Counting the cost.
It is funny how things go full circle. I grew up in Avondale, in Wainoni road, close to the Avon river – just by Kerr’s reach; and now here I am back living by the river. A great play ground! There was no Porrit park there – there was a farm with a guy who had race horses, with a trotting track. I can recall trying to cross Kerr’s reach on a rotten log and, inevitably, falling in and coming home with mud up to my waist. I sound like an old man, but the area was different – if you went past Pembrock street it was all market gardens. Things have come full circle – it is again all devoid of houses. Where Robin’s place was, is now an open field. That whole area around the river got hit pretty hard in the earthquake and most of the houses around us are now gone. But there are still one or two. There is one in particular, the other side of the river from the rowing club. I remember it from when I was a boy. I remember it being built. It stood out. It was a fairly big place – the owners had obviously planned a grand home for themselves and the framing went up …. And that is all that went up! It just stopped. That is why I remember the place – for years it was just the framing. The people had a grand dream – but I guess they bit off more than they could chew and the money ran out. [P] In fact it stood so long as just framing that the timber went all grey. We moved out of that area to the other side of town; and that incomplete house must have been bought up or they got some more money. Work recommenced and people lived in it. But still to this day, that house is not finished! We are talking over 40 years on! If you look around the upstairs dormer windows you will see the ply showing, they still haven’t finished the cladding! It is due for demolition now, and still it is not finished. It is a bit like a story Jesus told in Luke: [Luke 14:25-35 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “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. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? “Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” ] Many of you know my younger sister, Christina; she is enthusiastic; she gets an idea and is real keen …. For about 5 minutes. I remember when she was still at home she would be real keen on making a new dress, she got what were called “jiffy patterns” – because they were quick and easy to make – they only took a “jiffy” to make. She would cut out the material; then the enthusiasm would run out. There was a big bench seat behind the dining table, it had a lift-top and inside was all the sewing stuff – it was filled with uncompleted jiffy patterns. You see, the thing that you are making only has any value if it is completed. A completed bach on that section by the river would be more use than that mansion that only had the framework done. Jesus told two stories: one of a man building a tower, the other of a king attacking a superior force – in both cases he says that they sit down first. They count the cost, they decide whether they can carry off what they intend to do. Jesus doesn’t want those who a4re going to give up along the way – the seed on rock soil – think it through first. You sit down and consider – you take time and evaluate rationally. It is not a spur of the moment thing, something done on an impulse, a rush of blood to the head in and emotional moment. But often when the appeal goes out for people to follow Jesus it is done in an emotionally charged atmosphere, a dramatic appeal in a meeting, the music creating the right atmosphere, the emotional appeal to come forward. Now I have a concern – we are very eager for people to follow Christ, so eager that we can sometimes be less than honest. We want to sell Jesus, make it easy to follow Him, tell of all the advantages and blessings. There is blessing but there is an emphasis on prosperity and blessing that is at heart outright selfishness! There is a self-centred motive in some presentation of the Gospel – bless me, prosper me, heal me, fulfil me – discipleship is the absolute opposite! It is laying down your life, giving up everything for Jesus, self- sacrifice. But we present the blessings, but following Jesus is not an easy road – do I hear an amen from you who have been walking with Jesus for some years? We appeal to people to come to Jesus, just come forward, raise your hand, meet my eye; but seldom do we speak about COUNTING THE COST [P]. Jesus made it very clear what it was going to cost to follow Him. He didn’t want people to rush into it – they had to sit down and consider carefully whether they were prepared to make the commitment required. He didn’t make out that it was easy, sell it cheap. He said that it was going to cost you everything. We are so concerned that people come to Jesus that we lower the bar – don’t tell people what is involved. By selling the Gospel cheap, we devalue it. Jesus was quite prepared to let them walk away. [Mark 10:17-23 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother.’ ” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”] Did you read that?! Jesus just let him walk away! He was quite prepared for a rich young ruler to walk away when he was not prepared to sell all his possessions and give it to the poor. Did you notice, that as in both Luke 14 and in Mark 10 it was: “all his possessions”. Do you know? - Jesus’ words are not hard to understand, just hard to accept and implement! The Good News version says: “none of you can be My disciple unless you give up everything you have.” I want you consider whether you are prepared to give up everything for Jesus. He gave up everything for you. We go out the prison and we preach the Gospel, the Good News of salvation that is in Jesus through faith in His death and resurrection. The message is that salvation is free, righteousness comes by faith, it is not bought; eternal life is a gift of God, that salvation is freely given, it doesn’t cost you a thing. This is absolutely true. Righteousness, eternal life and salvation are free gifts; they cannot be earned or bought. You never could pay the price anyway – it was far too costly – it cost the precious blood of Jesus, a sinless sacrifice. Jesus was the only one who could pay. In [John 19:30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. ] My Dad loves to tell the story of the discovery to the Tebtunis papyri – some archaeologists back in the nineteenth century, when archaeology was more treasure hunting; found some crocodile mummies. They were looking for gold and treasure and so in disgust, so the story goes, took a kick at one of these crocodiles – it split open and they found that it was stuffed with a load of old papyri. These were rubbish, just used to stuff the animal – a load of them were nothing but bills. And on the bottom of many of these bills were the Greek words “tetelestai” – “it has been finished”. On the cross when Jesus said: “it is finished”, He was saying that He had paid the debt of our sin in full. Pay He did, in full, and gave it freely. I want that to be very clear in your minds. But the verses we read are not talking about salvation but DISCIPLESHIP – three times Jesus spoke about “being My disciple” – that is the issue! The great commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28 was to “make disciples”; not to get people to raise their hand in a meeting, come forward or sign a decision card. You will not find any of those things in the Bible! Jesus wants people who will follow Him, learn of Him, be disciplined and walk in the steps that He took. It’s not a very good analogy – but you might think of a rugby club [P] – the membership is free – for real, no strings or conditions. But when you are a member of that club you support it, there is commitment to it [P]. You go along to practices, show up for the games. What happens if you lose a game? Do you quit? What if someone criticizes or complains about your performance? Do you pack it in? Go off to another club because you are hurt? No, you pick up your game, put in some practice to get it right. If only people showed the kind of commitment they do to a sports club to the church. If they don’t like the pastor, the music, or whatever – off they go somewhere else. If there isn’t people their age, friends for their kids, off they go. If someone says something to them, or even looks at them a particular way – they leave, nurse the hurt and often end up going nowhere. No discipline, no commitment. I said that the issue was discipleship - what we read took place at a time when Jesus was extremely popular with the common people - we read in verse 25 of large crowds “going along” with Jesus. He was doing miracles, His teaching was a sensation, it was entertaining, it was exciting and loads of people were just “going along” with Him. Just as people go along to church today without ever having given their entire life to Jesus – they just sort or join the club, no repentance, no commitment. In the backblocks of Galilee there wasn’t much happening, Jesus was the most excitement that there had been in town for a long time. It was the popular thing to do, to go to see Jesus, go along with Him, you were sure to see some dramatic miracle. But Jesus knew what was in man [John 2:24-25 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.] He knew they were just there for the show, for the excitement. And there are people today who go along to church because it’s a good crowd of friendly sympathetic people with great music, a good band and great atmosphere. Jesus didn’t want people to “go along” with Him, make up a crowd to affirm His ego – He was after DISCIPLES. People who had counted the cost and were prepared to give up everything for Him. Walk where He walked – and what was the way Jesus walked? [Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,] What steps made up the path that he was walking? The way of suffering – the path of self-sacrifice - laying down His life for others – literally. He died instead of you! That is how far His commitment goes – to death! That is the commitment required of those that follow Him. It will cost you everything! I don’t want to give you a false picture – you need to know what is involved so that you can sit down and rationally make the assessment of whether you are prepared to give what it is going to take. This week we just signed the contract to have our flat rebuilt: over 450 pages of it! You consider exactly and in detail what is involved, right down to specifying what kind of nails will be used! Take time to consider whether you are going to finish the race or give up part way through. Hebrews 12 speaks of a marathon race:[ Hebrews 12:1-13 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.] If we read on you will find it goes on all about God’s discipline: [You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, (disciples are those under discipline) Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.] Disciples are disciplined, are those who are under discipline. You embark on a marathon – you see it through to the end. We admire those that complete a marathon, even if it takes them hours after the rest have finished. But there is no credit for a quitter. The world may not like Christians but they grudgingly have to admire those with all out commitment. But to those who quit, who compromise with the world and go back – they are despised and ridiculed. They are in a sorry situation: they have no place with the true disciples, but neither are they accepted by the world. There is nothing but ridicule for those who start and leave the work incomplete, because did not count the cost. There is a place that John and Robin go surfing: “Taylor’s mistake” – do you know who Taylor was? No, nor do I! All I know is that he was a captain of a ship that sailed into this bay instead of Lyttleton harbour! All we know about him is his folly! What a way to go down in history – for your mistake, for your foolishness on embarking on something and not considering beforehand what it would cost and finding that you were not prepared to pay that cost. Doing business with Jesus is a serious matter – before you do, I appeal to you to sit down and think it through, consider the cost – then commit to Jesus your all.