The Cost of Discipleship

This past week, our church finished our series titled “Core Values”, where we have been looking at core values that we believe God has called us as Christians, and as a church to hold. I made the statement at the beginning of our series that, “our values shape our lives.” For example, if we value money, we will do everything in our power to achieve financial success. We may work more, beg for more, and scheme more to make more. Happiness alludes us if we are broke or if we find ourselves lacking in the financial department of life.

Our world is constantly pushing us to live for ourselves. We’re told to “do what makes you happy.” We are taught by various mediums to live for ourselves (no one is allowed to dictate how we live). However, we believe that God has given us things that we ought to hold dear, which will go against the narrative being pushed by our culture. Therefore, we have taken the first few weeks of 2019 to look at what God has called us to value as a church and as His people.

This past Sunday we looked at a familiar text in Luke 14:25-35 that is often labeled as “The Cost of Discipleship.” We see Jesus taking the time to teach on an extremely timely topic. He states,

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 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? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

In this text, we see Jesus telling those that are following Him that they must count the cost of aligning themselves with Him. He gives them a few essential foundations of following Him with our lives.

We must ‘hate’ our families (v.26) 

This might seem like an odd way for Jesus to begin teaching. Did Jesus really mean that we must hate our families if we wish to follow after Him? Was it not Jesus that said we must love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27)? Was it not Jesus that said we must love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us (Matt. 5:44)? What did Jesus mean? Is Jesus contradicting Himself here in this passage?

The answer to this question is absolutely not. We can easily reconcile what Jesus is saying in this moment with another portion of His teaching where He says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matt. 10:37).” What Jesus meant in Luke 14:26 is that our love for Jesus must be higher than our love for our families and loved ones. Our love for Jesus must go higher than our devotion to anyone or anything else. He is our Lord and demands absolute unadulterated commitment to Him as such.

Therefore, we are to follow/obey Him even if that means being in direct defiance with others. For example, wives are called to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5), however that submission must cease if the husband calls them to do something that violates the Word of God. Children are also called to obey/honor their parents (Eph. 6). Again, children must righteously disobey their parents if their parents are calling them to do something that violates their allegiance to Christ. We are also called to be subject to our national leaders (Rom. 13). However, that subjection ceases if they call us to renounce our faith in any way. Even if the government were to pass a law that Christians are no longer allowed to gather together on the Lord’s Day to worship, we must not heed their leadership, because in so doing, we would be in violation of God’s command (Heb. 10:24-25).

We must ask ourselves when we read this passage, is our devotion to Christ higher than our devotion to others? Do we love others more than we love Christ? Do we put our families above the ways of the Lord? Do we neglect to have our children in service at church for the sake of their extracurricular activities? Do we long to be with our families more than we long to be with the Lord? Are we more passionate about spending time with our children than we are in spending time in the Word of God? Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that extracurriculars or time with loved ones are bad; they just make crummy gods. Where is your allegiance this day?

 We must hate our own lives (v.26) 

This is a similar statement as Jesus made earlier. Our love for Jesus must go above our love for our own lives. This is the basic call to follow Jesus. We see Him repeatedly telling those that would desire to follow after Him “Deny yourselves and follow me.” Self-denial is a gateway into the path of following Christ. We cannot have room for Jesus if we are full of ourselves.

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that is the end of our self-rule. It’s no longer about what we want or desire. We now begin to submit our lives to His governing over our lives. We can go through Scripture and see great examples of this, but a beautiful picture is that of the life of Jonah. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach to those wicked people. However, Jonah, following after His own heart, desired to be disobedient to the call of God.

When Christ calls us to follow Him, He calls us bid farewell to our heart’s desires. Our desire for self-preservation must not be higher than our self-renunciation. Christ calls us to make disciples (Matt. 10:28). If we fail to be obedient to this command because we are fearful of others’ rejection, not knowing what to say, or the potential of disrupting the harmony we have in our families, we are demonstrating that we are serving ourselves and not God. If we fail to forgive and love others (Matt. 5:44) because of the bitterness that is rooted in our hearts due to the hurt that others have caused us, then we are demonstrating that we are serving ourselves and not following the way of Christ.

Are we devoted to our self-preservation today more than we are devoted to following Christ? If so, we must repent of our self-idolatry and renounce ourselves. We must be a people that not only claim the Lordship of Christ, but live as if that’s a real reality in our lives.

We Must Count the Cost (vv.28-32) 

Jesus continues His teaching by painting the picture of two different scenarios. Both of them contain the same meaning: we must consider what it is that we are about to do. Those that desire to build will not first sit down and consider whether or not they have enough money to complete the project. In the same way, an army of 10,000 will not first sit down and decide whether they are able to go against an army consisting of 20,000. Yet, how often do others carelessly decide to follow after Christ without first considering what it will cost them.

I think of it like this: weddings are a great time of celebration in our culture today. Brides get take the time to diligently plan their wedding day. They spend time researching the perfect venue, looking for the best dress, ordering the right food, getting the guest list perfect (even though someone is always left out!), and picking the music. However, the wedding day is only a minor detail. How often do we spend so much of our time looking forward to the wedding day that we neglect the thought of marriage. There is more to marriage than the day of celebration. Marriage is difficult and sometimes exhausting. Yet, how much more detail typically goes into the planning of the wedding celebration?

In the same way, we lift high the day of salvation at the neglect of a life of discipleship. We have done ourselves and others a disservice if we fail to understand that discipleship is a life-long, exhausting, and difficult (yet glorious) endeavor. We must count the cost. Others may persecute us, we may be imprisoned for our faith, killed for our faith, or rejected by others for our faith. Jesus wants us to count the cost.

Now hear me on this. Jesus is not calling us to count the cost and to think to ourselves, “That’s right. It is difficult. This is not for me. I’m going to walk away.” That’s not the point, Jesus wants us to count the cost so that we will not fall away when life gets tough. As Thabiti Anyabwile says, “the point is not to count the costs and turn away if it’s too costly; it is to count the costs and embrace them because it is worth it.”

Have we counted the cost of following Christ? Have we understood that following Jesus does not mean that we will have a life of ease? Have we understood that following Him may mean difficulty, but will bring great reward in the end? Are we willing to follow Him?

The Engine of our Discipleship

I don’t want to leave you reading this post and thinking, “I have to do more. I have to love Jesus more. It’s on me.” What motivates this sort of allegiance? Is it not the gospel of Jesus Christ that motivates us and sustains us to follow after Him? Is not the understanding that there is a Holy and Righteous God that has as high a hatred for sin as His love for His Son? Is it not the fact that we are all worthy of being found guilty of God’s wrath and judgment? Yet, God in His great mercy poured out His grace, love, mercy, and kindness to sinners at the expense of crushing His Son?

We were dead in our sins. We all had turned our back on Him, yet God in His great love for His people, sent His Son Jesus Christ to take our place. Jesus died in our place. He secured the eternal redemption of His people. He bore the wrath of God that should have been reserved for us. When we rightly understand the truth of the gospel, we will be properly equipped to follow after Jesus.

Let us echo the words of Ignatius of Antioch when he said, “Now I begin to be a disciple… Let fire and cross, flocks of beasts, broken bones, dismemberment…come upon me, so long as I attain to Christ.” Let us echo the words of Peter and John before the leaders of their day, as they were being commanded to stop speaking of Jesus, said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).”

Have we counted the cost today? Have we considered what it might cost us to follow Christ? Do we possess this sort of unadulterated commitment to Him? The call to discipleship is a costly one, but it’s one that when truly followed, brings the greatest joy.

Soli Deo Gloria

Josh Chambers

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