In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
The Forsaken Life – or living in utmost devotion to Christ – is the only legitimate response to the gospel. Unfortunately, modern Western Christianity has almost completely abandoned this concept, as lukewarm commitment to Jesus is the normal mode of operation. It is telling that what is really just biblical Christianity is now called “radical living.”
But for the early church, believing the claims of Christ could not be separated from living the Forsaken Life. The Bible clearly teaches that if a person claims to be a Christian then the assumption is that they have abandoned their life and become a slave to God.1
- Luke 14:25-35
The Cost of Being a Christian
Looking at the story in Luke 14:25-35, we see Jesus engage in a severe sifting process. There were large crowds in attendance to hear Jesus teach, and He tells them what it means for people to follow Him: count the cost, love me more than your family, carry your cross, give up everything. The imagery of “carrying your cross” alone indicates to the crowd that following Jesus means you are to be a dead man walking.
Jesus’ mandate of utmost self-denial goes against the mantra of the world where a person’s own life is to be their primary focus. To enter into Christ’s allegiance, you must die to your current way of life. Because of the significance of these qualifications, Jesus does not want the decision to be hasty. He wants all professing Christians to count the cost. The importance of counting the cost is so important that Jesus uses twin parables in Luke 14:28-32 to drive home His point. Jesus wants all of you. He wants to claim all your possessions and desires. In the passage, Jesus is clear about the price. Three times between vv. 26-33 Jesus gives the refrain, “…cannot be my disciple.”
The Forsaken Life is the demand. Jesus is asking, “Are you willing to give me your life?” The cost is clear. The requirement is clear. These words condemn half-heartedness; lukewarm devotion has no place in Christianity.
Jesus concludes this passage with an analogy to salt. Salt is valuable when it has the quality of saltiness. In the same way followers of Christ possess particular character natural to true disciple (absolute unselfishness, and self-sacrificing loyalty to Him). If a professing Christian is not willing to display these qualities, they are as useless as salt that has gone stale.
The Savior has spoken tremendous words and He ends with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” We must earnestly believe what Jesus said, for the eternal destiny of our souls is at stake.
- Matthew 16:24-25
- John 12:25
- Luke 9:24, 17:33
Assurance Of Salvation
Many might ask, “What about eternal security or assurance of salvation?” People believe that eternal security implies that if a person becomes a Christian then they always remain a Christian. This is true, as long as we understand the correct definition of a Christian.
Many in modern Western Christianity believe that a person is saved if they say a heartfelt prayer. Then, with this newfound salvation, they person believes they can live their life as they see fit and still achieve their goal of dodging hell and getting into heaven.
When we say, “I am a Christian because I believe,” we are saying that assenting to facts is equivalent to the Christian life. This could not be further from the mindset of a first-century Jew. The Forsaken Life was not a concept written about in first-century Jewish culture because it was embedded in Jewish culture. They understood that God was asking for the allegiance of their whole life. This is why the masses deserted Jesus in John 6. This is also why when people followed Jesus it was not carelessly. People gave up their jobs and left their families.2 In Acts, we see Christians selling their homes for the cause of Christ.3 They understood faith to be the surrendering of their lives to the Lord.
- Matthew 7:13-27
The sermon concludes with four short sections, each calling for genuineness in the disciple’s response to the demands of Jesus. Each presents a contrast between the genuine and the fake, and this genuineness is found not in what he professes, but in his performance. A professed adherence may be impressive, deceive men, and even himself, but will not deceive God. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once noted, “Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.”
Jesus says we will know true believers by their fruits. The fruits are not specified, but the idea is clearly that profession must be tested by practice. A man’s heart will inevitably show itself by the way he lives. Jesus makes clear in vv. 19-20 that profession of discipleship alone is not protection against the coming judgment. The Gospel of Matthew frequently emphasizes the danger of a purely nominal discipleship and warns that there will be professed disciples who will be rejected at the end.4
To be clear, the Scriptures never assert that a true believer can lose their salvation. The Scriptures are clear, however, that there are a lot of professing Christians who go through the motions and their true heart will one day be exposed. People who “fall away” from Jesus do not lose their salvation; they never came to Christ in the first place.
Is This Works-Based Theology?
Not at all! We are saved by faith in Christ alone.5 In the Bible, works are never an enemy of faith but the proof of faith.6 Faith and actions work in tandem to bring glory to God. We do good works not to earn salvation but out of gratitude that God already gave us salvation in Christ.
Why Should We Willingly Lose Our Lives?
Jesus calls for us to die to ourselves before we follow Him. At first glance, this does not seem like an attractive offer. However, there is a guaranteed return on the investment. It is more than worth it.
We have two choices: follow Satan (worship ourselves, money, sex, status, etc.) or follow Jesus (commit to His kingdom and agenda). Devotion to Satan might lead to a successful life in the eyes of the world. However, we will be enemies of God and will be eternally punished.7 Devotion to Jesus will guarantee us entrance into the kingdom of God and we will never taste death.8 Further, we get access to the ultimate source of joy – God Himself.
- Luke 17:7-10
- Romans 6:1-10
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 7:21-24
- Matthew 13:44, 20:27-28, 24:45-51
- What does it cost to be a disciple of Jesus?
- What is the difference between works-based theology and living the Forsaken Life?
- Is losing your life to follow Jesus worth it? Why?
How does this study reinforce your belief in the gospel?
- 1 Corinthians 7:22-24; Ephesians 6:6
- Matthew 4:19-20
- Acts 4:34-37
- Matthew 7:21-23, 24-27; 13:37-43, 49-50; 25:31-46
- Romans 3:28, 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9
- James 2:18-24
- Matthew 10:28; Mark 9:43; Revelation 20:14
- John 8:51, 11:26, 10:28; Mark 9:1