Cost of Following Jesus
CALL TO WORSHIP
based on Psalm 66 We gather together to worship. We gather together to share our stories. We gather together to hear God’s story. We have come because we love and want to love more.
Hymn 395: Spirit of the living God
God of perfect wisdom, we approach you acknowledging your holy love and your perfect intent for our lives. We gather to discern, to hear your voice, to recognise your Spirit’s leading. Give us ears to listen, we pray. Amen.
Lord of light and goodness, we worship you, beautiful one. We delight in your ways, and we long to know you more deeply, to give you all our praise. Amen.
A prayer of confession
O God, for the times when we have closed our eyes to what is good for us, behaved in ways that dishonour who we were made to be and ignored the value you have given us – forgive us for these choices, for treating others and ourselves badly and, in doing so, mistreating you. Restore us to peace and clarity, help us to re-assess where we are going; open our minds to new ways of thinking and our hearts to your gentle leading. Where we have rushed ahead, unprepared, grant us renewed wisdom, a healthy view of ourselves and a place to pause to right ourselves, so that we can be ready to follow you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Assurance of forgiveness
Saviour, we know you hear us; you assure us of your love. Your arms are open to us – our wounded hearts, confused thoughts and stumbling steps. Thank you for being ready to embrace us, to set us up right where we have fallen. Help us to go forward in freedom and faith. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Hymn 545: Be, thou my vision
Luke 14: 25-33
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Hymn 161: Speak, O Lord as we come to you.
Following the success of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder Lander, (NASA) planned a series of scientific missions to the planet Mars. Intending to launch at least one new mission every two years, their motto was “Faster. Better. Cheaper.”
Things did not go the way that NASA planned as. In December of 1999 the Mars Polar Lander failed to slow down on its descent and slammed into the surface of the Red Planet, smashing into thousands of pieces. Later it was discovered that a design flaw in the 165-million-dollar spacecraft had caused the braking system to shut off too soon. According to the engineers, this was a flaw that could have been found and prevented if only they had run the right simulation. Why, then, did they fail to run the right the test? It was because NASA was trying to cut costs and decided not to purchase the software they needed. They may have done it cheaper, but they didn't do it better.
The Mars Lander crashed because they failed to count the cost for completing the mission.
Another thought on this, now I don’t know about you but I’m not that keen on shopping, well, that’s not quite true if it’s a music shop, I am happy to spend time there much to the annoyance of Karon.
But if your anything like me the first thing you check is the price ticket, what is the cost, how much is it and can I afford it?
Often you look in shop windows you know your in trouble if there is no visible price tag because: “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.”
This is a mistake Jesus wants to be sure that all his disciples are careful to avoid. so, he tells us in advance how much it will cost us to follow him to the very end. Even before we come to faith in Christ, he calls us to count the true cost of Christian discipleship.
In today’s passage, Jesus explains the cost of true discipleship to his followers.
Jesus is on the move again. He has left the hospitality of the Pharisee’s table and is headed once again toward Jerusalem. He knows that this will be his last journey, that the price tag on this trip is high, and it’s none negotiable.
And speaking to the large crowd that were travelling with him; he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple”.
Wow. It almost sounds as if Jesus is trying to get people to stop following him! Have you ever heard Jesus be so negative?
Ten times in these few verses, he uses the word “not” – three of those are in the phrase “cannot be my disciple.” Jesus has seen the crowds growing behind him, and he knows that some of these followers are only tagging along to see another miracle, especially if that miracle includes getting a free lunch. Some of them are following only because they’ve been caught up in the mob mentality that has begun to develop around Jesus and his disciples. So, he turns to the crowd and tells them, “Unless you’re serious about following me, you might as well go home!”
But Jesus is not trying to get rid of followers. He just wants them – and us – to know what is involved in being a true disciple. We need to know what we’re getting into when we say we want to follow Jesus, because the cost is high.
Specifically, Jesus says we must hate our families if we want to follow him. Now this was pretty strong stuff in a culture where family was everything, and loyalty to one’s family was the highest loyalty expected.We even read the Jesus admonished Pharisees in the past for finding excuses for not supporting their family, by saying they were giving it to God So, what is he actually saying hear let’s take a look at that word, “hate,” to see what Jesus means.
First, we must realise that this kind of “hate” is not an emotion – it’s an attitude of perspective. Keep in mind that the Greek vocabulary Luke used had relatively few words in it. So, the Greek word misew can be translated as “hate” but it also means disregard, be indifferent to, or to love one thing less than something else.
In this instance, Jesus is offering a comparison between the devotion that you would hold for family members, and the devotion required to become one of his disciples. Jesus is saying, “Love me more than you would even love your family, as important as they are to you. Love me more than whatever holds first place in your life, whatever matters most to you.”
Not only must we be willing to put Jesus ahead of all other priorities, but he also raises the price of discipleship even higher. “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” he says. Keep in mind that, at this point in his ministry, his own cross wasn’t even on the horizon yet. His original listeners wouldn't have been aware, as we are, of the connection between this challenge and the suffering Jesus would soon experience at his own crucifixion.
To them, taking up one’s cross would have been a general expression of accepting the burden of great suffering, suffering that would end in death. It was the same commitment a soldier would accept, going into war. If following Jesus meant taking up a cross, it meant staying loyal to him through suffering, even to the point of death.
Jesus must have seen the faces around him drop amongst the crowd as his words started to sink in. Whenever Jesus found that his words were too hard for people to hear, he turned to one of his favourite teaching strategies – telling parables.
“If you were going to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and figure out if you could afford it? You wouldn’t want to become a laughingstock because you failed to plan your project well! And if you were a king going into battle, wouldn’t you first sit down and figure out if your army was strong enough to defeat the enemy?”
But there are three things about these little parables we may miss if we read them too quickly. First, Jesus tells us that the process of building or going to battle starts with sitting down. Counting the cost requires some thoughtful pondering before any action takes place. In the same way, we can’t follow Jesus any old way it suits us. We have to carefully consider the commitment we are making.
Second, Jesus focuses on outcomes. Counting the cost indicates that there is some end in mind, some goal to be reached. You don’t start building a tower unless you plan to finish it. You don’t head into battle unless you think you can overcome the enemy. You don’t follow Jesus unless you want your life to be changed forever.
Finally, Jesus indicates that the cost is too high for the resources you have available. No matter what system you use, no matter what assets you think you have, when it comes to following Jesus, you don’t have enough to pay the cost on your own.
Your resources are not sufficient. There is no price tag visible, so you can’t afford it.
But Jesus isn’t finished. “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions,” he says. Not only do we need to count the cost, the cost of everything we hold valuable. We also have to say farewell to everything we call our own.
We must leave behind everything that matters most to us.
And when Jesus says you have to leave behind everything that matters to you, whether it is family, or good standing in the community, or the things you own, he means you have to leave it behind now, and keep leaving it behind. This isn’t a one-time-and-you’re-done thing. It’s an ongoing, day-by-day, moment-by-moment surrender to God’s grace and mercy.
To be a disciple of Jesus you must know that the cost will be putting Jesus first, and everything else last. That starts the moment you say “Yes” to Jesus, and it does not stop. Ever. There is no retirement plan for being a Christian. You don’t retire from following Jesus, to live off the investment of your past discipleship. Every day starts anew. Every moment requires your full commitment. And if you aren’t willing to give your all, Jesus says, you cannot call yourself one of his followers.
All those lessons Jesus has been teaches about hypocrisy, letting our fears get the best of us, placing a higher value on material wealth than spiritual wealth – it all boils down to this: go all in, or go home. We can’t hold anything back if we want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Because there is no way to “sort of” taking up your cross. There is no way to follow Jesus on your own terms when it is convenient to you. You can’t follow Jesus for the way it makes you feel about yourself, or the way others admire your piety. You must surrender everything to Christ, or you aren’t really a follower.
The cost is high, but the cost of not following Jesus is even higher. Yes, Jesus asks us to leave everything else behind, to make him our first priority, but what price do we pay if we decide to not follow Jesus? What is the cost of refusing to be a true disciple? In his book, Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard lists the things we lose if we don’t follow Jesus with our whole being. He writes:
“Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring.”
The question you must ask yourself is this: Is it worth it? Is it worth giving up abiding peace to live life on your own terms? Is it worth sacrificing a life penetrated by love to settle for having things the way you like them? Is it worth cutting yourself off from faith that trusts in God’s overarching plan for your good, in order to run your life the way you want to? Is it worth giving up hope, so you can skimp by on your own meagre resources? Because that’s what it costs to not take up your cross.
Notice that I am not talking about salvation here. I am talking about discipleship.
Jesus wants to do more for us than save us from our sins, as important as that is. Jesus wants to give us abundant life, to deepen our relationship with him as we grow in faith. Jesus wants us to be his true disciples.
When we say “yes” to following Jesus, when we surrender our will to his will, something amazing happens. Bit by bit, we are changed. Each time we keep saying “yes, Lord, I leave behind everything to follow you,” we are re-formed. We are transformed, becoming more and more like Christ. We experience abundant life, by God’s grace. And we discover that the cost of following Jesus, that we thought we couldn’t possibly afford, is worth it all. Because the price has already been paid out of God’s deep love for us, and when we give our all to Christ, we receive so much more!
As we come before our Lord each Sunday, in our desire to follow Jesus, he invites you to count the cost. Don’t come out of habit, or because you want others to see you doing the right thing. Don’t come to prove yourself righteous, because none of us is righteous on our own. When you come to this to worship, come to offer yourself, body, mind and soul, to the One who died to save you, who rose again to redeem you, and who will come again to claim you as his own. When you come before our Lord, having counted the cost, come as a true follower of Jesus Christ, ready to leave behind everything you ever thought was important, so that you can take up your cross and follow Him.
An old Scottish evangelist Henry Drummond once said
“The entrance fee into the kingdom of heaven is nothing, the annual subscription is everything”
Hymn 563: O Jesus, I have promised
PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION
Thank you, O God, for your guidance and love, for your presence embedded in our lives through your Holy Spirit. Thank you that you offer us counsel. We thank you for your blessings and for the hope you give us. Thank you for choosing to walk beside us and for being with us on every pathway and all terrain, as we go through our lives. Amen.
We pray for a world where slavery still exists: for all those forced to work for the merest subsistence to keep them alive; for those trafficked to satisfy the lusts or economic desires of others. We remember, too, those whose slavery might not be apparent: those trapped in abusive relationships; those kept in deprivation and degradation so they cannot escape. Lord, let there be justice for these people, and enable us to play our part. May we be voices where people have none, and support them when their prison walls are breached. May we be people unafraid to speak out, and to step out, in the name of justice. Amen.
Hymn 30: Jesus Stand among us
Lord Jesus, we want to follow you, but we are pulled in many directions. As we go from this place, help us to root ourselves in your word. Give us the courage to speak truth to injustice, that your kingdom may come and your will be done. Amen.