The Cost of Discipleship: Are You a Fan or a Follower?
Sunday, April 8, 2018
Winter/Spring Sermon Series: Experiencing God For Such a Time as This
“The Cost of Discipleship”
When the dinner was over Jesus resumed his journey to Jerusalem. In verse twenty-five we see that when Jesus left the Pharisee’s home in which he had been invited to dinner a large crowd followed him. “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them” Jesus’ public ministry attracted such a large following that it was hard for him to get away from the crowds long enough to catch his breath. But among the crowds were many who were attracted by many different interests. “Physically, these people are on their way to Jerusalem in Jesus’ entourage. But there is a suggestion that they are merely ‘going along’ with Him spiritually as well. They held certain beliefs about Him, but it is not clear that they truly believe in Him.” [Gary Inrig. The Parables: Understanding What Jesus Meant.” (Discovery House) p. 82]
Jesus knew that most of this crowd was not in the least bit interested in spiritual things. They were like many people today, willing to follow Jesus as long as the cost is not too high or the demands too great. They were just like some people today who look to Jesus to solve their money problems, family problems or health problems but who quickly grow disillusioned and unwilling to follow the Lord if following Jesus does not solve those problems or if following requires sacrifices on their part.
It would seem that Jesus was never impressed by the size of the crowd, by sheer numbers. For Jesus now turns to this crowd of mixed spiritual commitment and speaks of “The Cost of Discipleship.” His words that seem deliberately aimed at thinning their ranks. The demands are stated in the phrase that reoccurs three times (v. 26, 27, 33) in this text, “… he cannot be my disciple… he cannot be my disciple… [he] cannot be my disciple.”
The Cost of Discipleship are found in this text beginning in verse twenty-six.
1. We must love Jesus Christ more than personal relationships (v. 26a)
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, …he cannot be My disciple.”
His language about hate is shocking as He intended it to be. To understand his statement, we need to understand Jesus often used startling and penetrating paradox to make his point. Jesus wanted his listeners to have to think about the stringent demands that He is making.
The clear teaching of scripture is that we are to honor our father and mother (Mark 7:9-13), and that men are to love their wives as Jesus loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). What Jesus is saying in a paradoxical fashion is that our love for Him must be so great and so pervasive that our natural love of self and family pales in comparison. We are to love him supremely.
Jesus grabs believers out of “la-la land” and He demands that we examine our lives and ask some hard questions. “Do you think you are a Christian? Well then do you love me more than you do anything else? Do you love me so much that your love for family seems like hatred by comparison? Otherwise don’t pretend to be a follower of mine!” Jesus’ words still have the power to astonish us.
Jesus is saying that our love for Him must outshine all other loves, even the love we feel for our families. His statement in Matthew 10:37, “He who loves his family or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
The choices of discipleship are not always easy. Sometimes a decision for Jesus will put us at odds with someone we love. Sometimes a decision for Jesus means refusing to offer support to a family member for a decision that may be immoral in God’s eyes.
But understand with me that Jesus is not merely talking about emotional feelings toward him but rather he is speaking of our level of commitment. If following obediently Jesus causes problems or means complications with your closest relationships, will you still follow?
Discipleship not only deals with personal relationships but with personal goals.
2. We Must Love Jesus Christ More Than Personal Preferences (v 26b)
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
We must not only be committed to Jesus more than to our loved one, but we must also be committed to him above even “our own life.” We must be willing to commit to Jesus our personal desires, goals, interests and even needs.
We Must Love Jesus Christ More Than Personal Preferences and He goes on to say in verse twenty-seven,
3. We Must be Willing to Carry Our Own Cross – (Vs. 27)
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
To many of those who heard Jesus’ words, his requirements for discipleship seemed too strict and demanding. Their natural response would have wonder why. Why does discipleship have to be so tough?
Here Jesus evoked an image familiar to everyone present – the image of a convicted criminal stumbling to their deaths carrying the very instrument of that death, a cross. The cross was not an implement of irritation or inconvenience it was an implement of death. Everyone knew that this person was saying “goodbye” to everything. There would be no turning or coming back. This image undoubtedly sent a shudder of fear through his listeners.
What does the phrase “carry the cross” mean? Jesus is telling his disciples that we must put to death that part of ourselves that resists Him, the part that wants to have life our own way.
It means death to self, to our own plans and ambitions and a willingness to serve Him as he directs.
Jesus’ calls believers to follow Him in the way contrary to what we would desire. We will be rejected and suffer just like He will. A disciple will be rejected by those in the world who do not honor Christ. Therefore, a disciple must be ready to face and accept such rejection.
4. We Must Consider the Cost – (Vs. 28-32)
Jesus uses two stories (parables) to explain his meaning about the cost of disciple-ship. In vs. 28-30, he explains, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.”
This first story tells of a careless builder. Almost all of us have seen some building project begun but never finished. “The wise builder, the Lord suggests, will estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to compete it. He will make a careful evaluation of the costs, risks and resources. Otherwise, the unfinished structure will be visible evidence of impulsive commitment and his failure will expose him to ridicule…
Discipleship is not a casual or an occasional activity. …Discipleship is an exciting adventure. But it is also a draining and demanding lifestyle. Warfare may look thrilling in the movies, it looks very different from the trenches.” [Inrig. pp. 87-88]
But for every person who leaps without looking there are a dozen or more that never leap at all. Most people do not have as much difficulty with impulsiveness in the spiritual realm as they do inactivity. It is the first step that is the hardest. The step of making a decision is the hardest. Our hearts may be warm but often our feet grow cold. Jesus knew that impulsiveness was a problem for only a few.
But many are hindered by their unwillingness to make a commitment and it is to them Jesus tells the next story beginning in vs. 31-32, "Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus is saying that disciples should not engage in something without the resources necessary to complete the task. Absolute commitment to follow Christ is necessary to be His disciple.
5. We must love Jesus Christ more than personal resources (v. 33)
"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
The NKJV rendering of this verse is, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he cannot be My disciple.”
Does Jesus mean this literally, do we have to get rid everything and take a vow of poverty in order to become a Christian? What does he mean?
When money or the things that money can buy makes us hesitant about following what we feel the Lord is calling us to do, then we are disciples of those things not disciples of Jesus. There is an absolute contrast between the things of this world and the kingdom of God.
One test of discipleship is what are we doing with our resources. Regardless of our income, if we are not giving regularly and generously we are not living like disciples of Jesus.
6. Count the Cost of Not Becoming A Disciple. (vv. 34-35)
While it’s foolish to begin without counting the cost, it is disastrous to delay one’s choice without considering the consequences. Not only do we need to count the cost of becoming a disciple we need to count the cost of not becoming a disciple. To decide to not decide is not an option. Every follower of Jesus is invited to weigh the risks, make his choice and live with the consequences.
In order to show the cost of not following Him he said, in verse thirty-four, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus is saying that people who follow him without total commitment are like salt that has lost its strength or usefulness. They may have the appearance of being His disciples, but they cannot be used in the kingdom as they should.
Without commitment, the Christian is tasteless salt, useless to achieve God’s purposes. Jesus is referring to those who only give part of their lives to Him. They will commit to following Jesus one day a week but certainly not seven. They will commit following Jesus in their marriage but not in their finances. This half-hearted commitment will not work in the same way that salt that has lost its taste is of no use.
Jesus’ words are tough and sobering. It forces us to ask ourselves some tough questions.
Is there any relationship that comes ahead of Christ in your life? If He is first, then you obviously will not allow any other relationship to draw you away from obedience to Him.
Is He the Lord of your plans, your thoughts, and all that you do? Or are you clinging your plans, living life your way, instead of trying to please Him with your every thought, word and deed?
Is the Lord of your finances and possessions? Are you faithful in managing those things for His purposes? Do you give generously and liberally to His work?
Life is full of choices, some are important, and some are not. There are choices that are not to be made impulsively, but after much prayer and soul searching. For every time you choose one alternative you cut yourself off from others.