Joseph Prince, who preaches against Jesus’ discipleship & ‘follow me’ is also preaching against salvation – By Rev George Ong (Dated 25 Nov 2023)

 

Announcement 1:

 

Last Sunday, 19 Nov 2023, Joseph Prince didn’t preach.

 

Word has it that he may be on holiday.

 

If true, I do not expect him to hold the pulpit tomorrow.

 

Note there is 1 video each on Edmund Chan, Derek Prince & Zac Poonen

 

and 2 videos on Joseph Prince.

 

Announcement 2:

 

Don’t miss what these 10 World-Renowned Bible teachers have to say about the significance

 

of the 2 words, ‘Follow me,’ in particular

 

and discipleship in general:

 

James Montgomery Boice, Michael Brown, Charles Spurgeon, Bill Hull, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Scot McKnight, John Stott, John Piper & DA Carson

 

Excerpt No 1 from the Article:

 

Karl Barth wrote:

 

“… the command to follow Jesus

 

is identical with the command to believe in him.”

 

John Stott wrote:

 

“In issuing the gospel invitation

 

we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship.

 

Evangelizing without discipling…

 

are not just deficient; they are dangerous.”

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

 

“Christianity without discipleship

 

is always Christianity without Christ.”

 

Scot McKnight wrote:

 

“You can’t have one (salvation or conversion)

 

without the other (discipleship).”

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“Believing in Jesus has no meaning

 

if we don’t follow him in discipleship.

 

Believing without discipleship

 

isn’t believing.”

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“Some believe you can have conversion without discipleship.

 

I believe that the proof of conversion is discipleship.”

 

Excerpt No 2 from the Article:

 

Now, we have it on record

 

that Joseph Prince spoke against discipleship

 

– that discipleship is no longer in existence

 

and that though we are Christians,

 

we are no longer disciples anymore.

 

Note that when Joseph Prince speaks against discipleship,

 

he is speaking against the core teaching of Jesus in the gospels.

 

No preacher, such as Edmund Chan, Kong Hee, Charles Spurgeon, John Stott, etc,

 

would dare to teach that discipleship had ended in the New Covenant.

 

But Joseph Prince did.

 

No true preacher of God throughout the centuries of Christianity

 

would dare to speak against discipleship, which is the core teaching of Jesus.

 

But Joseph Prince did.

 

This is especially indicting

 

because when someone such as Joseph Prince rejects discipleship,

 

he is tantamount to rejecting salvation,

 

as discipleship and salvation are both sides of the same coin.

 

That being so,

 

how can Joseph Prince not be a heretic?

 

How can a Singapore Bishop and a Singapore Presbyterian Pastor

 

say that Joseph Prince is not a heretic?

 

(This article was also sent to Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) office, and for the attention of the Executive Committee Members.)

 

Please click here

 

to view the entire video.

 

In a Sunday sermon aired on YouTube on 12 Nov 2023, 2 Sundays ago, Joseph Prince said;

 

Please click here to view the 1-minute video:

 

“You cannot understand grace?

 

You see, tell me you understand this or not?

 

Everyone that Jesus healed, okay, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

 

you can see the healing of Jesus’ ministry,

 

everyone that He healed in the gospels,

 

He never tell them,

 

He never compelled them to follow Him.

 

Ya, He did tell some fishermen follow me,

 

but He didn’t heal them.

 

I know what you’re thinking.

 

He did say follow me, the fishermen.

 

But everyone that He healed,

 

He never used that as a pretext.

 

Now I healed you, ah, now you follow me.

 

Jesus never buys hearts.

 

He wins them by the attractiveness of grace.

 

He never put a price tag on His healing.  

 

I love Him.

 

The more you see Jesus.

 

To be like Him, that’s our goal.”

 

Joseph Prince is using the argument from silence to conclude that Jesus didn’t ask those He healed to follow Him.

 

But in the end, no one can be certain whether Jesus did or did not ask them to follow Him.

 

Jesus may have, but it may not have been recorded:

 

John 21:24-25 NIV

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

 

As I would prove from the writings of 10 world-renowned Bible teachers,

 

to follow Jesus (follow me), which is the essence of discipleship,

 

has the same idea of calling sinners to salvation or repentance.

 

So, think with me – what was Jesus’ mission?

 

Luke 19:10 NIV

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

 

Luke 5:32 NIV

32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

 

If that was Jesus’ mission on earth, He would waste no time is asking people to follow Him wherever He gets the chance, as He did to many others.

 

This would also apply to the many people He healed during the 3 years of His ministry.

 

If He doesn’t do so, this may mean that He somehow knew that they would reject His command to follow Him. But there were others that Jesus did ask but they (rich young ruler) rejected Him.

 

But this has nothing to do with the sentimental reasons that Joseph Prince has stated in the video.

 

Next, the fact that Joseph Prince seemed rather ‘happy’ that Jesus didn’t ask those he healed to follow Him

 

may make any true believer to either laugh or cry.

 

Laugh – because of Joseph Prince’s gross ignorance about what ‘Follow me’ means. But the deeper reason is that Prince is against people following Jesus (follow Christ means one must be prepared to give up everything, if asked to do so, which is covered in great detail at a later juncture in the article.)

 

Cry – because the call to ‘Follow me’ or follow Jesus is a call to salvation. Why would Joseph Prince be pleased that Jesus didn’t ask them to follow Him when the call to follow Him is the same call to salvation?

 

In fact, Jesus tells everyone who wants to have eternal life to follow Him:

 

John 10:27-28a NIV

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life

 

Jesus tells everyone who wants to be His sheep to listen to His voice and follow Him,

 

or they won’t have eternal life.

 

That’s true grace, as true grace cannot be experienced

 

unless the sheep listen to Jesus’ voice and follow Him.

 

If we want to have eternal life and not perish in hell,

 

we must follow Jesus:

 

John 10:27-28a NIV

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…

 

John 10:27-28a clearly establishes the fact that Jesus wants not just His 12 disciples but also every sheep to follow Him.

 

Why?

 

So that they can have eternal life.

 

What happens if we refuse to follow Jesus?

 

Matthew 10:38 NIV

38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 

 

Luke 14:27

27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

 

In ‘Christ’s Call to Discipleship,’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“Matthew 10:38 says,

 

“Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me”.

 

Luke 14:27 says, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”.

 

This last text teaches that there is no salvation apart from cross-bearing.”

 

What James Montgomery Boice highlighted is very serious.

 

If we don’t follow Christ,

 

not only do we forfeit our privilege to be Jesus’s disciples,

 

but more importantly, we cannot claim to inherit salvation.

 

This is because salvation and discipleship are almost identical.

 

One, who is saved, is a true disciple of Christ,

 

and one who isn’t a disciple cannot claim to have saving faith.

 

From the way Joseph Prince argues in the video,

 

it seems that he is quite happy that those Jesus healed experienced healing grace

 

at the expense of not experiencing saving grace,

 

in which following Jesus is an explicit condition. 

 

Joseph Prince’s foolish logic is that it is better to be healed than follow Jesus

 

even though saving grace can only be experienced if they follow Jesus.

 

Joseph Prince cannot even distinguish that there is vast difference between healing grace that is only good for this life,

 

and the great importance of saving grace (follow me) that assures one of his eternal future.

 

What’s the use of enjoying healing grace when one’s saving grace isn’t even assured of.

 

This shows that Joseph Prince is the one who hasn’t really understood grace.

 

And yet Joseph Prince has the cheek to accuse others of not understanding grace when he said:

 

“You cannot understand grace?

 

You see, tell me you understand this or not?”

 

Furthermore, Joseph Prince made the point that Jesus was so full of grace because after He had healed them, He didn’t ask them to follow Him.

 

Joseph Prince gave the impression that Jesus was so reticent about asking people to follow Him,

 

and that He doesn’t want to be misunderstood about having a string attached to His healing,

 

and that’s why Jesus didn’t want to ask those He healed to follow Him.

 

That’s not the real Jesus Joseph Prince has presented.

 

That’s Joseph Prince’s feel-good, sentimental and soft Jesus that he has concocted out of his own imagination.

 

That’s a false representation of Jesus.

 

Jesus has absolutely no qualms about asking people to follow Him whether he had healed them or not.

 

Joseph Prince has forgotten that Jesus is God.

 

And as God, Christ’s call to follow Him is always pitched as a command.

 

The Lord Jesus makes no apology whatsoever each time He commands the respective people to follow Him.

 

Next, Joseph Prince told a half-truth when he said Jesus asked the fishermen to follow Him (Peter, Andrew, James and John).

 

Jesus didn’t only ask fishermen such as Peter, Andrew, James and John,

 

He also asked Matthew, the Tax Collector to follow Him:

 

Matthew 9:9 NIV

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

 

Jesus asked Philip to follow Him:

 

John 1:43 NIV

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

Jesus asked His disciples and the multitudes to follow Him:

 

Matthew 16:24 NIV

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

 

Mark 8:34 NIV

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

 

Jesus asked others to follow Him:

 

Matthew 8:18-22 NIV

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

 

Jesus asked the rich man to follow Him:

 

Mark 8:21 NIV

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 

Jesus asked the great multitudes (NKJV) to follow Him:

 

Luke 14:27 NIV

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

 

Why did Jesus asked so many people to follow Him?

 

This is because His call of discipleship to follow Him

 

is the same call to salvation.

 

In a sermon, Edmund Chan said;

 

Please click here to view the 50-second video:

 

“That is why discipleship is so important.

 

What is discipleship?

 

It’s not a programme. It’s not a course.

 

Discipleship is essentially following Jesus.

 

If we follow Him and walk close to Him;

 

and the Jews have a greeting;

 

the greeting is, may the dust of the master cover you.

 

In other words, may you walk so close behind the master

 

that the dust of His feet covers you

 

because you are so close in intimacy in following Him.

 

Discipleship is following Jesus.

 

And when follow Him,

 

we grow in Christlikeness,

 

in spiritual maturity, in faith, and obedience;

 

our hearts are transformed.

 

This following of the Lord

 

is at the heart of discipleship.

 

What is discipleship?

 

It is following the Lord.”

 

So, according to Edmund Chan, following the Lord

 

is at the heart of discipleship.

 

Edmund Chan has rightly described what following Jesus means

 

as it is concurred by many world-renowned Bible teachers and commentators.

 

Just one example in Charles Spurgeon for a start.

 

In ‘The New Testament, Spurgeon’s Sermons By Each Book.’

 

Charles Spurgeon said:

 

“To follow Christ

 

is the picture of Christian discipleship in every form.”

 

In a sermon, Derek Prince said;

 

Please click here to view the 20-second video:

 

“To me, the simplest definition of a Christian

 

is someone who follows Jesus.

 

But there are two preconditions.

 

You cannot follow Jesus until you’ve done two things,

 

which are deny yourself, take up your cross.”

 

So, we learned from Derek Prince,

 

that the simplest definition of a Christian

 

is someone who follows Jesus.

 

Hence, this logically means all Christians

 

must, of necessity, follow Jesus.

 

Since Joseph Prince preaches against discipleship

 

and the need to follow Christ (by giving up our everything for His sake, if necessary),

 

and also self-denial and taking up the cross,

 

he has ruled himself out as a Christian.

 

In a sermon, Zac Poonen said;

 

Please click here to view the 1-minute video:

 

“It says, another Jesus, another Jesus;

 

not the Jesus described in the Bible.

 

He didn’t say just believe in me.

 

If you read the gospels,

 

how many times did He say believe in me?

 

Most of the time He said,

 

follow me, follow me, follow me.

 

Take up your cross and believe in me.

 

No.

 

Take up your cross and follow me.

 

The real Jesus tells us not just to believe in Him

 

but to follow Him.

 

If you have a Jesus you only believe in,

 

that’s not the real Jesus

 

because the real Jesus calls you to follow Him.

 

He calls everyone to follow Him.

 

They are preaching another Jesus

 

you whom you don’t have to follow,

 

who allows you to live as you like,

 

and He’ll take you to heaven when you die.

 

That’s the deception of Satan.

 

Another Jesus.”

 

From Zac Poonen,

 

we learned that Jesus did not only ask us to believe in Him

 

but also to follow Him.

 

And anyone who does not call you to follow Jesus besides believing in Him,

 

is preaching another Jesus.

 

That is precisely what Joseph Prince does

 

– he preaches only believing in Jesus

 

and he doesn’t preach about following Jesus

 

as he is against it.

 

Hence, Joseph Prince is indeed preaching another Jesus.

 

In ‘The Call to Discipleship,’

 

Karl Barth wrote:

 

“Follow me” is the substance of the call in the power of which Jesus makes people his saints…

 

We may say, therefore, that in practice

 

the command to follow Jesus

 

is identical with the command to believe in him.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

According to Karl Barth,

 

the implication is that if one refuses the command to follow Jesus,

 

or is against discipleship,

 

such as Joseph Prince,

 

one isn’t a believer in Christ to start with.

 

Let me give you the proof that Joseph Prince teaches against discipleship.

 

In 2 sermons, Joseph Prince said;

 

Please click here to view the 30-second video:

 

“I want to drop a bombshell here. 

 

Is it okay? Alright.

 

I want to drop a bombshell right now.

 

The word disciple or discipleship is never mentioned,

 

never after the book of Acts.

 

Paul never wrote about it.

 

All the authors of the epistles of the New Testament,

 

in all the epistles of the New Testament,

 

you cannot find one word, ‘disciple’.

 

It ended in the Book of Acts.”


“What are you?

 

You are not a disciple anymore.

 

The disciples are now called Christians.”

 

Now, we have it on record

 

that Joseph Prince spoke against discipleship

 

– that discipleship is no longer in existence

 

and that though we are Christians, we are no longer disciples anymore.

 

Note that when Joseph Prince speaks against discipleship, he is speaking against the core teaching of Jesus in the gospels.

 

Joseph Prince said in the video on 12 Nov 2023:

 

“I love Him.

 

The more you see Jesus.

 

To be like Him, that’s our goal.”

 

Joseph Prince is lying when he said he loves Jesus:

 

John 14:23a NIV

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.

 

Jesus said:

 

Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.”

 

There are many of Christ’s teachings that Joseph Prince disobeyed because he preached against them.

 

I have already mentioned many of them on my website.

 

As I have said, Joseph Prince preaches against discipleship and the need to follow Christ (meaning, to give up everything for Jesus’ sake, if necessary)

 

If Joseph Prince dares to preach against discipleship, which is the core of Christ’s teachings in the gospels,

 

how can he claim to love Jesus?

 

What is worse is that Joseph Prince teaches that the gospels,

 

which comprise most of Christ’s teachings

 

are under the Old Covenant

 

– meaning they are no longer applicable for New Covenant believers. 

 

By ‘throwing away’ chunks and chunks of Christ’s teachings in the gospels to be under the Old Covenant,

 

it is shamelessness of the highest order

 

that Joseph Prince would dare to claim that he loves Jesus!

 

Before I move to the views of the 10 Bible teachers,

 

Let me state one important fact.

 

No preacher such as Edmund Chan, Kong Hee, Charles Spurgeon, John Stott, etc,

 

would dare to teach that discipleship had ended in the New Covenant.

 

But Joseph Prince did.

 

No true preacher of God throughout the centuries of Christianity

 

would dare to speak against discipleship, which is the core teaching of Jesus.

 

But Joseph Prince did.

 

This is especially indicting

 

because when someone such as Joseph Prince rejects discipleship,

 

he is tantamount to rejecting salvation,

 

as discipleship and salvation are both sides of the same coin.

 

That being so,

 

how can Joseph Prince not be a heretic?

 

How can a Singapore Bishop and a Singapore Presbyterian Pastor

 

say that Joseph Prince is not a heretic?

 

Let me now surface what 10 world-renowned Bible teachers:

 

James Montgomery Boice, Michael Brown, Charles Spurgeon, Bill Hull, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Scot McKnight, John Stott, John Piper & DA Carson

 

have written about the importance of discipleship and following Christ.

 

All of them are of the view

 

that discipleship and salvation are both sides of the same coin

 

and that following Christ is the essence of discipleship.

 

This logically means that if one does not follow Christ (what is worse is Joseph Prince preaches against it),

 

one cannot claim to be a believer of Christ. 

 

In ‘The Gospel of Matthew Vol 1 & 2, An Expositional Commentary.’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“Follow Me”

 

In many texts, Jesus explains in greater detail and with other images what it means to be his disciple,

 

but the command to follow him,

 

which occurs in the middle of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ calling these first four disciples,

 

is most basic.

 

We find it in many of these stories.

 

It is here, in Jesus’ calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

 

But several chapters later, in Matthew 9:9-13 (parallels in Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-31),

 

it appears in Jesus’ call of Matthew.

 

Matthew was a tax-collector;

 

he was despised by the people for his collaboration with the Roman authorities.

 

But he obeyed Jesus and followed him.

 

When the people protested Jesus’ involvement with this “sinner,”

 

Jesus replied,

 

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12-13).

 

His explanation shows that the command to follow Jesus was not only a physical following

 

or even, as it were, an invitation to learn more about him to see if one wanted to be a permanent disciple.

 

It was a turning from sin for salvation, to be healed by God.

 

The Gospel of John does things differently from the Synoptics, but the call to follow Jesus is no less prominent there.

 

Indeed, there is a sense in which it provides a framework for the Gospel.

 

Chapter 1 contains a long narrative in which John the Baptist bears witness to Jesus as the Son of God and the Lamb of God, and, as a result, two of John’s disciples begin to follow Jesus, as I indicated earlier.

 

Then, at the end of the Gospel

 

Jesus tells Peter, whom he has just recommissioned to service,

 

“Follow me!” (John 21:19).

 

When Peter shifts attention from himself to the beloved disciple,

 

Jesus replies,

 

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (v. 22).

 

Coming at the end of the Gospel, as they do,

 

these words are a statement to all would-be Christians

 

that discipleship means following Jesus in a personal and costly way.

 

In all, the words “follow me” occur thirteen times in the Gospels.

 

But in addition, there are scores of references in which one person or another is said to have followed Christ.

 

Why are these two words so important?

 

They are important because they teach important truths about what it means to be one of Christ’s disciples.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

James Montgomery Boice has brought out the important fact

 

that the essence of discipleship is found in the 2 words, ‘Follow me.’

 

He has also masterfully connected discipleship and ‘Follow me’

 

to sin and salvation;

 

and that ‘Follow me’ must be the response of everyone

 

who wants not only to be a disciple of Jesus but also to be saved by Him.

 

In ‘The Gospel of Matthew Vol 1 & 2, An Expositional Commentary.’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“There may be an element of invitation in Christ’s call to sinners, of course,

 

but it can hardly escape any thoughtful student that the words “follow me”

 

are an imperative, a command

 

– which is why those commanded to follow Jesus

 

did in fact, immediately leave their nets, boats, counting tables,

 

or whatever else was occupying them and follow Jesus.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

The call to discipleship and salvation

 

which is located in the 2 words, ‘Follow me,’

 

is not a suggestion or an option,

 

but a command,

 

without which no one can be saved.

 

This means if one rejects the command of Jesus to follow Him,

 

he is effectively rejecting the call to salvation.

 

In ‘The Gospel of Matthew Vol 1 & 2, An Expositional Commentary.’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“At the end, he called for repentance and faith in himself:

 

“Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (v. 21).

 

That was the end of the interview.

 

The young man was rich, and because he was unwilling to pay the cost of his possessions, he went away sorrowfully.

 

Is that any way to win people to Christ?

 

Jesus thought so.

 

Chantry points out that Jesus

 

“demanded this turning from everything to himself as a condition of discipleship for everyone,”

 

concluding that because it fails to articulate this cost, much of today’s church

 

“isn’t preaching Jesus’ gospel!””

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

While the giving up of one’s wealth is specific to the rich young ruler,

 

it is inescapable that the same command of Jesus to leave everything (whatever that may mean to each one of us)

 

that stands in the way of discipleship and salvation,

 

is issued to everyone as Luke 14:26,33 testify:

 

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

 

In ‘The Gospel of Matthew Vol 1 & 2, An Expositional Commentary.’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“You cannot be neutral about Jesus (v. 30).

 

If the kingdom has come in Jesus and the demands of the kingdom are that people submit to Jesus’ rule as king,

 

then neutrality is impossible.

 

You may think you do not care about Jesus one way or another,

 

but if you are not for him, you are actually opposing him.

 

Jesus said,

 

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (v. 30).

 

The reason for this is that Jesus always demands a decision.

 

He requires a deliberate submission to his rule.

 

He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him (Matt. 10:38).

 

If we do not submit to Jesus’ rule,

 

we are not “for” Jesus.

 

We are resisting him.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Many have missed this important message

 

that Jesus has not only come to save us

 

but He has also come to be the master and Lord of our lives.

 

One comes with the other, and both cannot not be separated;

 

If we reject one, we reject the other.

 

If we reject Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him,

 

we are not only rejecting His Saviourhood

 

but we are also rebelling against His lordship over our lives.

 

No rebel can claim to inherit salvation.

 

In ‘The Gospel of Matthew Vol 1 & 2, An Expositional Commentary.’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“This was so important to Jesus that he repeated it again and again in his teaching,

 

almost as often as he spoke about the necessity of his personal suffering.

 

He never suggested that his followers could die for sin, either their own or others’ sins, as he would do,

 

but he insisted that following him

 

meant self-denial, suffering, rejection,

 

and perhaps even physical death.

 

The way of the cross is not only for Jesus,

 

but for us.

 

Or to put it another way:

 

Christ’s death is of value

 

only to those who are willing to die to themselves and follow him.

 

A great deficiency exists in today’s evangelical church.

 

Several years ago, I wrote a book called Christ’s Call to Discipleship in which I started by noting this fact:

 

There is a defect, even a fatal defect, in the life of the church of Christ in the twentieth century:

 

a lack of true discipleship.

 

For the genuine Christian,

 

discipleship means forsaking everything to follow Christ.

 

But for many of today’s supposed Christians—perhaps the majority—it is the case that while there is much talk about Christ and even much furious activity that is supposed to be done in his name,

 

there is actually very little following of Christ himself.

 

And that means that in some circles at least there is very little genuine Christianity.

 

Many who fervently call him “Lord, Lord”

 

are not Christians (Matt. 7:21).

 

I wrote that in 1986, but the situation is no better today.

 

In fact, it is probably worse.

 

What is the problem?

 

We do not like this kind of teaching.

 

Prosperity? Yes.

 

Victory? Yes.

 

But suffering? Death? The cross?

 

We do not like those things.

 

Yet there is no genuine Christianity without them.

 

When Jesus tells his followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him,

 

he is saying that those items belong together as a composite picture of what being a disciple is all about.

 

All three are necessary.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

If we aren’t willing to submit to Jesus’ call to suffer, die to self and follow Him;

 

and if we think we possess saving faith, despite that,

 

we are only having a dream.

 

The fearsome thing is that in today’s contemporary world,

 

many think they are saved,

 

when they actually aren’t.

 

We had better wake up now

 

than to be shocked on the day of reckoning,

 

when Jesus tells us right in the face that He doesn’t know us.

 

In ‘The Gospel of John (5 Volumes),’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“The third of the reformed doctrines presented by Jesus is the effective call:

 

that is, that God’s call of his people is accompanied by such power

 

that those whom he calls necessarily come to him,

 

believing on Christ and embracing Christ for salvation.

 

Jesus expresses this by saying:

 

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (v. 27).

 

It is a mark of the sheep

 

that they both hear and follow their shepherd.

 

In the Puritan era it was the habit of many preachers

 

to play on these two characteristics,

 

calling them the marks of Christ’s sheep.

 

In days when there were many flocks of sheep it was necessary to mark the sheep to distinguish them.

 

In our day, at least on cattle, this is done by branding.

 

On sheep it was often done by cutting a small mark into the ear.

 

“Well,” said the Puritans,

 

“each of Christ’s sheep has a double mark – on his ear and on his foot.

 

The mark on his ear is that he hears Christ.

 

The mark on his foot is that he follows him.”

 

This is true, of course.

 

It leads us to ask,

 

“Do we hear? Do we follow?””

 

George Ong’s Comments:

 

By listening to and following Jesus,

 

authenticates we are Christ’s sheep.

 

How can Joseph Prince, who teaches against discipleship and follow me (as a mark and proof of salvation)

 

be one of Christ’s genuine sheep?

 

In ‘The Gospel of John (5 Volumes),’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“There is a popular use of the word “Christian”

 

by which many would claim to be Christians

 

who are, nevertheless, not disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ at all.

 

Barnhouse points out that the word “Christian” originally came about

 

because those who believed in Christ at Antioch followed him so closely

 

that those who observed them wanted to identify them by the name of their Master.

 

The people of Antioch said,

 

“These are followers of Christ. They are Christ-ones, Christians. They follow him. They are his.”

 

Today, by contrast, everyone calls himself a Christian.

 

By some, America is called a Christian nation.

 

Anything that has even the vague flavor of Western religion or culture about it gets the name.

 

But few who call themselves Christians

 

actually follow Jesus.

 

Obviously, there is a kind of Christianity that is like this,

 

but it is not discipleship.

 

True discipleship is far different.

 

What is it?

 

It is expressed well in 2 Corinthians 8:5,

 

“They gave themselves first to the Lord and to us in keeping with God’s will.”

 

Discipleship is giving oneself wholeheartedly to Jesus.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

People who call themselves Christians

 

must give proof that they are disciples of Jesus

 

who follow Him.

 

If the mark of discipleship is absent in a person,

 

he has no right to call himself a Christian.

 

So how can Joseph Prince,

 

who teaches against discipleship,

 

calls himself a Christian?

 

In ‘Christ’s Call to Discipleship,’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“Chantry points out (referring to the rich young ruler) that Jesus “demanded this turning from everything to himself

 

as a condition of discipleship for everyone.”

 

Because it fails to declare this cost,

 

much of today’s church “isn’t preaching Jesus’ gospel!”

 

What Is the Cost?

 

When a person becomes alerted to the teaching about cost in Christ’s discourses, he is amazed at how extensive it is.

 

Jesus did not make following Him an easy matter.

 

Following Him involved radical life changes.

 

Everything He said about discipleship implied this costly change.

 

It was denying oneself, taking up a cross, and following Him (Luke 9:22).

 

Jesus also said many specific things about salvation’s cost.

 

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:28-33)

 

According to this statement:

 

(1) there is a cost to discipleship,

 

(2) a failure to see this causes some to start out in the direction of the Christian life without adequate understanding and commitment, as a result of which they later fall away and perish, and

 

(3) the cost must be paid if a person is to be Christ’s disciple and be saved.

 

… JC Ryle writes,

 

It does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible.

 

There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run.

 

Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven.

 

It is the beginning of a mighty conflict in which it costs much to win the victory.

 

This is why Jesus urges us to count the cost

 

and see if we are prepared to give up everything we have to be His disciples.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Though salvation is free, but Jesus did not make it easy, as there is a cost to it.

 

This is taught by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.

 

Let’s not be dishonest and hide the cost from seekers,

 

just to collect another convert under our belt as Joseph Prince does.

 

But let’s do it the Jesus way by laying down the cost for them

 

– a cost that would eventually seem like a pittance

 

if measured in comparison to the weight and glory of our eternal inheritance in Christ.

 

In ‘Christ’s Call to Discipleship,’

 

James Montgomery Boice wrote:

 

“Costly Grace

 

There are several reasons that the situation I have described is common in today’s church.

 

The first is a defective theology that has crept over us like a deadening fog.

 

This theology separates faith from discipleship and grace from obedience.

 

It teaches that Jesus can be received as one’s Savior without being received as one’s Lord.

 

This is a common defect in times of prosperity.

 

In days of hardship, particularly persecution, those who are in the process of becoming Christians

 

count the cost of discipleship carefully before taking up the cross of the Nazarene.

 

Preachers do not beguile them with false promises of an easy life or indulgence of sins.

 

But in good times, prosperous times, the cost does not seem so high,

 

and people take the name of Christ without undergoing the radical transformation of life that true conversion implies.

 

In these times, preachers often delude them with an “easy” faith

 

– Christianity without the cross

 

– in order to increase the numbers on their church rolls, whether or not the added people are regenerate.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German churchman of the Nazi era who eventually suffered martyrdom for his opposition to Hitler’s policies,

 

called this erroneous theology “cheap grace.”

 

He said,

 

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.”

 

The contrast is “costly grace.”

 

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has.

 

It is the pearl of great price, to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.

 

It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble;

 

it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

 

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again,

 

the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

 

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,

 

and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

 

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance,

 

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.”

 

Such cheap grace that Joseph Prince himself preaches

 

is Pseudo-grace,

 

a grace that has no power to save people from their sins

 

and grant them eternal salvation.

 

In ‘Hyper-Grace, Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message,’

 

Michael Brown wrote:

 

“… but note clearly that the promises are given to Jesus’ sheep

 

– to those who know His voice and follow Him (see John 10:27)

 

… To repeat:

 

the promise of eternal life is only to Jesus’ sheep,

 

those who know His voice and follow Him.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Michael Brown stated that the promise of eternal life

 

is only given to those who know Jesus’ voice and follow Him.

 

If Joseph Prince teaches against discipleship and follow Jesus (meaning, to the extent of giving up everything and even our life),

 

how can he claim to have eternal life?

 

In ‘Jezebel’s War with America,’

 

Michael Brown wrote:

 

“The gospel of Jesus:

 

If you want to be My disciple, deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Me.

 

The modern American gospel:

 

God loves you just as you are, so indulge yourself and dream your dreams. God is with you, baby!”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

The discipleship requirements of Jesus

 

to deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Me,

 

is the same gospel of grace that Paul preaches.

 

So, if one were to reject the discipleship teachings of Jesus and chooses not to follow Him,

 

he is effectively rejecting saving grace.

 

In ‘Playing with Fire,’

 

Michael Brown wrote:

 

“Ear-tickling preachers bypass self-denial and the cross.

 

Jesus told His disciples that if anyone wanted to follow Him,

 

they had to deny themselves and take up the cross.

 

(See Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; and Luke 9:23, in which Jesus says we must take up our cross daily.)

 

And Paul taught that

 

“those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24, ESV).

 

Saying no to self and taking up the cross

 

– meaning, giving up the claim to our own lives, dying to this sinful world, and renouncing its claims

 

– is a fundamental part of discipleship.

 

Yet ear-tickling preachers will not talk about it.

 

The reason is obvious:

 

it is not what our flesh wants to hear.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Joseph Prince is a typical ear-tickling preacher,

 

who doesn’t preach about self-denial and carrying our cross

 

but keeps feeding the flesh of his congregation with feel-good sermons. 

 

In ‘Revolution in the Church, Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change,’

 

Michael Brown wrote:

 

“But the gospels do not speak only of the Twelve.

 

In fact, the majority of references to “disciples” are not to the Twelve,

 

but to the many other men and women who followed Him.

 

Jesus did not make it easy for them!

 

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.

 

Then, a teacher of the law came to him and said,

 

“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

 

Jesus replied,

 

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22

 

Whatever these verses mean, this much is sure:

 

In order to be one of Rabbi Yeshua’s disciples,

 

personal convenience had to be crucified,

 

personal bonds had to be broken

 

and personal loyalties had to be left behind.

 

No honest interpretation can cheapen the radical nature of the calling.

 

The Lord simply made things too clear:

 

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39

 

Did you notice those words not worthy of Me?

 

The eternal Word-made-flesh cuts no deals.

 

Being one of His disciples is the highest calling known to man,

 

and through His death for us (that’s right, the sinless Master dies for the sinful disciples),

 

we become part of His family,

 

adopted by His Father and made joint-heirs with our Lord.

 

He has every right to set the standards high.

 

No other master is like our Master,

 

no lord like our Lord.

 

Who gave us the right to modify what He said?

 

After Jesus told His disciples He would suffer and die and rise from the dead in Jerusalem, and after He rebuked Peter for rebuking Him,

 

the Lord made a universal declaration:

 

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:24-27

 

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me”

 

– anyone meaning young or old, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, educated or illiterate

 

– he or she must do three things:

 

(1) deny himself, saying no to self-will, personal desires and fleshly lusts;

 

(2) take up his cross, dying to the old life and all its claims, with implications of rejection, shame and suffering; and

 

(3) follow Me.

 

As expressed clearly by the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology,

 

“Following Jesus as a disciple means the unconditional sacrifice of his whole life … for the whole of his life…

 

To be a disciple means (as Matthew in particular emphasizes) to be bound to Jesus and to do God’s will (Matthew 12:46-50; cf. Mark 3:31-35).”

 

What a statement!

 

—the unconditional sacrifice of his whole life for the whole of his life.

 

That’s it!

 

That is what it means to be a disciple.

 

Everything for Jesus, always and forever.

 

No excuses, no exemptions, no exceptions.

 

“I will follow you, Lord,” a man said to Jesus as He walked by, “but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.”

 

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:61-62).

 

This was the expected pattern:

 

Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:27-28

 

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22

 

He called, and they left everything and followed Him.

 

That, in a nutshell, is a picture of discipleship, of true devotion.

 

That is the New Testament norm.

 

… Jesus taught plainly that

 

“any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33),

 

a verse called by the late evangelist and activist Tom Skinner

 

“one of the toughest verses in the Scriptures,”

 

noting that “many people wish it wasn’t there.”

 

Skinner continued:

 

“There are those people who say, ‘Well, God doesn’t mean for us to give up everything. I can follow Christ and do my thing without giving up everything.’

 

They say,

 

‘What the Bible really means is that we should be willing to.’

 

Check out that verse – do you see the word willing?”

 

For many of us there is a great mental disconnect when we read certain portions of the Bible.

 

The gospels are one thing;

 

the rest of the New Testament is quite another.

 

The Jesus of the gospels is so “out there” in His demands.

 

His teachings always seem to need some kind of explanation or modification.

 

Isn’t this how we think, either consciously or unconsciously?

 

“This kind of stuff was okay for His first followers,” we may say.

 

“They could literally leave everything and go with Him, even to death.

 

For us, it’s different.

 

After all, they were the disciples.

 

We are just believers, members of a local church.”

 

Our faith is more comfy than costly, more dainty than dangerous, more reasonable than radical, more life-enhancing than life-threatening.

 

Things are different now.

 

Things have changed. Right?

 

Not in terms of God’s will and God’s ways.

 

Not in terms of God’s demands and God’s desires.

 

Not in terms of God’s requirements and God’s regulations.

 

A disciple is a disciple, and it was this term – more than believer and far more than Christian, saved, witness or saint

 

—that most often designated the members of the Body in the book of Acts.

 

The believers were the disciples;

 

the saved were the disciples;

 

the Christians were the disciples.

 

(Remember the words of Acts 11:26: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”)

 

If you were a believer, you were a disciple

 

– and Jesus made plain what it meant to be a disciple.

 

Now I ask you, in all honesty:

 

What book, what institution, what leader

 

has the right to tell us that Jesus did not mean what He said,

 

that His explicit demands applied only to a select few,

 

that His first followers were somehow cut from different cloth

 

than His twenty-first-century followers?

 

On what basis do we dilute the Master’s words?

 

We read what He required in the gospels, and we see how the disciples responded in Acts,

 

giving up everything for His cause and going against the grain of the religious establishment,

 

even at the cost of their lives.

 

The epistles confirm all this,

 

challenging us to offer our lives as a well-pleasing sacrifice to the Lord

 

(for example, Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:20).

 

At what point did Jesus, completely apart from the written Word, lower the standard?

 

At what point did He redefine what it means to be worthy of following Him?

 

At what point did He change the requirements for being a disciple?

 

… It was Jesus who said:

 

“If any one desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself – that is, disregard, lose sight of and forget himself and his own interests

 

– and take up his cross and follow Me (… conform wholly to My example in living and if need be in dying also).”

 

This means that the one who wishes to follow Him as His disciple

 

must be willing to forfeit all claim to his life

 

and make Christ and His kingdom paramount to all his consideration.

 

That the Apostle Paul had done this, along with multiplied thousands of other Christians,

 

is apparent as he refers to himself in the first chapter of the book of Romans as a “bondslave of Jesus.”

 

A disciple, by definition, is a bondslave of the Lord, totally dedicated to the Master, having left all for the (revolutionary) cause.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

The Lord Jesus Himself set the bar high for discipleship and salvation,

 

so no one has the right to argue against it.

 

But knowing Jesus, when He sets the standard high,

 

He would not leave us in the lurch,

 

but He would empower us with the Holy Spirit to carry them out

 

making what seems impossible possible,

 

and what appears to be overly burdensome to be pure joy.

 

In ‘2 Books in 1 Volume, Whatever Happened to the Power of God & It’s Time to Rock the Boat,’

 

Michael Brown wrote:

 

“Are You Willing to Lose Your Life?

Just for a moment, forget that you live in America.

 

Forget about your home, your car, and your possessions.

 

Forget about your liberty and religious freedom.

 

Come with me to China.

 

Will you follow Jesus there?

 

Being a Christian in this communist land could cost you your life.

 

It is very likely that you will be persecuted.

 

You could well lose your job and your income.

 

A prison term is not unlikely; torture is surely possible.

 

You might never see your family again.

 

The pressure will be intense,

 

the hatred at times ferocious,

 

the slander always present.

 

Will you be a Christian in China?

 

Or go back 19 centuries to Rome.

 

Will you join the believers in the catacombs,

 

worshiping in secret and praying in the underground caves?

 

Will you refuse to pledge allegiance to Caesar,

 

even though informers are always near and your own family might betray you?

 

Will you still tell others about your Lord?

 

But the situation in China and the catacombs is not abnormal.

 

In fact, in the time it has taken you to read this book, believers have probably been martyred.

 

It is possible that believers will be martyred in the time it takes you to read just this chapter!

 

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and pastor killed by the Nazis for plotting against Hitler, said,

 

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

 

Will you come and die?

 

Then Jesus said to His disciples,

 

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

 

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24-25).

 

What exactly did Jesus mean?

 

Let’s start with a totally literal interpretation

 

– martyrdom.

 

It is not impossible that following Jesus here in the United States could soon mean literal death.

 

It is not impossible that some of us will be called on to seal our testimony with our blood.

 

It is not unlikely that a righteous confrontation with a raging, ungodly mob will end with murder.

 

Our moral battle could soon become a mortal battle!

 

It is not improbable that there will be Stephens in our midst again.

 

If that is what the Gospel required,

 

would we still follow the Lord?

 

Willingness to be martyred provides an ideal starting point for the Christian life.

 

Consider what Jesus taught:

 

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

 

In other words, don’t be afraid of people.

 

The worst they can do is kill you!

 

They can only take your life.

 

You are called to lose your life anyway!

 

To be absent from the body means to be present with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:8 KJV).

 

So what is there to fear?

 

For the believer, death has lost its sting, for “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom. 14:8).

 

But we have fallen so far from biblical truth!

 

For the average American believer,

 

the concept of martyrdom is virtually incomprehensible.

 

Instead of the call to “come and die”

 

we are used to the invitation to “come and dine” (see John 21:12 KJV).

 

As Thomas à Kempis wrote:

 

“Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of His passion.” (Thomas A. Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)

 

Today, in place of the old Cross,

 

we have the new cruise.

 

Christianity is primarily associated with earthly satisfaction, and the Gospel is preached

 

as if it existed for the purpose of personal fulfillment.

 

Why meditate on our future heavenly dwelling when we’re so at home here?

 

Could the New Jerusalem be much flashier than some of our “monumental” Gospel cathedrals?

 

A worldly mentality (a mentality oriented to this world) rules the day.

 

What a contrast between the spirit of martyrdom

 

and the spirit of the modern church!

 

One endures the conflicts of this world by the power, life, and joy of the world to come;

 

the other enjoys this world.

 

We are more familiar with fashion than with fasting and more accustomed to pleasure than to passion.

 

Some of our widely-advertised “prophets” hold 100-dollar-a-plate banquets with personal words from the Lord to top off the feast,

 

while others will bless your church for a guaranteed take of 10,000 dollars or more.

 

Even the presence of God can be purchased through one of our anointed “psalmists” as long as the price is right.

 

The right atmosphere, such as the finest luxury hotel, doesn’t hurt either.

 

We have entered the era of “marketing the church.”

 

But our whole methodology is faulty.

 

The Cross is not “user-friendly.”

 

It is “user-deadly”!

 

Yet we think that we are soaring in the heights.

 

The sad truth is we are often too fat to fly.

 

The American Church has been grounded!

 

How radically we have departed from the foundations of our faith!

 

How deeply we have been deceived!

 

It is time we turn our hearts back.

 

It is time we recount the cost.

 

One of the chief things that holds us back from serving the Lord is our refusal to lose our lives.

 

We are always trying to hold on!

 

Jesus calls us to let go.

 

Of course, not many of us will be martyred.

 

At least, not in the immediate future.

 

But all of us must renounce all claims to our lives.

 

All of us must lose our rights.

 

Then we can truly live!

 

Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned in Russia.

 

He was separated from relatives and friends.

 

He was taken from his career and vocation.

 

He was stripped of his earthly possessions and treated as an insignificant nobody.

 

Then, as the final insult, his pencil was confiscated.

 

It was at that moment, Solzhenitsyn said, that for the first time in his life, he became a totally free man.

 

He had nothing more to lose!

 

He had nothing more to be taken!

 

There was nothing that anyone could hold over his head, nothing with which he could be threatened.

 

In prison, he found himself free.

 

Jesus calls us to be free!

 

“Lose your life,” He says. Then you will find it! “Die to this world,” He urges. Then you will live! “Give up your reputation,” He says. Then no one can take it! “Abandon your rights,” He exhorts.

 

Then all pressure will cease!

 

You will be free to do His will.

 

Nothing will be left to hold you back.

 

Yet so much of today’s teaching goes against the way of the Cross.

 

Instead of encouraging believers to lose their rights, it instructs them to fight for their rights. (It is one thing to fight for moral and religious rights. It is another thing to fight for “personal rights,” like the “right” to be angry with your selfish spouse, or the “right” to have a pity party when your friends reject you.)

 

We are a generation that has emphasized preservation of self

 

instead of denial of self,

 

and catering to the flesh

 

instead of crucifying it.

 

That is not the biblical way!”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Just because Christ has died for you

 

doesn’t mean you don’t have to die for Him.

 

Throughout the centuries of the Christian Church,

 

multitudes of courageous believers have done so.

 

If it ever comes to our turn,

 

we pray that we would be willing to sacrifice our lives for Christ’s sake.

 

Doing so is one magnificent way to glorify God as Peter did (Jn 21:19).

 

In ‘Commentary on the New Testament,’

 

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

 

“Matthew 9:9 NIV

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

 

… Two words sufficed for his conversion and obedience:

 

“Follow me.”

 

They are very full and pregnant words.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

According to Charles Spurgeon,

 

the call to follow Christ

 

is the same call to conversion.

 

In ‘Commentary on the New Testament,’

 

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

 

“And he that taketh, not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me (Matt 10:38).

 

Here our Lord for the second time in this gospel brings in his death.

 

At first, he spoke of being taken from them; but now of the cross.

 

There is a cross for each one which he may regard as “his cross.”

 

It may be that the cross will not take us up,

 

but we must take it up, by being willing to endure anything or everything for Christ’s sake.

 

We are not to drag the cross after us, but to take it up.

 

“Dragged crosses are heavy; carried crosses grow light.”

 

Bearing the cross, we are to follow after Jesus:

 

to bear a cross without following Christ is a poor affair.

 

A Christian who shuns the cross is no Christian;

 

but a crossbearer, who does not follow Jesus equally misses the mark.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

By what Charles Spurgeon had written,

 

anyone, of which Joseph Prince is one,

 

who shuns the cross and does not follow Jesus

 

isn’t a believer to start with.

 

In ‘The Complete Book of Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“The operative word – Follow:

 

When Jesus said, “Follow me,”

 

he defined faith.

 

Faith goes much deeper than just believing that Jesus is the Christ;

 

the proof of faith is following him.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

What this means is that

 

if there is no evidence that one is following Christ,

 

he cannot claim that he is a believer.

 

In ‘The Complete Book of Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“When someone claims to have faith in Christ,

 

he must also commit to follow Christ.

 

Remember, Jesus taught that faith

 

meant to follow him (see Luke 9:23-25).

 

Anything less is something else – a wish, a desire, or a good intention.

 

But it’s not faith, because faith means to follow.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

The reality and evidence of one’s faith in Christ

 

is seen in one’s desire to follow Him.

 

In ‘The Complete Book of Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“The American gospel

 

teaches that faith equals agreement with a set of religious facts.

 

Believing in Jesus has no meaning

 

if we don’t follow him in discipleship.

 

Believing without discipleship

 

isn’t believing,

 

it’s agreeing to a set of facts about a religious figure.

 

The problem we face is that we have created and taught a faith that doesn’t transform people.

 

Survey the members of your church.

 

Ask if they think discipleship is optional for believers.

 

I bet they’ll say yes.

 

However, in Scripture,

 

that kind of Christianity doesn’t exist.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Salvation and discipleship are 2 sides of the same coin.

 

This means if one isn’t a disciple,

 

one cannot claim to possess saving faith.

 

In ‘The Complete Book of Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“Beyond calling us to follow,

 

Jesus also described the nature of the commitment

 

that we need to follow him.

 

My whole life is the answer to Jesus’ call to follow him.

 

He calls and I answer,

 

not just in words, but in the action of following.

 

George MacDonald noted,

 

“Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not,

 

ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because he said, ‘Do it,’

 

or once abstained because he said, ‘Do not do it.’

 

It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him,

 

if you do not do anything he tells you.”

 

When I answer Jesus’ call with my whole life, I make myself his disciple at once.

 

Bonhoeffer said,

 

“Only those who are obedient believe

 

and only those who believe are obedient.

 

Faith is only real in obedience.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

The proof of faith is obedience;

 

the root of obedience is faith.

 

In ‘Conversion and Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“The disciples understand the Rich Young Ruler’s refusal to sell all he had and follow Jesus

 

as a failure to be saved.

 

This is confirmed by the fact that the disciples have done what the rich man failed to do.

 

They have followed Jesus [Matt. 19:27 pars.] and so are promised eternal life [Matt. 19:29 pars.].

 

It is quite clear from these passages that to become a follower or disciple of Jesus

 

is at the same time to become a believer in Jesus.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Those who follow Jesus are promised eternal life;

 

those who don’t follow Jesus do not possess eternal life,

 

even though they may claim to believe in Christ.

 

In ‘Conversion and Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“Carnal Christians can assume they are forgiven

 

and that discipleship is optional.

 

This is a form of cheap grace, or as Bonhoeffer put it, the death of discipleship.

 

Carnal Christians make much of the forgiveness of sin.

 

In fact, they love to hear that their sins are forgiven and see this as the defining reality of being a Christian.

 

But forgiveness detached from repentance and the call to follow Christ

 

is not the gospel.

 

… This is why we must include the call to discipleship

 

in our proclamation of the gospel.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

The forgiveness of sins without repentance and the call to follow Christ

 

is precisely what Joseph Prince preaches.

 

Such a gospel, which is divorced from discipleship

 

that Joseph Prince promotes

 

is a false gospel that doesn’t save.

 

In ‘Conversion and Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“When Christ calls us,

 

he saves us when we get up on our feet and follow him.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

If salvation does not take place when Christ calls a person to follow Him and he obeys,

 

then the authority of Christ Himself is at stake.

 

In ‘Conversion and Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“Some believe you can have conversion without discipleship.

 

I believe that the proof of conversion is discipleship.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

If discipleship isn’t the evidence of conversion,

 

then Jesus’ command to make disciples in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20

 

is only an empty call.

 

In ‘Conversion and Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“THE FORGIVENESS ONLY GOSPEL

 

The most common gospel preached today focuses almost exclusively on forgiveness.

 

The forgiveness gospel is quite popular because it is simple, explains the basic requirements for getting your sins forgiven and gaining entrance into heaven, and is easy to publish on fliers, brochures, and booklets.

 

The forgiveness gospel tends to equate faith with agreement to a set of religious facts.

 

This decision to agree is typically followed by a prayer or some other protocol,

 

after which a person is proclaimed a Christian forever more.

 

What is wrong with this, you might ask?

 

The primary weakness of the forgiveness gospel is what it doesn’t mention.

 

Often this gospel covers the important topics of forgiveness and grace.

 

But makes no mention of repentance,

 

gives no invitation to follow Jesus,

 

and does not discuss obedience to Jesus

 

that Scripture teaches

 

is required for a life of discipleship.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

The forgiveness gospel, which is accepted by faith or believing

 

without repentance and commitment to a life of discipleship,

 

which is a false gospel,

 

is taught by none other than Joseph Prince himself.

 

In ‘Conversion and Discipleship,’

 

Bill Hull wrote:

 

“As Dallas Willard adds,

 

“For some time now, the belief required to be saved has increasingly been regarded as a totally private act, ‘just between you and the Lord.’”

 

This gospel preaches a Christ who exists for our benefit alone.

 

His only work is to redeem humankind

 

without requiring any further obligation from them.

 

This understanding tends to foster what some have called “vampire Christians.”

 

They only want a little blood from Jesus for their sins

 

but want nothing more to do with him until heaven.

 

By its nature, this gospel cuts off any ongoing life in Christ

 

because it creates a person who has confidence in heaven

 

but no stake in living for Christ now.

 

Tragically, when so-called Christians like this stand at heaven’s gate

 

declaring by the gospel there is no reason to keep them out,

 

they may find there is no reason to let them in (Matt. 7:22–24ff).”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Those who just say the sinner’s prayer

 

but do it without any obligation to do God’s will,

 

will find themselves locked out of heaven’s gate:

 

Matthew 7:21 NIV

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 

 

In “The Cost of Discipleship,’

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

 

“The only person who can be justified by grace alone

 

is the man who has left all to follow Christ.

 

Such a man knows that the call to discipleship

 

is a gift of grace

 

and that the call is inseparable from grace.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

If the call to follow is from Christ Himself,

 

then the call ought to be out of grace

 

as He Himself in the author of grace. 

 

In “The Cost of Discipleship,’

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

 

“Christianity without discipleship

 

is always Christianity without Christ.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

If Christianity can be embraced without discipleship,

 

then it makes that which is the core teaching and heartbeat of Christ in the gospels

 

to be almost a joke.

 

Julius R. Mantey Professor in New Testament, Northern Seminary,

 

Scot McKnight wrote:

 

“What I heard was that you can have the one without the others

 

– that you can be saved and not be a disciple.

 

I was young and I was enthusiastic,

 

but I smelled a theological rat in that claim.

 

… You can’t have one (salvation or conversion)

 

without the other (discipleship).”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

If one can have salvation without discipleship

 

that Joseph Prince is rooting for,

 

then all the efforts and time that Christ spent

 

in teaching about discipleship in the gospels

 

go down the drain.

 

Julius R. Mantey Professor in New Testament, Northern Seminary

 

Scot McKnight wrote:

 

“The “first day” with Jesus, if we begin with Mark,

 

is a lesson in succinctness:

 

repent, believe, gospel, kingdom.

 

Put them into a single bag of ideas

 

and you get discipleship.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Discipleship is indeed the concomitant outflow and concrete evidence

 

of true salvation.

 

Julius R. Mantey Professor in New Testament, Northern Seminary

 

Scot McKnight wrote:

 

“I meet pastor after pastor who tells me the same thing:

 

too many in the churches are fully satisfied with less than being fully devoted to Christ,

 

and they bank on grace and goodness and unconditional love.

 

But the God of grace, the God of goodness, and the God of unconditional love

 

became incarnate in the one

 

who calls us to repent, to believe, to embrace the gospel,

 

and to fall head over heels in love

 

with the King of the kingdom, Jesus. …”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Joseph Prince’s half-truth gospel of God’s love and His goodness 

 

without also mentioning the other half of the truth about repentance

 

is a half-gospel;

 

and a half-gospel is a false gospel. 

 

In ‘The Cross of Christ,’

 

John Stott wrote:

 

“First, the call to self-denial.

 

The invitation of Jesus is plain:

 

‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34).

 

Jesus has just for the first time clearly predicted his sufferings and death.

 

It ‘must’ happen to him, he says (v. 31).

 

But now he expresses implicitly a ‘must’ for his followers as well.

 

He must go to the cross;

 

they must take up their cross and follow him.

 

Indeed, they must do it ‘daily’.

 

And, as the negative counterpart,

 

if anybody does not take his cross and follow him,

 

he is not worthy of him and cannot be his disciple. (Luke 9:23; Matt. 10:38; Luke 14:27.)”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Taking up the cross to follow Him in self-denial

 

is a non-negotiable for every disciple or Christian.

 

Christ Himself said that anyone who chooses not to

 

cannot be His disciple or a Christian.

 

In ‘The Incomparable Christ,’

 

John Stott wrote;

 

“For example, in Luke 14:25-33 Jesus laid down three conditions

 

without which a would-be follower, he said, ‘cannot be my disciple’.

 

First, he must ‘hate’ his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters.

 

Secondly, he must ‘carry his cross’ and follow Christ.

 

Thirdly, he must ‘give up everything he has’.

 

Now we certainly have no freedom to water down this strong gospel medicine.

 

… The cost of discipleship involves putting Christ first in everything,

 

before even our relatives, our ambitions and our possessions.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

John Stott said that we have no freedom to water down the gospel

 

by, perhaps, the failure to mention the 3 above conditions of discipleship.

 

This means that anyone, such as Joseph Prince, who constantly does that

 

isn’t preaching the true gospel. 

 

In ‘Christian Mission in the Modern World,’

 

John Stott wrote:

 

“But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ

 

as Saviour and Lord,

 

with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God.

 

In issuing the gospel invitation

 

we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship.

 

Jesus still calls all who would follow him

 

to deny themselves, take up their cross,

 

and identify themselves with his new community.

 

The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ…”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

According to John Stott,

 

no one has the right to conceal the cost of discipleship

 

about denying oneself and following Christ

 

in the preaching of the gospel

 

– which Joseph Prince does with reckless abandon.

 

In ‘Christian Mission in the Modern World,’

 

John Stott wrote:

 

“What is needed in preaching repentance today is both integrity and realism.

 

In all our evangelism there must be integrity.

 

Our anxiety to win converts

 

sometimes induces us to mute the call to repentance.

 

But deliberately to conceal this aspect of our message

 

is as dishonest as it is short-sighted.

 

Jesus himself never glossed over the cost of discipleship, but rather summoned would-be disciples

 

to “sit down first and count the cost,”

 

for he was requiring them if they were to follow him to deny themselves, take up their cross and die.

 

Any kind of slick “decisionism” which sacrifices honesty on the altar of statistics

 

is bound to cause other casualties as well, the victims of our own folly.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

John Stott said that any preacher who doesn’t preach on repentance

 

and highlight the cost of discipleship as Christ did

 

in gospel preaching

 

which is what Joseph Prince does in broad daylight,

 

is dishonest.

 

A dishonest preacher is no true gospel preacher.

 

In ‘Evangelical Truth,’

 

John Stott wrote:

 

“Now Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.

 

If then we are carrying a cross and following Christ, there is only one place to which we can be going, namely to death.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor, who himself died in a concentration camp in April 1945, wrote in his justly famous book The Cost of Discipleship,

 

‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.’

 

Thus cross-bearing and crucifixion were Jesus’ dramatic images of self-denial.

 

They come into direct collision with the human potential movement, to which I have already referred,

 

with its teaching about self-actualization and self-esteem, and indeed with every form of self-centredness.

 

To be sure, Jesus did teach that his followers would find themselves and fulfil themselves.

 

But he added that the only road to self-discovery is self-denial,

 

the only way to find ourselves is to lose ourselves,

 

and the only way to live is to die to our own self-centrednesss.

 

This teaching is extremely important today,

 

because the church has a constant tendency to trivialize Christian discipleship.

 

People think of it as if it means nothing more than becoming a bit religious, and adding a thin layer of piety to an otherwise secular life.

 

Then scratch the surface or prick the veneer, and underneath there is the same old pagan.

 

Nothing fundamental has changed.

 

But no!

 

Becoming and being a Christian

 

involves a change so radical

 

that no imagery can do it justice

 

but death and resurrection with Christ,

 

namely dying to the old life of self-indulgence and self-will,

 

and rising to a new life of self-control and self-giving,

 

in which the world has been crucified to us and we have been crucified to the world.

 

We glory in the cross for our discipleship.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Not only does Joseph Prince trivialise discipleship, but he also preaches against it.

 

If Joseph Prince preaches against that which Christ holds dear to,

 

it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be convinced that he is a false prophet.

 

In ‘Evangelical Truth,’

 

John Stott wrote:

 

“Evangelizing without discipling,

 

or revival without radical obedience to the commands of Christ,

 

are not just deficient;

 

they are dangerous.

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

What John Stott had highlighted

 

about evangelising without discipling

 

which is not only deficient but also dangerous,

 

is precisely what Joseph Prince is guilty of.

 

In ‘What Jesus Demands from the World,’

 

John Piper wrote:

 

“Dare He Make Demands of the Whole World?

 

The other word in the title

 

that sounds provocative is “world”

 

– What Jesus Demands from the World.

 

Two objections arise.

 

One is: Did he make demands on the whole world?

 

The other is: Dare he make demands on the whole world?

 

One may ask, did Jesus give all these demands to the world,

 

or did he give them only to his disciples?

 

Is this an ethic for the world

 

or just for the followers of Jesus?

 

The answer is:

 

The demands he gave only to his disciples

 

are also meant for the world

 

because he demands all people everywhere

 

to become his disciples.

 

That is the point of his final command:

 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

 

Jesus dares to lay claim to “all nations”

 

– all ethnic groups on the planet. 

 

No exceptions.

 

Jesus is not a tribal deity.

 

All authority in the universe is his,

 

and all creation owes its allegiance to him.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

When Jesus commanded,

 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matt 28:19)

 

He is also referring to making believers or Christians

 

as you can only baptise believers or Christians.

 

Hence, the call to discipleship is a call for everyone,

 

who wants to believe in Christ.

 

This simply means if you aren’t a disciple,

 

you aren’t a Christian.

 

So, how can Joseph Prince, who teaches against discipleship

 

be a Christian?

 

In ‘For the Love of God,’

 

DA Carson wrote:

 

“In any case, a fundamental principle is at stake:

 

This is the way Christians view things;

 

indeed, it is bound up with being a Christian.

 

“Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (10:38-39).”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

DA Carson said that the act of taking up the cross and following Jesus

 

is tied to being a Christian and what a Christian should be doing.

 

This means Joseph Prince, who teaches against the costly discipleship of Jesus and the act following Jesus,

 

isn’t a Christian to begin with. 

 

In ‘For the Love of God,’

 

DA Carson wrote:

 

“But there was more to come.

 

Not only did Jesus insist that he himself was going to suffer and die and rise again,

 

but he also insisted that each of his followers

 

“must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (8:34).

 

To a first-century ear, such language was shocking.

 

“To take up your cross”

 

did not mean putting up with a toothache, job loss, or personal disability.

 

Crucifixion was universally viewed as the most barbaric of Roman forms of execution, scarcely to be mentioned in polite company.

 

The condemned criminal “picked up his cross,” i.e., picked up the cross-member and carried it to the place of execution.

 

If it was your lot to pick up your cross, there was no hope for you.

 

There was only an ignominious and excruciating death.

 

Yet that is the language Jesus uses.

 

For what all of his disciples must learn is that to be a follower of Jesus

 

entails a painful renunciation of self-interest and a wholehearted turn to Jesus’ interests.

 

Yet Jesus’ blunt language is not an invitation to spiritual masochism, but to life and bounty.

 

For it is an infallible rule of the kingdom that self-focus issues in death,

 

while “whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (8:35).”

 

Only for a few will this commitment entail loss of physical life; for all of us it means death to self, discipleship to Jesus.

 

And that includes a glad confession of Jesus, and principled refusal to be ashamed of Jesus and his words in this adulterous and sinful generation (8:38).”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

Jesus didn’t seek to use nicer language

 

to communicate His high demands to those who wish to follow Him.

 

This is because He is well aware that those who are truly His

 

will persevere to the end in glory.

 

In ‘Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount And His Confrontation with the World,’

 

DA Carson wrote:

 

“Indeed, Christian conversion brings the new convert into conflict

 

not only with the institutions of which he is a part,

 

but with himself.

 

For Jesus goes on to say, “… and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (10:38-39).

 

The cross we are called to bear is not an individual affliction:

 

migraine headaches, a bad marriage, difficult financial circumstances, a wayward child

 

– all of them criticized under the frequently heard lament, “We all have our crosses to bear.”

 

We may all have individual burdens and difficulties to undergo;

 

but that is not Jesus’s point.

 

Christians all have the same cross to bear:

 

death to self-interest.

 

In the Roman world, the person who picked up the cross-member and lugged it out to the place of execution had come to the end of hope.

 

Only death was left.

 

It was futile to plot new schemes larded with self-interest.

 

And that is what Jesus means:

 

he is talking about principal death to self-interest,

 

and a new and principal commitment to himself.

 

The church needs to hear and proclaim this message afresh.

 

Today, we are bombarded with endless pseudo-Christian books to help us to become happy, content, resourceful, spiritual, successful, effective, creative.

 

Even when these works convey considerable insight, the basic appeal

 

is far too often, and far too deeply, to self-interest, covered over with the garnish of “spiritual” language.

 

The core truth is far simpler:

 

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (10:39).

 

That is why this message is not full of gloom.

 

The point is that, precisely because we were made for God, pursuit of self-interest is ultimately death-dealing;

 

and for the same reason, when self-interest dies for Jesus’s sake

 

and is replaced by enthusiastic loyalty to him,

 

the greatest spiritual irony occurs and we “find” ourselves again.

 

That is why the happiest, most “fulfilled” Christians are not those who know the most, or who criticize the most, or who analyze the most,

 

but those who with right motives serve the most.

 

If you seek fulfillment, you will not find it;

 

if you seek to serve Christ, often in the countless loving deeds to others that are universally unacknowledged except in the ledgers of heaven,

 

you will find yourself.”

 

George Ong’s comments:

 

When DA Carson said:

 

“Indeed, Christian conversion brings the new convert in