The Economics of Discipleship
February 8, 1998 Luke 14:25-35
Last week we talked about the concluding message of Jesus’victory over death - death of self. The death that Jesus died on the cross was a very real death. It was a death to self for the cause of others - that’s you and me. He gave himself that we might live by faith in him as our perfect sacrifice, and he became the firstborn from among the dead. But he calls us also to the same death as a living sacrifice. But what does that mean? In spiritual economics, it means that we have sold out to Jesus. It means we no longer live for ourselves but for him. And if we can say there is a cost to discipleship (that is as a devotee, follower, learner, or student, walking in the footsteps of Jesus), it is certainly to spend ourselves for his cause.
He does not leave us without resources in this. It is interesting that Luke has preceeded today’s passage with the parable of the great banquet. It is not necessarily in direct sequence with today’s passage, but an interesting application can be made from verses 15-23. Jesus has just mentioned repayment for some of the deeds of discipleship at the resurrection of the righteous in v. 14, and in verse 15, someone basically shouts, “Amen.” Jesus then goes into the parable of the great banquet to show that some who are called to discipleship from their richness (perhaps even the one who shouted, “Amen”) will make unsound decisions leading to bankruptcy, and others who are bankrupt will make sound decisions leading to richness. It is a story of riches to rags and rags to riches. In v. 16, Jesus gives us the picture that the call to discipleship is a rich experience. But as Jesus then goes through three different excuses of why those who have been called choose not to come, much less go the distance, we see the results:
v. 18 Only those who invest in God’s property can see it.
v. 19 Only those who plow with God’s team can join it.
v. 20 Only those who wed God’s Son can relate to it.
Or in other words, only those not caught up in their own party can experience the richness of God’s party. Only those who truly confess their own bankrupt condition with their own meager resources can come into the richness of God’s resources. Pooping out on God’s party ain’t nice. And his party is R.S.V.P. (French for , “Let me know if I can count on you.”) Today’s passage tells us about this response we need to make. His resources to accomplish this in us are infinite.
When I was a freshman as Iowa State University of Science and Technology, the word was widely out, even in the high schools, that it was a tough college that tried to flunk you out in the first year. Supposedly this was to weed out the undesirables, the uncommited and the academically unfit. I’m not sure this was true, but it did seem to work that way. There are standards and you can choose to meet them or not. I, and many others survived, but there were times I felt like quitting and needed counsel and comfort, perhaps even a kick in the pants to go on.
Our passage begins with the context that large crowds were following Jesus. He turns to them with a hard message. He wanted to give notice that commitment was required for this journey. Most certainly there was some fallout on discipleship commitment here even as there was earlier in John 6:52-66 where he spoke quite clearly that he himself was the source of nourishment for his call to discipleship, even the source of nourishment for life itself. This is his message to those who would be his disciples and come into the fullness of his richness.
1. Christ’s disciple is possessed of an all-consuming love for Him.
There are times when a concept can best be explained by what it is not. Opposites and contrasts can help us to understand. Light and dark, black and white, hot and cold, up and down, dead and alive, hate and love.
It is assumed that we will love ourselves and our families, even our neighbor as ourselves.
There are times when I want to spend time with my family instead of doing ministry related tasks, but I must put Christ first.
Mt 10:37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
Mt 10:38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Mt 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Mt 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
Hate is a powerful motivator. Islam has forced its way upon the world as a religion of hate, but love will prevail even as it has through the lives of Christians who are persecuted in Islamic lands. Love is stronger than hate because love wins. (Rom. 5:8; Jn. 3:16) Satan, the father of lies, will be destroyed in his hatred of God and man.
Have you ever hated your own life because you have come face to face with how detestable it is? (Founder’s Week)
2. Christ’s disciple is compelled by an all-consuming sacrifice for Him. (v. 27)
Has anyone here ever had a cross to bear? What do you think of when you think of bearing a cross? Is it the lifestyle of a spouse? The rejection of a spouse? The rebellion or rejection of a child? A grave illness or imfirmity of your own or someone else you know or love? A persistent sin problem in which victory is so elusive?
Mel Tunney: the verse that goes downhill.
Php 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
The cross to the world was a symbol of death. The cross to the Christian is a symbol of sacrifice. To sacrifice is to offer or devote to God. It is not so much a burden to bear as it is a gift to make. We must make a gift of ourselves to God as living sacrifices. We were reminded of the story of Ruth by Larry Crabb this week. What a beautiful picture of this as Ruth places herself at the feet of her chosen kinsman-redeemer.
3. Christ’s disciple is not surprised by the cost of love and sacrifice.
Certainly Christ counted the cost of the cross in the Garden. Certainly the cost is worth it (Mt. 13:44-46; treasure, pearl)
What are you prepared to pay for incomparable riches? Will you give what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose?
It is not what we can accumulate (world), but what we can spend (our lives) that makes eternal difference. Our lives are the allowance that God gives us to spend. It matters very much what we spend it on.
Mk 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
If I can’t take the harrassment here, how can I take it in my vision of selfless service?
4. Christ’s disciple is willing to surrender the cost of love and sacrifice. (vv. 31-33)
Is a man able to oppose God?
5. Christ’s disciple understands the futility of purposelessness.
Timeless Truth: We may count the cost, but Jesus paid the price.
All we need do is spend his resources. But shopping is hard work. He is the ultimate bargain.