18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Ultimately, Christian discipleship is not about a list of rules. Jesus didn’t start a seminary or an annual leadership conference. Those things can be good and helpful, but they are not primary. What is primary is a living, passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Obviously, that doesn’t mean we ignore the teachings of the Bible. Otherwise, I just wasted everyone’s time with my previous post, telling you to read them! But we read them as love letters, not rules to follow.
You see, no one gets saved following the teachings of Christ. You obey his teaching because you’ve been saved. How are you saved? By believing that you’re a sinner who needs a Savior, and that Christ is that Savior. That he’s the only Savior that will make you right with God because he alone willingly went to the cross to bear God’s wrath against your sin.
That’s what Christianity is all about. It is true religion rooted in a right relationship with God through Christ. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot be good enough to earn God’s love. Instead, he freely gives it to all who would receive it. Christ went to the cross, bearing God’s wrath against sin, as an act of love towards sinners.
And it’s that kind of sacrificial love that we are called to imitate. In Matt 16, “Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (16:24). He’s not calling us to literally die on a hill for other sinners. No, he is saying after we trust in his perfect sacrifice, then we are to follow his example of humility and sacrifice and devote ourselves to God’s desires, not our own. This is what opens doors for the gospel.
Now you understand why Bill Graham used to always says, “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have.” Everything is yielded to his Lordship. But it’s worth it. Jesus said whatever is give up for him will be returned a hundredfold in the life to come. And so it’s not without reason that Christian martyr Jim Elliot would right in his journal, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”