The Price of Admission (Cost of Discipleship-1)
I thank God for Bono’s faithful fathers and urge every man here to be more and more the spiritual leader in your home.
Our kids are studying disciples and discipleship this week in VBS… so I thought I’d remind all us adults again about authentic Christ-following discipleship.
“Which of you who wants to build a tower doesn’t 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 those who observe it begin to ridicule him saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”
One coming to Christ must “count the cost.” What price will be demanded?
Seen somewhere last week: “Don’t be afraid to follow Jesus. You’ll never regret starting down the “Jesus road.” You’ll only regret you waited so long to do it.”
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26).
This is the heart of what following Jesus is about. This is what Jesus taught to everyone everywhere He was. Biblical gold: “If anyone wishes to come after me…” and then “how”… How we can follow Him is the NT’s most important information… and most demanding. He doesn’t start with the easy stuff and gradually show us the tough stuff. The hard part is given immediately so no one can say they were misled or deceived. No “bait and switch” technique here. The first thing we learn is that following Jesus involves self-denial: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself.” God’s call for happiness and salvation is a call for self-denial.
This means the true gospel is directly opposed to the popular cultural self-esteem gospel that sees Jesus as a genie – rub the lamp and He appears with “As you wish, Master.” Then He takes listens and delivers. Health? Wealth? Name it and claim it. Prosperity, happiness, peace, success, and, of course, self-esteem.
In modern gospels, if we want the joy of salvation, we should never believe the twisted thinking that we’re an unworthy sinner. What it really is… is a form of self-love Paul predicted from false teachers:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Christianity becomes a get-what-you-want religion instead of a give-all-you-can” religion. God’s glory as the goal replaced with satisfying man as the goal: laying down our life to honor Christ is replaced by Christ honoring us. All twisted. Oh, it is a get-what-you-want religion but it’s by giving-all-you-can
In contrast, Arthur Bennet wrote:
“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess everything, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive. Let me find Your light in my darkness, Your joy in my sorrow, Your grace in my sin, Your riches in my poverty, Your glory in my valley, Your life in my death.” Valley of Vision
“His life in my death?” Is that a prayer we can pray? It’’an pray…prayer IChrist haoining)s true gospel… not about exalting us… about killing us: “If you will follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross every day and follow me.” SELF dies! We win by losing, live by dying. That’s the real heart of the gospel and the real center of discipleship.
This is not a concept Jesus taught in only one place… His standard theme, repeatedly spoken over and over wherever, whatever He was doing, to anyone.
“Everyone who confesses me before men, I will confess before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. I came to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matthew 10:32-34).
When Jesus spoke of our “confessing Him before men” He let us know that He knows that our decision to be His follower may make our family worse, not better… He may create a rift between us and those in our family who don’t follow. Of that He said, “…he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” If we’re not willing to pay the price of permanent earthly separation from our families (unless they are disciples, too) we’re unworthy to be a disciple.
Continuing… “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (v 38). A “cross” means one thing only… death. So we can lose more than family. But if we’re not willing to be cross-ways with the world to the degree that it could cost us our life, then we are unworthy of Jesus.
Finishing… “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (v 39). So what it’s about is losing our life – very plainly not man-centered but Christ-centered, i.e., saying, “I will surrender everything to Christ, no matter what it costs me.” That’s Jesus talking – we can believe Him or not.
Jesus was once in conversation with a “rich young ruler” who wanted eternal life. Jesus’ advised him to confront his besetting sins – self-righteousness and a love for wealth. He wanted Jesus, yes, and eternal life, yes, but Jesus wanted him to give up something he wanted more, and he wouldn’t do it: “One thing you lack: go sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come, follow me.” Jesus told him that the price of discipleship is to be willing to give up everything for Him. He might not ask it, but He might. No matter, His disciple is willing to give everything if asked. This good, young man chose his wealth over Jesus and proved unworthy to be His disciple. In the story, we see him no more.
Gathering up (so far)
So, the cost of discipleship is to be willing (1) to be separated from our families, (2) to be separated from the world, and (3) to be separated from all the material things we have. If we’re not willing to forfeit those things, we don’t value Jesus as He deserves (can be an “all or nothing” proposition)!
Jesus was once just walking along the road with people a large crowd, disciples and would-be disciples (just fed the 5,000). Someone in the throng said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus didn’t say, “Welcome, friend! We’re headed for the Ritz Carlton… We’ll all be healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Instead, He showed him what he was buying into: “…foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head’” (v 58). He said, “If you follow me, the price you pay may be losing everything. Look at me… I own nothing.
He singled out another person in that crowd and said, “Follow me.” His response was, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” (not yet dead).” He might have loved his aging father… owed him care, a respectable burial. Just as likely he was thinking about hanging around until he got his inheritance (You’ve got nothing to give: I’ll hang around home until I could pick up a fortune and then follow?).
Again Jesus was traveling with a large crowd. And He said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even their own life, such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Physically walking along with Jesus is one thing; really “coming” to Him is another!
It’s not about our self-esteem; it’s about our sin and our desperation and our seeing His cleansing and forgiveness to be so valuable that we will gladly surrender everything – family, marriage, inheritance – and find our cross and follow. We’ll sell everything to buy the field the treasure’s I; we’ll sell everything to buy the “pearl of great price.” And if we won’t, we can’t be His disciple. PRETTY CLEAR!
This one… “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, whoever loses their life will preserve it.” Same principle – if we try to hold onto us, our plans, our agenda, our success, our self-esteem, we lose.
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” (vv 24-26).
And “where” was He? Headed to be persecuted and killed. So we want to come after Jesus, do we? Do we want to follow Him? It will only cost absolutely everything. Oh, it’s quite possible the Lord won’t take our life. He might not take all our money. He might not take our family or our marriage. He might not take our job. But we must be willing to give it if He calls for it. We have to want His deliverance enough to tell Him “yes” no matter the price.
Test time for the disciples… one-question: “He asked them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’” After two+ years of training and hearing Him preach and seeing His miracles, His question was, “Who do you think I am?” They score A+: “Simon Peter answered (for them all), ‘You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” They’d seen and accepted God’s revelation (the high point of discipleship training) and had the correct conclusion that Jesus was God’s Christ, God’s Son, all the OT promised, and all that Jesus Himself claimed. They made the greatest confession!
And then from Jesus comes a shocking demand (given what just happened): “He warned them to tell no one that He was the Christ.” They’ve just been swept up in the thrill of His Messiahship, and He says, “Don’t tell anybody.” Why? “From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (v 21).
What a downer! “Don’t tell anybody because the plan is not for me to take over my Kingdom and glory now. The plan is for me to be killed by the Jewish establishment.” Incredible… He’s Messiah… going to build His church (so strong the power of death won’t prevail against it)… they have been given authority… could taste the Kingdom… see the glory coming – health, wealth and prosperity so close they could taste it, apostate leaders removed, them installed in their place, Ro-man oppressors removed, national glory restored, diseases healed, and manna falling… And His orders were, “Don’t say anything. I have to die first.”
It gets stranger. Peter, whose lips had just confessed that He was God’s Son said to Him, “Come over here, Son of God, and let me straighten you out.” No for-getting Jesus’ answer: “Get behind Me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me.” Why? Peter was advancing a man-centered idea, not God’s idea. Our church themes and personal Christian goals can’t be man’s ideas, but God’s. It’s not about us and what we want. The way up is down. We’re likely to get a cross before we get a crown. It’s the paradox of discipleship.
The necessary attitude (Paul, sold out against Jesus, sold out for Jesus):
“It doesn’t matter. If I live I live to the Lord. If I die I die unto the Lord. What’s the difference? I’m the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8)
“For to me, to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21)
“…have the same mindset as Christ…” (Philippians 2:5)
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:7-8)
“…I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him.” (Philippians 4:12-13)