I’m a sucker for a good sales pitch. I’ve plunged into various predicaments because I couldn’t say no. This weakness almost derailed my career path the day the US military recruiters showed up at my seminary.
They wanted military chaplains. Being a chaplain was so far away from my calling that I expected to be impervious to their pitch. But their chapel speaker, a major in the Navy in a Top Gun-esque white uniform and impressive physique, preached up a storm. He regaled us with how he got to start Bible studies on submarines off the coast of Iraq, how he would disciple pilots while jogging with them on the aircraft carrier, and how he counseled combat troops in exotic locations.
After chapel, a gaggle of awestruck students fluttered to the recruiters like moths to the flame. The recruiters in their smart uniforms all smelled so good and beamed friendly smiles. They talked of seeing the world and being all you can be. They had pictures of happy soldiers with gleaming guns repelling from helicopters like my childhood GI Joe fantasies.
Thankfully, I had a natural immunity to their wiles: I wasn’t a US citizen. But a classmate of mine succumbed to the allure and soon discovered a whole other side to the military. Before the ink on the dotted line is dry the friendly faces of the enchanting recruiters disappear and you never see them again. They shave your head, take your clothes, and start yelling and cursing at you.
I found out though that the Navy SEALs recruit in the exact opposite way. They say how difficult the training is, how dangerous the missions are, how many drop out, and how impossible it is to be chosen. They speak of pain and sacrifice and commitment. And paradoxically that brutal truth attracts better candidates than the honey trap method. Only the most committed and determined warriors sign up for the SEAL teams, knowing full well what lies ahead.
Some evangelists share the gospel in a way that makes Christianity sound like a vacation from trouble, a Disneyland tour of delightful experiences. And others present the brutal truth that following Jesus brings sacrifice, persecution, and lifelong warfare against sin and Satan.
Which method of evangelism do you think produces truly committed disciples?
Here are three truths every prospective disciple should know before committing to Christ…
- True Disciples Must Be Willing to Die for their Faith
Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
One of the most popular gospel presentations of our time is “The Four Spiritual Laws.” The very first law is this: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” But the conditions of discipleship in verse 23 are to give up your desires, be willing to die, and obey Christ. The descriptor, “wonderful,” could be seen as quite misleading.
The phrase “take up his cross” refers to a condemned man forced to carry the means of his own execution. In earshot of Christ’s warning, were Philip and Andrew, who were crucified. There was James, who was beheaded in the book of Acts, after Stephen was stoned to death. Peter we know was imprisoned, beaten, and eventually (history tells us) crucified upside down. Mark was dragged to death in Egypt in 64AD, and Barnabas was burned alive in Cyprus in the same year. Luke, who wrote these words, was hanged in Athens in 93 AD. And this slaughter is still happening today – thousands of Christians are martyred every year. Paul says in 2 Tim 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
That’s a pretty broad definition of a “wonderful plan.”
- True Disciples Must Be Willing to Sacrifice Wealth for their Faith
Luke 9:25 “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
The desire for profit is a normal part of life. But sometimes the desire for profit in this life is in opposition to profit in the eternal life and then you have to choose.
What happens when you are offered an opportunity to make more profit by being dishonest or ungodly? If obedience to Jesus is a lower priority to you than physical profit, then you cannot be a true disciple. You need to shift your priorities.
Leave your little kingdom building and corporate ladder climbing and invest in eternity. Phil 3:8 “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.”
True disciples value Christ over everything in life. Everything.
- True Disciples Must Be Willing to Speak Up for their Faith
Luke 9:26 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
We are all ashamed of something. A part of our lives that we would rather not talk about. And it’s okay that you keep some of that stuff to yourself. But there is something that it’s never okay to be ashamed of… your Savior.
You say “I’d never deny Jesus like Peter did.” Good. But what happens when people at work are all agreeing about some topic like abortion or evolution and you keep quiet so that people don’t know that you hold the opposite, biblical view?
Are you being ashamed of Jesus’ words? It’s one thing to talk about Jesus at church or in home group where it’s acceptable, it’s another to represent him at work or before your friends who will think you are uncool or even oppose you.
Pray this week for an opportunity to stand up for Jesus. It is a way of honoring him, and worshipping him. And no matter what the fallout is, it will all be worth it when Jesus calls your name out in front of tens of thousands of angels, and calls you his own.
If you’ve blown it, remember Peter. He denied Jesus three times, but he repented, and boldly preached Christ before thousands. And his repentance was obvious: he was mocked, imprisoned, beaten, and killed. Repent of your denial of him, he will forgive you and give you opportunities to stand up for him.
Being a disciple of Jesus is the highest privilege in life. But it behooves us to know what we are committing to before we sign on the dotted line. And we owe it to prospective disciples to tell them the truth about what may lie ahead. I have a hunch that will produce more committed and more determined recruits for the kingdom of God.