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Fanorfollower

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FAN OR FOLLOWER     LUKE 14:25-35

            In 28 days, college football will be kicking off another season. For those of us who live in the south, football is talked about 365 days out of the year, especially here in the state of Alabama. In fact, if you are born here your parents will encourage you to pull for the team that they root for and by the time you are of a certain age, then you must declare your allegiance to either Auburn or Alabama. If you move here, you are amazed at the enthusiasm that this state has for football and if you have no loyalty to a team then you declare either Auburn or Alabama as your team.

            Football fans are fanatics about their team. They wear hats, shirts, sleepwear and other paraphernalia to show support for their team. People will spend hours getting everything done before sitting down and watching a three hour game. If you go to the game, you must get there early enough to grill out and see the pre-game activities. For some fans, they drive to the campus of their school and watch the game on television outside the stadium. Fans go crazy about their teams.

            But fans are also finicky about their teams as well. Fans will yell at the T.V. as if the players could hear them and criticize the coach as if he would take their advice. When the team is bad, fans believe that they have every right to bad mouth the players and coach. It is funny to listen to sports radio after the game and hear how they would have done things different if they coached the team. If things are good, then the stands are full and the fans are happy.

            The sad reality is that many so-called Christians are like these football fans. As long as there is excitement and activities for them and their family they keep coming, but when things go awry they have a tendency to criticize everything that is done and plus never come to help.

            Jesus understood this phenomenon. Over the past three weeks, we have studied the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Jesus, just before he left, gathered His disciples one final time to give them their mission, their purpose, their goal for existing. The reason the Lord leaves us here after we are saved is to make disciples. This is reason the church exists. This is our mission.

            If our mission is to make disciples, then we need to know what a disciple looks like. A disciple is a follower, a learner. He is more than just a fan of Christ; he is a follower, learner of Christ. One scholar said, “The disciple is one who at Jesus’ call follows after Him. He must observe the will of God and even binding upon himself unreservedly to the person of Jesus; go as far as death and the gift of his life out of love.” In other words, discipleship is a call to follow, a call to submission, and a call to obedience.

            Yet, there are some in Christianity who make a distinction between a believer and a disciple. A believer is one who comes to Christ for forgiveness and eternal life, but lives a life of indifference to the salvation they received. A disciple is a person who moves from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. In other words, you can be a believer without being a disciple. I don’t think this is so. In fact, I confident enough in the Word to know this is not so.

            There is no second-level Christianity that Jesus is calling believers to. If this were so, then you would change the entire dynamic of Jesus ministry from calling sinners to salvation to calling first-level Christians to become second-level Christians. Jesus command was clear in Matthew 28 in that we are to make disciples. If you will take your Bibles and open to Luke 14 beginning in verse 25 through 35 to see what a true disciple looks like.  

            In order for us to understand this passage, we must get a little background to what is taking place. As you read the gospel of Luke, Luke tells us that Jesus had twelve who were constantly with Him; but He had other disciples as well. In fact, He had all kinds of disciples. Some are nominally committed, some are truly committed, some are barely committed at all and some are not even committed; they’re just there out of curiosity.  And as Jesus, through His ministry, raises the bar, raises the standard, makes the demands more absolute, more exclusive and more extreme, the superficial disciples begin to drop off.  

            In chapter 14, Jesus begins to explain to the crowd that was following Him that He wanted them to know who could be My disciple. He was not generally addressing disciples or talking about disciples, but He wanted a specific type of disciple. So three times in eleven verses, Jesus described what being His disciple entailed. He was not out to deceive the public in order to get great crowds to follow Him. He was not going to manipulate anyone who was not willing to be committed to be His disciple. He was here explaining that those who come to salvation must understand what is involved. You see we come to eternal life of Christ’s terms, not our own terms.

            This is what Jesus was saying in the parable of the dinner. God through the prophets of the Old Testament was inviting Israel and its leaders to come to the Messiah. And yet when the Messiah showed up, they refused, they rejected Him. Why? They were trusting in their ancestry, heritage and genealogy of being a Jew to get them to heaven. They were trusting in their traditions, ceremonies and rituals to provide them with eternal life. In other words, it was who they were and what they did that was going to get them to God. But Jesus said it is none of those things that provide salvation. It is a personal relationship with the living God, who provided the way through His Son, Jesus Christ that gets us to heaven.

            Therefore, in the parable of the dinner, the time came for the banquet and Jesus went out to receive the King’s guests; but they refused to come giving one excuse after another. So Jesus turned to the crowd that was following Him that day and made sure they understood the demands of being Jesus’ disciple. He wanted know misconceptions or misunderstandings about following Him. This is Jesus the evangelist giving a call for salvation.

            Yet, tragically there are many today who offer a different gospel than the one given by Jesus. There are some people who are very confused about this and they have left a huge trail of confusion through evangelical Christianity.  The idea that somehow there is a possibility of being saved without ever really following Christ.  There is the possibility of acknowledging Jesus as Savior, without acknowledging Him as Lord.  There is the possibility of praying a prayer and being given a gift of salvation with absolutely no commitment, even without repentance.

            What Jesus issues here is extreme, but it is a call to salvation. This is a message that rescues one from hell and gives them heaven. Jesus wants us to know the tares from the wheat, the chaff from the grain, and the sheep from the goats. What Jesus creates the enemy tries to recreate, what Jesus calls real the enemy provides a counterfeit, and who Jesus gives life to the enemy tries to destroy. So Jesus does not want any false impressions of who might or might not be His disciple. Therefore, He spells it out in clear terms this is what a disciple looks like. This is who we are to be in Christ and the type of people we are to make, according to the Great Commission.

            In these verses, Jesus is calling those who would like to be His disciples. So He provides three truths about a disciple. A disciple understands the priority in following Christ, the price for following Christ, and the peril of not following Christ.

A DISCIPLE UNDERSTANDS THE PRIORITY IN FOLLOWING CHRIST

            What Jesus is saying in the verses to follow is that this call to be a disciple is not about an extreme makeover, but is a total takeover. In other words, there are many who can make dramatic changes in their lives without ever consulting with God or following Christ. There are many who have the will power to overcome addictions and other bad habits if they want to bad enough. But Jesus wants His disciples to follow Him at all cost. He calls His disciples to allow Him now to be in charge of their lives. He wants our mind, heart and will.

            In verses 26, 27, and 33, Jesus tells us that our priorities must change. Prior to coming to Christ our number one priority was ourselves, second was family and third was our possessions. We made sure our needs were met, our family was taken care of, and our possessions were secure. But here Jesus says disciples are to have a dramatic change in heart.

            First, let us look at verse 26. 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. Wow! What a statement? If were are going to come after Christ, which means we are the initial act of faith. Jesus said anyone who comes to Me for salvation, for eternal life must understand that priorities must change. This all inclusive term anyone means all. There are no exceptions to the rule. Anyone can come, but if you come to Christ for salvation priorities must be different.

            A disciple must hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters. This statement seems to contradict the rest of Scripture. The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord God gives you.” Jesus says in Matthew, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘he who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’” Paul repeats this command in Ephesians 6:2. So Scripture clearly teaches us to love our parents.

            Paul encourages husbands in Ephesians 5 to love their wives as Christ loved the church. In Titus, Paul instructs the older women to teach the younger women how to love their husbands. Also, Paul instructs parents to love their children and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

             So why does Jesus seem to be instructing us here that we are to hate family. Well, in order for us to better understand this passage; we need to know what the word hate means. Matthew in a parallel passage says, “He who loves father 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.” From this passage we begin to know what Jesus is saying here. He is saying I need to take priority over family. If there is a choice between family and Me, choose Me. If there is a conflict that arises in the family, I need to get the precedent over them. In other words, a true disciple will love Me to the degree that all other loves and loyalties come second.

            Let me provide you an example found in the Old Testament about this. “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him” (Deuteronomy 13:6-8).

            The late theologian/philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, whose life and books have impacted thousands for Christ, was raised in a non-Christian home. After he became a Christian, his father did not want him to go to college and did not want him to become a minister, which young Fran felt called to be. When the moment finally came where he had to make the decision to go with what he thought God wanted or to submit to his father’s wishes, Fran asked in a strained voice, “Pop, give me a few minutes to go down in the cellar and pray.” In fear and uncertainty, he went down there and wept hot tears of sorrow for his father.

            Then, in an act of desperate and simple faith, he did something that he would never advise anyone else to do, but what he felt was right for him at the time: he prayed, “Oh, God, please show me.” Then he took out a coin and said, “Heads, I’ll go in spite of dad’s desires.” It was heads. Still weeping, he cried out, “God, be patient with me. If it’s tails this time, I’ll go.” Tails. The third time he pleaded, “Once, more, God. I don’t want to make a mistake with Dad upstairs. Please now, let it be heads again.” It was heads. So he went upstairs and told his dad that he had to go.

            His dad looked hard at him, then went out to slam the door. But just before the door hit the frame, his voice came through, “I’ll pay for the first half year.” It was many years later that Fran’s dad became a Christian, but Fran thinks that this moment was the basis of his salvation, when Fran in effect declared, “I must follow the Lord.” (Told by Edith Schaeffer, in The Tapestry [Word], pp. 60-62).

            Second, Jesus said If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. So even if family does not agree, then we must tell them that Christ demands that we must hate our own lives. This is a very unnatural thing for us to do. We naturally love ourselves and are going to take care of our own needs. But when we come to Christ we must be willing to lay down our own live for the cause of Christ.

            The story is told about a young mother coming to Robert E. Lee on his last visit to Northern Virginia with her baby in her hand to receive a blessing from this great man of God. Lee took the infant in his arms and looked at it and then at her and slowly said, “Teach him he must deny himself.”

            This is what Jesus is saying here. If anyone is to come after Me he must deny himself take up his cross and follow Me. In other words, in comparison of our love for ourselves Christ must take priority. Jesus said, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12:25). Paul in his farewell address told the Ephesian elders, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). During the tribulation, those saints who overcome the devil did so “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when they faced death” (Revelation 12:11).

            In verse 27, Jesus says we are to carry our own cross. We what does that mean. The cross was not an implement of irritation or inconvenience. The cross was an implement of slow, tortuous death. Jesus here is looking at the process of daily death to selfish desires and of the willingness to bear reproach for His name’s sake. Since our Savior suffered the rejection and agony of the cross, if we follow after Him, we must be prepared for the same treatment. If people revile us for being Christians, we must bless them in return (Rom. 12:14).

We should never do anything to provoke persecution, but if we suffer for the sake of righteousness, we must entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Pet. 4:19).

            A pastor from behind the Iron Curtain said one time, "There's no easy believism in our churches. There's no shallow professions of faith. Nobody is taking Jesus who isn't willing to lay their life down because that's the price in many, many cases. The cost of naming Christ," he said, "is so high that we don't have false conversion. If they aren't willing to pay the price," he said, "they don't want to be associated with Jesus Christ in any way at all."  

            This is an area that we must grow in. If we blow it, we must confess it to the Lord and do better next time we have an opportunity to suffer for the Lord.

            The third thing Jesus said so then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Now, what does Jesus mean here? Is He saying that we must literally give all that we have away and take a vow of poverty in order to be a Christian? No, I don’t think this is what Jesus means. So what is Jesus saying?

            What Jesus is saying is that you cannot serve God and money at the same time. You will hate the one and love the other. A Christian is one who has been bought with a price. A Christian is not his own. He comes under the ownership of Christ. We are not adding Christ to what we have as if He is a possession to take or leave whatever He ask, but we are accepting Christ as Lord to choose to do with us whatever He likes.

            Juan Carlos Ortiz tells the story of the pearl of great price. A man sees this pearl and says to the merchant, “I want this pearl. How much is it?” The seller says, “It’s very expensive.” “How much?” “A lot!” “Well, do you think I could buy it?” the man asks. “Oh, yes,” says the merchant, “everyone can buy it.” “But I thought you said it was very expensive.” “I did.” “Well, how much?” “Everything you have,” says the seller. “All right, I’ll buy it.” “Okay, what do you have?” “Well, I have $10,000 in the bank.” “Good, $10,000. What else?” “That’s all I have.” “Nothing more?” “Well, I have a few dollars more in my pocket.” “How much?” “Let’s see … $100.” “That’s mine, too,” says the seller. “What else do you have?” “That’s all, nothing else.” “Where do you live?” the seller asks. “In my house. Yes, I own a home.” The seller writes down, “house.” “It’s mine.” “Where do you expect me to sleep—in my camper?” “Oh, you have a camper, do you? That, too. What else” “Am I supposed to sleep in my car?” “Oh, you have a car?” “Yes, I own two of them.” “They’re mine now.” “Look, you’ve taken my money, my house, my camper, and my cars. Where is my family going to live?” “So, you have a family?” “Yes, I have a wife and three kids.” “They’re mine now.”

Suddenly the seller exclaims, “Oh, I almost forgot! You yourself, too! Everything becomes mine—wife, children, house, money, cars, and you, too.” Then he goes on, “Now, listen, I will allow you to use all these things for the time being. But don’t forget that they’re all mine, just as you are. And whenever I need any of them, you must give them up, because I am now the owner.”

            That’s what Jesus means when He says that we must give up all our possessions in order to be His disciple. He isn’t just Lord of a tenth; He is Lord of all. We are just managers of it for Him. Of course, in return we gain all the riches of heaven for all eternity. But, still, we need to sit down and determine if we’re willing to follow Jesus as Lord of everything from our families, to our possessions, to our very lives.

A DISCIPLE UNDERSTANDS THE PRICE FOR FOLLOWING CHRIST

A DISCIPLE UNDERTSANDS THE PERIL OF NOT FOLLOWING CHRIST

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