20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:20–22, NKJV)
Saul’s conversion from persecutor to preacher was exemplary. His transformation of heart and life demonstrates the change of heart and life to which Christ calls every disciple (Eph. 4:20-24). 1) The immediacy of a disciple (v. 20). Saul immediately changed his life of sin against Jesus after being baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). He began preaching the gospel without delay. One does not become a Christian in phases. It is not a decision to be different, “one of these days.” Salvation in Christ brings an immediate change of faith and conduct (Rom. 6:4-6). 2) The identification of a disciple (v. 21). People recognized the change in Saul. Becoming a Christian means making drastic and dramatic changes in character and conduct. People will see the difference. 3) The increase of a disciple (v. 22). Saul grew in strength and vigorously preached and lived his faith that Jesus is the Christ. Christians must not shrink back into sin’s destruction, but “press forward toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. (Psalm 119:101–102, NKJV)
Self-discipline is essential in keeping the word of God. Discipleship requires discipline, both to order one’s life after the Master’s teachings and to refrain from conduct that is against the Master’s instruction (Lk. 6:40; Jno. 13:13-17). Pride is ever ready to puff up our confidence in ourselves. It deceptively assures us we could never deny our Lord (Matt. 26:35; cf. Prov. 16:18). Therefore, since “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” we must continually “watch and pray, lest (we) enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). Utter commitment to God’s judgments (determinations) must governor our choices to refrain from evil and pursue good (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 3:8-11). When we argue with God’s word to justify our sinful choices and conduct, we have allowed personal judgments to control us instead of the decisions of God. (That’s pride at work.) Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). God does not delight in those whose evil (sin) is called good (Mal. 2:17). Self-disciplined faith in God helps us guard against reversing God’s judgments and calling good evil, and evil good (Isa. 5:20-21; Prov. 17:15). God is our teacher, and His word shows us what is evil and what is good. Walking in God’s word is how we “watch” and avoid entering into sin.
“After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.” (Luke 5:27–28, NKJV)
Just like He saw Levi (Matthew), Jesus observes us going about our daily business. He sees and knows where we are putting our attention, our energy, and our goals each day. Like us, Levi was doing his job (which happened to be collecting taxes). Jesus fixed His gaze on this tax collector and said, “be following me” (Lenski, 307). Whatever job you are doing, Jesus calls you to be following Him. He must be your priority above all else. Levi undoubtedly experienced financial loss when he followed Jesus – which he did without hesitation. Do you have that resolve? Are you prepared to follow Jesus, whatever it costs you? Faith compels us to do what Jesus says. We cannot legitimately claim to have sufficient faith in Jesus without readily doing what He says. Jesus acknowledged this when He asked, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)? Resolve to be like Levi. Jesus is calling you. Be following Him.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24, NKJV)
Divided loyalty dooms one to failure. Jesus laid down this simple, yet profound principle, which plays out in our lives every day. We establish priorities that reflect our values, our motives, our goals, and our aspirations. We will either serve the spiritual, or the material. We will either serve God, or riches. Attempts to serve both God and the world lead to spiritual demise. Double-mindedness prevents effective faith and wisdom (Jas. 1:5-8). Christians cannot successfully live by faith with one foot in the world, and one foot in the church. “Limping between the two sides” will never lead to heaven (1 Kings 18:21). Disciples of Jesus must wake up from spiritual apathy, clean up lives that have been defiled by sin, and grow up in Christ by abandoning every vestige of the flesh (Rom. 13:11-14). Love and serve the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Commit yourself to being God’s servant every day, with all your being.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26, NKJV)
Many want to follow Jesus until they learn of the sacrifice He requires. Then, many turn away (John 6:60, 66). Does Jesus really expect those who follow Him to hold hatred in their hearts for their closest family members? No, Jesus is not demanding hatred as a requirement for coming to Him. Jesus is demanding that we love all these, including our own lives, less than we love Him. This is a repetition of what Jesus taught in Luke 12:49-53, where “father will be divided against son and son against father…” Christ must be your preeminent priority, including your family and yourself, otherwise, you cannot be His disciple. That is what Jesus said. This kind of devotion to Jesus demands the kind of sacrifice that few possess. Perhaps this is why Jesus said there are many who seek to enter the narrow gate that leads to life, but only few who find it (Lk. 13:23-24; Matt. 7:13-14). When you must choose between pleasing your family member or pleasing Jesus, who do you choose? Following Jesus comes at a price. Count the cost, and pay the price of discipleship.
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40, NKJV)
By definition, the disciple is not superior to his teacher. A disciple is one who learns; a pupil, a student. A disciple is not content with obtaining knowledge; he trains in order to be like his teacher. Even so, faithful disciples of Jesus not only learn His teachings, they also put into practice what they learn. His disciples do not assert themselves above Jesus Christ; they willingly submit to His instruction. Disciples of Jesus (Christians, Acts 11:26), live what they learn. Those who claim to be His disciples, but do not obey Jesus, are not truly His disciples (John 8:31-32). Jesus asked rhetorically, “But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Disciples of Jesus let the word of Christ dwell in their richly (Col. 3:16). Then, they obey their Teacher in order to be like Him.