Pearl of Great Value - Matt. 13:45-46

My Sermons and Studies

 

The Cost of Being a Disciple

 

Luke 14: 25-33: “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first, and count the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest perhaps, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first, and consider whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him who is coming against him with twenty thousand?  32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

Now I don’t see how anyone can read this saying of Jesus a not ask himself, “Am I really a disciple of Jesus?” These words challenge the most earnest Christian to examine himself and to feel a certain fear. How much more should it cause to tremble any so-called Christian who is careless, lukewarm, and not deadly serious about his obedience to Christ!

At this point in Jesus’s ministry a great crowd was following Him. Among then were people He knew were not serious, who were only superficially interested. He had enemies in the crowd as well as friends, some caught up in the excitement of this strange new teacher, some who thought they were serious, but Jesus knew they were not true disciple material. So He uttered these words of challenge, with a design to reduce the crowd, to send away those who were not willing to go all the way to the cross with Him. So He said:

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple...whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

Was Jesus speaking only to the crowd, or is He speaking to us today?  Most certainly He was speaking to us today. He said, “if any man,” “whosoever,” and “whoever.” That’s universal and applies to every believer. Jesus wants to admonish us today, to warn us that He will not tolerate a half-hearted service.

Before we look at this passage more closely I want to explain a couple of things. First of all, the word “hate” in the Bible does not always have the same negative force that our word has today. It sometimes merely means to love one thing less than another. For example, God says, “Jacob I loved; Esau I hated.” It’s obvious that God did not hate Esau in our sense of the word. He blessed him and made a great nation from his seed. But God chose Jacob over Esau to carry on the promised birthright. In Genesis chapter 29 we read: “Now God saw that Leah was hated, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” The NAS & the NIV translate is “unloved,” and “not loved.” Jacob did not hate Leah in the sense of having malice towards her. But he thought less of her than of Rachel, with whom he was in love. You cannot serve two masters; rather you will hate the one and love the other. Again this seems to be the weaker meaning of hate. You will serve the one and disregard the other. You have to choose. So you see when Jesus says that we are to hate “father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters,” He is saying that we must make a clear choice between Jesus and our family. The Bible teaches us that we are not to hate anyone in the sense of holding malice towards them, or wishing them ill.  This would be especially true of our family. But the Christian life involves clear separation and radical choices.

When He says that we must hate our own lives, what does He mean? Are we to have self-hatred?  Then how could He tell us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?  Paul says, “no one hates his own body.” No. What Jesus means is that we must choose Christ over our on life, our interests, our ambition, our safety, EVERYTHING.

And of course, Jesus was not inviting his disciples to carry a literal cross made of wood. He was speaking figuratively. We have a cross to carry, so what is our cross?  What did He mean when He said: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple”?  Well, there are two crosses in the Christian’s life: Christ’s and his own. The Cross of Jesus is the cross by which we are saved; our own cross is the cross on which our own wills are crucified. I believe that our cross speaks of those moment—and they come to us daily—when  our will crosses the will of God. God’s vertical, heavenly Will meets our horizontal, fleshly will. The two cross. And when that happens, our wills must give way to God’s.

And when Jesus said to forsake all, did He mean that we must sell all that we have, give it to the poor, and make ourselves homeless or enter a monastery?  No, of course not.  But He did mean something quite radical. He meant that we must let nothing, nothing—no material possession, no relationship, no profession, NOTHING come before Him in our lives!

Even after we have softened them somewhat, these are very strong words, aren’t they?  These, and some of the other hard sayings of our Lord, would (as I said) challenge the most committed and faithful Christian. They would call the most serious and saintly believer to examine himself. How much more are they a reproach to the half-hearted, lukewarm, Sunday-only, part-time Christian! Jesus makes it plain in another place that He would rather a person be cold and indifferent towards Him than to be lukewarm. Where is the place, then, for the half-hearted, off-and-on Christian here? In this saying of Jesus, He lays to rest once and for all any notion that He will tolerate a half-hearted service.

 

When I speak of a Sunday-only Christian, I’m not referring so much to Church attendance as to the quality of our Christian lives throughout the week. I’m not talking about people who only come to Church on Sunday morning. For all I know they may have a deep, rich devotional life throughout the week. They may read the Bible and pray more than people who come to Church every time the doors open. Church attendance is significant, and it often indicates how serious a person is in his or her faith. But what I’m calling a Sunday-only Christian is a person whose only real contact with God and with other Christians is Sunday morning. The rest of the week they are pretty much like everyone else. They never open their Bibles.

They seldom pray, and when they do it’s to say grace at table or to send themselves off to sleep. Their neighbors, co-workers, and friends hardly know they are Christians, so little do they differ from their unsaved associates. Grace is wonderful; thank God for grace. But grace does not cover a lax, off-and-on, half-hearted service to Christ.

 

Based on these, and some other hard sayings of the Lord, I don’t think I have the right to present the Gospel in a soft, seductive way. Some of the hugely popular, seeker-friendly churches today never preach on these hard saying of the Lord. They preach only positive messages. They don’t want sinners to feel uncomfortable in their services. I’m afraid they may be swelling their rosters with unsaved (or at the very least) immature Christians. I see little resemblance between the way these churches make “disciple” and the way Jesus and the Apostles did. Jesus sought to warn off the unserious from following Him. These churches seem to want as members the same people that Jesus sent away.

 

When I was going to the jail to teach and preach, I noticed that the other minister would offer the invitation very gently, so as not to scare the potential convert off. “Every eye close, no one looking around. Now if you want to follow Christ, just slip your hand up. Don’t be shy. No one is looking. Yes, I see that hand. Anyone else? Praise God. Now if you raised your hand just come to the front.”  Then he would quietly lead those who came forward in his version of the “sinner’s prayer,” with usually no mention made of repentance. So ineffective was this method that some prayed “the Sinner’s Prayer” every time we met. One man raised his hand when asked who was a Christian, then came forward at the invitation and prayed to be saved again.  Bless their hearts, some of them prayed to be saved a dozen times.

Based on these and other hard sayings of Christ, I took a very different approach. I told them not to come forward unless they were deadly serious. I told them not to play games with God, not to pray for salvation unless they really meant to live for Him. When they did come forward, I had them repent of their sins, to ask out loud for God to forgive them, and to declare their intention to follow Christ with their whole hearts. When they went back to their seats, I said, “Now turn around and look at those around you. Look them in the eye and tell them this: “With God’s help I intend to follow Christ with all of my heart.” Then they sat down. I instructed them to study the Bible and pray, and when they got out to find a Bible-believing Church and to be baptized as soon as possible

Jesus Emphasized the Cost

Jesus didn’t emphasize the advantages of discipleship, although we know there are many and great; no, He emphasized the cost of discipleship. And He urged anyone who would follow Him to count the cost. In another place He said, “Whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy to be my disciple.” He is saying, in effect, “If you’re not determined to go all the way with Me, turn back now.”

There is a time to count the cost, to calculate just how far we will go with Jesus. There’s a time to ask, “How much of the world am I willing to give up?” How much do I really love the Lord? Am I willing to give up all sin? Can I get to heaven without being a fanatic for Jesus? Am I content to be a lukewarm Christian? But the time to ask these questions is before professing to “follow Jesus.” We need to settle that before we commit to follow Christ. These scriptures, if they mean anything, mean that following Christ can’t be a halfway thing. It’s worse to follow Him with half a heart than not to follow Him at all. After we have taken the measure of our commitment, then there’s no turning back, no lukewarm service, no compromise with the world.

In the strongest possible words Jesus says that He will not endure lukewarm Christianity.

Rev. 3:14-16: “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Pretty clear, isn’t it?  Pretty clear, and pretty scary.  People are lax and careless in their Christian walk for two reasons. They don’t fear God as they should, and they don’t love Him as they should. No devout, earnest Christian should be afraid of God’s punishment. But even the most sincere Christian walks in a kind of reverent, godly fear. And a person who isn’t trying his hardest to obey God in all things has every reason to fear. Even the Law commands us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Should not a Christian who is only half-heartedly serving God have fear?  If we love Him we keep His commandments. If we do not love Him enough to obey Him, we should fear.

I John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

If you are not serving God with all your heart, I want you to be afraid. Only perfect, obedient love drives out fear. I want your fear to spur you to action, to repentance, to a fierce determination to be all out for Christ.

I see nothing in all of God’s word to offer comfort to any man, woman, or young person, who is not on fire for the Lord, who is not willing to forsake all for Him, who does not put Him before family, friends, and future. On the contrary, lukewarm Christians are nauseating to Christ, and He is going to spit them out.

Discipleship is a serious business, a life-or-death matter. You must decide whether or not you will surrender the rest of your heart to Him if it is still in anyway divided. If you are holding back any aspect of your life from Him, you are not truly His disciple.

Let meditate on the words of this song:

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way.

Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.

Mold me and make me, after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way.

Search me and try me, Master, today.

Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,

As in Thy presence, humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way.

Hold o’er my being absolute sway.

Fill with Thy Spirit, till all can see

Christ only, always, living in me.

Amen