SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 14
Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “… Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
The Lord does not make it easy for someone to be His disciple. When He declared the high cost of following Him, He did so plainly; and He did not pull His punches. He raised the bar far above what most churches today expect of their membership; and He will never lower that bar to turn the Christian life into something that is merely comfortable and fun. To the contrary, He made several bold demands that would discourage the half-hearted from continuing:
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. (Luke 14:26)
So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33)
These requirements are not to those who are half-in and half-out but to those who are fully in. He does not give His followers the right to retain certain privileges and make certain demands. Far from making it easy for them to “sign up” on the dotted line, He calls upon each of us to make a careful assessment before declaring our willingness to follow:
For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not 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 who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”
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 coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. (Luke 14:28-32)
In counting the cost of discipleship, Jesus tells us to evaluate whether or not we “have enough” of something to fulfill our commitment. But what exactly are we to have “enough” of? What is it going to take to follow Jesus? Because whatever it is, we can be sure that it is not man-made.
- Motivated by the Holy Spirit, we are to have a strong resolve to be holy and pure … to obey the will of the Father, come what may. (And in doing so, our joy is made full.)
- Empowered by our faithful God, we are to have the spiritual grit of perseverance to remain true to Christ, even when every fiber of our being tells us to throw in the towel. (And in doing so, our endurance is tempered.)
- Fortified by the Word of God, we are to have an immovable steadfastness to face the relentless onslaughts of an evil that is coming at us from three different angles (the world, the flesh and Satan). (And in doing so, our claim of Christ’s victory is vindicated.)
- Strengthened by our trustworthy God, we are to have a tenacious faith to cling to Christ when our situation is painful and does not make any sense … and (especially) when times are joyful and prosperous. (And in doing so, our confidence is made unshakeable.)
This is the “stuff” that makes up the “enough” Jesus demands of His disciples. This is the weight – and joy – of the cross our Master expects His followers to carry.
But this is not the focus of many of today’s churches (at least the ones in North America and Western Europe). The emphasis in our churches is something far inferior to Christ’s demands. Instead of being willing to turn large crowds away by presenting the high-price of discipleship,
the push of today’s leadership is to attract large numbers of excitable crowds
with extravagant programs … and a flurry of activities … and performing (applause-receiving) bands and choirs … and plush, multi-million dollar complexes … and high-tech presentations.
As a result many believers today are left with the impression that their involvement in all of this “stuff” is what it’s all about … that this “I-want-to-feel-good-without-making-a-commitment” is what “following Christ” looks like. But this is not what “following Christ” looks like. A believing community whose one, all-consuming passion to be holy and faithful and submissive to the Father’s will has been largely replaced by a Church that expects to be entertained. As a result, we have diluted the call to “carry our cross” with something superficial … something impotent … something one mile wide but one inch deep … something that is shiny and glossy and tinsel-like.
This is what today’s so-called “seekers” are looking for; and as a result, it is what much of today’s leadership is giving them. But where can we find such a vision for the Church in the words of Christ or in the writings of the Apostles or in the historical record of the early church? No, this emphasis is foreign to what Christ expects in a follower and in a local church.
What was – and is – His expectation is men and women who mean business with Him … who are dead serious about yielding their wills to the will of the Father, no matter what sacrifices and trials and persecutions and temptations and oppressions they encounter. Theirs is an unquenchable hunger and thirst “to know (Christ) and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death in order (to) attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Those who commit themselves to this daily death-to-self will gladly lay aside the shallowness of today’s hoopla to savor the deep, deep joy of their Master, the One with Whom they are crucified and the One to Whom they cling.