Are We Willing to Count the Cost?
Discipleship Lesson #05
August 26, 2018
“Our Father, again we express our gratitude to You for all that You are, all that You have done for us, all that You have provided for us. Father, we come now to the time when we pay attention to Your Word.
“When we think about what You have had recorded for us down through the centuries, that this is that which is most important, that this is our spiritual food, this is that which nourishes our soul, our lives. It is what makes the experiences that we have in this physical life, physical world, have meaning and significance.
“It is that which enriches everything that we do, whether we encounter the fiery trial, or whether we are experiencing the joyful goodness of the life You’ve provided for us.
“Father, we pray now that we will come to understand the challenge that is embedded in Jesus’ words as He calls upon each and every believer to follow Him. This is not the call for salvation, but the call to grow spiritually, the challenge to mature and to put our priorities in order.
“We pray that You would help each of us, as we evaluate our lives in light of Your Word, that we may come to understand clearly what it is that You expect of us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Last week we began to look at the question, “Are we willing to be obedient?” as part of our study of discipleship. This week the passage that we’re studying builds off of the passage from last week; it talks about counting the cost. Last week we finished by looking at four different circumstances where the individuals were distracted by various aspects of life, and they weren’t really ready to follow Jesus. Ultimately, they didn’t want to count the cost. Counting the cost is really an idiom for paying the price.
It’s not just thinking about the responsibilities entailed and what it’s going to involve, but are we willing to do that? Each of these lessons that we’re going through on discipleship really are helping us to understand the significance of this challenge that Jesus brings—not to just the Twelve, but to those who have trusted in Him as Messiah—to follow Him.
That’s the question we need to ask and as we see from our study, something that we should ask ourselves not just everyday but maybe several times during the day.
Sometimes we will come to this question when we are young. Sometimes we will come to this question when we’re a little bit older. When we come to this question, it’s not just a one-shot decision.
I think this was typical in certain revivalist methodologies where if you’re not walking the aisle to give your life to Jesus or surrender to Jesus—as some sort of wrong way of expressing the gospel—then the challenge was to follow Jesus.
In worst-case scenarios there were a lot of other reasons that were given, but in the best case the point was that there comes a time as we are growing as a believer, after we’ve trusted in Christ as Savior, that we recognize that this is serious.
Someone once put it this way as they were sitting in Bible class after a while that when they heard the term “positive volition” that that really meant, are you willing to commit yourself to follow Christ, to the Word of God, to the study of God’s Word?
That has to do not with getting into Heaven when we die, but it has to do with our spiritual life, our spiritual growth, and the degree to which we will glorify God at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Are we willing to count the cost?
“Disciple” is a term that simply means a learner, a pupil, a disciple, or a student. As we go through life, it’s not really that one-shot decision that people would make when they walk an aisle, but at some point we do make a decision and say, “You know, this is right. I need to be a little more serious about my spiritual life. It has consequences, not just for today, but for eternity.”
I think that in many people’s experience—not everyone, everybody’s different—we do reach that point. But it’s not this one-shot decision that has been communicated in some theological frameworks. It’s just the beginning of that kind of decision, because then afterwards we have to reaffirm it in our own soul day in and day out as we go forward.
When the word “disciple” is used in Scripture, it refers to:
- Those who are called, but they don’t believe. People like Judas Iscariot.
- Others are called and they believe, but it doesn’t go any further than that.
- Others are called and they follow intermittently, but they’re not convinced to continue. They follow for a while; they fall away. Some people follow intermittently before they finally grow up to a point where it becomes something more consistent.
- Others, as they grow, reach a point where they become comfortable and complacent in their spiritual life. They think that they’ve learned enough. Then they just fall by the wayside, and get distracted by the cares of life.
I always find that interesting because when we look at eternity, we know that God is omniscient and He knows everything. We will never be omniscient. When we get to Heaven we’re still going to be learning about God.
When people in this life reach a point and say, “Well, I know enough,” that’s really bordering on blasphemy. Because you’re going to be learning for the next 10 billion years squared and beyond! That’s just the beginning, and it’s going to be fascinating to learn all the things we really don’t know—and how much more there is to learn about God’s creation!
So if we make it into eternity by trusting in Christ, we have to recognize that it’s a learning experience. Heaven isn’t sitting somewhere strumming on harps, floating on a cloud; we’re going to be doing a lot. We can’t even imagine it, and that’s why Scripture says so little about it. The issue for us is to begin now and to develop those capacities as we go forward.
The basic command that Jesus gives is to follow Him. We’re told that the disciples began to follow Him. Jesus calling those 12 men was a methodology that was unique to what He was going to do with those 12 men.
This small group framework, which is so popular today—I mean, it’s just been blown out of proportion. It’s like if you don’t do that, what kind of church are you? Well if you DO do that, what is your biblical pattern? Don’t go to Jesus and the disciples because that’s a one-of-a-kind situation.
This whole thing follows all kinds of different patterns, but they’re not biblical. It’s not what you see in Acts, and it’s not what you see repeated again in the epistles. You don’t even find the word disciple again after Acts; you don’t find it in any of the epistles. People do get relatively confused about what it means to follow Jesus, especially today.
Just think about this illustration: Jesus says, “Follow Me,” and the young man says, “On Facebook?” “No,” Jesus says, “I literally want you to follow Me.” “Oh! Twitter!” “No, no, no. Okay, I’m going to start over again, and you can let Me know when I lose you.” I bet none of you thought of that! As we talk about “follow Me,” you never put that in the context of social media.
Jesus is calling us to follow Him. That means to obey Him, submit to His authority, to be His students, and to reflect His teaching in our life. The more Jesus taught, the more He explained who He was and what His expectation of us was, the more people left Him.
Now I want you to think about that a minute, because in America with the American corporate success mentality that we pick up from our culture, 99.9% of church leaders expect of their pastor that there will be increased giving, there will be more baptisms, more conversions, more people, and that that’s what is meant by building the church. Isn’t that right?
I know a pastor recently who was let go from his church because the number of baptisms and those saved and those in attendance had dropped dramatically under his ministry. He was probably doing the right thing.
The criteria God has for a pastor is to be faithful, 1 Corinthians 4:2. We’re to be faithful in teaching the Word, faithful in challenging people to spiritual growth. But sometimes what’s going to happen is what happened to our Lord.
He was perfect! He did all the miracles; He had everything going for Him. There will probably never be a teacher in this life that even comes close to what Jesus did. He was absolutely the best, categorically beyond anything else. People left Him. People rejected Him. They crucified Him for it.
This idea that methodology—and get this down: methodology is not the cure to what ails any local church. Yet if you go to just about any seminary, that’s not the message you’re going to get. That’s not the message they’re going to communicate.
Methodology is important because it has to be true to biblical methodology. A right thing has to be done a right way. The right way is what I mean by methodology.
Yet many churches today, whether they’re Lutheran, Presbyterian, “Methopresbybapterian,” Independent, Episcopalian, “Whiskeypalian,” or whatever they are, are going to be very similar.
They all sing contemporary music. It used to be that if you went to a Lutheran Church and you sang from a Lutheran Hymnal, you sang hymns that were distinctive to being Lutheran. Now, “A Might Fortress is Our God” is sung in the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t understand that at all. That’s ecumenicalism.
I used to go to a Baptist Church. At home I have my grandparents’ hymnal from their church. It was called the Baptist Hymnal. You have Presbyterian Hymnals. The reason is that the hymns that they sang reflected the theology and the values not only in the theology of the hymns, but also their philosophy of music, their theology of music shaped the hymns that they sang.
We don’t have that kind of thinking anymore. Everything is roughly the same because we don’t want to be too distinctive. We want to be ecumenical. And they all follow the same blueprint.
Many of them, whether you know it or not, are following the Purpose Driven model from Rick Warren. They don’t talk about it, but that’s where it comes from and that’s as ecumenical and apostate as it can possibly be. That’s why you can go to A, B, C, or D brand church, yet they all seem to be the same, because people don’t really want what the Bible says or to do it the Bible way. That’s what happened in John 6.
John 6:66–67, Jesus had many disciples who left Him, and He turned to the disciples and said, “Why don’t you go away?”
Peter said, “Where should we go, Lord?” John 6:68, “… to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” That which you teach provides us an understanding of eternity and capacity for life today because you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
As we get into the topic from last time—and this time I reminded you—that loving God has a barometer in Scripture, and that has to do with obeying Him. Obedience is significant. It’s our barometer of love.
Love is not emotion. It’s not “Didn’t you feel so warm and filled and so good and emotional? I had tears in my eyes when I sang those choruses this morning” or “It was so uplifting, I felt so good.”
That becomes the criteria for worship, but that’s not the criteria. God doesn’t say that loving Him is an emotion, and that when you feel good about God, that somehow that matters to God. What matters is whether God is pleased with our walk with Him.
You have passages in the Old Testament like Deuteronomy 7:9 that we are to love Him and keep His commandments.
Now some people say that’s legalism, but John repeats that in several places in the Gospel of John where Jesus says it. 1 John 5:2, “… we love God and keep His commandments.”
John was not being legalistic. He’s not talking about the Ten Commandments. He is talking about the mandates of the spiritual life in the Church Age.
1 John 5:3, “… this is the love for God—that’s how it should be translated; it’s an objective genitive—that we keep His commandments.”
This is our love for God. How do you know you love God? You keep His commandments.
Last week I gave you this definition. I want to go over it again, so that it can begin to sink in: legalism is not saying that we shouldn’t do or we should do certain things as Christians. There are some things that people add that have nothing to do with Scripture; they’re just cultural. But basically legalism is the idea that by our obedience to God’s Word, we merit God’s blessing.
You will hear people say, “Well, my life was really messed up, so I started reading my Bible so God would bless me,” or “I started giving to the church so God would bless me,” or “I started going to church so God would bless me.”
That’s legalism because Scripture says God has already blessed us with every spiritual thing in the heavenlies. He hasn’t necessarily distributed it yet, because He’s waiting for us to develop the capacity to enjoy and responsibly use the blessing.
Grace is recognizing that God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing, that this is a potential, and our response to His grace enables us to develop the capacity to experience and enjoy His blessing.
When we are spiritual babies we don’t have the capacity to responsibly enjoy His blessing, so God doesn’t distribute it—it’s ours—but He doesn’t distribute it until we mature a little bit.
We see passages that emphasize obedience like Matthew 11:28–30. This is very basic. Always remember this, when you’re reading passages in Scripture—the things that Jesus is talking about—all Scripture’s talking about one of two things:
- How to get in right relationship with God, which means how to be saved—how to be justified,
- How to live now that you are justified.
Everything breaks down into those two categories. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that passages related to how to live after you’re justified are in the other column.
This is a passage that breaks it into two. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus offers this invitation, “Come to Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
He will talk about this yoke in the next couple of verses, but that, you have to understand, is related to what was described as the pharisaical system. They called it a yoke, and it was all of the mandates that the Pharisees had come up with that were beyond the Mosaic Law, all their extra traditions and commandments that were not in the Bible.
So when Jesus says “all you who labor and are heavy laden,” He is talking about all of you who are trying to work your way to Heaven. All of you who are trying to impress God with your devotion and with your holiness and with all of your goodness and religiosity.
He’s inviting them. He said, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” which is a loaded term in Old Testament theology. Rest being related to the coming Kingdom, a time of rest, and that’s what He wants them to do: to turn to Him because He’s the one who’s going to give that to them. Of course, the starting point for that was just to believe on Him as the Messiah.
The second step is to put themselves under His authority, and that’s the second section here. Matthew 11:29–30, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.”
That yoke would describe the system of each individual rabbi or each individual Pharisee. You take that yoke, their system, and now you have to live up to all of their little expectations and all of their mandates, thinking that that gets you righteousness.
Jesus says, “My yoke is easy. … I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
See our sin nature says, “If I follow Jesus, I am not going to get rest. I’ve got all the stuff to do; I don’t want to do that.” We pervert it. That’s your sin nature’s doing.
He said, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
It’s a challenge to follow Him and to put yourself under His authority, not under the authority of someone else or some other religious system.
Last time we introduced this in Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
We’re going to see that same idea repeated again in Luke 14:27. Luke 14 isn’t giving us a repetition of the same situation. In fact, I think this is one of those statements Jesus repeated again and again and again, not just to His disciples, not just to the Twelve, but also to the multitudes because it’s recorded at different times in His ministry, and it’s recorded as He speaks to different groups.
It was foundational and yet it’s a statement that people today don’t always understand.
Last time we talked about the idea that taking up your cross had to do with the system of execution in the Roman Empire.
The cross was the worst, most excruciating, most painful, most horrible form of death a person could go through. Only those who were enemies of the Roman Empire who had rebelled against their authority in the worst ways were crucified.
Those who were sentenced to crucifixion had to carry the cross beam of the cross to their place of execution. The reason they did that was because it showed that they had been brought down and were forcibly submitted to the Roman Empire. It is a picture of obedience; it is a picture of submission.
When Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me …” there’s a condition. “You want to come after Me; you have to obey Me. You have to do what I say to do.”
It’s not legalism. There are stipulations, there are standards for those who are going to follow Me and be My representatives. This is something we do daily. It’s repeated in Mark 8:34, as well as other passages.
We saw at the end of that section, in Luke 9:57–62, that there were four examples of those who said they would be disciples or thought they could be disciples and they failed.
In the first example, culture got in the way. They just couldn’t get past the fact that that which made them acceptable in their culture would keep them from God. And that if they became culturally unpopular, then they would be rejected and they couldn’t handle that.
That’s true for a lot of people today; to take a stand for Christ in the culture at your employment, to take a stand for Christ in your home, to take a stand for Christ at school, to let it be known —not in a belligerent or obnoxious way —but in the simple way of, “this is what I believe.” Then you face the ridicule, the name-calling, and the snide remarks, so you would rather just keep your mouth shut.
- Culture got in the way.
- Physical comfort, material comfort got in the way. There was no self-denial. This guy could not count the cost or when he did, he wasn’t willing to pay it.
- Other commitments were a distraction; was not willing to submit and obey.
This was family commitment. Family commitments were actually a rationalization and a false justification for not following Jesus. “Yeah, Jesus, I want to follow You! Oh wait a minute; I’m beginning to see what this involves. Let me wait a while. I’ve got a good excuse; I’ve got to bury my dad.” He is using legitimate responsibilities as an excuse when it wasn’t necessary.
- Other commitments were a distraction, and so that individual was not willing to submit or obey.
In these last two examples the issues were related to family responsibilities, and that’s really where the situation and the teaching of Jesus in Luke 14 begins to pick up. We will begin in Luke 14:25; it’s important to look at the context a little bit.
In the previous parable, Jesus pointed out that God had invited the Israelites—God’s people, the Jews—to a banquet. The one who is hosting the banquet represents God in that parable, and they found all sorts of excuses for not showing up. It doesn’t mean they were disciples.
They are pretty similar to the excuses that we saw for those who didn’t want to be disciples. You see, the same excuses you use for not being a Christian—not wanting to trust in Christ —are the same excuses that Christians use for not being a disciple of Christ—not being a follower of Christ. When we’re being disobedient to God, we just try to self-justify in so many different ways that don’t hold water.
There’s that context of the parable related to Jews being invited to the banquet, which represents the kingdom, and they don’t want to come. Then there’s a broadening of the invitation to others.
There is a shift in time and place starting in Luke 14:25. “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them,”
He is teaching not just the Twelve, He’s teaching this great crowd. Huge numbers, maybe thousands, are listening to Him. Then He lays down the first condition—the first qualification, the first stipulation—for being a disciple.
Luke 14:26, “ ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.’ ”
What do you think about that? This seems like a pretty heavy statement by Jesus, an incredible stipulation. Jesus is saying that you can’t be a disciple, a real follower of Jesus—and literally He says you have to hate your parents, you have to hate your spouse, you have to hate your children, you have to hate yourself, or you can’t be a disciple.
A lot of people would look at that and they would say, “Well, who can do that? That is pretty difficult. First of all, it doesn’t even make sense.” It doesn’t make sense because there are places where the Scriptures teach what seems to be the opposite. There are passages in Scripture that talk about our responsibilities in the family.
We know that Scripture teaches that marriage and family are divine institutions. Marriage and family are both instituted in the Garden of Eden before sin ever came into existence. God brought the woman to Adam, He created her from his rib from his side, and there you have the establishment of marriage.
The command is to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. So, the implication there is that the purpose of marriage is to have family; to carry out the creation mandate, to have dominion, and to rule over the earth.
That’s good and as you go through the Scripture you see that again and again. There are positive statements that are made related to marriage, to family, and to children.
Children in the Ten Commandments are given the command to “honor your parents.” This is repeated in the New Testament; that children are to obey their parents. In Ephesians 6:1, the Old Testament commandment from Exodus is quoted: they are to honor their father and mother.
It’s always interesting. Ephesians 6:2 says, “… and this is the first commandment with promise How many people know what the promise relates to? What does it mean?
There was a promise in the Old Testament that if you didn’t honor your parents, they were to take you out in the public square and have you executed. The promise was if you honored your parents, you’d have a long life.
You have to understand the whole context of the Mosaic Law, that if you were dishonoring your parents and were disrespectful, you should, if the Law was obeyed, have a short life. Children are to honor their parents.
In Ephesians 5:29 you have the statement that no one ever hated his own flesh. So how in the world are we supposed to understand this when Jesus says you’re to hate your wife and in Ephesians 5 you’re to love your wife as Christ loved the church and love your wife as your own body?
How do you reconcile these particular commands? Well, first of all we have to understand something about idioms, and when we do, we understand that there are some clear statements in the Scripture.
In Malachi 1:2 God is saying to the Jews at that time—this is after the exile and the return, and they’re very disobedient, “ ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you say …’ ”
In the rhetorical style here He is putting words in their mouths. He says— “ ‘Yet you say—that is the rebellious Israelites at that time—‘How have you loved us?’—and God’s reply is, ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ says the Lord. ‘Yet Jacob I have loved;’ ” They were all descendants of Jacob.
Malachi 1:3, “But Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.”
This is quoted in Romans 9:13 where Paul says, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’ ”
What’s going on here? When we read this with our Western mindset without any understanding of Jewish idioms or phraseology or really much of an understanding of the original story in Genesis, we think, “Well, this sounds pretty harsh. God hates Esau and He loved Jacob.”
Then you have people who look at this passage and take it really out of context and think that this is talking about salvation; that God is saying I loved Jacob, he’s going to be saved, and I hated Esau and he’s going to be condemned.
It is known as Double Predestination. This came into the church through a man named Augustine, who was the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa.
This is a problem. We must understand these various idioms and the ways in which these phrases and this language is being used.
When God says, “I have loved you,” you basically have two options:
#1 God is making an emotional statement or,
#2 God is making a volitional statement.
By emotion I mean, when we in our experience have grown up, and at some point or another we have been attracted to a member of the opposite sex, hopefully, and we say that we are “falling in love with them,” it is emotional.
All these feelings are bubbling up; we are attracted to them, and we want to have a closer relationship with them. That’s what we mean by love as an emotional term.
But there’s another way in which love is used—how that expression is used in Hebrew—it has to do with expressing a choice. It’s not talking about attraction or emotion. It’s making a statement that I choose this and I’m not choosing that. It doesn’t necessarily even have anything to do with the value of that which you are choosing or rejecting.
When we go back to the story in Genesis we learn that Rebecca had twin boys named Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn, Jacob the second-born. As they came out of the womb, Jacob was grabbing hold of the heel of his older brother, by a couple of seconds, Esau.
His name means “heel grabber,” which is really an idiom for someone who’s always trying to get the upper hand, somebody who’s going to be deceptive, somebody who’s going to be cunning, and we see that that characterizes Jacob’s life.
If you take the time, and many of you have, to read through the Bible every year, whether you’re reading through it chronologically or just from the beginning to the end, Genesis is what you’re reading in January, probably.
When you come to this story, if you’re really thinking about what Jacob was doing and Jacob’s personality, this was not a nice person. He was really a scumbag. He was always trying to con somebody. That’s what “Jacob” means.
When God chose him, it was not because there’ was something good in Jacob. He was not choosing him for salvation, He was not choosing him because he had such a wonderful personality and was a nice guy.
He chose him because God had a plan that started with a promise to Abraham. He told Abraham that He was going to give him a son, even though Abraham and Sarah were beyond childbearing years. God said, “I’m going to give you a son, and it is through him that your seed will be named and that all the nations of the earth are going to be blessed.” That son was Isaac.
Then God appeared to Isaac and reiterated the promise that He made to Abraham. That blessing promise will now come through one of Isaac’s sons. The one God chose through whom to give the blessing was Jacob for God’s purposes.
He did not choose Jacob for salvation. He chose Jacob because it was through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that this seed was going to come.
It didn’t mean Esau was a bad person. Esau got really mad at what happened, just like you and I would get mad, and he was fuming and he made all kinds of threats against Isaac. Just like you and I would if somebody stole what we thought was our natural birthright and inheritance; that’s what Esau did.
But over the years God blessed Esau. He never uses that term in the Scripture, because God didn’t want that confused with “the blessing” which is part of the Abrahamic Covenant.
In Malachi God is saying, “I chose Jacob. Jacob is the one I chose. He’s the one I accepted, but Esau’s the one I did not choose.”
He was not being rejected for salvation. He was not being rejected for pain and suffering. God was just saying, “I had to choose one or the other to be the one through whom the promise would go, and that went to Jacob and not Esau.”
It is not soteriological. It has to do with the covenant, the covenant blessing, and God’s promise to the descendants of Abraham that would come through the Israelites. That’s why Paul quotes it in Romans 9. It has nothing to do whatsoever with salvation.
So this expression “I love this, but I hate this” is simply a way of saying, “I choose this, and I’m not choosing that.”
We see this in Matthew 6:24 in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will reject the one and choose the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise or reject the other—simple acceptance and rejection language—You cannot serve God and mammon.”
The same statement is repeated in Luke 16:13.
The second lesson that Jesus emphasizes in Luke 14:27, is the statement “ ‘… whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’ ”
This is a reiteration of the statement we studied last time, when Jesus said that we had to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him.
The event in Luke 9 took place somewhere around late summer of AD 32. Jesus was crucified in April of AD 33. Luke 9 is around six months before that; Luke 14 is about January of AD 33, about three months before He is crucified. It was sometime later, it was a separate situation, separate circumstances, but it’s very similar in what is being said.
One more thing that I skipped over: when we go back to understanding the rejection here in terms of the family—and this is especially true in the Jewish context and it began to be true during Jesus’ life, but it became much more severe later on—if you as a Jew accepted Jesus as Messiah, you’d be kicked out of the family. I mean the social stigma.
That’s why Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were secret disciples, even during Jesus’ lifetime, because if it became known that they were disciples of Jesus, then they would be kicked out of being a Pharisee, their families would disown them, all manner of things would take place.
That, according to tradition, was what happened to Nicodemus. He was THE top teacher of the Torah in Israel at the time. This story, which we think has some truth to it, is found in the Babylonian Talmud. When it became known that he was a Christian, he lost all of his wealth, he lost all of his family, and he died a pauper in Jerusalem.
That’s the legend. Whether that was actually true of Nicodemus or not is beyond the point. The point is that this did happen to many: they lost everything they had; their families rejected them.
In some cases, even today in Orthodox Judaism, if someone converts to Christianity, the family will hold a funeral for him or her.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum tells a story in his testimony that he was saved and accepted Jesus as Messiah just a few months before he was to turn 13 and be Bar Mitzvahed. But because he became a follower of Yeshua, he was never Bar Mitzvahed.
His father kept him in the house. They moved to Southern California for better opportunities for his father, but his father would only grudgingly say anything to Arnold until he graduated from high school. Once he graduated from high school, he was out. He had to move.
He moved back with some messianic Jewish families in New Jersey that he had met earlier before they moved to Southern California. That is a typical experience.
Now, for many of us it may not be that radical, but the problem that occurs for many people that we run into today is that they do run into some conflict in their families. If you come from a solid Christian home, and they’re focused on the Word, then you’re blessed in that area.
But there are others that say, “Well, we don’t want you to get too radical. We don’t want you to get too religious. It’s all fine and good that you go to church on Sunday, but Tuesday night and Thursday night, and you read your Bible every day? You’re getting to be a religious fanatic and we don’t like that.”
I’ve even heard a number of parents—it would shock you who they are, people who go to church, go to Bible class all the time—and their son or daughter comes home and says I believe God has given me a gift of pastor–teacher or God is calling me to go on the mission field, and the parents just absolutely go ballistic.
“No, no, no, no, we’ve paid for a good education for you. You need to go ahead and complete that. You need to be an engineer. You’ll make so much more money. Then you can serve the Lord.” They come up with all these excuses.
Yet Jesus is saying you have to put Him first. He is saying, “you have to choose Me over your mother or your father or brothers or sisters. You have to choose Me over yourself.” That’s the self-denial—denying yourself and taking up your cross—that we studied last time.
That’s what Jesus is talking about here. It’s a matter of priorities. Arranging your life in such a way so that your spiritual life, your walk with the Lord, takes priority. That when there is a conflict, you have to make hard decisions.
I remember when I was a teenager; I was looking for a job. I got a job, and then I was going to have to work on a Sunday, and my mother said no, you’re not. My dad said there’s no way; we will do whatever’s necessary. You don’t really need a job, but you’re not going to work on a Sunday morning. I could work later in the day, but I was not going to work anywhere where it violated attending church.
Later God provided a good job with the guy who went to that church. I worked for him part-time for many, many years in a gas station, as did other men from that church. He would always put the people on the schedule on Sunday morning that were not Christians or weren’t going to church. He never violated that.
That’s the issue is making those decisions. Too many people will take the path of success in business, success in education, and will compromise that focus on the Lord.
Now there are going to be times in this culture where that’s going to be difficult, and you’re going to have to make those decisions between you and the Lord. What’s your priority? On occasion we have to make certain tough choices, and we do what we need to do on those days and the way to rearrange our time.
This is a pattern for life: what is my focus? Am I serving the Lord or am I serving my parents, my family, my friends, people I work with, professional life? I need to decide what it is that I am going to do, and how I’m going to arrange it.
The second lesson is a repeat from last week, Luke 14:27, “ ‘And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’ ”
The focal point here is that we need to deny ourselves. That was implied in Luke 14:26–27. We have to take up the cross. That means submit to the authority of the Word, submit to the authority of Christ, and then follow Him. That’s the prerequisite for being a disciple.
It’s not a one-shot decision. We can say, “That’s what I want to be true in my life,” but it may actually take us a little while before we get things arranged and that becomes the primary thing.
The third lesson that we learn in this section is, are we willing to count the cost and pay the price?
Jesus uses a couple of different illustrations here to make His point. First of all is a construction metaphor, Luke 14:28–30, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it.”
His point is, “if you’re going to embark on following Me,” there is going to be a cost, there is going to be a price. Salvation is free, but spiritual growth is going to cost you time.
You’re going to have to spend a lot of time reading the Word, studying the Word, memorizing the Word, going to Bible class, submitting to teaching, and applying the Word. It’s going to take a lot of time. Are you willing to give that time to your spiritual life?
Secondly, it’s going to cost you something financially. Because you make that decision, there may be certain job or career opportunities that you’re not going to take that would be wonderful and really provide you with a great deal of wealth, and it may cost you.
I know men who have become incredibly wealthy as hard-working businessmen who have not compromised their spiritual life and spiritual growth. That’s not necessary, but if we’re not willing to do it, then we’re not really willing, we’ve got a little asterisk over our commitment, “Yes, Lord, I’ll follow You! Well, maybe, but not if it costs me too much.”
It’s going to cost us in terms of our time, it is going to cost us in terms of our treasure, in terms of our finances, and it’s going to cost us in terms of our talent.
There may be some things that we are very talented at, but we say, “You know, if I’m going to serve the Lord, I really can’t pursue that talent.” Other things we can.
This is not a message that you have to give it all up in order to follow the Lord. It’s a message that if you’re not willing to give it all up to follow the Lord, then you have a conditional response because God is going to use us with our time, our talent, and our treasure in great ways that we never ever imagined as believers.
Jesus says you have to count the cost. “What will it possibly cost me? I’m willing to pay the price.” Just like a builder before he starts to build.
Luke 14:30 says, “… This man began to build and was unable to finish.”
There are believers like that. “I want to follow the Lord.” But then they fall by the wayside because they weren’t willing to pay the price. They didn’t count the cost.
The second illustration is that of a king. In Luke 14:31–33, a king decides to go to war against another king, and first of all, he sits down and says, “What are my capabilities? How many soldiers do I have? What are they able to do? And this guy’s got twice as many as I do. Am I going to be able to defeat him even though he outnumbers me and outguns me?”
You have to think about your decision ahead of time. Don’t just make an emotional run-down-the-aisle kind of decision.
He concludes in Luke 14:33, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
Jesus isn’t saying, “go be a monk and live in the wilderness.” That’s how that was taken in the early church. We have to give up everything, just have one robe, whatever, one possession. He’s not saying that.
He’s saying, “If you’re not willing to forsake everything, then you’re putting those things ahead of Me, and I want to be the One that is at the top of the list. I am the authority. I’m the One who is going to direct your life; and however it is you have to trust Me with everything in your life.”
That’s the challenge for us:
Are we willing to follow Jesus?
Are we willing to follow the stipulations He lays down to be a disciple: to count the cost, to be willing to put every relationship we have behind Him?
Are we willing to put Him first over family responsibilities?
In some cases, and I don’t mean in the sense of being an over achiever in your spiritual life, so that you neglect those responsibilities, but in the sense that families have put pressure on you to not pursue your spiritual growth because you have other things to do.
We have to learn how to balance those priorities, so that we fulfill our spiritual mission without sacrificing our responsibilities as husbands, as wives, as parents, as children. We have to keep that balance and it takes years to develop those things as we mature.
We have to be willing to put Jesus, our spiritual life, and the Word of God above other authorities that may challenge our obedience to the Lord: that put themselves in a role of competition with our spiritual growth and our devotion to the Lord.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to be challenged, to be reminded that once we are saved, there is a life after that: that we are to grow and mature as believers.
“This doesn’t just happen. We have to make it a point. We have to make it our purpose. We have to decide how we want to respond to Jesus’ challenge to respond to Him, to follow Him, and to be a disciple.
“Father, we pray that if there is anyone listening today that’s never trusted in Christ as Savior, that they would understand that salvation is not a matter of works, that it’s a matter of accepting a free gift. We don’t earn it; we don’t deserve it; we don’t have to do anything to work for it.
“We simply accept it because Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross, and by accepting that free gift we have eternal life. Then the next question is: what are we going to do with that eternal life? That’s the issue of discipleship.
“Father, we pray that You will challenge each of us with what we learned today. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”