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FAN OR FOLLOWER  2        LUKE 14:25-35

            If you will take your Bibles and turn to the 14th chapter of the gospel of Luke. Luke, the physician and historian, walks us systematically through the life of Christ on earth. He begins with the birth of Jesus, then the baptism of Jesus, and finally into the ministry of Jesus. As you read the account of Jesus life, according to Luke, you will find him walking from city to city, village to village performing miracles, ministering to the misfortune and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Also, you will read of the times He calls people to follow Him from the disciples to the crowds at large.

            This is what we have in our text this morning, Jesus calling people to be His disciples. So let me read these verses about being a follower of Jesus. Just reading these verses, it seems extreme. It sounds as if Jesus is making it hard on people to become His disciples, almost impossible. It goes against the grain of what we want to hear in our society. In fact, our culture wants things easy. We want them not too difficult and as a result this philosophy has crept into the church. People want a gospel that is easy on the ears, as well as, on the demands.

            But folks, I want to be honest with you, this morning, these are not my words. These are the very words of God Himself. Jesus, as you know, is God’s Son and He and the Father are one. This is His standard that is being taught, not man’s standard. We have to come to grasp that Jesus is making these demands because He does not want fans, superficial followers. He wants disciples, true disciples; people committed to Him and who love Him with all their heart, mind and soul.

            John MacArthur, in his book Hard to Believe, gives an apt description of the church today. He wrote, “The first role of successful merchandising is to give consumers what they want.  If they want bigger burgers, make their burgers bigger.  Designer bottled water in six fruit flavors?  Done.  Mini-vans with ten cup holders?  Give ‘em 20.  You’ve got to keep the customer satisfied.  You’ve got to modify your product and your message to meet their needs if you want to build a market and get ahead of the competition.  Today, this same consumer mindset has invaded Christianity.  The church service is too long you say.  We’ll shorten it.  One pastor guarantees his sermons will never last more than seven minutes.” Too formal?  Wear your sweat suit.  Too boring?  Wait till you hear our band.  If the message is too confrontational or too judgmental or too exclusive, scary, unbelievable, hard to understand or too much anything else for your tastes, churches everywhere are eager to adjust the message to make you more comfortable.  This new version of Christianity makes you a partner on the team, a design consultant on church life and does away with old-fashioned authority, guilt trips, accountability and moral absolutes.  One suburban church sent out a mailer recently promising an informal, relaxed, casual atmosphere.  Great music from our band and believe it or not, you’ll even have fun.  That’s all great if you’re a coffeehouse.  It’s Christianity for consumers, Christianity light, the redirection, watering down and misinterpretation of the Biblical gospel in an attempt to make it more palatable and popular.  It tastes great going down.  It settles light.  It seems to salve your feelings and scratch your itch.  It’s custom tailored to your preferences.  But that lightness will never fill you up with the true saving gospel of Jesus Christ because it’s designed by men not God and it’s hollow and worthless.  In fact, it’s worse than worthless because people who hear the message of Christianity light think they’re hearing the gospel, think they’re being rescued from eternal judgment when, in fact, they’re being tragically misled.” 

            So Jesus makes it clear to the crowd that follows that day that they understand what it means to be His disciple. He wants them to know what true salvation entails. As I read these words from the lips of Jesus, I hear no easy believism, I hear no adaptation to give the crowd what they want or even Him asking do you have any suggestions to how you think people will follow Me. No, what I hear from Jesus is that I am the author and perfecter of faith. In other words, I wrote the manual on salvation. Before the foundation of the world and you were even born, I had in mind how people would get saved. I know the seriousness of your plight, the tragic results of your sin; but I have come to remedy your situation. I have come to rescue you from the kingdom of darkness and bring you into the kingdom of light; I have come to deliver you from your sins and forgive you of them; I have come to save you from the wrath of eternal damnation and give you eternal life

But in order for you to have peace with Me and an abundance of life, then you must listen to Me on how you can obtain it. You must come to Me on My terms. You must accept it the way I designed it because this is only what I will accept.

So here, in Luke, Jesus said a disciple understands the priority of following Him. This is what we discussed last week. Before we move on to the two other truths in these verses, let me summarize the first truth again for you. What Jesus is saying in verses 26, 27, and 33 is that I must be number one in your life. I must take precedence over your family, your possessions, and yourself. When it comes to choosing between these three things, then you must choose Me. I must have first loyalty in your life. 

In other words, it is a call to self-denial. It is a call to be sold out for the cause of Christ. It becomes a matter of preference that Jesus is to be loved more than those closest to us, to our own desires and ambitions, and even our own possessions. What Jesus is asking is “If following Me means that you lose your family because they disown you like many Jews and Muslims and people of other religions have done, would you do it?” If following Me means that you have to give up your career, goals, and desires because the Spirit tugs on your heart to go in a different direction than you originally planned would you do it?” If following Me means that I ask you to sell all your possessions like I asked the rich young ruler who wanted to be saved would you do it?”

Now, this does not mean that any of these things are going to happen. In fact, in most of our cases they probably have not happened, but if they were required of us would we abandon all priorities in order to follow Him. You see we need to understand that the gospel is not preached in order for us to have heaven on earth, like many who teach you will be healthy and wealthy and things will go better for your family or they will like you more. In some cases, this is not true. Some people lose it all in order to gain Christ. But being a Christian does make life better in the sense that I will love my family more as God teaches me in His word. I will serve Him better in that job or goal or desire that I have because I want it to glorify Him. I will see myself as an owner of nothing, but a steward of everything that the Lord has blessed me with in my possessions. Paul understood this because he wrote, “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for who I have suffered loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him” (Phil. 3:7-9a).

The first truth is that a disciple understands the priority of following Jesus. Next, Jesus gives a second truth painted in two pictures which build on the first truth.

A DISCIPLE UNDERSTANDS THE PRICE FOR FOLLOWING JESUS

            In verses 28-32, Jesus tells two stories about counting the cost. Now in order for us to understand these two parables, we must note that the ancient Near East was based on an honor/shame culture. In other words, you did everything to protect your reputation and not ruin it in that culture. So Jesus talks about a man who gets ready to build a tower, but he must first sit down and see if he can cover the cost of this great enterprise.

            You see this man was not just adding an addition to his house or making improvements to his estate. He wanted to build a tower which all would see. A tower was built sometimes for protection. Jesus told a story about the person who sows tares in someone wheat fields. So the owner of the estate might put someone in that tower to guard against an enemy who could possibly destroy his crop. Some towers were built for grain storage much like a silo is used today. Whatever kind of tower it was, it was big enough for all to see. If you ran out of money after laying the foundation, then you could imagine being the laughingstock of the community.

            So the man sits down and calculates the cost. He wants to be able to finish the product of his labor. The word for finish in verse 29 means to bring it to completion. You want to make sure you get the job done because if you don’t people in that environment who ridicule you for not completing the task.

            What Jesus is saying is this? I think John Stott, in his book, Basic Christianity, sums it up pretty well. “The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers, the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish.  For thousands of people,” he said, “still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so.  This is the great scandal of Christendom, so-called nominal Christianity.  In countries to which the Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin veneer of Christianity.  They’ve allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable, but not enough to be uncomfortable.  Their religion,” he says, “is a great soft cushion.  It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience.  No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism,” end quote. 

            Jesus wanted the crowd that day to know the price for following Him. But I thought salvation was free. It is, but it will cost us everything to get it. There were some that day who followed because Jesus captivate their minds with His teachings, there were some who followed to see the next miracles, others who followed to see if He would feed them again. People, today, follow Christ to see if he will give them a quick fix. You have seen these types who come to church and Christ because they are in dire straits, but when things get better you want find them anymore. Jesus here wants people to assess if they have what it takes to take this action. In ourselves, we can not do it, but His grace is sufficient.

            And He gives a second story in verse 31 with a little bit a different twist.  The first one is a voluntary act.  The guy sets out to build a tower.  Here is an involuntary one, a man who goes to war.  Obviously, his enemy is on the way to attack him.  “What king,” He says “when he sets out to meet another king in battle will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with 10,000 men to encounter the one coming against him with 20,000?”  This is a dilemma over which he has really no control.  He realizes his enemy’s coming with 20,000.  What man, what king, what leader is gonna put his 10,000 in danger, in harm’s way before he sits down and assesses whether or not there is a strategy or whether or not he is better armed, better equipped or has better knowledge of the terrain or whatever in order to win the battle so that he doesn’t expose himself and everybody who’s followed him to death?  Anybody’s gonna do that.  And if he comes up with the conclusion that he can’t win, verse 32 says, while the other is still far away, he’s going to send a delegation and ask terms of peace.  He’s going to send a delegation and say, look, we know you can defeat us so what do you want.  There’s no sense in spilling all this blood to get to the same end that we could get to by negotiating.  So we lose a little of our freedom.  So we have an occupation.  At least we’re alive.  No king would go to battle and put himself and all those who were following him in danger if there was a way to negotiate a peace.   

            The Christian life is described in the Bible as warfare, a battle against Satan, the world and our flesh. When you come to Christ you are not signing a peace treaty with the enemy, in fact you are declaring war on the enemy and must be prepared as a good soldier of Christ. Coming to Christ means sometimes we must endure hardships. Any man of war can tell you that the battlefield is a dangerous place, therefore you must be prepared for it.

            What Jesus is doing is for those He is calling to salvation to step back for a moment and weigh the cost. It is more than praying a simple prayer. Jesus told us in verses 26, 27, and 33 that it could cost you what is most precious to you. It may not, but it might cause you to choose between family and God, your personal desires and Christ, and your possessions and God. This is not some emotional decision that is here today and gone tomorrow.

            Matthew Henry gives us another application to think about in his commentary on this passage. First, Those that persist in sin make war against God, the most unnatural, unjustifiable war; they rebel against their lawful sovereign, whose government is perfectly just and good. Secondly, The proudest and most daring sinner is no equal match for God; the disproportion of strength is much greater than that here supposed between ten thousand and twenty thousand. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? No, surely; who knows the power of his anger? In consideration of this, it is our interest to make peace with him. We need not send to desire conditions of peace; they are offered to us, and are unexceptionable, and highly to our advantage. Let us acquaint ourselves with them, and be at peace; do this in time, while the other is yet a great way off; for delays in such a case are highly dangerous, and make after-applications difficult.

Twenty four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well death would be the cost if captured. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.                        Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.                                              Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.                                                                                     At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.                                            Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.                                                                                   John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.     Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.     Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education.                                                                      They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

A DISCIPLE UNDERSTANDS THE PERIL OF NOT FOLLOWING CHRIST

            Jesus throughout this passage has emphasized that His disciples should be genuine and here gives a clear warning of those who are superficial or nominal in their commitment to Him. He illustrates His point with a common commodity of the ancient Near East. The commodity was salt. Salt serves a function.  Salt has value.  Salt is useful.  We all understand that.  And salt is synonymous with preservation; is it not?  I mean, in the ancient world, salt was used to preserve things before there was refrigeration.  We still have meat being preserved, jerky and things like that.  For years and years all the ships at sea carried salt in order to preserve the meat.  Salt is a preservative.  It has a function.  It has value.  It’s useful.

            But the interesting fact is, while there were different sources of salt, there was at least one source of salt in Israel in ancient times that came out of the Dead Sea and it was the salt that was rather severely compromised with gypsum.  It had another name then, but it was gypsum, basically.  And if it wasn’t processed right, the salt that came from the Dead Sea that had that chemical sort of compound of gypsum with it, if it wasn’t processed right, it could begin to diminish in its effectiveness as salt.  And it would literally become tasteless.  And then it couldn’t do its job.  It would cease being what it was.  It would cease to be able to preserve.  It would lose its potential.  It would lose its usefulness.

            Jesus, in the gospels, calls His disciples to be the salt of the earth. We are to be preserving agents in a world full of decay. We have the potential to change the world as the twelve did because they did not lose their saltiness. But there is the danger of becoming spiritually corrupt and losing our saltiness. Jesus is looking for disciples who remain loyal, permanent and do not have a short-span like those in John 6 and others who fell away.

            The truth which our Lord brings out in this place is very painful, but very useful and needful to be known. No man, be it remembered, is in so dangerous a state as he who has once known the truth and professed to love it, and has afterwards fallen away from his profession, and gone back to the world. You can tell such a man nothing that he does not know. You can show him no doctrine that he has not heard. He has not sinned in ignorance like many. He has gone away from Christ with his eyes open. He has sinned against a known, and not an unknown God. His case is well near desperate. All things are possible with God. Yet it is written, "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened--if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance." (Heb. 6:4-6.) – J. C. Ryle

Now we all have the potential of choosing our families over God. And we have the potential of choosing self-interests over God. And we have the potential of choosing our possessions over God. In fact, we have probably all done it, but what Jesus is saying this ought not be the general direction of your life.

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