Luke 14.25 thru 35 The Cost of Discipleship
“The Cost of Discipleship”
The benefits of discipleship are many. The greatest is the promise of eternity with God in Heaven. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg, there are countless benefits in this life to discipleship. We have the ability to speak to God through prayer, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, a joy that no one can take away, a hope that will never disappoint, a peace that we can never understand, a Father who loves and cares for us, and Christian friends who we can count on and rely upon. The cost? It will cost us everything we have. It will require complete sacrifice.
You probably heard about the hen and the pig who approached a church and read the advertised sermon topic: “What can we do to help the poor?” Immediately the hen suggested they feed them bacon and eggs. The pig thought for a moment and said, “There is only one thing wrong with feeding bacon and eggs to the poor. For you it requires only a contribution, but for me it requires total commitment.”
Discipleship requires total commitment. I would say as I said before that often times you get what you pay for. Many people may want just a casual relationship with God that costs them nothing in this life. You get what you pay for. Many people may want a religion that suffers nothing. Martin Luther said, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”
The Scriptures often compare the process of discipleship to that of an athlete in training. Some of today’s athletes are born with special abilities, but most of their talent is developed. Most people have to train for it. It is amazing the amount of time and energy athletes spend in training and practice in order to get good. In order for an athlete to be really good it usually is going to cost them something. It is usually going to mean a lot of sacrifices. It is going to mean a lot of practice and hard work. It may mean time away from family; it may mean extra time in the gym. Athletes make incredible sacrifices in order to get better and develop their talents and the best of them are usually the hardest working, the ones who make the most sacrifices, the ones most committed to their goal.
There are so many who refuse to make the disciples commitment. Remember there is no distinction between a disciple and a Christian. We are all called to be disciples and not just Christians in name. There were many times that great crowds gathered around Jesus. They loved him, and they wanted to hear him teach. Often times people would come from great distances to get something from him, maybe to be healed. There is a difference between the crowd and the committed. There is a distinction between the crowd and the disciples. When all was said and done the crowds left Jesus, but the disciples stayed. When the crowds turned on Jesus, for the most part the disciples stayed loyal. On one occasion as Jesus was teaching on the bread of Life, the crowds didn’t like what they heard, so they turned and they left Jesus. Then Jesus turned to his twelve disciples and asked them if they planned on leaving him too. Peter spoke up and said, “To who shall we go, you alone have the word of eternal life.” In other words Peter was saying, we are not a part of the crowds, we are a part of the committed, we are in this to stay. The crowds left because they thought the message was too harsh and was expecting too much, they thought they would go hear a rabbi that would teach what they wanted to hear, but the disciples decided to stay and conform to what the Savior taught no matter what it entailed. Yes, the crowds may have loved Jesus, but they were not committed followers of Jesus. Are you a part of the crowd or the committed? I believe we will see together this morning that discipleship is worth the cost.
I. Discipleship Will Cost You Relationships
One of our greatest problems today is that we so badly want to be accepted. We want everyone to like us, and often times we will compromise our beliefs and values so that other people will like us better. This is the great problem that young people face today. We call it “peer pressure”. Today, young people feel so pressured by their peers to do certain things that often times they give in to those pressures for the sake of being liked and accepted. I don’t believe the issue of wanting to be liked or accepted stops when we exit our teenage years though. Many of us still are seeking to conform to others so that we can find acceptance in the world. That is one reason Paul made clear to the Romans in chapter 12, “do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Life is often about choices and sometimes we have to make difficult decisions. Sometimes following Jesus will cost us relationships and acceptance among other people. I don’t believe that we can maintain everything the way it was before we were Christians after we come to Christ. I believe sometimes our relationships and friendships need to change, however our hunger for popularity and acceptance often hinders us from leaving it all behind. It would have been easy for the original twelve disciples to have popularity and acceptance in the world. Before Jesus they were very uncontroversial people, but after Jesus they became very controversial. Jesus made clear to them on numerous occasions that following him meant they would face opposition from others and that they would face persecution. Paul could have easily been a well-liked person among the Jews. He was well respected, he was thought of as one of the religious elites of his day, and when he made the decision to become a Christian he had to know that it was going to cause some problems with some of the relationships he had. I would be willing to bet that some of Paul’s friends became his persecutors.
When I became a Christian some of my relationships changed. Some of my old friends didn’t want to be my friends any more; even my family distanced themselves from me and expressed their disapproval for my new way of life. They didn’t like my beliefs. They were much more comfortable with me when I lived like them and believed like them. They didn’t want to be my friends because I no longer encouraged their sin and no longer participated in it. They didn’t realize that I was a new creation. We no longer had anything in common. Being a disciple of Jesus cost me some relationships and I assume that if I remain faithful it will continue to cost me more. Perhaps I will never find the acceptance from masses of people that part of me longs to have. Perhaps I will never enjoy great popularity. Perhaps my beliefs and my lifestyle will create enemies, but nevertheless I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My goal isn’t to create enemies or sever relationships I have, but I do understand that some people simply will never understand me, just like they never understood Jesus and it got him killed.
There are certain things that it is okay to believe. There are certain things, which are okay and acceptable to do. It is perfectly acceptable in today’s society to call yourself a Christian. In fact, I would say that it is almost the popular thing to do. However, it is a different story when you start living and thinking like one. It is okay to wear a cross around your neck, but when you start carrying one that is a different story. It is okay to believe in Jesus and even acknowledge Jesus publicly the way our athletes often do, but if you start saying he is the only way to Heaven than that is no longer okay. I am telling you that Christianity lived in its purest form will cause you to gain enemies.
I hope that no one will ever be able to say of me that everyone thought highly of me. I say that because I do believe that by standing for the truth and by living the truth you will make some enemies. If it was ever said of me that everyone thought highly of me, then perhaps I was not bold enough and perhaps I was not living a righteous enough life.
I am not living my life to find and gain acceptance from others, but rather am seeking to be pleasing to God. If following Jesus and being a true disciple of His means I will loose relationships that that is more than okay with me. I will willingly forfeit power, popularity and prestige in this life to follow Jesus and gain acceptance from the only one who really matters.
II. Discipleship Will Cost You Time and Energy
Russian-American comic, Yakov Smirnoff’s initial response to the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores was great. He said, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk – you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice – you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, what a country!” Wouldn’t it be nice if our spiritual development were like that? Wouldn’t it be great if it was instant, and the second you came out of the baptistery you were a mature disciple of Jesus’. However, it is not that easy!
Becoming like Jesus doesn’t happen over night. Following Jesus and being a true disciple will cost us some time and energy. It will cost us time and energy because there are certain expectations of a disciple. There are certain things disciples are simply expected to do.
A. Disciples Are Expected To Speak to the Master
We cannot be like Jesus if we do not communicate with him on a regular basis. We should be people that speak to the master on a regular basis. We do this through prayer. Prayer should not just be seen as a burden and an obligation, even though it is expected, and if you are a disciple you will pray. We should see prayer as an opportunity to communicate with the one we are trying to be like. It is a sad thing how little so-called Christians actually pray. We are expected to spend time with the master in communicating to Him. He wants us to speak to Him. When the disciples committed to leaving their families and following Jesus they were expected to spend time with Jesus. They were expected to spend every waking minute with him, listening to him, asking him questions, and watching him. We do not have Jesus physically here with us today, so we must communicate with him through prayer. The biggest obstacle to people spending time in prayer is time. We are often unwilling to sacrifice our time on something like prayer. Time is a precious commodity, and it is very limited. Therefore, we have to choose wisely what we will spend our time doing. Prayer often gets neglected because we do not tangibly see the effects of not praying. The reality is the more time we spend in prayer the less time we have for other things. However, I would challenge us to view prayer as an investment and a time saver rather than an expense and a time waster. It simply takes us to be willing to give up time and energy.
B. Disciples Are Expected To Learn From the Master
Again, a disciple is expected to learn from the master. How do we learn from the master today? We do it by putting ourselves in contact with the Word of God. We do this personally when we study the Word and we also do it when we come together during our services to hear the Word taught and explained to us more fully. A person cannot be a disciple of Jesus’ and not be willing to strive to learn about him and how to be like him. We need to ensure that we are taking time to study the Word of God because that is how God reveals himself to us and how he speaks to us today. Sadly, many disciples make no effort to ever learn anything from the master. I would say that a lack of some Christian’s desire to learn stems from two reasons…
1. They Think they Know Enough
Some people rationalize in their minds regarding their lack of study that they already know enough. Perhaps they know many of the Bible stories and can even quote some Scriptures for you. Perhaps they have read through the Bible once and see no need for further study. For those people I would caution you, that we can never know enough. There are people who have devoted their lives to studying and understanding the Scriptures and still don’t know it all. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know. The best of us needs personal time in the Word to study, understand and seek to better apply God’s Word to our lives. We can never know enough so keep studying hard to show yourself approved to God.
2. They Don’t See the Importance
Some people don’t see the importance of studying or learning. They think to themselves that it really does not matter how much you know. That is why e have so many people in the church that are Biblically illiterate. That is why we have so many people that are swept away easily by false teaching, because they do not see the value in studying and learning. I will tell you, more than anything else I want to study and learn from the master because I love him and I want to be like Him. Here God has revealed to us what He expects of us and what it takes to be saved, I want to know it well so I am prepared. It takes time and energy though.
C. Disciples Are Expected To Serve the Master
We are expected to serve the master. Jesus made it clear that he did not come to be served, but rather to serve. We should imitate that. However, serving takes time and energy and again that it probably why some people don’t do it. There are so many people that are within the church who do nothing to serve in any way. I see a problem and a conflict with that and being a disciple. Not only should a disciple serve, but also a disciple should want to serve. How do we serve our master today? I believe we do it through serving other people. Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” Some people are content with just attending a church service once in a while and think that by doing that they are okay with God and have assured their ticket to Heaven. If that is the way you think I would challenge you highly to study the Word a little more and catch the call to discipleship and what it means to follow Jesus.
D. Disciples Are Expected To Imitate the Master
Disciples are expected to imitate the master. That is the number one duty of a disciple is to be like their master. We are called to imitate Jesus. We need to strive to be like Jesus in how we act, in what we do, in what we choose to participate in, how we speak and in how we treat others. Jesus models for us a perfect example and we should do our best to imitate that. Sometimes a we are in the process of imitating the master it may cost us some time or energy, but we have to understand two important truths. First of all, we are called to obedience and sometimes that means we put doing what is right over what is convenient. Doing what is right isn’t always the easiest thing; in fact sometimes it is much harder and may require more time and energy. Secondly, we need to learn God will bless us for choosing to do what is right. It is God we are striving to please. Discipleship may cost you some time and energy, but I believe that it is worth the cost.
III. Discipleship Will Cost You Possessions
There are things I have chosen to give up to follow Jesus. There are goals and aspirations I had that I had to give up to be His disciple. There are practices, habits, and ways of thinking I had to change to follow Him, and I count it all a loss compared to the greatness of knowing him. I don’t miss it and I wouldn’t trade it, but if you’re not willing to sacrifice it then you cannot follow him.
Being a disciple of Jesus’ may cost you some possessions. This may be one of the hardest teachings in our culture.
We greatly value our things. We work hard for our things. We think we are owed certain things. We may be willing to give some, but if we are called to give up those things which we see as ours then that is unfair. So what is the problem with possessions? Why did Jesus call anyone who would follow him to be willing to give up his possessions? The reason why was not because any possessions in themselves were wrong, but rather that people have the tendency to put too much value in their possessions. They tend to work hard their whole lives to gain possession only to die and then those possessions do not matter very much. The disciples of Jesus left everything to follow him. They dropped their families, their friends, their homes, and their jobs to be a disciple of Jesus’. They were willing to make that sacrifice, but they wanted to know what they were going to get out of it.
Let me assure you, that though sometimes we are called to make sacrifices, and we are called to put Jesus above everything, we will be rewarded for what we have given up. The point is not on how much we have, but on where we place our value. Our value cannot be on physical things, but needs to be on spiritual. We should be willing to give it all up if called to because the physical is not our priority, and after all it isn’t ours anyways.
We even see this in practice…
They had their focus in the right place. Being a disciple of Jesus may cause us to have to give up things that we see as ours, however it is worth the cost.
IV. Discipleship Will Cost You Worldly Pleasures
There are many people who want to follow Jesus without ever experiencing true discipleship. Jesus told us that we must count the cost of discipleship. One of the things that it will cost us is worldly pleasure. We cannot be a disciple of Jesus’ while holding onto pleasures that are forbidden in Scriptures. This cheapens the grace of God. It is true that we are under the grace of God, but we made a decision to follow Jesus and be partakers of that grace we also agreed to die to ourselves and live to Christ. There are some things I cannot do anymore because I am a Christian. I am not my own I have been bought with a price. There are some practices, which a big part of me wants to participate in because it seems like it may be pleasing and because everyone else is doing it. There is a part of me that looks at all the world does and tempts me to feel that I am missing out on something. This is the same trick the Devil used in the Garden of Eden with Eve. He told her, “God forbid you to eat of this tree because He knows that if you do than you will be wise as Him.” However, we need to realize that we are simply delaying our gratification. We might wonder why the wicked can get by with doing the things that they do, but let us remember that we cannot indulge in the same things that they do because we do not live to ourselves. We are not in charge of our own lives, but we have submitted ourselves to Christ and we have chosen to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow after him.
If the cost of giving up worldly pleasures is too much for you then you cannot be a disciple. If you are not willing to be governed by certain rules, if you are not willing to give up old practices and habits, then you cannot be a disciple. We must die to self before we can truly live.
The worldly pleasures that we have forsaken are only temporary and are only pleasurable for a season.
Have you ever shied away from something that you had a feeling He would want you to do? Or…have you not wanted to give up that last part of your sinful life? How about the temptation to cut corners for your own gain…ever? This is how we can slowly give our soul over to Satan. But Christ directs us to keep our minds on Him. He calls us to pick up our cross…step out of our comfort zone and follow Him…even to death and the persecution of the cross! I struggle personally with this all the time. This is not an easy thing to do. Anyone that says it is…doesn’t understand completely what this entails.
Through this call we are to take up our cross, whatever that may be in our individual lives, and find our life by losing it for Christ’s sake. Just in the act of attending church in today’s world, we bear the persecution of the cross. When people question our commitment to other activities, after we say we cannot attend because we have to go to church. When we endure the scoffs that are heard when we, as educated people, confess that we believe there is an intelligent designer that created the universe. Nevertheless, we are called to take this even a step further…out of our comfort zone… to strike up a conversation with our coworker or the person next to us in the check-out-line and tell them about a savior that forgives us and loves us just as we are. It is often times easier (as classic Lutherans) to sweat and sacrifice to build new facilities than to go out and invite people to come to them… This is also part of the cross that He asks us to bear. This is how we lose our life to Him and set our minds on the things of God and not on the things that we like to do. Don’t get me wrong, it is faith alone that saves. But what is Jesus telling the disciples, and us, in this text? We may think that what we do around the church is enough. We bring our pot luck dishes or serve on a board or two and this tells the world we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God…or does it? He may ask us to take a step out of our comfort zone and talk to our neighbor or coworker about the person of Jesus Christ and what He has done in our lives…and possibly invite him or her to church. Maybe we think just attending church once in a while might be enough. But is it…I’m not trying to tell you how to be a Christian, but I am asking you to think about what the text today is telling you. He is telling you to deny yourself and pick up your cross and follow Him…to lose our life for His sake…
This can only be done with the help of a Savior that has already done the work on the cross. He has won the race and given us victory over death, so that the stings of scoffs or even laughs cannot hurt us. We have a savior that gives us the words to say and gives us the Holy Spirit to do the work of changing the heart of that person that is so in need of this gospel message! We only have to deliver the gift He has given us to deliver, and let it do the work…kind of like a time bomb.
You see I know about these time bombs, because I am the recipient of one of those time bombs (or maybe many small ones). I wish I could go back to all of the people that witnessed to me through my thirty years of growing up unchurched, some in very purposeful ways, and others just in passing, all of which had an effect on me. I definitely scoffed at some of those people…and even laughed, but you should know, when you deliver His message…it is received even if it doesn’t seem like it. And when I was invited to church, in God’s timing…I went…and the Spirit did the work throughout all of this.
This is tough stuff! We can only do this with the help of the very same person that demanded this of us. It is only through Jesus’ crossbearing that we can bear our own cross! Only His death can enable us to lose our life for Christ’s sake. And only through His resurrection will we find our life again-here and hereafter. You see He will come again “with His angels and the Glory of His Father” as promised. And we will be with Him. This is the greatness of the gift He has given us. It can transform lives, from a lost life to a found one through the death and resurrection of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Remember…ours is a gracious and merciful God. So…know that our stumbles in bearing our cross will also be forgiven.