The True Cost of Discipleship (Matthew 10)

In 1948, a young 21-year-old Wheaton College student named James wrote in his journal, “I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus.” A year later, against all advice, he became convinced that God was calling him as a missionary to Ecuador. That year he wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ Jim spent most of 1952 in Quito, Ecuador, learning Spanish and orientating to a new culture… Since college days he had been fascinated by a remote Stone Age tribe known as the Aucas. Jim knew that they had a deserved reputation for killing anyone, Indian or white, who dared to intrude into their land. Nevertheless, he began praying for them and was determined to reach out to them. In September 1955 a pilot with the Mission Aviation Fellowship, Nate Saint, spotted from the air a small Aucas settlement. On Sunday morning January 8th 1956 Nate went up alone and spotted a group of Auca men walking towards their camp. He flew back to the beach with the good news and radioed their wives. “A commission of ten is coming. Pray for us This is the day.” Together they all sung the hymn:

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender,
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise.
When passing through the gates of pearly splendour.
Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days.

A few years earlier aged just 23 Jim Elliott had written

“I must not think it strange if God takes in youth those whom I would have kept on earth till they were older. God is peopling Eternity, and I must not restrict Him to old men and women… When it comes time to die, make sure all you have to do is die.”

Jim and his four mission partners Nate, Ed, Roger & Pete were indeed called home that Sunday, to “people eternity”. Refusing to use their weapons in self-defence, they were slain by the people they had sought to befriend. 

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 10:39)

Many people go through life never knowing their purpose in life, never knowing who they were created to be. Who am I? The world has plenty of answers to define and categorize me. Some would say I am who I was – hence the popularity of tracing our family tree. Knowing who our ancestors were can define us. I was born in Lowestoft – the word ending indicates it was a Viking settlement. I very probably have Viking genes because I have a hereditary condition common in Scandinavia, which both my grandfather and father had. Its called Dupuytren contracture is a painless condition that causes one or more fingers to bend toward the palm of the hand. The affected fingers can’t straighten completely. Knots of tissue form under the skin. Its highest incidence is recorded in Iceland and also high in Scandinavia: In a Norwegian study Dupuytren was present in 10.5% of men. I therefore am who I was… 

Others insist I am what my grades were. Having failed my 11+, I left secondary school with 5 O levels and no job. By perseverance, I studied A levels at night school, got to university, and eventually gained a Masters degree and then PhD studying part-time. Letters after your name open some doors and shut others. For others, I am where I’m from. How often are you asked “Where are you from?” especially if you have an accent or particular skin tone.  For some it is all about where I live, my postcode. For others I am what I eat, or where I buy my clothes. For many I am what I do. How often are you asked the question “What do you do?” The last time I was asked that, I replied ‘guess’. The lady came back straight away and answered, “You are either an estate agent, funeral director or a vicar” because they are the most evasive about answering the question. I responded, “How did you guess?”. “Because I am a vicar’s wife” she replied…  For some I am defined by my football club or my golf or sailing club or the car I drive. For some it is what I know.  For others it is who I know. For lots of people I am what I possess.   But many people just don’t know who they are. They are searching for meaning and purpose. They are trapped not knowing who they really are.  Who am I? The Bible says, we will never know who we are until we decide who Jesus is. Because Jesus says, “You are who you follow”.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39)

Jesus calls us to follow Him, to take up our cross and follow him.  The world doesn’t understand the cost of being a Christ-follower. Because it doesn’t understand who Christ is, it cannot understand what Christ has done for us and therefore what he demands of us. 
Three observations:

We must follow Christ

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)

I am often asked to provide a Christian perspective on the Middle East at events organized by Muslims. I begin by defining the word Christian because there is so much ignorance and misunderstanding surrounding the word. The United States is sen as a Christian country. Europe is made up of so called Christian countries. Most of our national flags contain a cross. So when the West intervenes in the Middle East Muslims often assume this reflects Christianity in action. I explain that the word Christian is a verb not a noun. A Christian is a follower of Jesus, not just a believer in Jesus. I believe in the devil. That does not make me a follower. Unless someone is following the teaching of Jesus, they are not entitled to be called a Christian. We must follow Jesus.

We must sacrifice for Christ

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 10: 39)

Mark Galli in his book, Jesus Mean and Wild says: “The point is simply this: if we’ve given ourselves to a contemporary, high-demand expression of faith, we should recognize that it doesn’t even approach the demands Jesus makes of us… And when this reality hits us from time to time as well it should… the only reasonable reaction is fear and trembling. What else would a sane person do after realizing that Jesus wants nothing less than all of us – every molecule, every breath, every ounce of energy, every interest, every passion, every thought, every action, every love?”  What does Jesus expect of us? Everything. Jesus expects our all for him, because he gave his all for us, and wants us to share his life with us.  We must follow Christ. We must sacrifice for Christ and 

We Must Acknowledge Christ

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)

If we live for ourselves, we will lose ourselves, but if we lose ourselves for His sake and the Gospel’s, we will find ourselves. From an earthly perspective, we are losing ourselves, but from a heavenly perspective, we are finding ourselves.  When we live for Christ, we become more like Jesus, and we become the person God designed us to be.  To lose ourselves for Jesus and for the gospel is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion.  

Galli concludes, “The same Jesus who makes unreasonable and impossible demands on us is able to sympathize with our weakness and patiently endure our selfishness. If his demands are high and lifted up, his mercy is as wide as the East is from the West. We look to the top of the spiritual Everest that Jesus expects us to climb, and our hearts sink… But Jesus, our gentle, patient Sherpa, doesn’t expect us to get to the top of the mountain in the next couple of hours. He will never let us forget what the impossible goal is, but he is merciful. He will train us up in the way we should go. He will supply all our needs… Because he is with us. So…”no matter how demanding the journey, no matter how weak and unprepared we feel, no matter how frightened we are at times, there is no turning back from the upward call… [for] it is our destiny.”

Let me ask you. Are you ashamed of Jesus or honoured to be associated with Jesus? For your answer not only defines you but ultimately will determine your eternal destiny. Who am I? It depends on what I make of Jesus.  When we find him, we find ourselves. We are what God says about us. That is really all that matters. Who am I?  If I have received Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, he is my brother. God becomes not just my Creator but my heavenly Father. Jesus taught us to call the Lord God, King of the universe –  Abba – Daddy, because of who Jesus is, why Jesus came and what he expects of us, his children.  Who is Jesus? He is the Messiah, God’s Son. The Saviour of the world.  Why did Jesus come? To die on the cross to take away our sin, so that we can know God as our loving, forgiving Father, and enjoy him forever. What does Jesus expect of us? To follow him, wherever God’s Spirit leads us, empowers us and chooses to expend us for his praise and glory.

I began with the story of Jim Elliot and his colleagues martyred in the Amazon.  God never wastes the blood of His saints. God may never call us to be a martyr, but He does call us to be a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2).  Jim Elliot wrote, “When it comes time to die, make sure all you have to do is die”. One of the first things Jim’s widow, Elizabeth did was tell their story in the book, Through Gates of Splendour. In the months that followed the widows returned to their work among the tribal peoples of Ecuador. 

Other mission partners came and continued to reach out to the Aucas. For nearly a year Elizabeth Elliot, with her little daughter Valeria and Nate’s sister Rachel Saint, lived and worked among the men who killed her husband. They discovered why their husbands had been killed as well as the identity of their killers. “We thought foreigners would kill and eat us,” one Auca said. Another confessed that he had cried after the killings. Each one of the killers, confessed their sin and accepted Christ. One of them, Kimo became a pastor of the Auca village. To demonstrate their faith in Jesus Christ, Nate’s teenage son Steve and daughter Kathy asked if they could be baptised by the Aucas. The baptisms were held at Palm Beach at dawn. Kimo, one of their father’s killers baptised Steve and Kathy along with two teenagers from the village. Near the site of the missionaries’ graves, the two forgiven killers, two of the widows, Marj and Rachel and the four teenagers sang the hymn which the five men had sung near that same spot “We rest on Thee, our shield and our Defender.” That was only the beginning of the miracle. Auca believers themselves became missionaries to other long-time enemy tribes among whom, Tona, one of the six killers himself became a martyr. For the wives and relatives of the five men, the mute longing of their hearts was echoed by words found in Jim Elliot’s diary.

” walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious. To stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coat tail and the heavens hailing your heart – to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask? Oh the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth. I care not if I never raise my voice again for him, if only I may love him, please him. Perhaps in mercy he shall give me a host of children, that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore his delicacies whose finger ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see him, smell his garments and smile into my Lover’s eyes — ah then, not stars nor children shall matter, only himself.”