When planning a home project, a vacation, or a major purchase the wise person usually looks at the cost to determine if they have the necessary funds and if the result is worth the monetary outlay. In other words, they count the cost.
It’s the same with following Jesus. While salvation is a free gift of God – we are saved by grace alone by faith alone in Jesus alone – discipleship is another story. Salvation is free, discipleship costs everything. Jesus assumed that all who would receive Him as Savior would also follow Him as Lord.
In some of the most soul searching words Jesus ever uttered on the topic of discipleship He said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-33).
If you read these words and they don’t grip you down to the core of your soul, then you haven’t really read them. This is not light and breezy teaching. This is point blank truth about discipleship with no holds barred. This is discipleship in its purest form. Everything else is a façade.
What did Jesus mean by these words? Do we really have to hate our families and get rid of all of our possessions? Let’s take a look.
The Bible is very clear about our relationships with others. We are told to love our families, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and even our enemies. Jesus said that if we are even angry at someone it is the same as murder. So what did He mean by hating our families? In this statement Jesus is saying that we are to love Him supremely above anyone else. He is to be number one on our priority list. Our love for Him must be so deep that all other relationships look paltry in comparison. Indeed, a true disciple, a true follower of Jesus loves Him with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength.
Remember, and this is crucial, we will never be able to love our spouses, kids, parents, extended family members, and other people the way we should until we love Jesus first with a supreme love. When we love others above Him, our love falls short of the standard God has set and we will not love others as He commands us to. But when we love Him first and supremely, our love for others will flow out of our hearts like a cascading river in the spring.
What about selling all we have? Are we to get rid of everything we own and become missionaries in Papua New Guinea? While Jesus might call some of us to leave the comforts of home for the mission field most of us will not be called. What Jesus means here is that we are to hold all the “stuff” He has given us with open hand, allowing Him to have control, and to be open and obedient to how He wants us to use them. It is to place Him above our treasures and surrender them to His will for Him to use for His glory, not our pleasure.
Bottom line, discipleship means dying to self and making Him Lord, and I really mean LORD of every aspect of our lives. This, my friends, costs everything. It costs everything because the terms of discipleship that Jesus laid down demand that we surrender ourselves and all we have to Him, and this flies right in the face of everything that comes natural for us and everything we are taught. It is natural for us to seek our pleasure, and our self absorbed interests. We are told by society to look out for number one, promote yourself, use others for self gain, and that life is all about us.
Jesus’ terms of discipleship say just the opposite. He says “Life is not about you or your happiness. It is about Me. It is about dying to self and surrendering to me in every aspect of life. It is only when you are on the journey of true discipleship that you will know Me intimately, love Me supremely, worship Me deeply, find the real purpose and meaning of life, and find deep rooted joy that makes worldly happiness look worthless in comparison”.
Yes, the cost is high (Jesus said to count the cost in the Luke 14 text quoted above). Discipleship is not for cowards, and alas, far too many Christians ignore it or choose the way of “self”. However, we must follow Jesus on His terms, not ours. To be sure, the journey of discipleship is a life long journey, and no one “arrives” in this life, but we must be on the journey. There is no other road to be on for a true born again believer of Jesus.
If you have no desire to be on this journey, I challenge you to do a real gut check to see if you are really saved. If you are truly born again and realize that you are not on this journey I challenge you to repent of the “self” attitude you have held and put your hand in His and commence the journey. It is never too late to start doing what’s right. Remember, it is the only journey on the planet that will bring a deep relationship with our incredible God, a life of holiness that glorifies Him, fulfills the destiny He has planned for our lives, and gives us the peace, joy, and hope that passes understanding.
As Jim Elliott said: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.