The Master and Savior we know said that He alone has all authority in heaven and on earth.1 Since He had all authority on earth, He assumed the right to direct the lives of all those whom He called. In the “Great Commission” He said that all those who believed were to be taught to obey everything He spoke in all the Gospels, especially the so-called hard sayings:
The Master and Savior we know said that He alone has all authority in heaven and on earth.2 Since He had all authority on earth, He assumed the right to direct the lives of all those whom He called. In the “Great Commission” He said that all those who believed were to be taught to obey everything He spoke in all the Gospels, especially the so-called hard sayings:
Go therefore and make disciples from all the nations, baptizing them [i.e., immersing them into the Body3] in the name [i.e., the reality] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you;4 and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Our Master summoned His followers to active service as disciples, not “weekend warriors” who still carried on their jobs during the week.5 This was the only way to fulfill the “Great Commission” — by making disciples who obey all His commands.
The first thing He commanded His original twelve disciples to do was to leave everything behind6 — homes, farms, parents, relatives, friends, children, brothers, sisters, jobs, and ambitions — and set out with Him on His mission. He demanded that they, His followers, should uproot themselves, that they should abandon the safety of the status quo and the security of their own domains. These words of His in Mark 8:34-38 and 10:17,21,28-30 were the most direct and powerful words He spoke concerning a person’s salvation. These very precious words were the unmistakable good news of how to escape from death.
In short, He demanded that they bid farewell to “normal life” and actually hate their life in the abnormal society of their day,7 with its “my four and no more” existence, to take up their cross and follow Him.8 He demanded loyalty and devotion to Him and to His commands, and the Good News we have today still demands the same response.9
The only evidence that a person has a personal relationship with the One who has all authority in heaven and earth is that he puts His very precious words into practice.10 Only those who see the worth and value of Messiah will be able to do this; everyone else will do what the rich young ruler did — reject the free gift of eternal life by not obeying Him.11 If His commands do not apply to us in the same way as to His disciples in the first century, we cannot prove to be His disciples,12 doing the things that show that we are worthy of Him.13 We would be something less, for just as He gave up His life for our sake, so we must give up our sinful lives for His sake, even our own righteousness.14 And He would be something less if He were to accept anything less, for then He would not be the same yesterday, today, and forever.15
In the same way, if we do not demand the same response, we will find ourselves preaching another gospel by the power of another spirit and will be proclaiming another Jesus.16 We will be found preaching a message that a man’s life, possessions, and family17 are more important than knowing Messiah. We would be utterly unworthy of Him, even accursed,18 so how could we preach to others?
Every Christian needs to know from His objective word all that He demanded of His followers, in order to know whether he has received the true gospel.19 His words are deserving of full acceptance, for He is the Word made flesh. His sacrifice demands that loyalty to Him should surpass the dearest and most intimate loyalties in life. Loyalty to Him must come before all things, including all of your own possessions. Possessions are not only the material things that you own, things that you control, but also the things that control you. This includes relationships, loyalties, passions, opinions, and ideas. To cling to anything, no matter how well accepted by society or the religious establishment, is to forfeit eternal life. To give up all of your possessions means to gladly surrender everything you own, relinquishing your control over them and their control over you, letting go of every other spirit, idea, or passion, so as to be ruled by the words and commands of the Master.
Our Master Yahshua does not despise or attack family relationships, and neither do we, but there can be no earthly ties, however intimate, that weigh greater than loyalty and devotion to Him. This unconditional loyalty, both to Him and to His Body,20 is the very essence of eternal life. To give anything less than He demands is to forfeit eternal life.
This is what it means to surrender to Him. It is what a desperate man will do in order to cling to the One who has the power and authority to save him from sin and death. This is what it means to be saved by grace through faith. No one can do anything to be saved except believe, which, as the Scriptures make abundantly clear (especially in the Greek text), means you come into the obedience of the faith.21 Apart from this obedience there is no objective proof that you love this Savior who saved you from eternal death.22 Surrender means to make your life available to Him to the extent that He controls all your time, resources, and ambitions. It means that loyalty to Him must come before loyalty to your own life, to wife and children, mother and father, friends, brothers and sisters, jobs and education, ambitions and desires. To be set free from these things is what enables you to follow Him and become His disciple.23 Total surrender is the normal response to God’s gift of faith.24
In fact, He made it clear that whoever does not take up his cross daily and follow Him is not worthy of Him.25 The word daily in Luke 9:23 entails all the demands upon your life within the Body of Messiah. This Body, which we were immersed into,26 must be a community where the demands to lay down your life are the essence of your daily experience.27 This is what it means to serve Him where He is.28 Laying down your life for your brothers daily is the greatest expression of love that can be demonstrated.29 If it were not for this life in community, where would you live after you gave up all your possessions, as Acts 2:40,41,44,45 describes? Who can you encourage daily apart from this environment — the “brothers in Christ” you see once a week?30 How can you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness when you, just like an unbeliever, are so extremely busy making ends meet, trying to keep your family properly clothed, fed, and sheltered?31
The Master expressed these things in no uncertain terms. He made it clear that true disciples abide in His word,32 and that it is by keeping His word that one would not see death.33 The word is not vague. The choices are clear. He did not speak in the realm of 'various interpretations', any of which might be valid. But today it is virtually impossible to find Bible teachers or Christian reference books that uphold the absolutes of the Scriptures we have been talking about. Where can you go in the Christian churches today to find absolutes rather than various interpretations that contradict each other?
For example, how many interpretations can you find of what the Master said in Luke 14:26-33 among today’s Bible scholars? But their interpretations miss the point. They labor over the exact meaning of “hating your parents” or “hating your own life", but fail to see that what the Master stressed is the absolute, unqualified, unconditional claim that He has on the life of all disciples. They totally miss the fundamental significance of these verses,34 especially the parable of the two kings (verses 31-33). Total capitulation and the surrender of all possessions are the only terms of peace the Master ever offered to anyone seeking eternal life. It is the very same response He gave in answer to the question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”35
Death is absolute for all mankind, for it is the wages of sin,36 and the call out of death is absolute, without compromise. The Son of God, who came to save from death, requires absolute loyalty from all who would believe according to the gospel. This is good news to the one who is willing to do His will.37
So are these qualifications and demands not relevant today? How else can one follow Him except within the framework of true community?38 If the message of salvation was preached once again with His authority, then there would also be, once again, a living demonstration of a radically new life lived corporately like the Judean pattern (with persecution39 ) established for the church in Acts 2 and 4 after Pentecost. Then the Holy Spirit would be able to convict the world of the sin of unbelief.40 But until this happens, the whole world is lost because they cannot see anything that proves that the Father sent the Son.41
Because the gospel compels us to.42 The gospel is the answer to the basic problem with humanity, which is the disintegration of basic human relationships. This is expressed in alienation and loneliness. So we live the way we do because our God wants to prove that our Master took away the guilt of sin that separates us. If it is true that He broke down all barriers and thus solved this basic problem with humanity, then all of us who are in Him must be one — in unity. Any outward separation is a negation of unity. Nowhere in the Bible is this unity expressed more than in Acts 4:32-35, and this is the only way the church can be.43 If the church is not like this, it is not the church that Messiah died for. It is something else, like Revelation 18:2 describes. If we are not integrated into this Body which is one, then we are still in the world and of it.
We are so thankful that we are chosen. Our Father in heaven knows who belongs to Him.44 He has known us, chosen us, before the foundation of the world, just like Abraham.45 Somehow, He saw beyond our rebellion, our faults, all our problems, and knew our hearts. He knew that we would obey Him if we ever got the chance.46 He gave us that chance by sending His own Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. He emptied Himself of all of His blood, plunging Him into death as our substitution in order to buy us out of the death we so richly deserved. His precious blood washed away the guilt of our sins, redeeming us from our futile way of life.47 The high price He paid for us reveals how valuable we are to Him. It is the least we can do to give our lives unreservedly to Him. It is life for life. If you are not giving Him your life, He cannot save you, and unless His worth is revealed to you, you will never give up your life, for it is too valuable to you.
It is overwhelming to consider that the Creator of all things would hand pick you to do something, and that He would have confidence that you would obey Him. This is the faith He communicates to His people through the good news, that He can save them, and by this faith they can obey Him. And it is to those who will obey Him that He gives His Holy Spirit.48 What an awesome God we serve! His purpose is so great! And He must have a loyal people that He can command. We are thankful to be chosen, and to live the way we do. Acts 5:20 is our command, and this is why we are writing this to you.