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Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Cost of Discipleship



The Cost of Discipleship

 

When the disciples leave everything to follow Jesus, they believe that Jesus is the Messiah who will save Israel from Roman rule. Israel will be free at last and they will rule with Jesus as victorious leaders.  They even argue among themselves as to who will sit on the left side of Jesus’ throne and who would sit on the right. (Luke 22:24)  They dream that following Jesus will bring them fame and power and money!  How can they lose?   

 

And when we first say “yes” to Jesus and decide to follow Him we often make the same mistake.  We think we are better than others, even tell people who don’t agree with us that we are the ones who have the “values” – implying that they don’t.  And we expect to be blessed with money, status and power since God is on our side! 

 

Some Christians actually think that following Jesus is just one long ego filled victory ride!  Until they find out that it isn’t! Jesus tried to tell his disciples that there would be a cost in following Him.  He told them outright: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”  (Luke 9:23-24)  But they still didn’t understand.  And we don’t either.

 

Once when Jesus and his disciples had spent the day traveling, Jesus asked James and John to run ahead into a nearby village and find an inn or home where they could rest for the night. They were walking to Jerusalem from Galilee and they were tired from the long trip.  Perhaps the weather wasn’t good either. They would pay a nice fee for shelter.

 

 James and John ran to the nearby village and knocked on every door.  But each time when an inn keeper opened their door and heard that it was Jesus and His followers who needed a place to stay the innkeeper would slam the door in the men’s faces.  Many in Israel knew who Jesus was by now since He went about healing and teaching. And evidently the people in this village did not want Jesus to stay in their village.

 

James and John hated to be treated so badly. They couldn’t understand why so many people in the village were rejecting them.  By the time they got back to Jesus they were furious.  “‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ they asked.”  (Luke 9:54b)  James and John wanted revenge! They knew that Jesus was God and He had given them power to heal and perform miracles.  Why not use their God given power to kill off the people that didn’t treat them right? 

 

But Jesus turned and quickly let them know how wrong this idea was!  He told them that they did not understand the Holy Spirit power that they had been given.  They (and we) have been given the Holy Spirit to use for good works and not for evil!

 

 And Jesus also said: “The Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them.”  (Luke 9:55)  If Jesus’ purpose is to save people and love them then, as His follower, that is our purpose too.  We are called to a life of love and generosity, even when the people around us are rejecting us.

 

Jesus and his disciples must have had to sleep outside that night since they were not welcome in town.  This gave Jesus an opportunity to talk with the disciples about having to put up with rejection.  He said: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests: but the Son of Man (Jesus) has no place to lay his head.”  (Luke 9:58)

 

Everywhere Jesus went He suffered rejection, the prophets of old also suffered rejection and we will too since we are His followers.  One of the beatitudes says: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be very glad for great is your reward in heaven because the prophets were also persecuted like that.”  (Matthew 5:11-12)

 

Jesus and his disciples continued along on their long walking trip to Jerusalem.  And on the way crowds followed Jesus and the disciples. Jesus asked several people in the crowd to follow Him – to be His disciple.  Each person wanted to follow Jesus and told Him that they would.  But each one gave excuses for why they couldn’t follow Him right then.

 

 One person said “Lord first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus answered: “Let the dead bury the dead: but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:59-60)  We can find so many good excuses to keep us from proclaiming the good news and from following Jesus!

 

 Bible scholars believe that in this passage Christ is not teaching that his followers should not care for their aging parents or honor their loved ones at funerals.  But we should not use these reasons as excuses for not following Christ or proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.  We are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom in everything we do – even when we are attending funerals or caring for aging parents.  

 

And the other person who Jesus called to Himself answered: “I will follow you, Lord: but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  (Luke 9:59, 61) And Jesus answered: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)  Again scholars do not believe that in this passage Jesus is teaching us to not say “goodbye” to family when we leave on a trip.  But we should not compromise our love for Christ possibly because of family disapproval. The Bible teaches us to honor our parents and take care of family, but again our love for God should come first.

 

And also this passage should not be construed as a teaching that a person loses her  salvation if she looks back.  Scholars believe that Jesus is focusing here on the truth that service for Him demands undivided attention.  Halfhearted discipleship eliminates one from God’s maximum use.

 

 Paul talks about following Jesus in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15   In this passage he compares following Jesus to “building on a foundation.”  Jesus is the foundation and we, His followers, build on that foundation.  Scripture says:  “If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw.  Each one’s work will become clear for the Day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire: and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss: but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (I Cor. 3:12-15) 

 

When Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” we don’t believe that Jesus meant to say that the person who looks back will not be in heaven. It is just if that person does sloppy work he may not leave any lasting kingdom work.  If his work is burned up, “he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15)

 

 Following Jesus and doing our best work means living in the present and looking ahead to the future where He is leading – with no time to look back.  We cannot do our best work in the present when we are living in the past. And we want to give Jesus our best.

 

We have been called to follow Jesus – to build on the foundation – that is Jesus. There are things we must learn in order to accomplish our building – and costs we must pay to be a disciple. What does this discipleship look like?

 

First we must abandon some attachments.  Leave behind what gets in the way. Stop looking back. Don’t be surprised when we experience rejection.  Practice hospitality amid rejection. Deny ourselves.  Love others. Obey God.  Pray. Have faith. When we follow Jesus there is much to do, so we better count the cost.  But the joy of knowing Jesus is worth any price. And we will live in ways we never could have lived.  And go places we never could have imagined! 

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1 comment:

  1. It is great stuff. Pardon me but are you the Jane Furnish of the Brendan and Jane type who lived near Westmont in Sb? I am Jason Bray brayjas@cox.net

    ReplyDelete