“The only man who has the right to say he is justified
by Grace alone, is the man who has left all to follow Christ”
It would be an unusual person who has never asked in some way or other the question ‘Why am I here?’ The answer to that question is however central to the shaping of the Christian life and Jesus answered it for us in two places in particular.
Firstly, he said that his followers are to “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). By which he meant that those that claim to be his disciples (followers) are to focus their lives, and therefore resources, on works that build God’s Kingdom, the very thing that Christians pray for frequently in the Lord’s prayer.
It is therefore an essential characteristic of the Christian life that out of all the things we can use our life for, important though many of them are, we are primarily to be ‘Kingdom Central’ people, people who are called by God out of the ‘World’ to seek to build God’s Kingdom by establishing His rule in human hearts (evangelism) and in society (justice). The degree to which a person does this is one mark of the difference between the ‘church member’ and the ‘Kingdom member’ i.e.someone who is a true disciple of Jesus.
A real disciple is someone who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2) into the image of God (Colossians 3:10). That means that they will increasingly reflect God’s heart – i.e. a heart for the lost, a heart from which love flows in the generous and sacrificial use of resources to build God’s Kingdom through the agency God created for this purpose i.e. our local Christian Fellowship.
This leads to the second thing that Jesus said in regard to being a disciple and that is to “deny ourselves and take up our Cross” (Mark 8:34-36). To his hearers to “take up their cross” meant to be prepared to suffer for him. A disciple’s ‘reason for being’ is to build God’s kingdom which automatically means to challenge the Kingdom of Satan. For this reason a true disciple will inevitably experience in some way or other the “sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 4:13). However, the tragedy is that many who claim to be ‘Christians’ want Christ without the Cross, i.e. are Cross-Less ‘Christians’, which is actually an oxymoron (i.e. not possible). Jesus made it clear that those who are not prepared to ‘take up their Cross “cannot be his disciple” (Luke 14:27), for they are not prepared to be Bonhoeffer’s man “who has left all to follow Christ”. Inevitably in the person who does “deny them self” i.e. give up, let go of, their life preferences and focus on what God wants their life to be used for, there will be seen dramatic change in the use of their God-given resources
Jesus answered the ‘Why am I here?’ question by saying that, for a true disciple (Christian), it is to take up our own cross (i.e. be prepared to suffer) for him, and to “deny ourselves” (i.e. let go of our own preferences). To emphasize the seriousness of his point he added that anyone not prepared to do this, in effect be a Cross-less ‘Christian’, cannot be a disciple of his. Further, one could posit that one of the main reasons for the western church’s decline and lack of missional power is the number of Cross-Less ‘Christians’ who line the ‘pews’. For such the idea of ‘leaving all to follow Christ’ seems like an unreal quaint idea.