEB
Those of us who are true disciples are in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ (the word of God). We have all we need to not only run our race, but to finish our race victoriously. Our partnership with Christ, God’s anointed… will keep us strong and blameless to the very end of our life.
(1 Corinthians 1:7-9)
You have every spiritual gift you need, as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ… He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, for he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. NLT
Jesus said to those who had believed in Him …
(John 8:31-34) AMP
If you abide in My word and hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them, you are truly My disciples… And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free… Jesus answered them, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, whoever commits, and practices sin is the slave of sin… So if I the Son liberate you, I make you free men, then you are really and unquestionably free. AMP