The Price of Discipleship

May 17, 2015

Jesus is on his way
to Jerusalem, a journey that he knew would end with him being crucified, and
yet many of those following him thought he was on his way to establish his
Kingdom in the capital city.
Sometimes I wonder
if Jesus ever wanted to say:  “What we’ve
got here is a failure to communicate.”? 
It’s not as if he
led them on and pulled a bait and switch on them, instead he had been open from
the very beginning about what was involved in following him, but still I’m pretty
sure that there were those in the crowd who still thought Jesus was the coming
messiah who would establish his earthly kingdom and reign in glory.  And so they had decided to hitch their wagon
to his star, so to speak.
From the very
beginning Jesus had alluded to the fact that he hadn’t come to establish an
earthly kingdom, but there were still those who didn’t get it.  They envisioned an Israel free of the Roman
occupiers who had made life miserable for so many of them.  And so to clarify Jesus turns and tell them,
“Salvation is free but it’s not cheap, did you catch that?  Salvation is free but it’s not cheap.”
Well that isn’t
exactly what he said, what he said is recorded in Luke 14:33  So
you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. What a statement, any one of you who does not
give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
We don’t preach on
that enough do we?  We preach on
salvation that’s given so free, but we don’t preach on the cost of serving Christ.
We have probably
read these eight verses a dozen times, maybe more but somehow this concept of
giving up everything we own seems to apply to others.  “Well that’s fine for them but Jesus wouldn’t
expect that of me, would he?”  If you are
his disciple he would.
You say “But hold it Denn, what if I don’t want to be a disciple,
what if I just want to be a plain, ordinary, everyday, average Christian?”  Well it shouldn’t take long in reading the New
Testament to discover that Christ doesn’t want plain ordinary, everyday,
average Christians.
We have come to the
place where we want to divide Christians into a couple of different
categories.  “You see pastor there are
your nominal Christians, they’re your C & E Christians, you know what I
mean pastor, and you see them on Christmas and Easter.  Then there are your Christian Christians,
that’s what most of us are, you know just your average, every day,
semi-committed Christian, you know what I mean pastor,  then there are the disciples, you know what I
mean pastor, those super saints.  They
pray more, they give more they are more disciplined.”
The only problem with this theory is that disciple simply means
one who follows a teacher or leader.  A
communist is a disciple of Marx, a Buddhist is a disciple of Buddha and a Moslem
is a disciple of Mohammed.  And so by
definition if you profess to follow Christ then you are a, you ready for it,
you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.
And so to make sure that everyone is on the same page Jesus
makes three very clear statements About what it means to be a disciple.
Now with that out of the way let’s go back to Luke 14:33  So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything
you own.  Discipleship is About Our Possessions
So Christ is saying,
anyone of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be his
disciple.  You ok?
You say “Yeah but
pastor you don’t really think that is what he meant do you?”  I don’t know, how many different meanings
could there be to that statement, So you cannot become my disciple without giving up
everything you own.  Sure
sounds like that’s what he meant to me.  “But
everything pastor?” well that’s what the book says, and we know that we don’t
debate the book, right?
The problem is when
we hear these words we immediately think that Jesus is talking about money, but
really money is the least of what he is talking about.  Jesus is talking about everything you own and
everything that owns you.  He’s talking
about all you have and all you are.  You
all right?  If it was just money, it
would be so easy.  We could just write a
cheque and get on with life.
So to find out what
Jesus meant when he said “everything” we need to start at the beginning of the
story.
Let’s start at verse
25, these are the last days of Christ, and as he makes his way to Jerusalem and
his final sacrifice the crowds push in and gather around to hear the teachings
of this young influential rabbi.
And as Christ turns
and sees the multitude pressing around him I wonder what thoughts crossed his
mind?  Here are his followers, those who
seek to learn from him and they expect great wisdom to come forth from his
lips.  What will they hear, “Blessed be
the peacemakers”  “Love your neighbours”,
“Do unto others”  “Love God”.  What great insight would come forth from the
mouth of Jesus?

But no the words of Christ were unlike any others they had ever heard from
the master, in Luke 14:26  “If you want to be my disciple,
you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and
children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot
be my disciple.  Discipleship is About Our Priorities

That must have
floored them; I would suspect that for what seemed like eternity that those
pressing in tight around Jesus just stood in stunned silence.  Who could believe that the one who had spoken
so eloquently about love could change his tune so completely?  What an about face, he’s gone from love your
enemies, to hate your mother. Love those you barely know, and hate those you
know best?  What could possibly, have
provoked this radical shift in perspective?
I mean let’s face it;
he’s not discussing something that’s relatively insignificant; if you’re going
to love Whoppers with cheese you are going to hate Big Macs.  If you are going to love the Habs you will
have to hate the Leafs.  If you are going
to love Toyotas you will have to hate Fords. 
  No problem.  But he’s not talking about trivial things,
he’s not even talking about in-laws, he’s talking about flesh and blood, he’s
talking about, “I carried you for nine months, my feet
swelled to the size of bedroom slippers, and I was in heavy labour for a week
and a half.” that’s what Christ was talking about.

But what he isn’t saying here is that we need to consciously hate all that
is dear to us.  He is not telling us to
hate our parent’s and our spouse and our children.  Let’s read it again Luke 14:26  “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you
cannot be my disciple.

We tend to focus on what Jesus tells us to hate, but that isn’t what he is
getting at.  Compared to how I like a
really good hamburger I hate lobster. 
But I don’t actually hate lobster, I kind of like lobster but it doesn’t
even come close to how much I love hamburgers. 
Did I tell you that back in February I was at Wood’s Harbour and had
lobster for supper and breakfast?  And it
was awesome, but if for any one of those meals they had of said:  You can have lobster or a really good
hamburger, I would have had the hamburger. 

This statement then
is not one of affection as much as it is one of loyalty, to whom do we owe our
primary allegiance, to our family or to Christ? 
To our friends or to Christ?  To
ourselves or to Christ?  Not an easy
question to answer is it?  Now to be
clear I’m not talking about your loyalty to Cornerstone.  There are churches that almost take that
approach “If
you want to be a member of our church, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you
cannot be a member.
And if I come across
that way than please forgive me.  Last
week I had mentioned having a commitment to our kids spiritual health, I wasn’t
implying that our kids shouldn’t be involved in things outside of Cornerstone
like Hockey, cheer, baseball and ballet, I was saying let’s make sure we are as
committed to the spiritual, youth group, rallies and camps, as we are to the other
things in their lives.  Not because it
will benefit Cornerstone but because I truly believe that it will benefit your
kids, for now and for eternity.  
Jesus was clear on this premise, which is why he told those
who were following him, Matthew 6:24  “No one can serve two masters.
For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and
despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.   And for that matter the true disciple
cannot serve God and his job, or God and his family, or God and himself. If God
is not in first place then God is in the wrong place.
Now don’t get me
wrong, this doesn’t mean that we neglect our family or our friends.   And it doesn’t mean that we develop a negative
self-image, but it does mean that God has to take first place in our life, you
ok?
You say “But Preacher my family is a priority, and my job is
a priority and my friendships are a priority.” 
But Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33  Seek the Kingdom of God above
all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

I am a better person
because I follow the teachings of Christ. 
Denn in his natural state isn’t all that loveable, you might think that
Denn like this isn’t all that loveable, but you should have seen me before I
met Jesus. 
Because of Jesus I
am a better person than I would be without him, a better spouse, a better
parent and a better son.  That’s part of
the process, as you draw closer to God, and become more Christ like then you
become a better father, or mother, a better husband or wife, a better employee
or employer, and a better friend.
In a marriage
situation if both partners are aiming for a common goal as they get closer to
the goal they draw closer together. 
Christ will reward faithfulness, but in the same breath it is up to you
to be faithful.
And so as a disciple
we will need to be faithful with all that God has given us, and what is it that
God has given us? That’s simple, all that we have and all that we are.  That’s the secret to understand tithing; we
will never give cheerfully as long as we think we are giving God 10% of what is
ours.  Instead we need to realize that he
is allowing us to keep 90% of what is his.
Our family, our
friends, our job our health, our money, our talents, everything we have has
been given to us by God and all he asks of us is that we put him ahead of the
things which he has given us.
Here’s a question to
ponder, what would happen if you found out that Christ was coming to dinner
some night next week?  Well you know what
would happen. You would have the very best meal possible. 
You wouldn’t take
him out to the Golden Arches, would you? 
Instead we’d break out the fine china and good silver, linen napkins
instead of the usual paper towels. 
Perhaps a sirloin tip roast with Yorkshire pudding, candied carrots,
broccoli with cheese sauce, and for dessert flaming cherry jubilee.  That’s what you would probably do, I’d probably
BBQ up some Denn Burgers.   You all right? 
You did have breakfast didn’t you? 
I mean if we knew
that Jesus was coming to supper we would really outdo ourselves, and I for one
would never question the need to do that. 
What I do question is this; if we would be so conscious of what we would
serve Christ at one meal why are we so content with serving him leftovers the
rest of the time?
Are we intent on giving Christ the very best of our money,
our time and our talents, or are we content to offer him what little we have
left over at the end of the week, and that of course is dependent on whether or
not we need it.  And that doesn’t sound
like the words of Christ in Luke 14:33  So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything
you own.
Does that mean that there is no money, time or talents left
for those we love?  By no means, we are
taught in 1 Timothy 5:8  But those who won’t care for their relatives,
especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people
are worse than unbelievers.
But you say “Denn
it’s not easy to tithe, and it’s not easy to give God precious time out of a
day that is already too short.”  I know
that, and you know that and God knows that. 
But you wanna know something else as well?  He never once said that it was going to be
easy.  You see Christianity was never
intended to be a cake walk.
Too many of us have
fallen prey to a false theology that which proclaims that Christianity smoothes
all the humps out of life and will make us healthy, wealthy and wise.  “Praise God I’ve
been saved and sanctified and since Jesus came into my life he has made things
so much easier, I’ve gotten a better job, I’m never sick, my children are
always polite and pleasant and my marriage is like heaven here on earth.”  The problem with that is when things start
going wrong, and trust me sooner or later things will go wrong, and then we
figure that we must have sinned for God to be punishing us. 
Well on that beautiful spring day, as the crowds pushed and
shoved to be near Christ he turned around and said, “I beg your pardon, I never
promised you a rose garden.”  Well maybe
that isn’t exactly what he said but it was pretty close because in Luke 14:27  And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you
cannot be my disciple.  Discipleship is About Our Purpose
Carrying a Cross doesn’t
sound like a day in the park, but it does sound like commitment, or dare I say “discipleship.”     If we are going to be the type of Christian
that Christ wants us to be it will have to affect our entire life.  Christianity isn’t just a ticket to heaven it
is supposed to be a lifestyle.  It isn’t
just supposed to affect our behaviour on Sunday morning it is supposed to have
a direct, dramatic impact on our entire life, Monday through Sunday, day in and
day out, 24 hours a day; it is supposed to be a life changing experience.
Jesus knew where he was being led.  He was heading to the Cross, and it was for a
purpose. And he knew that if he was going to fulfill that purpose that he would
have to go to the cross, and he knew that it wouldn’t be easy that why we
discover Jesus praying in Luke 22:42  “Father, if you are willing,
please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be
done, not mine.”  ,
What was that purpose? 
Jesus spelled it out in Luke 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek
and save those who are lost.”  But
his purpose wasn’t just to make a difference in our eternity, which is why he
told us in John 10:10  The thief’s purpose is to steal
and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
But why do I
sometimes get the feeling that the only difference it makes in some people’s
lives is that it gives them someplace to go on Sunday mornings that is when we
don’t have someplace better to go on Sunday morning.
Let’s be serious, do
you really think that Christ came to this earth, lived for thirty three years,
suffered the indignities he went though and died on a cross so you could come
to church Sunday morning, throw a five dollar bill in the box and then squeak
into heaven when you die.  That level of
commitment wasn’t what he expected two thousand years ago when he called men
and women to follow him and it’s not what he expects today.
To be truthful it
really bugs me when I know that someone professes to follow Christ, professes
to love God, but have a commitment level of absolutely zero. It’s kind of like
the fellow who wrote the note to his girlfriend that said, “For you I’d cross deserts, swim oceans, I’d climb
mountains and ford raging rivers, for you I’d fight starving animals.  PS. If it’s raining on Saturday I won’t be
over.”
The question that
each one of us needs to ask is this, “What does God
expect of me?”  in actual fact it
doesn’t’ matter whether you ever live up to what I expect of you, and it really
isn’t all that important whether or not you live up to the expectations of Cornerstone
or the Wesleyan Church but it will matter for eternity how you measure up in God’s
eyes.  Your entire life needs to be lived
asking the question “what does God want of me?” 
The number one
resource material for answering that question is the book, his word, and here
is a deep thought if you don’t read it you will never know what’s in it.  His word provides the direction that we need
as his disciples, but only if we read it.
I was at Joe Millington’s wedding the other day and when Scott
Rhyno from Kingswood University began the marriage ceremony he used the words
that are used in so many different traditions in one form or another.  If you weren’t at Joe and Lauren’s wedding
but you were at Will and Kates you would have heard the same thing, and if you
missed the Royal Wedding but have attended a wedding that I have performed than
you would have heard the same words, or close to them.  This holy estate
Christ adorned and beautified with his presence in Cana of Galilee, and the
Apostle Paul commended as honorable among all men.  It is not therefore to be entered into
unadvisedly, but reverently, discretely and in the fear of God.


And it was that same concept that Jesus was teaching about
discipleship, It is not therefore to be entered into unadvisedly, but
reverently, discretely and in the fear of God. 
He didn’t actually use those words but he told folks to count the cost, Luke 14:28-30  “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin
construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there
is enough money to finish it?  Otherwise,
you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then
everyone would laugh at you.  They would
say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to
finish it!’
But more than anything Jesus wants you to understand that to
be his disciple is a choice, and he wants it to be an informed choice.  And the fact that it is a choice suggests
that there are alternatives.
He was telling those how heard him that day that they would have to make
a choice, because to choose one thing means that we reject another. To choose
to follow Jesus means that you are choosing to not follow someone else, even
our own desires. 
In the book of Joshua, Joshua issued this challenge to the Israelites, Joshua 24:15  But if
you refuse to serve the LORD, then
choose today whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my family, we will
serve the LORD.”
And we are still being asked, Choose today whom you will
serve.