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The Path to Discipleship

By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.

Burke CountyJack and Shawn Hodges Burke County Pleasant Hill Baptist Church


God, out of His deep love for mankind, saw the devastating and destructive effects of humanity’s personal choice of sin and rebellion and made a way for redemption and reconciliation. In the Incarnate Christ, He drew near and leaned in toward lost humanity. And when He was near enough for them to hear His voice, He called out to them personally and said, “Come follow Me!” The Lord Jesus then gathered together those who responded to His call and followed Him into a small group of traveling companions and taught them how to love God, love one another, and love others by His own life and example. Then, He sent them out to go and do the very same thing that He had done. Jesus told His disciples, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Real faith and obedience put feet to the task. Real faith trusts that the Lord will equip each one of us to accomplish His call. Real faith chooses to die to self, lay down our lives for the sake of the call, and jump completely into God’s call to go, to share the gospel, to love with Christ’s love, to disciple, baptize, and teach all to follow after Christ Jesus. There is a pathway to follow once one has surrendered to the Lordship claim of Jesus. That pathway is called the “Discipleship Pathway.”

You may be familiar with the poem “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. The title of the poem is “A Road Not Taken”:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In this poem, Frost captures the dilemma that faces everyone with a choice. Oftentimes, there are so many good choices from which to choose. But a choice must be made! The best choice, implied by the author of this poem and continuously echoed by a modern secularistic culture, is to choose what’s best for YOU! But, when a follower of Christ chooses what’s best for them, then they are no longer following Jesus!

In fact, Jesus spoke the following spiritual truth to His disciples (Matt. 16:24-26) If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul?” The choice is clear! However, the choice is never simple! The choice that you and I have to make every day is to either follow Christ or the ways of this world. As much as we would like to have both, Jesus said that we can’t! A choice must be made! The choice is either to deny self and take up the cross of Christ or serve one’s self and gain the pleasures and satisfactions of this world. The choice is either to fulfill the calling and mandate of the Lord or to gain the approval and accolades of the world. That choice is a hard choice that requires much prayer and supplication. But, a choice must be and will be made by each of us.

Notice in this passage that Jesus warns, For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?” The difficult answer to that question is “nothing!” And then notice that Jesus is saying a choice must be made. You may not realize it, but making no choice is actually making a choice! And making no choice is NOT choosing the heart and will of the Father. Jesus insists, If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me.” The most significant choice that anyone will make in their lifetime is the choice of what to do with Jesus! Will you follow Christ or not? That choice affects everything in life! That choice not only affects this life but also eternal life.

In addition to salvation, every follower of Christ must also make another significant choice; that is, are you going to lay down your life for Christ, or are you going to hold onto it for yourself? Perhaps the real question that we should be asking ourselves as a believer doesn’t have to do with whether I am a Christian or not; but rather, Am I growing in my relationship with Christ? Am I equipped and ready to follow His commands? I am free from sin or worldly treasures so that I may be obedient to His calling and command to be a disciple-maker.

One last word for the church. A healthy church makes disciples! That’s what every church growth and disciple-making expert insists. We are often tempted to measure the health of a church by several different methods: by how many are attending (worship, bible study, small groups, e-groups, etc.); by how many have been saved and baptized; by how big our facilities are; or by how much money the church has or is giving. Jesus made clear the standard for church health and church growth: going and making disciples. Disciple-making is both leading people to Jesus and walking along with them as they become more Christlike—teaching them, equipping them, and helping them to become disciple-makers themselves. Leading someone to a saving encounter with Christ is one of the greatest opportunities to exercise our faith in Christ. But equally as important is the commitment to walk alongside those that give their heart and life to Jesus and need a Christ-like and obedient Christian to show them how to live in Christ and for Christ. Will you commit yourself as a follower of Christ to go and make disciples?


Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary.

Read more from Dr. Hodges here.