Study Guide: Deciding to Follow Jesus

Sunday October 5, 2003 | Dwayne Polk

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Dwayne Polk’s message this week continued in the line of Greg’s ongoing focus on discipleship this year. Polk described the decision whether or not to follow Christ as a “choice of critical significance.”

Extended Summary:

Dwayne Polk’s message this week continued in the line of Greg’s ongoing focus on discipleship this year. In 21st century American society, we find ourselves living in a culture that is submerged in the need to have choice, and the consumerism that arises from that perceived need. As Greg taught earlier this year, whether we know it or not, this culture negatively influences many of the things that we do in life, even our lives and identities in the Christian faith. Brother Polk asked us to recognize this truth and, at the same time, to consider what it means to make the choice to follow Jesus Christ. Using the scripture text Luke 14:25-33, Polk described the decision whether or not to follow Christ as a “choice of critical significance.” Two things characterize this type of choice. First, the choice’s importance demands that a person must realistically count the costs involved to make sure that the person can do what the decision requires. Second, the choice, once made, may significantly limit, or even remove, the amount of options that will be open to a person in the future. Brother Polk used the decision to marry as an example of what a “critically significant choice” looks like. The decision whether or not to enter marital covenant is an extremely important choice that demands that both people understand the monogamous and dedicated nature of that covenant and that both people are willing to make such a commitment. Unfortunately, just like some of us can rush into marriage without fully “counting the costs” and considering the requirements of marriage, some of us can rush into the decision to be a disciple of Christ without fully considering what costs are involved and what may be required of us. A way to prevent this is to talk about what some of those “costs” are and see where we stand on those costs.

Discipleship, as is everything in the Christian life, is founded upon love. Brother Polk reminded us of Greg’s earlier teaching that discipleship is the concrete manifestation of love. We are not only commanded by God to radically love God and love the neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31), but we are also told by Jesus that love is to be our distinctive mark of being his disciples (John 13:31-35). Because we are both commanded and called by God to be a people of radical love, radical love is a non-negotiable foundation of Christian discipleship. If we make the decision to become a disciple of Christ, loving God and our neighbor is no longer a matter of choice. God commands this. Polk further specified three distinct things that followed from non-negotiable love within Christian discipleship. These aspects of Christian love, he stated, were things that had been topics of sermons from Greg and Efrem Smith earlier this year. They are:

  1. Radical obedience – From a grounding of love for God, disciples are called to always obey God’s commandments and leading. (1 John 2:3-6)
  2. Daily denial of self / death to self – Disciples are called to always “deny themselves”, and put to death the false self, in order to follow Christ. (Mark 8:34-35)
  3. Continuous life of reconciliation – Disciples of Christ must always acknowledge being recipients of the love and forgiveness of God and are entrusted with the “message of reconciliation” to live out in a hurting, broken world.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Think about the challenge that Dwayne has spoken from God to us this week. How do you feel that God is calling us as individuals and as a group in the area of radical obedience to God’s will? How is God calling us individually and corporately in denying ourselves for the sake of God’s kingdom? How is God speaking to us individually and as a group about living out God’s reconciliation to the world? What are some concrete things that we can do and pray for in each of these areas?
  2. Dwayne, quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said that in Christianity, “the badge of true discipleship is suffering.” What do you think about this statement, with respect to your own lives, both as individuals and as a group? What are the struggles of considering such a life of “suffering” in our American culture today?
  3. Think about the God-given Mission and Vision of Woodland Hills Church. What are your thoughts on these statements of God’s call to our church? How do you see yourself (both individually and as a group) playing an active part in these things?