The cost of following Christ

2024-02-25A

Please read Luk. 14:25-35.

A. OUR WORLD’S MEDIA ADS.

In our modern life, advertising has been developed into a fine art. It is not necessarily the best product that sells the best, but rather the one whose full page glossy photo appears in a magazine with wide circulation; the product whose brightly coloured flyers are placed in tens of thousands of mailboxes; the product that is displayed every few minutes full blast on the TV screen or announced on the radio. The advertiser hires an expert high impact salesman to convince potential customers that his product is the very best value money can buy, easy to pay off and simple to use. The weaknesses of a product are not stated, except in the case of medicines where it is mandatory by law to list the side effects. Of course, you only read this at home after the pills have been bought and paid for.

B. KINGDOM ADVERTISING PRESENTS BOTH THE PLEASANT AND THE UNPLEASANT QUALITIES.

In offering his Kingdom to his listeners, Jesus clearly revealed both the pleasant and unpleasant experiences they would encounter. The bright side was that it was like discovering a most precious treasure in a field while tilling the soil or like coming across an exceptionally precious pearl. For these you would be willing to sell everything you have. God’s Kingdom also is a safe bank in which you can stash away treasures for eternity.

But Jesus is not only the giver of Eternal life. He also is the absolute Truth and the True Light. He knew that most of His seekers were not in earnest to serve him. They had no real desire to have an intimate relationship with Him, much less a radical change to their lives. They just wanted to see and experience the miracles He did, eat the loaves of bread and fishes and listen to His comforting words. Therefore He often spoke of the cost to be his disciple. He wanted to ensure that they were not under the illusion that they were His true disciples and would share in eternal life. He therefore often explained how difficult it was to enter His Kingdom and how painful it was to persevere on that path. In the Scripture passage we have just read, He does so again.

C. THE PAINFUL SIDE: OFFENDING FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.

First, He said, they had to hate their family members and themselves as well. Why? This sounds wierd. What does it mean? He wanted them to understand that their love for God had to be infinitely greater than their love for themselves or for their family members. This means that time and again, when their family members required them to do something, but He wanted them to do something else, they had to choose to do what He wanted and not what they themselves or their family members wanted. They had to firmly reject such desires that encroached upon his will for them. To those observing them continually behaving so contrary to what everybody else does, it would seem like they hated themselves and their family members. However, the real reason for their behavior would be their overwhelming love for God.

D. THE PAINFUL SIDE: LIVING LIKE A PERSON SENTENCED TO DEATH.

In verse 25, Jesus explains this principle in yet another striking way. He says that if a person wants to walk with Him, every morning, he must first take up his cross, then follow Him. Back then, when you saw a person passing by, bent over and carrying a large, heavy wooden Roman cross on his shoulders, you would know that you would never see him again. He was on his way to be executed. Soon he would be nailed to that cross and there he would hang until his spirit left his body. A person carrying a cross had finished giving away his house, cattle, goats, and even his clothes and had said goodbye to his family and friends for the last time. When he took up the cross, he no longer had anything that connected him to this world.

This, Jesus explained, was how His disciples had to live. The day a person entered the Kingdom through the narrow gate, he took the death sentence upon himself. From that day on, nothing and no one in this world could be allowed to exert any contrary influence on his life. The disciple is, especially, to pronounce death to all his own sinful desires; the totality of his old sinful nature. From that day onwards, he would belong entirely to Jesus and follow Him in a life of holiness and devotion. That is a strong statement! 

But let us not think for a moment that this Kingdom life is a depressing way to live. As we abandon the old sinful life, God’s new powerful, joyful and holy life will rise up within us. We will become happy people, filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit; no longer enjoying the sinful pleasures of this world. Let us also add that we will never be required to carry the cross of self-denial in our own strength. The Lord will empower us to do it .

E. THE RISK OF NOT BEING ABLE TO PERSEVERE.

We find the third picture of discipleship in verses 28-30. Here He uses the image of a person who wants to build a tower. Now, if you set out to build an ordinary house, it would not attract much attention from the townspeople. The neighbours would not stop to take a closer look. You can use cheap materials and no-one will comment. you may simply stack stone walls and deck the roof with reeds. Anyone could build such a house. 

Building a tower was another matter. From the moment you lay the foundation, everyone will come to see, to learn what your purpose was, how high it would be, what it would cost. Some would admire you. Others would smirk and comment scornfully, “He thinks highly of himself; he’ll never finish it!”

To avoid becoming the laughingstock of the town, you would have to sit down beforehand and calculate carefully the cost of stronger building materials, thicker walls, solid foundations and of course the mass of stone or brick to build three or more stories high, the spiral staircase; the cost of employing expert builders, etc. That would cost you a tidy sum of money. Should your funds run out before the tower was completed, you would not be able to show your face on the street again. Even every member of your family would be laughed at; be finger pointed all over your village.

Likewise, Jesus warned, you had to think carefully and calculate the cost of discipleship. While you are living the same sinful life as everyone around you, no one will bother you, but if you become a true Christian, stand up for God, a beacon of light in your surroundings, everyone will soon know about it. They will keep a close eye on you because they won’t like it if you live a better life than them. Your holy life would shine like a lighted up tower amongst their mud houses and they would secretly harbour hatred against you. 

Now, if they notice that you have suddenly stopped making progress in your pursuit of holiness, they will rejoice. Soon they will mock you, gossip among themselves, laugh and point the finger. It will be very embarrassing for you and you will not know where to hide. Therefore, warns Jesus, you must think seriously before entering God’s Kingdom but at the same time, do not be afraid because He will give you the strength to complete your tower of light to His glory.

F. THE SCARY SIDE: IT IS GOING TO BE WAR!

Next, in verses 31 and 32, discipleship life is compared to a war. The odds are 10,000 soldiers against 20,000. The unsaved multitudes vastly outnumber those that follow the Lord. This seems to be an unfair battle. And the devil is so much stronger than what we are. The man or woman that intends to become a Christian, must therefore carefully consider whether he stands a chance to win the battle. He must not rush in blindly. 

So let us consider the possibility of winning the battle. In studying history, we note that even in this world, many wars were won by a handful of soldiers who had a passionate love for their country and a complete trust in their leader. Strategy and weaponry also made a huge difference and Jesus’ warriors are well equipped. In Jos 23:10 we read:

One man of you shall chase a thousand. For Jehovah your God is He who fights for you, as He has promised you. 

This also applies to the spiritual battles we fight. For although we are still living in a body of flesh, we do not fight our spiritual battles with weapons of the flesh.  The weapons we use are supplied and empowered by God. By engaging his power, we cast down spiritual strongholds. We annul the plans of the devil and break down every fortification raised up against the knowledge of God. We take captive every thought of man and compel it to be obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:4,5).

So, our conclusion can only be that you need not fear to become a Christian for the Lord will empower you.

G. THE OPTION OF NOT FOLLOWING JESUS: TASTELESS SALT IS NO SALT.

Finally, in verses 34 and 35 Jesus compares His disciples to salt which has a very strong taste. If there is salt in the food, everyone who eats it will become aware of it. It is meant to be tasted. If salt loses its taste, it means that its chemical composition has changed so that it can no longer be called salt at all. Then it is completely useless and might as well be scattered on the road. 

A Christian whose life is not marked by the strong taste of Christ’s holiness but hides it to avoid persecution or ridicule, is utterly useless in the Kingdom of God. He may just as well climb onto the wall of God’s Kingdom, drop down on the outside onto the passing road and become one with the lost citizens of this world.

What Jesus says is that there is nothing in between. You are either salt or no salt; you are either in his Kingdom or on the outside.

H. JESUS’S FINAL WARNING: LISTEN ATTENTIVELY!

The Lord concludes His powerful teaching by saying, “Let all who can hear prick up their ears to drink in these important words because they mean life or death to the hearer and whoever hears them and does not take them to heart, will one day be judged that much more severely.”

AMEN.

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