A Costly Endeavor
First sit down and calculate the cost...
CHRIST (Luke 14: 28)
Living in New York City there is a cost to everything. Whether its a cab or Uber ride downtown (surge fees or traffic increasing the cost), going to see friends in Brooklyn (delayed and crowded trains), getting to the beach (tolls and beach entry fees or the two hour to drive to Long Island or Jersey shore) you get the idea. Its common practice here, due to the culture and landscape, to consider how long it will take, what routes are best, what are potential delays or setbacks and whether or not the cost set before us are worth the trade off of time, effort and experience of the endeavor. To do this we have apps galore, word of mouth, prior experiences to rely on to help make a more informed decision around our participation in the lifestyle of NYC.
Yes, it is a LIFESTYLE just to live here.
So with that consideration in mind, what is the cost of our Christian lifestyle? More specifically, what is the cost of our salvation? What is the cost of connection, freedom and being truly known? How about what is the cost of whatever it is that brings you enjoyment? Whether it be a Netflix binge, an almond Cortado (my fave) or shopping, partying, fill in your own blank here.
There was a season when I spent the majority of my time, seeking to achieve. Whether it was success in building businesses, in relationships, financially, etc. The gathering of "things" that I could add to my name or my caché cost me....
Life costs us something. The true life, that which Christ gives, may cost us everything—
While, I admit this may come across as contrary to the modern notion that salvation is free (and it is and this is not a departure from that), let's take a look at what the King of Kings said and how His view of what it takes to follow him (e.g. be a believer) meant, not just saying that we are a Christian.
True and False Disciples
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’
Matt 7: 21-23 (AMP) – emphasis added
Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with stark warnings to those who are in attendance (and listening). Our failure to take seriously what he has said in the sermon will result in disastrous and eternal consequences. Not only does Jesus warn us of these three specific dangers (below) but he encourages us to take into account our own actions and directs us as the Church to be doers of His commands:
(1) the tendency not to take the rigorous demands of discipleship seriously (...14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it. vv. 13-14);
Note: PEW Research has documented that there are approximately 2.2 Billion professed or professing Christian's in the world as of their 2011 survey. That is a far cry from the "few" who will find eternal life that Jesus speaks of in Matt 7:13-14.
(2) the possibility of being led astray by false prophets who teach, both by word and example, that one can be a disciple while persisting in sin (vv. 15-23); and
(3) the notion that it is enough simply to hear the teaching of Jesus, without putting his teaching into practice (vv. 24-27).
His words are not mixed here. There is a compassion that underpins Christ's desire for us to heed. He commands that we should consider and commit to who he really is and what this lifestyle is about. Is there grace for the believer? Yes. Is there mercy? Yes. Is there love, blessings, forgiveness? Yes, yes and yes. However, there is SO MUCH MORE to being a Christ-follower (e.g. an authentic believer).
In other scriptures, Jesus begins to add the needed context to Matthew 7 passage. This is why reading and study of the scripture needs to be embedded in our routines and lives such that we will gain an intimate love for the Father and the Word made flesh in Christ.
Clarity, authority and responsibility
Christ's position regarding His followers is polarizing. He states this from the beginning of both the sermon on the mount and throughout his teachings (in Old and New Testament).
Oneness with the Father
12 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in My name [as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified and celebrated in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it.
15 “If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.
John 14:12-15 (AMP) – emphasis added
Christ assures us plainly that anyone who believes will do what he as done (and even greater things) and that IF we love him we WILL keep and obey His commandments. Yes, while this does call into question a number of points that would be helpful to clarify, one main subject stands out.
What does it mean to "believe in him"? Let's further define the word believe used here.
Contextually speaking, the word Believe used here means; to walk in the light of truth (the word of scripture), faith (relationship of love for/toward the Father), and holiness (obedience), until the perfect day comes; not continuing in the darkness of sin, ignorance and/or unbelief; beholding in Jesus the glory of the Father, we learn to obey, love, and trust in him. By daily looking to Him, who came a Light into the world, we are more and more, increasingly freed from the darkness of ignorance, error, sin, and misery; we learn that the command of God our Saviour is everlasting life. However in the same sense our lack of belief, in practice, will seal the condemnation of all who despise it, or neglect it (meaning God's word).
Interestingly, the Greek word used here is "pistos" (Strongs NT 4103: πιστός) which in terms of usage expresses the thought more clearly to state that a person who is a "believer" is; a person(s) who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties.
Everything else that follows this statement has to be viewed through the lens of whether or not, and how we consider ourselves to be believers.
Thankfully, Christ provides more insight on this topic and clarifies his call to action given us now through Luke 14.
The Cost of Discipleship / Discipleship Tested
25 Now large crowds were going along with Jesus; and He turned and said to them, 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 [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]—he cannot be My disciple.
27 Whoever does not carry his own cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow after Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me] cannot be My disciple.
28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a watchtower [for his guards], does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to finish it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is unable to finish [the building], all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’
31 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 who is coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else [if he feels he is not powerful enough], while the other [king] is still a far distance away, he sends an envoy and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not [carefully consider the cost and then for My sake] give up all his own possessions.
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words.”
Luke 14: 25-34 (AMP) – emphasis added
In further teaching about discipleship, Jesus asserted the priority of loyalty to himself over the closest family ties. The word hate (v. 26) is intentionally overstated. Jesus meant that love for family should take second place to devotion for him. We as his people should count the cost of discipleship: giving up everything for Christ. Otherwise disciples become like salt that has lost its strength.
This can be a tough one for a lot of us to take in as we are rarely taught this in a cohesive or linear manner. We have our families that have been so relationally close to us, grown with us, provided and supported us, etc. Yet, God tells us specifically to place them secondary to Him. Admittedly, there can be serious challenge here but let's consider that we may be looking at and processing this within the spectrum our natural eyes versus spiritual discernment.
Food for thought...
- Who is our creator and author?
- Who gave us our family, our husband, wife, kids or friends?
- Who provided everything that our family has and has given or provided for us?
Side note: How many times have you felt or said to yourself "there's got to be more than this..."? Sometimes it may be a fleeting thought that is so fragile that as quickly as its introduced, it fades. Not because the thought wasn't real or there's a lack of faith but, I believe, because its the whisper of the Holy Spirit calling us deeper. However, it takes listening and hearing, courage and focus to grasp, hold on to and fully follow. Sometimes the wisdom that we seek doesn't evade us, its that we sometimes tend to be passive in our asking and seeking. Waiting on an overt sign from Heaven when God may be and is speaking from a still quiet whisper (1 Kings 19:12) and his word, the bible.
Below are a couple of great examples and explanations of these principles at large.
While this is not exhaustive and there are so many references and points to dig into here. However, the quest and question stands, what then are we to do with this information... with THIS Jesus the Christ who clearly has an intent to salvation (e.g. being and becoming continually His disciple) to saving us? Are we to passively show up in our churches, temples and places of worship for lip service while not seeking or enacting the commands that have been expressed and charged to us who believe? Are we to take Christ for granted in saying that these words were only directed at 1st century believers and thereby are taken out of context for modern times. If the bible is true, when were these statements retracted or relegated to only the apostles?
Granted, there are statements the were made specifically in context to the apostles however, let us not assume that the modern church is only to live in the era of grace without the responsibility of Christ's commands. Let us be diligent to study to show ourselves approved as Paul encouraged Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15).
A few points to start with:
- Have I actually given my life to Christ?
This is not saying a prayer (which is not actually biblical in terms of surrendering our lives to receive salvation... check the scriptures for yourself on this) but wholly beginning the process of submitting to God's authority through Jesus the Christ. See the section on "believe" above.
- If not, do I really want to and willing to surrender my life to Christ?
- Have I actually counted the cost?
- Am I willing to suffer and give all for the sake of His name?
- Do I have or can I find people around me who are willing to walk this out together? Identify who they are? You will know them by their fruit...
This one is not a blocker to start truly seeking but as we move forward in this God will provide another believer to come alongside and support you and vice versa.
- How am I progressing in knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the gospel?
- Lastly, this is fully a PROCESS. Do not get discouraged. Do not give the enemy any ground or allow any doubt or fear to creep in. We are all in process and this is a starting line.
I encourage us to examine our hearts to see the where we are in this. A resolve is required within that no one else can give us. Seeds of faith and belief can be imparted or planted and encouraged but this is truly between you and God as something that happens and is reconciled within the depth of your soul.
This short video below has inspired me in regards to building a tenacity for the gospel that is contrary to common and pop-culture and "Church-ianity". In light of being able to count the cost of why Christ gave his life for us individually and for humanity sake, I desire that we all would come to know with clarity and understanding for that reason for which we believe and have been saved.
Luke 14:26 An exaggerated figure of speech indicating a lesser degree of love, not actual hostility or aversion toward one’s earthly family.
Luke 14:33 Jesus probably is referring to a willingness and commitment to do so when necessary. Discipleship does not require poverty.
- Matt 7:21-23 excerpt loosely taken from Asbury Bible Commentary
- John 14:12, credit to Pulpit Commentary, Matthew Henry Commentaries and Gills Exposition of the Bible