Counting the Cost (2): Riches Man in the Valley
January 31, 2016
Read Lu 14:25-35 – At the banquet at the end of the BB season, the star player was chosen to present a gift to the coach. Clearly more comfortable on court than speaking, he said, “We got a present for you, Coach. It’s not much – but it shows just what we think of you.” In a similar way, our lives show what we really think of Jesus and for many who claim Christ the answer is, “Not much.” There are a lot of fair-weather disciples. But Jesus’ claims don’t allow for fair-weather disciples. Half-hearted commitment is no commitment at all. We’re either all in, or we aren’t in at all. Here Jesus is at pains to say, “Count the cost before your commit.” Jesus always invites; never begs. And He demands full commitment. He’s more than fire insurance. He’s a way of life. True disciples love Him more than anything because He’s worth it.
So, three times in this passage we find “cannot be my disciple.” That eliminates any idea that we can have one foot in and one foot out. This isn’t the Christian Hokey Pokey! Jesus didn’t go half way to the cross for us. He was all in, so He has every right to demand that if we are to be His, we must be all in, too. Saving faith can be weak, but it can’t be reserved.
So, in this passage, Jesus shows us 3 things we must renounce or we “cannot be [His] disciple.” We’re either all in, or we aren’t in at all. That means:
I. Renounce 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.” Jesus is exaggerating to make a point. It is not that we hate our families, but that our love for Him must be so much greater. In the movie Hawaii the intense young missionary, Abner Hale, says to his lovely wife, Jerusha (Julie Andrews), “I love you more than God.” Was it wrong to love his wife? No. Was it a problem if she ranked above God? Absolutely. Christ must be first. Christ must be first if we’re really His.
Scott McKnight tells of a young Xn woman who grew up in the church – did all the right things, made all the right decisions, said all the right things. But her faith had no vitality until a mission trip to Central America. What she saw exposed the shallowness of her own commitment. She came back convicted of her materialism and selfishness. She began planning a future as a missionary. But commitment to Christ cost her her boyfriend: “I love him. But he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t want to give his life for others as Christ demands.” So, would we renounce a relationship for Jesus sake? True disciples would.
II. Renounce Rights
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.” So it’s not just relationships we must renounce in coming to Christ. We must renounce our own lives. Die to self so He can live thru us. This is a now familiar theme in Luke’s gospel. This means that all the rights and privileges that we normally reserve to ourselves we hand over to Him. When someone carried that crossbeam on the way to his execution, he wasn’t coming back. His old life was over. So with true disciples.
“Taking up one’s cross” does not refer to life’s everyday hardships. People often refer to loneliness or their demanding boss, or chronic allergies as their “cross to bear”. And those are difficult things. But that’s not what Jesus means. When Jesus says we must “bear our own cross”, He means an unconditional surrender to Him as Lord and Master. It’s a relinquishing of our independence. You don’t take up your cross and then say, “You know, this isn’t working for me. I thought this would be kind of purifying, but I think I prefer the old me.” No. No. This is total surrender.
Sound extreme? It is. Jesus doesn’t call for a makeover; He demands a takeover -- separating professors from possessors. Possessors are in dead earnest; following Jesus wherever it leads. It’s a whole new life. Paul explains it in Gal 2:20: “20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
You know, we’re fixated on rights in our culture. “Don’t tread on me” is our national motto. That’s why we’re the most litigious society in the world. But let me ask – how many of His personal rights did Jesus retain when He came to earth as a man? How many? How about His right to act as God? He gave it up as Paul describes in Phil 2:6-7: “6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” How about His right to enjoy the treasures and pleasures of heaven? He gave it up as Paul reminds us in II Cor 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
How many of His personal rights did Jesus take to the cross? How many? His right to a fair shake? He gave it up in the sham of a trial that convicted Him illegally– even tho even the Romans knew He was innocent. His right to escape? He gave it up while at the same time noting in Mt 26:53 that He could “appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” His right to avoid the excruciating pain (the hell) of separation from the Father? He gave it up saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” His right to a dignified death, since He never did anything wrong? He gave it up as Phil 2:8 shows: “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” How about His right to revenge? He gave it up when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lu 23:34).
Beloved – by the time Jesus died on that cross, He’d given up every right He had. And now He is saying, “If you are going to be my follower, you must come die with me.” That’s not the gospel we usually hear, is it? We hear a lot about Jesus dying for us. We hear almost nothing about us dying with Him. But that requirement to renounce all our rights to Him – just like He renounced all His rights for us – it’s always been there. Never changed.
In The Grace Awakening Charles Swindoll tells of a missionary who sailed from Liverpool to serve along the African coast. He boarded a tugboat in Lagos to take him to the fever-invested region where he would invest the rest of his life. A cynical slave-trader sneered at him in derision: “If you go to that place, you will die.” The missionary answered: “I died before I ever left Liverpool.” He was truly saved, living Christ’s life, not his. Did you know that between 1880 and 1910 a third of the missionaries to Central Africa died within the first year? They were actually advised by mission boards to bring their own coffins. Yet they went, hating their own life for the sake of Christ.
Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Jesus meant it too. He wants us to know what we are in for. The Lord never said it would be easy to be a Christian. That is the 21st century American aberration of the gospel. It’s not easy. BUT it is good! While taking his cross was bad news for the condemned criminal, it is the best news you and I could ever have. To find out that Jesus loves us enough to pay for our sins and give direction to our life is priceless. The happiest thing anyone can ever do is surrender their rights to Jesus. Take the pressure off.
Was the cross easy? No – so why did Jesus go? Heb 12:2, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Jesus went for the joy He saw coming! He went seeing that day when millions would surrender to Him, would renounce their rights and receive eternal life. He went for the joy of pleasing the Father. He went for the joy of seeing Satan defeated and God glorified. So when He asks us to join Him at the cross and die to anyone and anything but Him, He’s looking out for our eternal interest! The road to this cross is a one-way street to glory! Death to self is never easy – just eternally worth it.
Time magazine, in a Jan 17, 2005 article on suffering, told the story of a tragic woman. Her huz was laid off. She had a miscarriage. A month later her cousin was diagnosed with cancer. Two hurricanes struck her hometown and one of her best friends died from a brain tumor. All in the course of a year. But she said, “We’re putting our lives in God’s hands and trusting He has our best interests at heart [death to self]. I’ve clung to my faith more than ever this year. As a consequence, I haven’t lost my joy.” It’s not natural to react to disasters like that. But when you’ve been crucified with Christ and it is now Christ living in you – you’re untouchable, Beloved. No permanent damage can ever touch you. So you can have joy and peace now – all that, and heaven, too. Renouncing rights is never easy. But, let me tell you, it’s worth it.
III. Renounce Riches
33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” “Renounce” means to “take leave of” or “to say goodbye to.” For example, Mark 6:46, “And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.” Something more important demanded His attention, so He said, “Goodbye.” And Jesus is saying that’s what you must do with everything you’ve got. Kiss it goodbye. Your riches will never get you into heaven, but they may well keep you out – whether little or lot. This is where the rich, young ruler would not go. He said “Goodbye” to Jesus rather than saying “Goodbye” to his money. He wanted to go half-way. He was willing to commit everything to Jesus except his things. But for those who are true disciples of Jesus, they are stewards of everything and owners of nothing.
Did you know Jesus talked more about money than any other single subject? Why? Because He knows it is the thing that most gets people in its grip. Money is a boa constrictor. Its grip feels comfortable at first, but it squeezes and squeezes until there is no life left. Of course, it’s not the money itself. Money is neutral. It is the love of it that kills. Paul didn’t say that money is the root of all evil in I Tim 6:10. He didn’t, did he? He said the love of money is the root of all evil.” You know what that means? It doesn’t matter whether you have it or not. It is the simple want of it that destroys people and sends them to hell. They either want what they don’t have or they want more of what they do have more than they want Jesus, and so they cannot be His disciples.
Charles Spurgeon said one way you know Jesus is precious to you is that nothing else is. “Everything else is expendable. Your money isn’t precious to you anymore. Your possessions aren’t precious to you anymore. These things don’t have a hold on you anymore.” Tim Keller adds, “If you’re in your right mind, you can look at the world and you can say, “World, you owe me nothing, and you cannot frighten me. I don’t care what the stock market is doing. I don’t need this or that from you, because I’m rich. I’m rich beyond the dreams of the wildest billionaire. As a result, it doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter. I’m rich.” When you can say that and mean it, you’re a disciple. But if not, Jesus says, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” If Jesus were to say to you – no, when Jesus says to you, “It’s me or your possessions,” how will you answer? Do you really believe in Him? Or is it just a game? I don’t know what God will do with His wealth and possessions in your hands. I just know they are His not yours – and He will want to use them to bring others to Himself. If He’s given you something, it’s for a reason – “that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph 4:28). We’re stewards, not owners, Beloved, if we are true disciples.
God doesn’t give us material wealth primarily to spend on our own luxury. Charles Lindberg became an instant hero in 1927 when he became the first person to made a Trans-Atlantic solo flight. A reporter asked him just before take-off what he had with him. He said, “Five sandwiches and a container of water.” That man said, “Why so little?” Lindberg replied, “If I get to Paris, I won’t need any more; and if I don’t get to Paris, I won’t need any more.” It is the desire for more than we will ever need in this life that condemns so many people in the life to come. Remember what Jesus said to the rich man who stockpiled his wealth for years in Luke 10:20: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Don’t stockpile more than you will ever need, Beloved. Give it away. Invest it in eternity. Your riches will never get you into heaven, but they may well keep you out.
Conc – So, we’re back to the question. Are you a disciple of Jesus? Then in honor of what He has already done for you, you have renounced relationships, rights and riches. He comes before anyone or anything in your life. That’s discipleship. There’s no such thing as a half-way Christian. We’re either all in, or we’re not in at all. C. S. Lewis said it this way: “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit.”
The story is told of a rich man living in a mansion on a hill overlooking all his holdings. He was not a believer but he had a faithful Christian gardener, Honest John, who prayed diligently for his master. One night John had a dream in which he heard a voice say that the richest man in the Valley would die at the stroke of midnight the next night. Frightened for his boss, John went to tell him the next day only to be met with a hearty laugh: “Thanks for the kind thoughts, Honest John, but don’t worry about me. You’re just having indigestion. Go on back to work; I’ll be fine.” So John left.
Meantime, the richest man in the Valley was amused, but just slightly concerned, so he called his doctor and said, “Can you come over for a game of cards tonight about 10:00?” Doc thought the late hour was a bit unusual but agreed to come. He noticed his host watching the clock as the hour got later and asked, “Anything wrong?” Not a thing, his host replied, chiding himself for having any concern at all about John’s warning. 12:00 came and went without incident; the game broke up and the Master went to bed. But at 1:00 he was awakened by the doorbell. He found a young woman crying on his doorstep. He said, “Who are you? What do you want?” She replied, “I just thought you’d like to know that my father died tonight at midnight,” she said. “Your father? Who is that?” She replied, “He’s Honest John.” Honest John – the richest man in the Valley – not in relationships, rights or riches, but because he knew Jesus. It’s not what you have, Beloved. It’s who has you. That’s what determines real wealth. So count the cost – and then go with Christ. Be rich in Him. But you must be all in, or not in at all!? And let me tell you – it’s sweet to be all in!!! Let’s pray.