I preached at Crescent City Christian School this past Friday for middle and high school chapel. Every time I get the privilege of preaching, I always try to choose a text that is relevant to the audience as well as my own life. Friday’s sermon was for the students and faculty but it was also for me. The call to “count the cost” or “pick up your cross and follow me” is always timely in my own life. Many times I don’t want to pick up my cross. Cross-bearing hurts. It is hard. We don’t get to pick our crosses.
Many times I want to pick the way and method of dying to myself and following Jesus. But, of course, it does not work like that. I want to avoid suffering. I want comfort. Suffering is having what you don’t want and wanting what you don’t have. I want neither of those options. I find myself pleading or even complaining to the Lord, “Give me a different cross. Please remove this suffering. I want a different struggle. Not this one, Lord. Please God, not this one. I want something I can handle.” Do you see the pride? I do. If God were to give us a cross we could handle, if he were to send the precious pearls of suffering that we personally get to choose, we could overcome without him. We could handle life ourselves. What good would there be in following him if we did not need his help? I hope these words below will incline your heart to follow him more. They did for me.
We need to learn to count the cost, to weigh the evidence, to understand what is true required of us before we make commitments. So often today our generation makes decisions with our heart, emotions, or feelings instead of our mind. THAT IS TERRIBLE! Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” You cannot always trust your feelings. It is not a good thing to be impulsive or flippant or unthoughtful. Last week’s chapel message from First Peter commanded us to be sober-minded and self-controlled because the time is short.
Luke 14:25-33 is a passage about counting the cost of following Jesus. It is about becoming a disciple. A disciple is a learner or a follower. They sit at the feet of their master and do what he does. A Christian or a disciple is simply someone who follows Jesus with what they say, feel, believe, and do. Before we open the passage, I must tell you two things this passage is NOT saying. First, this passage is not teaching you must work for God for your salvation. Salvation is a free gift because Jesus was crushed under the wrath of God on the cross. Salvation is a free gift but discipleship will cost you everything. Second, this passage is not teaching salvation is easy. Salvation is not so easy a caveman could do it. Salvation is so impossible the Godman Jesus had to die in your place. Jesus is making demands on his followers. If you want to follow me, you must truly follow me. All of you for all of me.
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them…
Jesus was not interested in building a mega-church. He was not pleased that so many people were following him? WHY? They were being superficial in their pursuit of him. They only wanted him because he could give them stuff. He could heal their diseases. He could give them bread and fish. He could make them feel better about themselves. Jesus will have no superficial followers who refuse to count the cost and truly give their whole selves to him. We need to be followers of Christ; not fans of Christ. You don’t honor Jesus by giving him lip service. You don’t honor Jesus by going to Church on Sunday and Wednesday and living how you really want to throughout the rest of the week. You don’t honor Jesus by pretending in front of people you’ve followed him but away from them you secretly want your own life. He doesn’t want your leftovers. He will not be a guest in your life; he MUST BE YOUR WHOLE LIFE!
26 “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. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Jesus makes three surprising statements
First, you’ve got to hate your family and love me. What does he mean? Is Jesus really saying you’ve got to hate your family? Some of you would love Jesus to tell you that you can hate other people. The quickest way to tell whether or not you’ve made a god in your own image is he hates the same people you do. Jesus is not allowing you to hate. He is using hyperbole to make a point. Your love for me has to be so total and intense that compared to all other loves it looks like hate. NO ONE comes before me. Not even your own mother. Jesus is saying, “If you are to love me, you have to give me first place. You got to give me priority.” Nothing can come before your relationship to Jesus.
Second, you’ve got to put Jesus before your own life. We all seek to preserve our own life. We want our own way. We want to be left alone and have everything go based upon our plans. Jesus is saying, “If you are to love me, you no longer have your own business. You no longer have your own plans. You no longer posses a square inch of your life that belongs solely to you anymore. If you are to have me, I must have all of you.”
Third, you’ve got to be willing to abandon and sacrifice even unto death for me. This is radical. This is bold. This is breath-taking. What does it mean to take up your cross? People who were condemned to die by crucifixion in the first century were ordered to carry the cross beam to the spot where they would be slaughtered. Make no doubt about it, when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Your life no longer belongs to you. He isn’t wanting you to get into planes and fly them into buildings. There’s a world of difference between a radical Muslim and a radical Christian. He wants you to be willing to go the distance and love him. Jesus goes on to illustrate this point in two ways.
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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
If you don’t count the cost of building a tower before the project begins, you’re likely not going to get very far. You’re going to have half a building and the mocking of your neighbors. We don’t want to be fools. We don’t want to look stupid. We don’t want to have the bubble burst and do things that will make people laugh at us. Jesus is saying, “You’ve got to count the cost of following me or you’ll look foolish if you set out to do it and then back away. You will look petty and uncommitted if you start following me for bad reasons and then walk away.” Jesus does want you to walk away so he says,” TEST me. Count the cost. Think. Reflect. Weigh the evidence. ”
31 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? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
If you don’t count the cost of going to war, you will be quickly and swiftly defeated once the other army arrives. You have to access what logistics, terrain, weaponry, and what strategic or tactical advantage might outweigh the large number found in the other army. We don’t want to be destroyed in battle. We want to be victorious. We want to succeed in our pursuit of Christ. We don’t want it to end badly. Jesus commands us to carefully access to commitment to following him. He does not want emotion-driven, self-seeking, prideful, temporary spurts of religious bull. Christianity isn’t a game. Jesus is not an addition to your life; he must be your life. Don’t be a half-built tower. Don’t be a body dead on the battle field. If you are to follow Jesus, you must give everything.
33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
You might be tempted to say, “This sounds too difficult. I don’t know if I can do this. Austin, I don’t know if I can bear my cross.” Jesus said, ” Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If you carry the cross, the cross will carry you. If you walk that Calvary road and die to self, God promises to go before you, behind you, above you, and beside you. He does not require of us something he is unwilling to give himself.
You might also be tempted to ask, “Is it even worth it? Is giving my all to Jesus including my life even worth it?” My response is simple. Is forgiveness worth it? Is being restored back to full relationship with God worth it? Is having God for you forever worth it? Is heaven worth it? Are eternal pleasures at his right hand worth it? Are the praise, approval, and acceptance of Jesus worth it? Every good thing you give up for him will be returned one day. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
May we truly count the cost of following Jesus.