Sometimes I really don’t like my limitations. I want to do everything I want to do, and I don’t want limitations like the number of hours in the day getting in my way. It’s like I think that if I want something enough, it won’t take any time at all.

I’ve been thinking about this lately while ruminating on what Duffy Robbins said this year at Mount Hermon:

Discipleship is a magnificent ‘yes’ wrapped up in significant ‘no’s.

Defining discipleship

Discipleship comes back to your relationship with Jesus. Who do you say he is?

Duffy read Luke 9:18-26, then focused on verse 23 as a vivid picture of what it means to be Jesus’ disciple.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

There are two actions here: 

  1. Deny himself.
  2. Take up his cross daily and follow me.

Deny himself

Duffy said the word deny here means to forget you exist. You’re taking yourself out and putting God in instead. This is where Duffy said, “Discipleship is a magnificent ‘yes’ wrapped up in significant ‘no’s.” 

While it seems upside down, it has to do with the reality of life. We can’t say yes to everything, and when we choose to follow Jesus, it means we’re saying “no” to certain things–even good things–because we’ve chosen to say “yes” to something better.

Duffy related it to marriage: when you say “I do,” you’re saying “yes” to your spouse and “no” to all other relationships with that sort of intimacy. You’re choosing to love someone else more than yourself. And that “yes” is one you continue to say over and over.

As Duffy said:

Don’t let “yes” to other things get in the way of the “yes” you say to Jesus.

There are a lot of decisions we face that aren’t a clear good or bad. Sometimes it’s hard to know if you should say “yes” or “no.” And sometimes we don’t always think about the decision we’re making as we make it.

One of my prayers lately has been asking God to keep my focus on Him, that He helps guide my “yes’s” and “no’s.”

Take up his cross daily and follow me

As Duffy said, trust is an all-in commitment. If you really, truly trust someone, it means you choose to believe and follow them, even if you don’t have all the facts.

Discipleship is also an all-in relationship. Back when Luke was written, the concept of a cross was very familiar to its readers. It’s not just an inconvenience you carry around; it’s something all-consuming that you end up dying on. 

By using this phrase, “take up his cross daily,” Jesus is calling his disciples to absolute surrender over and over. As Duffy said:

Every day, little things are what matter.

Ultimately, Jesus doesn’t need us to die for Him–He already died for us. Instead, He wants us to live for Him. And we do that through absolute surrender, in the small and mundane of daily life.

It reminds me of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:42b):

“Not my will, but yours, be done.”

It’s a short, important, difficult prayer. It’s not asking for what I want, but what you want. Even when it’s scary. Or inconvenient. Or awkward. Or so many other uncomfortable things. It’s another one that I keep being reminded of lately.

Jesus changes us

Discipleship isn’t something we can just grit our teeth and do. We need God’s help. In Galatians 2:20, we’re reminded that Christ now lives in us through the Holy Spirit. And He’s changing us from the inside. As Duffy put it:

Jesus isn’t a recruiter. He’s a redeemer. He changes us.

And the mark of true discipleship is our ability to show Jesus’ grace and patience. That’s Him working through us.

We’re works in progress. If we look at Luke 9:51-56, we see an example of two disciples that just didn’t get it. After the Samaritans wouldn’t receive Jesus, James and John suggested sending fire down from heaven on them so they get what they deserve, and Jesus rebuked them.

While this initially reads like a story of James and John’s failure, it’s actually an example of Jesus not giving up on them. At this point, they’re missing a lot of Jesus’ key points. But later in their lives, God would use them for His important purposes. James became the first apostle to die for his faith (Acts 12:2) and John went on to write multiple letters in the Bible, including 1 John 3:14-18:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

That’s a lot of growth for two guys ready to call fire down from heaven because a town didn’t want Jesus to stop by!

Living with authentic passion

Completely surrendering to Jesus and continuing to follow him day after day in the little, everyday things is a mark of authentic passion. But what does authentic passion look like? Duffy pointed out three characteristics in Philippians 2:5-11.

It looks a little bit irrational

God set this example first. He chose to set aside all His power and come to earth as a human–a helpless baby. And then He chose to serve us. The God of the universe, who has more power than we can comprehend, chose to become like us. 

Verse 6 reads:

. . . who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped . . . 

The word equality there is from the Greek word isos, which is where we get our word isosceles, like an isosceles triangle (one with two equal sides).

God and Jesus were exactly equal, and Jesus laid that aside to embrace us because of love.

Duffy put it like this:

God coming as a human wasn’t rational; it was passional.

It’s excessive

If we continue to verse 7, we see that Jesus didn’t just become human. He became nothing by making himself a servant:

. . . but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

It’s costly

According to Jürgen Moltmann:

Passion is loving something enough to suffer for it.

Going back to Philippians 2:8, we see that Jesus paid the ultimate price. He was obedient to death on a cross.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The ultimate example

Jesus showed us the ultimate example of authentic passion and discipleship. While we’re not called to make this kind of sacrifice, there are costs we can experience to living with authentic passion as Jesus’ disciples: the work and energy we use, the sacrifices we make, appearing irrational to those around us, and the things we say “yes” or “no” to.

Father, I ask that you show me when to say “no” so I can say “yes” to something better you have in mind. Please continue to give me your strength, wisdom, discernment, and love in each moment of each day. Help me focus on you and follow your will rather than mine. Amen.

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