Have You Renounced All to Follow Jesus?


“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:33

Jesus said if you don’t renounce everything you cannot be his disciples. If you hold on to anything, you cannot learn from him.

Have you renounced all to follow Jesus?

This question is ignored by the vast majority of Americans who say they follow Jesus. I only have to look at someone’s beliefs and words about America to know this.

Renounce means:

  1. to give up, refuse, or resign usually by formal declaration
  2. to refuse to follow, obey, or recognize any further

The Greek word translated renounce is apotasso. It means to renounce, to say farewell to, to set apart, to be detached. In the New Testament, it is generally used in terms of leaving the physical presence of other people, leaving one place to go to another.

But, it is Jesus telling us to physically leave the presence of every other person?

Of course not.

Jesus is telling us to leave everything that we are attached to, everything that we hold dear, everything that we deem important. In our hearts and minds, we have to let go every attachment to the everything and anything in this world if we want to follow him.

Keep in mind the definition of renounce above.

Have you renounced America?

Have you renounced your system of government?

Have you renounced your political party?

Have you  renounced your patriotism?

Have you renounced your family, its name and its heritage?

Have you refused these things and resigned from them by a formal declaration?

Have you refused to follow, obey, or recognize these things any further?

If you have been baptized, then this is what you have done. To be baptized is to enter into the death of Jesus. It is to say I have died to everything in this world so that I can follow Jesus. To be baptized is to make a formal declaration to everyone and everything, all the powers of this world, that you are no longer following, obeying, or recognizing them. Instead, you are only following, obeying, and recognizing, your only allegiance, is to Jesus.

To follow Jesus you need to renounce America, your democracy, your Republican or Democrat, your patriotic zeal, your last name. Everything.

Lest you think I’m going to far, listen to Paul. For he is the supreme example in this.

“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:3-11)

The Greek word for loss used by Paul is zemia, which means loss, penalty, or fine. It probably is akin to the Greek word damazo, which means to tame, but with the idea of violence. Therefore, Paul says he has “suffered the loss of all things.”

The Greek word for suffered is in the passive tense, meaning that these sufferings were done to Paul. What did Paul suffer?

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)

All of these sufferings led Paul to count everything that he was, everything he deemed important in life, as worth nothing to him. He deemed all these things as only things worthy of being thrown away.

So, Jesus’ statement to renounce everything to follow him begs the question”Why?”

I recently saw a play about a Chinese shoe repairman whose shop was in Harlem. His name was Mr. Joy. In this play, you heard how Mr. Joy helped anyone and everyone in the neighborhood. You heard how there was always a twinkle in his eye. You heard how he worked tirelessly for others in his shoe shop.

But, Mr. Joy never appeared in the play.

In fact, every character in the play was acted out by one actress – a black woman. She played a young black girl, an old black woman, a black teenage boy, a black businessman, a middle-aged white woman, a young adult Chinese man, a transexual black man, and maybe one or two others that I’m forgetting. This woman played these characters very convincingly. She didn’t just change her voice, but she embodied the the spirit, the ethos, the energy of these people.

In every character, she drew out the person’s life to reveal how what they had gone through had hurt them. As I watched her amazing performance, the Spirit spoke to me about how she was doing it. In order to reveal each character’s pain she first had to understand them. And, to understand them, she had to have compassion for them.

The Spirit showed me that this was one of the greatest things about Jesus.

Jesus had compassion for everyone.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matthew 9:36

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” – Matthew 14:14

“Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.'” – Matthew 15:32

“And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him, But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” – Mark 9:22

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.'” – Luke 7:13

Jesus shows that a necessary requirement of helping others, of healing others, of participating in the reconciling of all things to God, is compassion.

But, if we still hold dear and deem important our country, our government, our patriotism, our family, our name, etc. then we will never be able to have the compassion that Jesus had.

If I’m holding on to being an American, then how can I have compassion, true compassion as Jesus, for the Chinese?

If I’m holding to being a Republican, then how I can true compassion on the Democrat?

If I’m holding on to democracy, then how can I have true compassion for those under communism?

If I’m holding on to my family, my name, then how can I have true compassion for those not of my name?

Therefore, if we do not renounce everything, then we cannot be Jesus’ disciples.

For in Christ, none of these differences exist.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there neither slave nor free, there no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, there is no race, no class, and no gender that divides us because we are one in Christ. Read the previous verse and you will see that this is so because we have been baptized in Christ. That is, we have made a formal declaration renouncing everything about us so that we can have compassion on all, just as Paul did.

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