If you decide to answer Jesus’ call to discipleship, you will be taking the necessary steps to become the God-honoring disciple that He has intended you to be since the foundation of the world, as astonishing as that may sound (Ephesians 1:3-4; Revelation 13:7-8). Although it’s true that your spiritual life will take a wonderful turn for the better and you will become stronger and more gifted, joyful and fulfilled, this life is all about losing your own life and gaining His, and all that He is.

Elisabeth Elliot said, “To be a follower of the crucified Christ means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.” Elisabeth Elliot knows about loss. Her husband died a martyr in the jungles of Ecuador. However, this loss is not only about physical death. Mrs. Elliot also said, “If you want to be a Christian, see that your mind is made up as his was: be humble, be subject, be obedient—even to death. It will mean death. Be sure of that. Death to some of your desires and plans at least. Death to yourself. But never forget—Jesus’ death was what opened the way for his own exaltation and our everlasting Life. Our death to selfishness is the shining gateway into the glories of the palace of the King. Is it so hard to be his subject? Is the price too high?”

Death to ourselves—that sounds challenging. Yes it is, but Jesus tells us after that death comes wonderful life and resurrection.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:24-26).

What could be better than living the kind of fully devoted life that Jesus talked about in these verses? This is the great adventure, the best available on the planet. Look again at the last sentence in the scripture above. “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” This is quite a statement—quite a promise—to be honored by our glorious, powerful, loving Father in heaven. Sounds wonderful and at the same time tremendously challenging, doesn’t it? That’s the way it’s supposed to be. God seems to enjoy giving us challenges, raising the bar way over our heads. Consider this seemingly impossible instruction from Jesus: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Perfection. High standards, indeed.

Let’s look at Luke 9:57, where someone told Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” In verse 58, Jesus replied by saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Loosely paraphrased, he was asking the man, “Are you sure you will follow me wherever I go? Um, I don’t have a house to live in, you know. If you do follow Me, you won’t be able to send your roots into the security of this world—you’ll have to send them deep into Me. You should probably re-evaluate what you just said.”

In the next verse, Jesus called to someone else, “Follow me.” The man agreed but said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Apparently, this fellow wanted to stay home with his aging father until he died—which could have been a very long time.

Oops. An excuse. Not a good idea when you’re standing face to face with someone who made the decision to leave His heavenly dwelling place to come to a darkened planet running wild with rebellious people. Keep in mind what kind of home He left—more comfortable, inviting and lovelier than we can possibly imagine. His departure from this glorious habitation would be similar—if such a comparison can even be made—to us making the choice to leave a multi-millionaire’s mansion and a happy family to live alone for thirty years in a wretched refugee camp somewhere outside of a place like Darfur, where squalor, misery and heartache run rampant. Jesus replied to this individual, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).

Another man said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my

home. Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the

kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61-62).

Yikes. Can’t a guy even say good-bye?

Understand that what you just read are initial conversations, not exchanges with those who had been walking with Him for a while. These words came after, “Hello, how are you?” Jesus didn’t ease those people into the kingdom at first by telling them, “It’s easy! Come along with me for a while and kick back before we get to the tough stuff.” Nope. The no-compromise call to discipleship was right up front. Take it or leave it. No holds barred. Either come or don’t come, but if you do come, it will cost you. You will have joy and fulfillment and eternal rewards, but not your own way. “Trust Me,” Jesus is saying, “this life-denying commitment to Me is the way to true joy.” But that nagging, self-centered, icky part of you? Well, the forty miles of bad road for that big nuisance start right here.