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06-29-08 GCC MainStream

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06/29/08 – The Continuing Cost of Following Christ

Luke 14:25 -35

Opening Statements:

Introduction: To open our time let me ask you a few questions:

  • Can there be any higher joy than to be made right with the living God? To have the offense and condemnation of our sins which are many cancelled?
  • Can there be any greater privilege than to be named as a child of God, not for any good thing that we have done but purely out of God’s own good pleasure, by his divine choice and for his own praise and glory that we can be named as God’s people.
  • Belonging to God and being able to consider him as “Father” is a tremendous blessing because we are so unworthy. Us, you, me both specifically and collectively are utterly unworthy to be called the children of God.
  • We rejoice in his marvelous and amazing grace as he the infinitely holy one would set his love upon us who are so unlovely, so unworthy and yet so precious in his sight – so precious that we were purchased out of the slavery of sin that held us bound and captive and we were purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, God the Son that we might dwell with God eternally and be to the praise of his glory.

As I was praying over what it is that I would share with you, you who are among the most well taught people in all of Christendom. We sit week after week under the finest teaching available to the people of God anywhere on this planet.

We have a Senior Pastor who is probably the finest Bible expositor of his time and we have the privilege to be led in this fellowship group by a highly gifted and talent servant in Jonathan Rourke. The history of this fellowship group has seen several gifted men serve as its pastor.

As I was praying about what to teach I at one point started to consider Ephesians 2:1-10 and praise God that I didn’t because I could have never given it the treatment that Phil has been giving it these past two weeks.

For about two years our Bible Study has been going through Genesis and on the Monday Night Outreach program we have been going through Luke for about  2 ½ years and so it made sense that the message for this morning should come from one of those two books.

So if you have your Bibles turn with me to the Gospel of Luke chapter 14 and we will look at verses 25-35.

No doubt there are some of you who see this as folly to come to a passage that has been taught be the finest Bible expositor of his day but I am trusting in two things: One, that it will be difficult to remember the passage as John taught it since he taught it nearly three years ago and two, that this is the message that God would have me preach and so the words I speak will be used of the Holy Spirit to minister to the hearts of each one here today, so trusting that this is the passage that God has for us today I will work the field already plowed by our pastor.

So to that end, let us pray that God will accomplish his purposes in our hearts.

READ TEXT

Luke 14:25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,

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.

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.'

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. 33. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

This passage is unique to Luke, however they are similar to other passages. Verses 26-27 are similar to Matthew 10:37-38; and verses 34-35 are similar to Matthew 5:13 and Mark 9:49-50.

In this passage Jesus clearly and upfront calls for those who would be his disciples to make the greatest sacrifices possible. In this passage Jesus outlines the high cost of being one of his followers. Here Jesus explains that it costs something to be a Christian. He is not appealing to the nominal, the casual or the superficial. To be a Christian takes sacrifice. It is not enough in our day to come to church, sit in the pew and go about your life never being touched or touching others. Jesus calls for a costly association and in light of the great cost to be a follower of Jesus, I want to pose a question for our consideration today.

The question is, Who or what is your greatest love? To whom have you given greatest allegiance? Who is it that has your greatest devotion? For whom are you most passionate? Who or what is it that you are living for? On who or what is your life centered? Who or what is your greatest love?

I ask this question because I know that it is a question that many, if not all of us, have already addressed and answered in the past, but what I want us to consider today is, has the answer changed since you first considered the question?

I know that if I ask the question who do you love most, most of us know what the answer should be. It’s like Jr. High group where you stand a reasonable shot at answering a question correctly is you answer: Jesus, God or the Church.

But I want you to go beyond answering on the basis of what you know the answer should be and I’d like for each of us to answer the question as the answer truly is.  Is the answer the same or has anything happened to cause it to change?

In the passage we are looking at today Jesus calls for three things necessary for those who would be his disciples. He calls for a Consuming Commitment, for Careful Consideration and for Consistent Character.

And this will be our outline. A Call for

A Consuming Commitment in verses 26-27

For Careful Consideration in verses 28 – 33                           AND

For Consistent Character in verses 34 - 35

Chapter 14 of Luke begins in the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees where Jesus is present for a meal. While he is there he heals a man and this of course produces an issue. This narrative of the meal and the ensuing events is followed by a couple of parables which lead to verse 25.

Verse 25 begins sometime after that meal and it tells us that as Jesus was going there was a great multitude with him.

What they were there for and why they were following we really don’t know, but on the basis of what Jesus says next we have a pretty good idea that not all of them were there out of a deep love and devotion to Jesus. Not all of them were there to express their devotion to him as the Messiah or to look to him as the one who forgives sin. Whatever their reasons for following, Jesus begins in verses 26 & 27 to stir the pot, to upset the status quo and to weed out those who are truly disciples from those who are not.

In verses 26-27 Jesus makes:

I.  A Call for Consuming Commitment

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.

A call for Consuming Commitment. Jesus is calling for definitive and decisive action that is not for the casual follower. In this statement Jesus expresses that he is not interested in those who would follow him out of some superficial curiosity. He is not interested in those who are there for the carnival that no doubt follows him where ever he goes. He’s looking at those who would be true disciples.

Chapter 9 of Luke points out that Jesus had set his face to go to Jerusalem. Whatever else Jesus would do or that might happen along the way, Jesus’ direction was towards Jerusalem and only one thing awaited him in Jerusalem. Jesus knows what he is headed to and he calls on this crowd to examine their resolve to follow him.

I think it’s important to note at this point that the primary application of this passage has to do with salvation.  The context of this passage is salvific in nature in that it is a call to come to Christ. Jesus is not calling committed believers to a higher level of commitment. This is an initial call to believe and become a true disciple. The primary application of this passage is salvation.

This is not a gospel presentation in that it is not one of the first texts you should use to explain the doctrine of sin, how man has violated God’s standards and consequently stands condemned and guilty before God. It is not a passage that you would use to explain who Jesus is, his work on the cross, his resurrection or why men are in need of a savior but it is a text that you should use to show what it means to be a follower of Christ. It is a text that you could use with those who are proponents of easy believism or cheap grace.

It is a text that you should use to explain that Jesus is not something you add to your life. Being a follower in Jesus does not mean you have a fond regard for him or that you have some sort of warm fuzzy feelings about him. This is a passage that you should use to point out that coming to Christ is not something that is a casual undertaking but it is something that requires all that you are.

It is a passage where Jesus makes a very hard statement and it such a statement that makes Christianity difficult for many to accept, but it is an important passage because it contains the words that Jesus himself used to separate the casual superficial follower from the truly committed.

Pascal said “All men seek happiness without exception. They all aim at this goal however different the means they use to attain it…They will never make the smallest move but with this goal. This is the motive of all the actions of all men, even those who contemplate suicide.”

If Pascal is correct and I think he is, Jesus is calling for those who will take their supreme joy in him. He is looking for those who will love him supremely over all other human relationships.

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 says that if anyone “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 an amazing condition that is stated for one to be a disciple of Christ. Jesus says you must hate every other relationship and you must even hate your own life.

Let us note that the hatred that Jesus speaks of here is not the way that we would consider hatred.

It cannot mean to hate someone with a psychological hatred for to hate one’s parents is a violation of 5th commandment and Jesus never broke nor called upon anyone to break the commandments or the law. Our Pastor says in the MSB that “hatred” here means lesser love.

It is hate as is used in Genesis 29:30-31 where it speaks of Jacob loving Rachel and hating Leah. Jacob didn’t hate Leah, he just loved Rachel more and preferred her.

It’s like Romans 9:13 – where it says “Jacob have I loved and Esau I have hated”.

Matthew 6:24 and Deuteronomy 21: 15-17 also communicate this idea.

The hatred that Jesus is speaking of has been described as a decisive rejection against all competing claims for one’s allegiance. Hatred as used here and in other places in the Bible means to not prefer. It is a hyperbolic Hebraic Idiom. Hyperbole is a form of exaggeration and this is what is being used here. But don’t dismiss what Jesus is saying because it is hyperbole. The fact that it is an overstatement does not in any way lessen its demand.

And notice Jesus is very upfront about what it takes to be his disciple.

As I was thinking on this I thought about how unlike Satan Jesus is. Jesus upfront tells us that being his disciple will cost us everything. Satan lies to us and tells us to follow him will cost us nothing. By following Jesus we are promised nothing in this life and everything in the life to come. Satan promises everything in this life and tells us not to worry about the life to come.

The statement that Jesus makes here is an attitude that we all at one time understood and had. I say had because there is a legitimate question to us as believers: “Do we still love Christ supremely? Do you, do I, still love Christ supremely?” above all else, do we love Christ?

God has blessed us all with family and it is not improper for a man to love his wife, a wife to love her husband, a son to love his father and so on. These are relationships that we are expected to demonstrate a great deal of love in.

In fact, the husband/ wife relationship is supposed to give a picture of the love that exists between Christ and the Church.  There should be a great and grand demonstration of love between the husband and his wife, for their sakes as well as that of the children and the unbelieving world around us.

I bring this question up because as we go through the course of life we become distracted and our priorities can and often do change. I know that men can find themselves working not for the glory of Christ but to secure a buck and support the family as they climb the ladders set before them. As men, we were created by God to work, yet we often times have no joy in it because we do not do it as unto the Lord. Work instead of being the way we glorify God becomes the means to sustain the stuff we’ve acquired. Much of this stuff acquired is not for service to the Lord but for our own comfort or in satisfaction of our lust.

I know many women who lose their identities and take on the roles of wife and mother but losing sight that such responsibilities are a gift from the Lord and should be their joy to do.

As our focus shifts from the Lord it resets itself on something else. It may be ourselves or our spouse or our children but the preeminence that Christ was to have gets encroached upon.

C.J. Mahaney in his little book, The Cross Centered Life asks it this way:

“What is the main thing in your life? What do you think about when you can think about whatever you want? What do you love to talk about? What defines you?

Is it your career? A relationship you’re in? Your hobby? Your political affiliation? A fascination with the latest electronic gadgets?

Or maybe your main thing is something that is clearly others centered. Maybe it’s your ministry, your family, maybe it’s homeschooling, or a cause like the prolife movement.

Good things all, but not the one thing that should be most important.”

Christ says that in order to be his disciple, he must be preeminent above all relationships. One’s loyalty to Jesus must come before a loyalty to family or anyone else. But he goes further to say that in addition to having Jesus as preeminent in all relationships; he must take precedence to even our own lives. In verse 27 he says - 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. The imagery is clear to Jesus’ first century audience.

So the obvious question to us who affirm our calling as a disciple of Christ: is Does Christ hold the supreme place in your heart?  If like Job, God should take away all that you have, would Christ alone still be enough? If you say No it could be that you are an unworthy disciple.

He goes from this Consuming Commitment to the use of 2 illustrations. The first of a tower and the second concerning a king. In these illustrations Jesus will make:

II. A Call for Careful Consideration

Let’s look at this first one in verses 28-30.

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.'

This illustration is both clear and easy to understand. Jesus is letting them know that if they wish to be his disciple it’s going to take some effort to see it through. It is going to require thoughtful and careful consideration to see it through.

If you will remember when John preached on the “Prodigal Son” he emphasized that the society in the first century was an honor shame society. Everything was evaluated on the basis of whether it produced honor or shame.

One of the problems with the Pharisee’s was that they lived their lives to be honored by men not knowing that how they lived was not to their honor before God, but to their shame.

The tower that Jesus refers to here is probably a watchtower for a vineyard. Something that would be built for the purposes of protecting the home and the vineyard. To successfully build one will need to plan carefully and then implement the plan. Failing to finish would bring great shame and make the builder a laughingstock. His failure would be evident to all.

For someone in the time of Christ to identify with Him was very costly. It could cost them the family relationships previously mentioned. It could cost them their job and ultimately everything that they own. To begin with Jesus and then to walk away would be tremendously shameful. To come to Christ is to risk everything socially and to walk away would be to expose oneself to tremendous ridicule, so He calls them to understand clearly what they are doing.

The stigma that these to whom Jesus is speaking is not something we can fully know or appreciate. It is difficult for us to grasp because there is so little that is regarded as shameful or that bears a stigma. Jesus is telling them they had better have the fortitude to stick it out rather than start and be unable to continue for to do so would be to their shame, something they all dearly wanted to avoid.

He then moves to a different illustration. He says - 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. 33. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

The second illustration is often taken as another example of taking stock and making wise choices but there may be something more here. Darrell Bock points out that “In the case of building the tower, all the options lay with the builder. In the case of the potential war the situation is forced upon the king. Only a foolish king would try to take on the stronger foe when he is outnumbered two to one.”

There is a battle in becoming Christ’s disciple. On the one hand we have the kingdom of self over which we reign as monarch. To come to Christ requires the surrendering of our autonomy, and sovereignty and coming to peace with God. We can come against God with our troops but in the end we will find ourselves slaughtered just like those we are studying in Revelation who oppose God. There is but one term for peace in being Christ’s disciple and that is renouncing all that we have. There can be no co-regency with Christ the King. He is either sovereign monarch or he is not. If we yield to his rule then we have peace but if not we will enter a battle that we cannot win.

With these two illustrations Jesus calls for the Careful Consideration of those who would be his disciple.

In this last section Jesus having Called for a Consuming Commitment and Careful Consideration, Jesus calls for Consistent Character in his disciples.

III. A Call for Consistent Character

This section closes with verses 34-35 - 34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Salt as we all know is a seasoning - it often used to enhance flavor.

Salt is also a preservative.

Salt was used in the OT as a symbol with offerings – (Lev 2:13)

Salt was used in the recipe for the special incense to be used on the altar of incense (Ex 30:35) 

Salt was even used as a symbol of judgment (Gen 19 – Lot’s wife)

Salt is also a symbol of covenant (Num 18)

Salt has a long life. And salt as salt is only good as long as it is salty.

Salt in this passage refers to the testimony and influence that they might have as a disciple of Christ. Jesus points out that if they remain salty, then it is good, however, if they lose their saltiness, if they lose their distinctive taste there is nothing by which they can regain their flavor. They are of no use to the soil and are even useless to the manure pile as they can only ruin both. They are good for nothing.

How often have we seen that this is true? How often have we seen those who once stood tall for Christ fall by the wayside to have no further effect for his cause? How difficult is it for one who has compromised the gospel he preached to gain ground where he has fallen? Often times in the eyes of the world the biggest hindrance to Christ are “so-called” followers of Christ.

Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” If he had understood Christ he may have felt differently.

If you are going to be Christ’s disciple you are going to be expected to display the Character of Christ.

This passage looks at what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus. In it Jesus calls for A Consuming Commitment, for Careful Consideration and for Consistent Character.

The call to be a disciple of Christ is one that most all of us have already answered. Most if not all of us would affirm that we are Christ’s Disciples. I hope that if you are then you can look to this passage and affirm that you are doing what this passage requires.

Legend says that when the Spanish explorer Cortez landed at Vera Cruz in 1519 to begin his conquest of Mexico with his small force of seven hundred men that he purposely set fire to his fleet of eleven ships. His men standing on the shore watched their only means of retreat burn and sink into the Gulf of Mexico. There was now only one direction to move - forward into the Mexican interior to meet whatever might come their way.

Our lives as Christians are lifetime callings. For those who are true Disciples of Christ there is no turning back.  We can only move forward. As Christ’s disciples we can only find joy in being what he has called us to be.

Jesus said that 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.

Let me return to what I first asked when we began this time: Who or what is your greatest love? To whom have you given greatest allegiance? Who is it that has your greatest devotion? For whom are you most passionate? Who or what is it that you are living for? On who or what is your life centered? Who or what is your greatest love?

Whatever is of most importance to you might be a good thing. It might be a perfectly honorable or legitimate thing and you may be so into it that it may be difficult to make it of secondary importance, but Jesus demands our complete and full allegiance and affections.

PRAYER

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