Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. – Philippians 3:8
George Barna in his book “Growing True Disciples” sites some interesting research in regard to the attitudes, beliefs, and practices of Christians. He writes:
“Our research discovered an interesting condition. On the one hand, when you ask born again adults about their goals in life and give them a series of possibilities to rank, personal spiritual development emerges as one of their top priorities. For instance, four out of five believers said that having a deep, personal commitment to the Christian faith is a top priority for their future. On the other hand, when you ask believers to identify the single, most important thing they hope to accomplish in life, without suggesting any particular possibilities, only a small minority mentions anything directly related to spiritual growth (20%). In other words, most believers say that their faith matters, but few are investing much energy in the pursuit of spiritual growth.”
Many Christians have subverted the meaning of disciple to bend to their chosen way of life. Instead of making Jesus’ life the focus and goal of transformation, we ask Jesus to transform our life so that it works for us. It’s not about being a true Talmid. It’s about being happy, and also being morally good, but ultimately it’s about being happy. We make it about getting Jesus to bless our personal agenda rather than the focus of our lives being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. This self-centered approach ultimately leads to a spiritually empty life.
This was the attitude of the rich young man in Mark chapter 10. He comes to Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. At first Jesus gives him the typical rabbinic answer of the day and quotes some of the most famous “do’s” in the Bible– the Ten Commandments. The young man expects this answer and boldly declares he has obeyed these commandments since his childhood. Jesus then gets to the real heart of the matter and replies, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) The young man goes away sad because he has great wealth. The young man was expecting Jesus to approve of the life that he led. After all he was a “good man.” However, Jesus wasn’t concerned with just his morals. Jesus wanted the young man’s whole heart and life.
By many Christian standards today this young man would be considered a good Christian because he was a morally upstanding man who believed in God. However, being moral and believing in God is not what defines a disciple. What does define a disciple is Jesus’ words “follow me.” The wealth in and of itself was not the problem, but it is what stood between the young man and his ability to follow Jesus. Jesus could have just as easily said “go end that affair,” “leave that prestigious job,” “don’t worry about what other people think,” or “give that habit up and follow me.” Jesus’ point was that entering into God’s kingdom is not about doing, it’s about being. And often wealth, which includes most of us Westerners, hinders us from entering God’s kingdom because we are often more consumed with our own personal comfort rather than with a passion to follow and be like Jesus.
This is why Jesus encourages those who want to follow him to count the cost before deciding to follow him. Being a disciple of Jesus will not make your life work better for you. Being a disciple of Jesus means that life is not about you, it is about the master. It is about abandoning all that we once considered ours and following after Jesus. In the words of the apostle Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. 3:8) If you want the full life Jesus offers, you must be willing to give up the old life.