Luke 5 records Jesus' calling of the very first disciples. The response of Peter, James, and John and then Levi is almost identical. We have that recorded in 5:11 and 5:28
"...they left everything and followed Him."
"And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him."
Did you catch that? Here are the two things these disciples did:
1. Left everything
2. Followed Jesus
I understand that there are things the first disciples could literally do that we cannot. They literally hung out with the God-Man in the flesh. They walked in his very footsteps. They ate with Him. They touched Him. They spoke with Him face to face.
That being said, the requirement of disciples today is no less of a calling. If we are to be disciples of Jesus we must leave everything and follow Him.
By this, I don't mean to imply that every disciple must leave his job and become a full time evangelist or move overseas to be a foreign missionary. Let's be clear: some do need to do that. However, my point here is that the only way to be a disciple of Jesus is to leave our old way of thinking. Our old way of doing things. Our old allegiances. Our old priorities.
Too many claim to be disciples who only acknowledge Jesus as Lord of this or that area. Many don't even acknowledge Him as Lord of their Sundays! They consider themselves disciples simply because they think themselves morally superior to others, they vote conservative, and they pay their taxes for the most part.
But they are still in love with the world system. Their real priorities in life aren't much different than the Kardashians, except maybe a few Christianese twists and a couple of bible verses sprinkled on top, and don't forget occasionally listening to more music, KLOVE...
But the call to leave everything is surely much more radical. It is a call to leave the world system. It is a call to view things with a Kingdom perspective. It is a call to see our Father's name hallowed, HisKingdom come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is a call to leave one way of life and to take up another. And what is that other way of life? We see it in the second requirement:
Disciples of Jesus aren't called to just go live in a desert monstery and await His return. They are called to leave everything and follow Him. This is life.
If you are not following Jesus, you're not His disciple. To follow Him doesn't mean wearing a bracelet that says WWJD. There are many things Jesus did that you and I cannot do nor are we called to do. We can't turn water into wine. We can't calm storms. We can't walk on water. We can't multiply bread and fish. And we can't bear the wrath of God for anyone's sins.
But to follow Jesus is to learn Jesus. To follow Jesus is to love Jesus. To follow Jesus is to listen to Jesus. We learn who He is and His finished work through the Scriptures. We grow to love Him more by reading the Scriptures. We understand what it means to follow Him by understanding the Scriptures.
So we see at a basic level for one to truly follow Jesus, he must, at the very least, be acquainted with the Sacred Writings. (Which makes it curious that we have many who claim to be disciples but never have time for reading the Bible, doesn't it?)
Of course, these sacred pages of Holy Writ tell us much more don't they? They show us that following Jesus is following Him in community. We aren't the 'persons' of Christ but the people of Christ. We follow Him together. (The local church still matters!)
And of course to follow Jesus means to actually do what He has commanded us. In fact, we don't love Jesus unless we are doing the things He has told us to do (cf. John 14:15). This includes gathering with the Saints regularly, showing humility and kindness to all people, giving of our time, talents, and treasures to Kingdom work, making more disciples, and the list goes on and on and on.
I do not mean to suggest that our following Jesus is a mechanical system of checking boxes. It is very much relational. However, many people claim to have a relationship with Jesus when who they have a relationship with is only themselves. Their jesus approves of everything they do because he isn't the jesus of the Bible, but a mere invention of their own wicked heart. We cannot separate a relationship with Jesus from His clear teachings in Scriptire. Which by the way, all the Bible is His teaching!
It is amazing in our day of easy believism how these two basic requirements are left out of what it means to be a disciple. People can be considered a disciple of Jesus today who have not left anything and are still following the course of this world. This is impossible.
If one is not leaving everything and not following Jesus, they are not His disciple.
We also in Luke 5 Jesus forgives a man of his sins (5:20) and tells us He has come to call "sinners to repentance" (5:32). So, we must understand that to be a disciple is a result of God's gracious calling. He calls us to repentance and then actually forgives us of all sins! Therefore, do not think that I mean we can work our way into being a disciple! But, we must be adamant that the same call of God that has always been issued to man is the same one issued today:
leave everything and follow Him.
These are non-negotiables. There is no discipleship without them.