Years ago, I heard this phrase in my spirit, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you everything.” This statement is true as Jesus told all who desires to follow Him to “lose their lives for His sake, deny themselves, and take up their cross daily.” (Matt 10:38-39, 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23-24)

Becoming a disciple of Jesus means having a kingdom (sacrificial) mindset over a personal (selfish) mindset. To live with “kingdom vision” is a choice that we must make every day of our lives. This is why Jesus taught that it is a “daily” practice.

In my own life, I have experienced some of the reality of the cost of discipleship. I have surrendered, sacrificed, and died over and over. (More than I can count!) It has been humbling, embarrassing at times, illogical, irrational, and crazy, just to mention a few accurate descriptions.

But the rewards that Jesus gives to the devoted disciple are much greater than the costs. The greatest reward is Himself–a deep, intimate closeness with the Son of God. Another immense reward is joy, as in His presence there is “fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) These two blessings alone are more valuable and precious than all the riches of this world.

However, for many of us who have been disciples for some times, we have yet to experience the deep, joyous intimacy with our Lord. For some, seasons of brokenness have not bore the fruit of intimacy. Why? There can be many reasons and root issues for this barrenness; I will just offer a couple insights here.

One is that in our modern Christian culture, we may have viewed discipleship merely as acquiring knowledge about God and learning about “living the Christian life.” We may have focused solely on the “educational” aspect of discipleship, feeding our minds with spiritual information through Sunday schools, Bible studies, and theological classes, and not focusing on the “following” mandate of discipleship–going where He leads and doing what He tells us to do, which requires hearing Him and taking steps of faith in obedience.

(Have you realized that God rarely tells us to do things that we can do by our own strengths and abilities? God always tell us to do the impossible, because it requires faith on our part, and because He is the God of the impossible.)

Attaining great knowledge about God, and even wisdom, may not lead us closer to God, and out of a sinful lifestyle. King Solomon’s life is a witness to this truth.

Second, we may also have focused primarily on the “servanthood” aspect of discipleship, and threw ourselves into serving and sacrificing in our local churches, much like Martha (Luke 10:38-41), and neglected the “sitting and listening to Jesus” part of discipleship. We may have sacrificed without obedience, seeking to please God and earn God’s approval through continual sacrifice of our time, energy, and resources, without finding out what it is that God really wants from us.

To serve and sacrifice with good intentions, outside the will of God, will eventually lead to burnout and hopefully brokenness. Brokenness is always an invitation from God for us to draw nearer to Him, to heal, to learn from our mistakes, and be restored to deeper intimacy with Him.

It is necessary that we apply ourselves as students of His Word, but for many of us, we have been poor followers of His voice. It is essential that we serve and sacrifice wholeheartedly, but many of us have not found the time to sit daily at Jesus’ feet with undivided attention, as lovers who just want to be in the presence of our Beloved. We have to focus more on being followers and “sitters,” and not just students and servants.

When we cultivate and sharpen our disciplines of following and sitting, we will find that our joy and intimacy with God increases. It may not be an observable increase at first, but over time, we will find that we are much closer to the Lord than before.

In the past weeks, I have been hearing a new phrase in my spirit, “Salvation is free, but intimacy will cost you everything.” Let us not seek to become disciples without seeking intimacy with Him as well.