THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – 3

Bible Reading: John 15:18-16:4

Over the past two days we have considered the issue of persecution, as Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure. I would like to conclude this by sharing one of the most remarkable testimonies that I have ever heard.

I was ministering in Beijing and, after I had preached, Pastor Allen Yuan shared with me personally his experience following his arrest as an “enemy of the State in China in the 1950’s. He then gave me a nine page typed copy of his testimony.

Allen told me that he knew the People’s Security Bureau officials would one day come knocking on his door. When they came to arrest him he was forty-four years old and had a wife, six children and an aged mother. He was one of nine pastors, including Wang Ming Dao, who were tried together, and they were all sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour. He and Ming Dao were sent to the border of Siberia and worked in a chain gang. The days were long and there was only one fifteen-minute break each day. Allen thought that he would die as a martyr there. “In the labour camp it was very cold,” he wrote, “food was bad, and the work was hard, but in 22 years I never once got sick. I was thin and wore glasses, but I came back alive; many did not. I also had no Bible for the 22 years.” He told me that he also had no contact with his family through all those years.

Allen was unexpectedly released after 22 years and allowed to return to Beijing, but for a further ten years was kept under house arrest. He shared with me that those years were very tough. Many times the security officials came and beat him and his wife in order to get information about Christians. Finally, after 32 years of prison and house arrest Allen was released. With a twinkle in his eye, Allen told me that from the age of 76 to 86 God had given him the privilege of planting eight unofficial house churches in Beijing.

I asked Allen what the most difficult thing was that he experienced on his return from prison. His eyes welled up with tears, as he said, “When I went to prison my daughter was three years old, and the next time I saw her she was 25 years old. He then gathered himself together and said, “But that’s what it means to follow Jesus, isn’t it!” I asked him if he had a word for me, and he responded, “Yes, and it is a more sure word of prophecy – “Be faithful until death and I will give you a crown of life” [Revelation 2:10].

Remember the promise of Jesus to His disciples: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. Allen Yuan fully proved the truth of that promise in his life, and we can too.

Questions:

What are the principle lessons that you have learned today from the testimony of Allen Yuan?

Read John 16:33. How do you put Jesus’ command to “be of good cheer” into practice when everything is going wrong in your life?

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – 2

Bible Reading: John 15:18-16:4

As a young Christian I was not always wise in the way that I spoke or acted, but I was in love with Jesus. When I simply went to church there was not a major problem, but as soon as I began to talk about Jesus, and seek to share Him, the problems began. My stepfather began to oppose me with insidious remarks such as, “Don’t worry, it will soon wear off. He’s got religious mania.” Then he began to attack the Bible and try to persuade me that it was fairy tales and not trustworthy. One day he went into a trance, and under what I believe was demonic influence, began to prophesy of all the terrible things that would happen to me if I continued to follow Jesus. Finally, it was, “If you are going to continue going to church then you are no longer welcome at home. If you want to remain at home then you must stop going to church!” That was the moment when I was forced to make a choice! I told my stepfather that I would follow Jesus Christ the whole of my life – there was no turning back.

I had no idea that this and other early opposition was preparation for even more opposition as my wife and I later served in a fanatical Muslim community, where for a person to turn to Christ might mean death or at the very least some sort of deprivation. For example, a young Chinese boy came to Christ and was threatened by his teachers that that they would not put him forward for university unless he renounced Christ. He was a brilliant young student but he chose to put Christ first.

We should not be surprised when persecution and opposition come. Very early in His ministry Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:10]. Later Jesus said that we are to beware when all men speak well of us [Luke 6:26]. Persecution goes back to the beginning of time – Cain killed righteous Abel in Genesis chapter four [see also 1 John 3:12]. Much of the New Testament was written in the context of persecution. The Book of Acts speaks of persecution in the Early Church. Both James and Peter wrote their epistles against the backcloth of persecution. Heaven is full of martyrs who shed their blood for the sake of the gospel [Revelation 6:9-11].

We don’t go looking for persecution or want to have a persecution complex, but when we allow Christ to live His life through us there will be persecution and opposition. Writing to Timothy, Paul said, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]. How are we to handle this? James tells us to count it all joy when we fall into various trials [James 1:2]. Peter speaks of enduring trials that test our faith and committing our souls to God [1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-19]. Jesus tells us to rejoice when people persecute us [Matthew 5:11-12], and to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us [Luke 6:27-28].

A Question:

Have you ever you experienced persecution as a result of your Christian testimony? How were you able to handle it? How did it help you to grow in your Christian life?

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP

Bible Reading: Luke 14:25-33

Today we are going to stray out of John’s Gospel to take a closer look at discipleship. Jesus first call to His disciples was to be with Him, to spend time with Him, and to learn from Him. It was not a classroom experience but a life experience. Every day was a learning day. It was a simple pattern – He did it and they watched; He did it and they helped; they did it and He helped; they did it and He left.

To be His disciples demanded that Jesus should be Lord of every part of their lives. In the terms of this world’s values it is costly. Jesus must be Lord of all. Hudson Taylor said, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all.” In the early church “Jesus is Lord” was a common declaration of all Christians and brought conflict between the early church and the Roman Empire.

When Jesus became popular He tried to escape from the crowds [Matthew 8:18], went up on a mountain to pray [Mark 6:46], or challenged those who followed Him with the meaning of commitment [see Matthew 8:18-32] and the cost of discipleship.

The most basic requirement of a disciple of Jesus is that they are prepared to let Him to be the Lord of every area of their life. In our Bible reading today we find a phrase that Jesus uses three times – “cannot be my disciple” [verse 26, 27,33]. On each of those occasions Jesus is referring to a different aspect of His Lordship in the lives of those who would be His disciples.

Jesus must be Lord of our relationships [verse 26]. In a similar passage, Matthew says the same thing in a different way. He says, “Whoever loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” [Matthew 10:37]. We should love and honour our family and friends but Jesus should have the pre-eminence in all our relationships.

Jesus must also be Lord of our ambitions [verse 27]. To take up the cross was to die! It is a dying to self-will and living instead for the will of God. In the dying to self we become increasing alive to God.

Jesus must also be Lord of our possessions [verse 33]. There is nothing wrong with possessing nice things but we must beware of being possessed by them. Jesus said that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions [Luke 12:15], and of being choked by the cares, riches and pleasures of this life [Luke 8:14]. Jesus should be our greatest treasure.

Questions:

Why is it so important to move on from believing on Jesus for salvation to becoming disciples? In 2 Samuel 24:24 David says that he will not offer to the Lord that which cost him nothing? What is following Jesus costing you?

In what way do the words of Jesus on discipleship in our Bible reading today challenge you in your walk with God? Are you honestly able to say that Jesus is Lord of all your relationships, ambitions and possessions?