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The cost of discipleship

Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” — Luke 9:62

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the brilliant young German theologian, was executed by the Nazis in the concentration camp at Flossenburg on April 9, 1945. This modern martyr had thought and written much about the cost of discipleship, not least because of the perilous times in which he lived. He was convinced that the gospel that Jesus preached to His disciples was not without challenge—but not without its own special comfort, too. Bonhoeffer said, “The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”

He was right. Jesus was not at all reluctant to rebuke His wayward followers. When they tried to stop an exorcist who was not in their group, they were told, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50). When they wanted to exterminate some Samaritans, they were rebuked by the Lord for suggesting such a thing (9:51-55). And those who gave halfhearted responses to His call, like the man who indicated he would follow Jesus if it didn’t interfere with his family life, were told, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (9:62).

The problem with plowing and looking back at the same time is not so much a stiff neck as a crooked furrow. The end product of the Christian who halfheartedly follows Christ is a crooked life. A halfhearted Christian commits part of his life to Christ and manages the rest personally.

There’s something in a man’s heart that is resistant to a wholesale commitment to the lordship and leadership of Christ. It’s hard for the man as he resists because a battle of wills is in progress. It’s a battle the man cannot win, but he insists on fighting to his own dismay and discomfort. It would be far better to accept the rebuke of the Lord. It is infinitely better to see things His way. And it is wonderfully liberating to exchange the harsh shackles of selfishness for the benign restraints of Christ’s call, wherever it leads.

Bonhoeffer went to his death, which he called the “solemnest feast on the road to eternal freedom.” He was convinced that this, the ultimate cost of discipleship, was a price well worth paying. This is an approach to discipleship that bears the stamp of authenticity.

For further study: Luke 9:49-62

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.