The Pastor's Pen

Obedient Discipleship - by Cole Daum & Gareth Franks


A couple of months back we had a full house for our Easter Service, it was one of the highest attendance we have had at New Life Church for a long time. This is not unique to the UAE. Many people all around the world will go to a church service on Easter and Christmas, and many of those people would call themselves Christians. Many of them might even say they made a decision for Jesus, or they prayed a prayer. But going to an Easter Service or a Christmas Service doesn't mean you are following Jesus.

And then there are others who come many Fridays to the church, but it's just a Friday experience. The rest of the time they follow their own desires, their own ambitions, their own goals and objectives. These people are not true Christians. True Christianity is not seasonal, it's not even Friday (or Sunday); it's a way of life. It is following Jesus all the time in joyous self-denial. It is that willingness to deny yourself, take up your cross, that is deny yourself to the degree it might cost you your life, and follow Christ. This is what Jesus says in Mathew 10:37-39. John Nolland in his commentary on The Gospel of Matthew comments on this passage: “It is clear that the kind of radical commitment to Jesus (and therefore to what he stands for) called for is considered to be extremely dangerous. The only hint in the context as to the nature of this danger is given by the juxtaposition of the statement with the two preceding family statements: such radical loyalty to Jesus places one on a collision course with the natural and traditional expectations of others; it causes one to lose one’s place in the scheme of things”.[1]

Discipleship needs to be understood as an endeavor that will cost you everything even though the reward is so amazing that it is difficult to imagine. Deciding to follow Jesus is an extremely serious matter which demands a radical commitment and impacts every facet of life. The cost of discipleship is your entire life; everything about your life and nothing less will be accepted. Dietrich Bonhoeffer rails against nominal Christianity and defines discipleship using a contrast between cheap grace and costly grace by stating:

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ. Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have. It is the costly pearl, for whose price the merchant sells all that he has, it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him”.[2]

The conditions of salvation are set by our Lord Himself. Following Christ is costly. And part of this cost is that of the time and energy and emotional investment required to disciple others. But the reward is worth the expense! Each one of us is called to love and be loved. Mark Dever in his book titled ‘Discipleship’ says; “Everything the Lord gives you, he means for you to turn around and give to others in some form or fashion. Any time, truth, prayer, or love he gives you can be used for others.”[3] 

The opportunities we have here at New Life Church for discipleship are immense. Because we are a transient church, we have the opportunity to impact people who may attend our church for a short period and then when they leave, can extend the gospel into so many other countries around the world. Discipling has its challenges and costs, no doubt. Yet God is most glorified in us when we joyfully make disciples, despite these challenges. Let us make sure we understand the cost of discipleship, but also let us make sure we get the message right. We need to be calling sinners to follow Jesus as a way of life, not just as a Friday, once a week pastime.

Are you being equipped to make disciples at our Discipleship training class on a Friday morning? Are you willing to invest your time and resources by coming alongside a weaker brother or sister and invest the gospel into their lives? Paul said these wonderful words to the Thessalonian church; “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy”. (1 Thessalonians 2:20-21) 

Paul wrote this letter from Corinth. He had, probably, just witnessed the Grecian games and the crowning of the victors. Then he asks a rhetorical question, “What is our crown? Is it not you?” They were his glory because despite the challenges they faced, they had a wonderful testimony of a church that had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1v9). So very different from a ‘submarine church’ as one pastor called it, who come up for air on Easter and Christmas only. The Thessalonian church breathed the gospel, they could not and would not live without it! They were not ashamed of the gospel and were now intentionally living the gospel by sharing it and helping others to obey and understand it. Discipleship in action!

Our prayers as elders is that we can praise New Life Church, just the same way as Paul did with the Thessalonian church, that NLC would glorify God and indeed be our glory and joy, because with one heart and one mind we joyfully commit to being and making disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Dever says, “Through discipling, [we] want people to know why Christians pray, why we share the gospel, why we join a church, why knowledge of God’s sovereignty impacts how we live, and more. Discipleship is not merely about accountability and behaviour modification. Jesus tells us to make disciples by teaching people to obey, but they cannot obey what they haven’t been taught”[4].

May our Lord Jesus, truly receive all the glory from all our efforts to honour him as we fulfill our duty and joy by committing together to help others obey and understand the gospel – faithfully making disciples of our Lord and king Jesus.


[1] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 442.

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003), pg.44.

[3] Mark Dever, Discipleship (Illinois: Crossway, 2016) pg.91.

[4] Ibid, pg.84.