Tony Evans — The Rewards of Discipleship
Discipleship is that process of the local church, which intentionally seeks to bring Christians from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity so that they are then able to replicate or repeat the process with someone else.
It's that process of the local church that seeks to bring Christians from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity so that they're able to repeat the process with someone else.
God's goal for establishing a spiritual family is the same reason he establishes a nuclear family for a newborn child: to create an environment for development to take place.
In the same way, no parent should be satisfied that their newborn baby remains an infant forever, God is not satisfied that his children remain baby Christians forever.
He wants us to become mature, spiritually responsible adults. You become a Christian by placing your faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, which leads to the forgiveness of your sins and the gifting of eternal life to you.
But discipleship is more than simply being forgiven, it is that process of moving to spiritual adulthood, comes with a cost. You cannot grow without paying a price to grow. It is impossible.
To become a disciple, you must pay a price, he offers a reward. He doesn't cancel the price, but he incentivizes the price with the reward. He wants you to know your decision to become a disciple and not merely a saved church member, that your decision to become a visible, verbal follower of Jesus Christ is not a bad investment.
Now, many of us have been in bad investments that didn't pay off well. God wants you to know there is a payday for disciples. The context of this passage comes after a story, it's the story of the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler has proclaimed to Jesus he's a good man, he's really a good man, so he really didn't see where he needed a Savior.
The final law he told Jesus he had obeyed was he loved his neighbor as himself. Jesus said, "If you really love your neighbor as yourself, then why don't you give him everything you have?" The Bible says the man walked away with his head hung low 'cause he didn't love his neighbors like that. The point of Jesus was saying, "You really don't love him like you think you love him 'cause you're not willing to give up to them what you yourself have."
Jesus was trying to point out that you're not as good as you think you are. Well, the disciples are listening to the story, they hear the story, they're there when Jesus is talking to this rich, young ruler that leads up to this passage, and my man Peter speaks up.
Peter always speaks up. Peter, who suffered from open-mouth disease, speaks up, and he--something is bothering him 'cause he's heard this conversation, and so he says to Jesus in verse 28, "We have left everything to follow you. What's in it for us?"
That's a discipleship statement, this is not about salvation, he's talking about following. He's talking about what we have given up because of our association with you, and he wants to know what's the payoff.
What is the payoff, because I had a prosperous fishing business? We were catching fish, we were making money, we were living large, and then you show up. I fold my nets, leave my company to follow you.
My brother Matthew over here had a tax-collecting service. He closed his business down to follow you, and so what's the payoff, because it costs a lot to follow you, Jesus. I mean, we had to give up company, convenience, where we used to live, we did all of this to be with you, to follow you, and I wanna know: is it worth it?
That's a fair question. They wanna know: is the payoff worth the sacrifice? For folding up our nets, for giving up our businesses and aligning ourselves with you, what's the payoff? This is talking about an alliance and an allegiance to Jesus Christ, whereby I am in public association with him.
You can use "God" all day long and nobody knows who you're talking about. You bring up Jesus, we know exactly which God you're talking about. So, he's not talking about this God stuff, he's talking about we have left everything to follow you. That is, to be identified with you as a follower of Jesus Christ, and I wanna know what the payoff is. I wanna know is the reward worth the price tag.
When you go shopping, it's gonna cost you. You reach into your wallet or to your purse, and you pull out money to pay the price, but you're paying the price for a product. In other words, you want something for the price paid. God says there is a cost, but there is also a reward.
Today, he's gonna tell you about the reward of discipleship. But before we go on, I need to ask a question, because you probably want to know about the reward. I wanna know what's the payoff, but before we get there, Peter says, "We've left everything to follow you."
You see, God has a problem, and his problem is people want the reward without the cost. Everybody is showing up looking for a blessing, they want the payoff having not paid the price. Jesus answers Peter, it was not an unfair question.
Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you," in other words, for real, "There is no one." You know what that means? It means whatever I'm getting ready to say, you're not an exception to. You can't say, "But my situation is different." No, no, no, he says no one, that means you, me, us. "No one has left houses, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms for my sake and for the gospel's sake," no one.
He talks about leaving something behind. Let me explain. If you're going to be a disciple, not just a church member, not even just a Christian, but a serious, visible, verbal follower of Jesus Christ, you will have to leave something.
There will be a cost, it may be a location cost: house. It may be a relational cost: mother, father, sister, brother. It may be a business cost: farms. There is a price tag to your association publicly with Jesus Christ, and there is a cost. There's no way around it, there is something you're gonna have to leave.
What Jesus says is that, "If you have left to follow me, you've left something, someone, some situation, some benefit, some career, some job, something, and it has cost you, it has inconvenienced you, you come out on the losing end, but notice why you left it: for my sake or the gospel's, and the gospel's. That is, for my person and for my message."
All three of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke discuss this, all three of them discuss this. One of the versions calls it you left it for the kingdom, because the gospel is also called the gospel of the kingdom, the message of the rule of God over every area of your life.
You have left it because it has contradicted or compromised the rule of God over your life, and so you said, "I am not willing to compromise my walk with Jesus Christ, my relationship with Jesus Christ for this thing."
And if I have to choose between this relationship and Jesus Christ, this relationship loses. If I have to choose between this career and my relationship with Jesus Christ, this career loses. If I have to choose between this location and my relationship with Jesus Christ, this location loses. "We have left everything to follow you."
Everybody wants to be blessed having left nothing. They only want more stuff for God to give 'em not to leave. You see, that's one of the problems with what is called today prosperity theology. God is not against prospering, that's different, but prosperity theology has an emphasis that says God wants to bless you regardless of the price you're willing to pay. So, just come for your blessing, not come having paid the price to get your blessing.
See, it's a different twist on the message. So, everybody wants the reward without the price, that's like somebody wanting to be a doctor after having been a high-school dropout, there's medical school. So, what you do is you get sophisticated and talk about God without Jesus.
He says, "We have left everything to follow you." Jesus said, "No one"... you are not an exception, "No one has left something of value for the purpose of following me, that is, having public association with me and with the message of the Good News of the rule of God, the kingdom of God, no one has done that without something happening."
Let's look at the something. Verse 30, "But that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms."
Let me pause right there. I don't know if you notice something. He says, "When you leave something for me, the thing you left is the thing you get." Did you notice that?
He says the thing you left, you left the house, he says he will receive a hundred times houses. You left relationships, you will receive a hundred times relationships. You left the farm, you will receive a hundred times farms. He says the thing you gave up, you actually never lost, but you felt like you lost it when you lost it, 'cause you lost it and you feel the loss, but God says that's not the end of the story.
What you think you lose by becoming a disciple, you actually don't lose, 'cause he says you will receive--that is multiplied: houses, relationships, businesses, lands. He has no problem offering a reward, but he throws in another line: with persecutions.
Why? Because when you leave something for Christ and then you see the reward of Christ, you're gonna become more committed to Christ, which is gonna bring more resistance against Christ. So, the more you leave, the more you receive. The more you receive, the more the rejection. The more the rejection, the more God does, which brings about more persecution.
Now, here is the problem, and it is a problem. How long is this gap between the cost and the reward? In fact, it's gonna vary from individual to individual, that's why the Bible says you have to work out your own salvation, 'cause it's not gonna be the same.
You can't look at mine, and I can't look at yours and determine what God is doing, because he's working with each one of us individually. But the one thing I can tell you is he said no one, and you're not an exception. That there is a payday of reward for the thing you gave up as long as it's for his sake.
Now, people will relocate for better pay, they'll go to another city for more money, for a higher job. They'll move for a higher job, they'll do things for their sake, but he's not talking about you just doing this for you. He's saying, "You've left it because of your association with me, where you've had to choose between that thing and me, and that thing lost." That's what he's talking about, so that's--we're not just talking about inconveniencing you for you.
This is because you have been a publicly identifiable Christian, is, "Yes, there is going to be inconvenience if you are associated with my person and my message, my sake and the gospel's, my rule, the kingdom Word over your life. There is going be inconveniences, and yes, that's gonna vary in time from person to person, but I wanna let you know that no one has lost because of association with me, who has not gained because of losing in association with me."
When you become publicly associated with Jesus Christ--not talking about believing in God, I'm talking about association with Jesus Christ, there is going to be rejection by association, but Jesus says it will be rewarded. But now he throws in another wrinkle, because he talks about the reward tied to two different ages.
Notice what he says in verse 30. He says, "In the present age," and then he says at the end of verse 30, "in the age to come."
Watch this now: your reward is divided between ages. You get some of it in the present age, and you get some of it in the age to come. You do not get all of it in either age. He says you're rewarded in this age and in the age to come, so you are a two-age Christian, not a one-age Christian.
The problem is if you expect it all now, 'cause now you're gonna be disappointed, 'cause you're not getting it all now. He says you must be a two-age Christian, you must--yes, God will do some of it in this age, but he will do some of it in the age to come.
Now, let me explain something. The age to come is a lot longer than this age, okay? This age is minuscule compared to the age to come. So, if the only new house you get is in this age, you get to enjoy it for a few years and it's gone. You better have something built for the age to come.
Okay, here's how this works, 'cause what we do is, and we're all guilty of it at various levels, is we make more of this age than we ought to, and we do it because we're in it. But Jesus says there are two ages here, this age and the age to come, and both of them have houses and land in it, so let's get this view of heaven straight.
Heaven is not being on a harp forever, okay? That sounds boring. Heaven is full of land and property and people and investments, and heaven is an eternity, 'cause that includes Earth, is an active place. It's a new heaven, new Earth, it's all kinds--there's nations, all kinda stuff happen, so it's not just boring environment that you may be thinking of.
It's an active environment that includes land and fields and families and all of that, okay? You got folks running around, 63, talking about, "I'm in middle age." All right, no, no, if you're 63, you're coming to conclusion, all right? You're moving toward getting up out of here, outta here, outta here, all right?
The average man in America lives to be 76, the average woman in America lives to be 82. So, if you're 40, mmmm... so it just makes you feel better to be 60 talking about, "I'm middle aged." No, you're not. Every day you live, this age shortens.
In the age to come, every day you live, that age lengthens, so don't put all your marbles in a this-age basket. Don't even want all your stuff now, all right? Don't even want all your stuff now, 'cause you don't wanna have zero in the next age because you're only looking for your blessing in this age.
He says you must be a two-age Christian: this age and the age to come. And then he closes with the last line in verse 31, "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
God is going flip the script, he's gonna flip the script, the script will be flipped. Unless you have a long-term view--don't get me wrong. He's not saying skip this age, 'cause he says, "I'm gonna do some things in this age." So, he's not saying don't want your--to be blessed, don't want a blessing. He's just saying recognize you're a two-age person, not a one-age person.
Akio Morita, he started a company called the Tokyo Telecom Engineering firm, and his company in made the world's first portable transistor radio. Well, American Boulevard offered to buy his company when his company ran into financial problems, but Mr. Morita refused to sell and decided to try to weather the storm in business.
As he weathered the storm and suffered through maintaining ownership and not selling, he went on to build the first VCR and the first compact disc player. After he did that, a few years later he changed the name of his company to Sony.
Now, you may not know his name, and you may not know his history, but you all know Sony. In other words, he went through the problem now to get the glory later.
In football, there's halftime. You know what halftime is for? It's reassessing how things are going. You see, the way this works is simply this: many who are first in the first half wind up losing the game in the second half, and many who seem to be ahead in the first half wind up losing, many who are losing wind up winning, because it's the end of the game that matters.
Jesus says many who are first will be last, because they only live for this present age, and they're gonna discover that it really wasn't worth all that, okay, all that spiritual priority being out of whack, all of that not having time for discipleship but having time for you, not having time for the Word but having time for television, not having time for prayer but having time to talk to people.
You're gonna discover that it wasn't worth all that, when you look at the reward, it was nice for a minute. Like cotton candy, it's sweet for a second, but there's no long-term nutritional value. He says the first will be last, so why don't you make this halftime and reassess where you are?
Because even if you've been losing the first half, the game's not over, and you know the game's not over 'cause you're still in it. You're still here, and maximize your--I'm not talking about church membership now. I'm talking about your discipleship, your visible, verbal maturing follow-ship of Jesus Christ as the ruler, the Lord of your life.
When you accepted him into your life, he became your Savior for heaven. But when you make him your Lord, he becomes your intercessor for Earth. It's halftime, go back to your personal locker room, assess where the game score stands and what adjustments must be made to come out and have a killer second half, because you wanna end this game of life as a winner.