In Luke 14:33 we read, “So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say goodbye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple.” A powerful verse that many misunderstand. The main trouble lies in the words “who does not”. Many want to interpret the verse this way, “So then, any of you not willing to forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say goodbye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple.” There is a difference between willing and becoming.
A long time ago, we attended a small church where a man named Matthew pastored. God was calling us to give up our idols, and the big one for me was the big screen TV. We decided, as a family, to give our monstrosity away. Strangely, ‘Matthew’ wanted our former idol, so we gave it to him. One Sunday night, not long after, God prompted me to speak in the service about how He led us to give up our television. After I sat down, Matthew got up and said God wasn’t calling everyone to give up their TVs; it was just God’s leading for us.
Why did Matthew say this?
When we were homeless at the Smiths Motel in New Brunswick, a few ladies we knew came to visit us. One lady, Sarah, was kind and helped us a great deal when we were in St. Stephen. In return, we shared our story; how we had given up our home to follow Jesus. Moved by our story, Sarah was clear that she said she couldn’t give up ‘all’. Although she was willing, it would be too hard for her.
Why did Sarah say this?
Later in our journey, while still homeless, we lived in Wilton Standard Church for a time. A new pastor, Moody, came to preach after the previous pastor left. We testified to the believers at Wilton concerning our journey of uncompromising faith. The Bible study group, the Sunday School class, and many individuals heard our story. During one of these meetings I mentioned giving up ‘all’ to follow Jesus. After I spoke Moody piped up and said, we didn’t need to give up ‘all’ literally, we just needed to be ‘willing’.
Why did Moody say this?
These questions still bother us. These three people do not believe Jesus’ words and will not live by them. Luke 14:33 does not say ‘anyone not willing to forsake’, it says ‘anyone who does not forsake’. The imperative is clear. Jesus is expecting anyone who follows Him to act on their commitment. Matthew, Sarah and Moody’s comments move this verse from practical action into an intellectual exercise; with no requirement for sacrifice.
Many want the ‘comfort’ of feeling they are following Jesus without the cost. Could you imagine if someone sat down in a fancy restaurant, ate an 8 course dinner and then said, “I will not pay.”? How successful would they be in escaping the consequence? Yet this happens daily when we ignore the injunction stated in Luke 14:33. We live our lives without thought to this most poignant and significant Scripture, hoping God will look away when we indulge our ‘self’ nature.
The difference between willing and becoming
God only speaks the truth that we need to hear; no more and no less. For Jesus to speak these words and have them recorded means this is a critical principle. In Revelations 13:8 God speaks of the ‘willingness’ of Jesus to be a Lamb slain in sacrifice from the foundation of the world. Jesus’ ‘willingness’ ‘became’ the physical cross on earth. Jesus went from ‘willing’ to ‘becoming’.
What if Jesus was only ‘willing’ to go the cross but actually never went?
Would we have salvation? Would we have a path to the Father to allow us to spend eternity with Him? No, we wouldn’t. How come we see Jesus give up everything and yet think God only wants us to be ‘willing’? This makes little sense. In order for genuine change to take place, our ‘willing’ must turn to ‘becoming.’ Why don’t we move from ‘willing’ to ‘becoming’ then? Because sacrifice leads to death of ‘self’. We don’t want to give up anything because we want to preserve ‘self’.
Being only ‘willing’ changes nothing.
The difference between believer and disciple
Now we must make an important distinction. Read Luke 14:33 again. What results from of not giving up ‘all’? Simple, one cannot be His disciple. Please understand Jesus is saying nothing of our salvation. He is referring to something different. His point is, if we don’t give up ‘all’ we will miss out on being a disciple. No big deal, right? Isn’t being a believer and a disciple the same thing?
Reviewing Christian writings one might think these terms are interchangeable, but this is not the truth. A disciple is someone who gives up everything to follow another, a believer does not. Simple. If we read Luke 14:33 again, we see Jesus stating a fact. Those who listened to Him knew what a disciple was. They understood and accepted the cost.
If anyone only wants to be a believer, God respects their decision. If they want to be a disciple, however, the conditions are black and white. God will make no one become a disciple, nor will He punish any person if they choose not to; however, there is one small consequence. If someone remains only a believer, they will never be the Bride of Christ. Period. God the Father will only wed His Son to ones who follow Him in character. Jesus gave up ‘all’. This is His character. The only route to receiving His character is to become a disciple; which means to give up ‘all’. There is no other way.
Becoming a disciple
Whatever path a person chooses, believer or disciple, they need to be honest regarding their choice. If someone isn’t willing to give up ‘all’, they cannot honestly say they are a disciple.
Now don’t think for a moment God will not ask for ‘all’ if a person chooses to become a disciple. Sacrifice is the requirement. We may not understand what our ‘all’ is until God calls us to sacrifice it. Our family gave up our home, belongings, pets, friends and family in faith. For others, ‘all’ means something different. The one constant is Jesus will ask for our ‘all’ if we follow Him and become a disciple.
God was clear in the 10 commandments when He said, “You shall have no other gods before Me or besides Me.” Exodus 20:3.
What lay ahead
In the coming days it will not be safe to be only a believer. As the world turns dark, many will be buffeted and their faith will weaken. Only disciples will stand in the day of evil; holding faith when everyone else turns away. To be a disciple costs everything. The testing and trials are more difficult than we can imagine. We do not want to sugarcoat the truth, nor do we want to scare anyone from the path of discipleship. Regardless of the cost, we stand firm that receiving Jesus is a greater reward than any loss we incur.
Which will you choose, believer or disciple? If your choice is to be a disciple, are you ‘willing’ or ‘becoming’? The price and reward are clear. The choice is yours.
Homer and Wanda