After watching the dedication of his baby brother in church, little Timmy sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally the boy replied, “Did you hear that pastor? He said he wanted us boys brought up in a Christian home. The father said, “Yes, I heard him say that. Is there something wrong?” “Well, I was really hoping to stay with you guys!”
Imagine having to decide between your family and the Lord. There are places in the world where choosing to follow Jesus means losing your family. My aunt Mary Lou and uncle Wayne served as missionaries in Japan for over 40 years. During that time, when a Japanese person was led to Christ, their Buddhist families would have a funeral for them. They were completely cut off from their families. It was as if they had died!
When adherents to Islam become Christians, according to Dr. Ergun Caner, a former Muslim who is now a Baptist preacher, those who convert to Christianity are immediately disowned. If they are married, their spouse is expected to divorce them. They lose all rights to their children, and in some cases, a death sentence is placed on their heads.
For many around the world there is a great personal cost for following Jesus. David Platt, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, has written about visits he has taken to churches in Asia. He speaks of Christians gathering in unbearably hot, dimly lit rooms. They had to arrive at different times, often by foot or bike so as not to arouse suspicion. You see, it is illegal for Christians to meet there. Platt writes, “If caught, the people here could lose their land, their jobs, their families and even their lives.”
Platt tells of one pastor who shared about his church members being kidnapped. Many of them would never speak the Gospel again because their tongues had been cut out. One pastor said, “I need to know how to lead my church to follow Christ even when it costs them everything!” When Platt returned to his church in America, he saw a very different level of faith. There were no dimly lit rooms. Instead there was theatrical lighting and air conditioning. No one walked or biked to worship. Instead the parking lot held millions of dollars worth of cars. “Everyone was dressed impeccably,” he said, “as we settled into our comfy padded seats.” As David Platt surveyed the scene, he saw a stark contrast between the church here and in the places he had visited. Platt began to ask himself what is Jesus worth to us?
As we look to the Scriptures for today’s devotion, we will consider what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. As we respond to Jesus call to, “Follow me,” we must ask ourselves the question, “How much will it cost?”
Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9 – How Much Love is Enough?
In this passage we find an admonition to keep the statutes of God. These laws are to be passed on from God to Moses, from Moses to the people and from one generation to the next. If they will keep these commands, they will live long in the land God will give them. These words are echoed in Ephesians 6:1-3 concerning children honoring their parents, which will lead to longevity.
Within today’s reading we find the Shema, which means to, “listen,” or “hear” (Deuteronomy 6:3-4). This statement of belief stands as the core prayer of the Jewish people. For many children, this statement of God’s oneness is the first prayer they learn. “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God is One.” The passage goes on, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Clearly, God has expectations for His people. They will be obedient to His commands. And, they will love Him with their whole being.
Were the Children of Israel faithful to this teaching? Did they live long in the land? Only a few generations later, in 722 BC, the Assyrians defeated the ten northern tribes of Israel. In 586 BC, the Babylonians overran the southern tribes of Judah. They were removed from the land and dispersed into foreign nations. Clearly, their unfaithfulness to God was met with righteous judgment.
One day, Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus offers a two part answer. He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:17-20). According to Jesus, God’s expectations for His children have not changed. We are to love Him with all that we are. And, we are to love others. If we are going to follow Jesus, there is a cost involved. What will it cost? Read on…
Read Luke 14:25-33 – We Must Hate to Love?
What is the cost of discipleship? Jesus said we must, “Hate our Family.” Did we hear that correctly? Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be my disciple must hate his family, his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life!” Did Jesus really say that?How would that look on your church’s bumper sticker. Come to our church where we love Jesus and hate our families! Could the one who taught us how to love really say that we should hate our families in order to be His disciples? Here the word hate – miseo in the Greek means…well…to hate! But, why would Jesus say such a thing? We know that Jesus lived a sinless life, so He can’t be advocating the breaking of the 5th commandment, …to “honor your father and mother.” So, what does he mean?
There are two reasons Jesus would say this. First, Jesus uses the word “hate” to shake people up. He wants to get their undivided attention! This is a common teaching tool called hyperbole. It is Intentional exaggeration to make a point. This technique is very effective for its shock value. No doubt, Jesus got their attention. I pray that he has ours!
The second reason Jesus would have used the word hate, is that once he got their attention, once they thought deeply about what he has said, another meaning emerges. You see, “miseo”can also mean to “love someone less.” Allow me to give you an example of this. In Genesis 29 we read about Jacob being tricked into marrying Leah. You see, he really loved Rachel. Jacob committed to work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. But on the wedding night, when Rachel was to be offered to him, Leah was brought to his tent instead. Verse 25 says, “And in the morning, behold, it was Leah!” Behold indeed!! What an understatement!!! It took seven more years of work, then Jacob also married Rachel. After Jacob and Leah had two children, Leah said in verse 33, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” Did Jacob really hate his wife, Leah? If we look back three verses we discover the answer. In verse 30 of Genesis 29 we read that Jacob’s, “…love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah.” In order for this passage to be consistent, the word “hated” in verse 33 really means that Leah by comparison was loved less than Rachel.
So, Jesus is not saying we are to despise our families in order to be His true followers. But rather, we must love Him first and foremost – even more than we love our families?
Read Matthew 10:37-38 – Oh…We Must Love Him More!
This parallel passage should clear up any misunderstanding. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Jesus is saying that to be Jesus’ disciple, we must love Jesus above all…more than our father or mother…our spouse or our children…or even ourselves! That is an amazing and demanding expectation! What kind of teacher would make such a requirement, that we should love Him more than our families?
If Jesus was just a good teacher, this would be scandalous. But, Jesus is not just another rabbi. Jesus is teaching the same thing that God the Father said to Israel in the Old Testament. As we saw, Deuteronomy 6:5 says, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. What God is claiming in the Old Testament, Jesus is claiming in the New. He is to be loved above all other relationships. To any Jew, this would have been another shock! Jesus is saying that we should love him as we do God!! There is a simple reason for this – Jesus is God!!!
The question I have for you is this, “Do you love Jesus more than anyone else in your life?” Do you love Him more than your parents…more than your spouse…more than your children…More than yourself? What is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? We must love Him supremely. Jesus goes on to say, if you want to be my disciple…you must take up your cross.This had to be another absolutely stunning statement! You want to be my disciple…Love me more than anyone – including yourself, Love me as God, and now He says – take up your cross. Remember, this is before Jesus’ crucifixion. Anyone listening to Jesus would have known about crosses. They meant Roman execution. Those who carry their cross were processing to their death. And what’s worse – according to Deuteronomy 21, “anyone hung on a tree is cursed!”
So, what does Jesus mean? If you want to follow me – it will cost you your life!! In a day when preachers are telling people that following Jesus is a matter of saying a few words in prayer, Jesus says, “take up a cross”. In a day when crosses are worn as fashion accessories, Jesus says, “carry your cross!” In a day when people want all the benefits of commitment without all the cost, Jesus says, “It will cost you your life!”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran Pastor who lived in Germany during World War II. Because he opposed Adolf Hitler, he was executed by the Nazis in 1945. Bonhoeffer knew a little something about laying down his life and he had no tolerance for those who would make following Jesus little more than obtaining an insurance policy from hell. In his famous book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” Bonhoeffer wrote…
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness, without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ. In contrast, He writes, Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'”
It’s really quite simple. If you want to follow Jesus – you must die to yourself. For it is in dying that we are raised to new life – real life – in Christ.
Mark 8:34-36 states it perfectly. And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Jesus gives us two examples of counting the Cost. First, He tells us to consider the builder of a tower. When our family lived in Saint Augustine, we had a house built – it was our dream house. We were told that nothing tests a marriage like that does. After it was finished it became clear why Renee’ liked this floor plan. It had separate closets in the master bedroom. We learned quickly that everything that went into the plan had an expense. We had to count the cost very carefully! Jesus is making it very clear – if we are going to follow him we must count the cost!
His second example is of a King going in to battle. The message is the same. Before the king commits his forces, he must count the cost. Verse 33 begins with, “so therefore”. Whenever we see therefore, we must ask, “What is it there for?” Therefore links what Jesus has just said with what’s coming. Now, Jesus is going to reveal the point of his two examples. …and in so doing, He will reveal the cost of being His disciple. Verse 33 says, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
What does Jesus require of you to be His disciple? Jim Elliott understood. He went to Ecuador back in the 1950s to minister to a violent tribe called the Aucas. His parents thought he should go into youth ministry in the States. But, Jim felt like the home folks were already “well fed.” His desire was to share the Gospel with those who had never heard it. On January 8, 1956, while on mission in Ecuador, ten Auca warriors ambushed Jim and his four companions. Jim’s slain body was found floating down the river. In his journal Jim wrote that, “Work dedicated to Jesus was more important than his life” Jim also said this: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
What is the true cost of being a disciple of Jesus? Far more than saying a few words in a prepared prayer, or signing a commitment card, or even walking down the aisle, the bottom line is this: Jesus requires nothing less than all of you! If you want to be my disciple, Jesus said, It will cost you EVERYTHING!
We must love Jesus above all other relationships, and we must value Jesus more than our resources. He must be preeminent. As we journey toward Jerusalem on this Pathway to the Passion, may we learn to sing with all of our hearts, souls and might…All to Jesus, I surrender, all to him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him. In His Presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed Savior. I surrender all.