The Cost of Being a Disciple
September 4th, 2022 |The Cost of Discipleship| Luke 14:25-33
(Click here for the sermon audio)
What we find here is essentially Jesus clarifying what it means to come to him, to follow him, to be his disciple. He does this in the negative sense, in that three times he says ‘cannot be my disciple’
Using a double negative for emphatic emphasis, you can no, not be a follower of mine.
What would prompt such a strong statement from Jesus?
Luke 14 (ESV) 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them...
The occasion-great crowds accompanied him.
Now I want to stop there for a minute because this week, I realized that this is the word I have been searching for for a long time.
As I watched people come in and out of the church, as I have ministered in various locations, as I’ve evaluated seasons of my own life in Christ, I have seen this disconnect in what we are called to be and do and what we actually do. This word describes many people in the church today.
What was happening here? Remember Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, Luke told us in chapter 9 that he has set his face to Jerusalem, he is focused on his mission, he is headed towards the cross.
Great crowds accompanied him.
What does it mean to accompany someone?
Webster's dictionary says : to go with as an associate or companion. These people were travelling with Jesus, they were gathered around him, and there were many of them.
Here is what I have seen in the church, many people are willing to accompany Jesus.
To be associated with him, to call him a companion. But, in this encounter we are reminded that Jesus never called people to accompany him or admire him, rather he called them to apprentice under him. To become like him, to be a disciple is to be formed by our relationship with the master until we look like him, talk like him, walk like him. He turns to this crowd of followers and draws a line in the sand, unless you are willing to following me like this, you may accompany me but you cannot be my disciple.
Jesus never called people to accompany him or admire him, rather he called them to apprentice under him.
The problem is for many Christians in American, for some of the Christians in our own church, your walk with Christ would be better described as accompanying rather than apprenticing.
Before you think I am nitpicking semantics or being dramatic, listen, Jesus says it matters. Jesus says how we relate to him is a matter of life and death.
Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Didn’t we call ourselves by your name? Didn’t we do things good religious things?
Jesus says it comes down to your relationship with him, does he know you?
The only way to know Jesus is to come to him on his terms, and here in our passage he lays them out for us.
Let’s take a long, honest look at these three statements Jesus makes about being a disciple and ask ourselves if we are following Jesus on his terms or merely accompanying him on ours.
Three statements about discipleship-
Statement #1- Jesus Above All Else
Luke 14:26 (ESV) 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.
This is one of the startling paradoxical statements Jesus makes in the gospels to grab our attention and to make his point. We know that because if we take it at its shocking face value it would contradict Jesus' constant call to love.
He upholds the command to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourself as the greatest commandment, the commandments which all other commandments hang on.
He defended and upheld the fifth commandment which states to honor our father and mother.
He regularly interacted with, blessed, and even used children to illustrate truth.
He said that we would be known as his by our love for one another.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) Here it is important to understand that the Bible sometimes uses the absolute language of hatred to express a comparative degree of affection. A notable example comes from the book of Genesis, where Jacob is said to have “loved Rachel more than Leah” (Gen. 29:30). Yet in the very next verse the Scripture says that “Leah was hated” (Gen. 29:31). To “hate” in this sense is to have a preferential affection. It is to love one thing more than another, so that if it comes down to a choice, there is no doubt as to which affection we will choose (cf. Matt. 6:24). To hate is “to give second place to, and if need be to let go, all else.”
It is as one commentator put it, Jesus must be our ‘supreme affection’
Jesus' list is exhaustive. Your closest natural familial ties, father and mother. The familial ties of marriage and parenthood. Your wife, husband, children. Your familial ties of religion, your brothers and sisters.
But Jesus goes farther, he says, yes, and even his own life.
If there is anyone, even yourself that holds a higher priority and affection than Jesus, you cannot be his disciple.
The way Jesus puts it to his disciples in Matthew 10 strengthens our understanding of what he means by we must hate our mother, faith, children, and even our own life, if we are to be a disciple.
Matthew 10:37-39 (ESV)37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Do you love Jesus?
Most of us would answer absolutely!
These accompaniers loved Jesus.
They loved his miracles, his elevation of the poor and mistreated, they loved the way he confounded the religious superiors.
But that’s not the question, according to Jesus, is it? Rather, it is the question he asked Simon Peter after the resurrection. Do you love me more than these?
How do we honestly answer that question?
We merely have to look at our lives and ask what our priorities are. According to the evidence, not what we say they are, not what we know they should be, what are they?
When given the choice to gather with the body of Christ in obedience and worship or to play a tournament, to spend the day relaxing, to travel, to get more work done; where do we find ourselves on Sunday.
When given the choice to spend time with Jesus during the day or spend time with social media, Netflix, or our favorite hobby, what do we gravitate towards?
When given the choice to follow Jesus and upset our family or follow our family at the price of following Jesus, what do we do?
We are called to love and care for our family and our neighbors. Jesus is not advocating skirting any of our God given responsibilities, but he is in no unmistakable way declaring that to be a disciple is to put Jesus above all else.
Listen, Jesus will not accept any less than our highest priority and affection. To come to Jesus is for him to become our supreme affection.
Statement #2- No Less Than Total Surrender
Luke 14:27 (ESV) 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
To bear a cross- even before he went to the cross, these first century men and women would have understood what bearing a cross was. They had seen the cruelty of the Roman cross firsthand. To see someone carry a cross was to witness someone who was declared guilty, condemned to death, stripped of all rights and possessions on their way to their death.
It was a man totally and finally controlled by another.
This is not the first time Jesus has used this language, it would have been familiar to his closest disciples.
Luke 9:23-26 (ESV) 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
We evangelicals love to focus on the first part of that call, if anyone would come after me. After all, Jesus' call to come to him and the kingdom was generous and often.
Matthew 11:28- come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest
John 6:37- whoever comes to me I will never cast out
John 6:35- whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst
John 6:44- whoever comes (by being drawn by the father), i will raise him up
John 7:37- if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink
John 10:27-29- follow me, I give eternal life
John 5:39-40 (ESV) 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Rest, security, satisfaction, eternal life, abundant life. These are the things Jesus promised those that come to him. So we grab on to those and we proclaim ‘come to Jesus’, which is good and right, and all God’s people said ‘amen’.
But, where we fail is that Jesus also clearly said what it meant to come to him. So instead, we ask people to raise their hands, to walk an aisle, to say a prayer, to join the church, and people, wanting desperately to experience what Jesus offers, respond. And we fill our churches with people who are willing to add Jesus to their lives, to accompany Jesus, but never understand that Jesus’ invitation to come to him was so much more than that.
People, especially in America are willing to accompany Jesus because we feel like he is going the same way as we want to go anyway. He will lead us to health, wealth, and prosperity. So why not? Why not walk with Jesus?
But the problem with accompanying someone versus following someone is when they start heading in a direction you don’t want to go, you simply part ways, right?
What happens when following Jesus means that you don’t advance in your occupational field, what happens when following Jesus doesn’t lead to the spouse, 2.5 kids, and the picket fence?
What happens when following Jesus means less money in the bank account and not more? What happens when what you want for your life and where Jesus is leading doesn’t line up anymore?
If you are a disciple of Jesus, it means nailing that desire, that dream, that future to a cross. It is dying to your desires, your way, and following Jesus.
But the problem with accompanying someone versus following someone is when they start heading in a direction you don’t want to go, you simply part ways, right?
It is to be a man or woman, who, like the person carrying the cross, is totally and finally surrendered to someone else’s direction. To come to Jesus is to release every claim on your life and be willing to endure any and every suffering, up to and including death in order to obediently follow Jesus.
To come to Jesus was an invitation to come and die to yourself. Jesus says, if that is not your position, you cannot be his disciple.
Statement #3- Fully Committed to Follow
In his first two statements, Jesus lays out a pretty heavy cost for following Him. He must be our first priority and affection, and we must be totally-surrendered to where he leads us, up to and including our own death. In this last statement, Jesus, using two parables encourages any would-be disciple to really count the cost of what those two statements mean for your life.
No one can accuse Jesus of a bait and switch, although the same cannot be said for many of the gospel invitations that have been made in his name.
Luke 14:28-30 (ESV) 28 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.
Luke 14:31-32 (ESV) 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.
Dual parables that illustrate a singular command. Count the cost.
In the first parable, Jesus illustrates the choice of building a tower. After evaluating the cost, if you cannot finish, you don’t start.
In the second parable, Jesus illustrates the necessity to make a choice, he is being marched upon and he has to make a choice on whether to stand and fight or to seek peace before the other king gets there.
In the first parable he asks the question, can we afford to follow Jesus?
In the second parable, he asks the follow up question, can we afford not to?
This second parable is a great illustration of the choice we all have to make.
Death is marching towards every single one of us. We know not when it will make it here, it could be today, it could be tomorrow, or it could be 60 years from now, but the reality is it is coming, and with it, the reality that we will have to stand before God, hopelessly outpowered and helplessly defenseless.
But rather than having to send a delegation to ask for terms of peace, God has graciously sent them by sending his son Jesus.
What are the terms?
Full and total surrender.
Are you ready to fully surrender? Your rights, your desires, your plans?
Are you ready to live your life totally surrendered to Jesus, regardless of where it leads you?
This is what the cost of discipleship is, this is what Jesus tells us to do, count the cost, before we come to him. Which brings us to his final summary statement in our text, which puts to death any lingering idea we have of holding on to anything when we respond to Jesus.
Luke 14:33 (ESV) 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Renounce could be translated, say goodbye to.
Whoever does not open his hands and release everything cannot be a disciple of Jesus. It is important to stop here for a moment and emphasize that the call to be a disciple is the only call Jesus makes.
This is not for super spiritual Christians, it is not for pastors or elders alone, it is the singular call Jesus makes to anyone who would come to Him.
Yes his call to come to him is open to everyone, yes it is a call based not on your merit or works, but on his grace, yes, it is appropriated by faith because of grace, but make no mistake it is a call to abandon any claim you have on your life, a call to follow Him with everything you are.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) A disciple who has renounced everything to follow Jesus is the only kind of disciple there is.It may well be that Jesus will want us to keep some of what we have in order to use it for his glory. But if Jesus calls us to do it, we must be ready to give up anything and everything for him. This is what it means to count the cost. Every disciple
must relinquish all his possessions—not merely money and material things, but also his dear ones and everything that his heart clings to, yea, even his own life, his own desires, plans, ideals and interests. This does not mean that he must sell all his possessions or give away all his money or desert his dear ones and become a hermit or beggar or wanderer, but it means that he must give Christ full control over his whole life with everything that he is and all that he possesses, and that under His guidance and in His service he should deal with his possessions in the manner that is best.
The best analogy I could think of to understand what this looks like is the idea of being all-in.
You know what that is. The term originated in the world of poker but in the last 25 years or so has become a common way of describing a complete commitment.
It is leaving nothing back, nothing in the reserve, no backup plan, wager, where you push all your chips in.
This is what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus. We keep no chips back, your family is not the exception, your desires, your dreams, your finances, your marriages, your career, etc…
To come to Jesus is to surrender everything you have and everything you are.
Anything less and Jesus says, you cannot be His disciple.
I want to close with a brief exercise.
Picture yourself walking with Jesus when he turns and makes these statements. You are in the crowd of followers when he says.
‘To be my disciple you must love me above all else, to be my disciple, you must be willing to follow me, even if it means a horrible death, and to be my disciple you must be willing to let go of everything you have.’
What do you do?
Do you take another step with Jesus or do you decide you have accompanied him far enough?
That is the question that everyone has to answer. Because it doesn’t matter how far you are willing to follow him unless it is all the way. Anything short of that isn’t following him at all.
it doesn’t matter how far you are willing to follow him unless it is all the way.
To follow Jesus is to potentially lose every earthly possession you have, it is to potentially be estranged from every family member you love, it is to potentially lose your very life. But to follow Jesus is also to experience peace in your soul that defies understanding, it is to experience life more abundant than you can imagine, it is to know that you are his and that you will spend an eternity with him in paradise.
For those that decided to follow him that day, it was worth it, and listen, friends, it is still worth it.
Would you be a disciple of Jesus? Jesus has given his terms of peace.
How will you respond?