COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS Part 2

The Cost of Following Jesus     Part 2

Matthew 8: 18-22 (New Living Translation)

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.

Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

Luke 9: 57-62 (New Living Translation)

As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plough and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

INTRODUCTION

Jesus Christ invites us to “seek him”… In fact, as we earnestly do so, he responds by being found by us! But as we follow Him, he also invites us to take up our cross with the promise of eternal salvation as reward…

Stalking is rightly regarded as a cruel crime… but in this instance, three men ‘stalked’ Jesus for the right reason and claimed that they wanted to be one of His wholehearted disciples… as opposed to a half-hearted one

  • The men wanted to follow Jesus but we detect a reluctance in each man to be completely committed to Christ and pay the cost of true discipleship
  • As far as we know, none of them eventually chose to follow Him, though it is possible that having given the matter careful thought, one or more of them may have decided to become a true disciple

One jumped in without considering the full implications: Mr Hasty

One made excuses because he seemed to lack faith: Mr Play Safe

One procrastinated and tried to buy time: Mr Wait and See

As we think about the three men in this account, Jesus’ words and the men’s reactions help us to understand that the cost and benefits of being a disciple have to be weighed carefully

So what demands does wholehearted discipleship make of us? Let’s look at three of them…

1. Jesus becomes the focal point of our lives

Every day… almost every moment… we have to make decisions that act as a measure of our commitment to Christ

  • Because discipleship is not only about ‘conversion’
  • It’s about a life style and a way of thinking, prioritising and behaving… a deliberate act of the will to follow Him who is THE WAY

Ultimately, it’s the extent to which we are prepared to surrender our will to Him

Perhaps we have sometimes failed to explain or acknowledge adequately what becoming a follower of Christ involves

  • We have explained the theology: we are sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness… Christ’s substitutionary death at Calvary…
  • But we may be more reluctant to speak about the cost that following Christ entails… but Jesus didn’t hesitate to make it clear!

We are grateful that people even bother to enter the church occasionally or engage in conversation… so avoid saying anything that will cause alarm or interfere with the “feel good” emotions

Yet young people in particular are searching for something in their lives that will give them a sense of purpose, hope and direction

  • They don’t want a half-baked Christianity!
  • They don’t want a sanitised gospel…they want to hear it straight
  • Young people will make any sacrifice for a cause in which they believe!
  • And, of course they want to see what we say reflected in the way we live and behave …

IF WE CAN’T WALK THE TALK…perhaps we need to examine our lives and see where we stand in regard to Jesus’ command to put Him at the centre of everything we think, say and do!

2. Being a disciple means that our message is often rejected or ignored

  • Most people have an inner desire to conform
  • It’s difficult to ask them to break the mould, reject popular culture and take the narrow way… People need to be convinced… not by us… but by the Holy Spirit working through us

Children are especially desperate to “belong”

  • And fear of being excluded from the group alarms every teenager

But becoming a Christian involves a willingness to allow God the Holy Spirit to transform our lives, which will often set us apart from the majority view of life…

I WAS TALKING to some of my colleagues at work and one of them said: “I’m proud because I never deprive myself of anything I want.” Another colleague commented: “If you want that sports’ car, buy it!

HOW DIFFERENTLY FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST VIEW LIFE!

Christianity breaks the mould! Jesus commands us to seek the narrow way… to risk being despised and rejected…

  • He warns us that there are few that even want to find the way
  • To be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ asks for commitment beyond life itself
  • It is uncompromising (You cannot serve God and mammon)

So discipleship rejects much that the rest of the world holds dear

It can therefore be isolating…that’s why Christians tend to stick together for fellowship and avoid places where non-Christians meet

Our desire to be thought well of can also jeopardise our commitment to Christ… We don’t want to be thought of as ‘odd’

  • But we have to put humility before honour (Proverbs 18: 12)

We even have to be willing to be crucified with Christ… As Paul writes: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2: 20)

We claim that Jesus is the only way…while the prevailing mood in society is for syncretism (pick and mix)

  • But Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but through Him… No one! It’s Jesus Christ or nothing!

Of course there are difficult questions to face…

  • What about people who have never heard the Gospel?
  • What about babies that die and mentally retarded people?
  • What about children brought up in a godless environment?

However, we cannot speak about things we DO NOT know… we can only speak of what we DO know… that Christ is the only means of salvation

Opposition to the Gospel and general indifference is uncomfortable and distressing… but rejection ‘comes with the territory’

3. Being a disciple means that we have to persevere and be faithful to the end

In Revelation 14 v 12 we read about the end times:

This [situation] calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.

Perseverance is not popular in this ‘I want it now’ generation…

  • But for the disciple of Jesus it’s essential
  • Perseverance in the face of uncertainty/doubt/fear/disappointment

BUTPerseverance needs to be directed by the Holy Spirit and motivated by a love for Jesus Christ

  • There is little point in persevering to achieve something that has lost its relevance…

The sort of attitude typically associated with an English-speaking person in a French restaurant…repeating the same instruction more loudly each time…to the bewilderment of the confused waitress!

  • There is also little point in persevering to achieve something that does not have the Spirit’s anointing on it!
  • It worked in the past” may not be a legitimate argument for repeating that particular approach… “He makes all things new
  • As someone has said: ‘We don’t look at the ashes of the past but at the flames!’

THE APOSTLE PAUL WAS AN AMAZING ‘PERSEVERER’

In 1 Corinthians 9 verse 27, he wrote:

No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

SUMMARY OF PAUL’S EXPERIENCE (2 Corinthians 11:23-31)

  • Received 39 lashes five times
  • Beaten with rods three times
  • Stoned
  • Shipwrecked three times
  • One day and night adrift in the open sea
  • Constantly on the move
  • In danger from rivers, bandits, Jews, Gentiles
  • In danger in the city and in the country
  • In danger at sea
  • In danger from false believers
  • Often without sleep
  • Hungry and thirsty
  • Cold and naked
  • Burdened for the churches and its people

Christians in Western countries are not asked to make such sacrifices…yet!

And consider, too, our brothers and sisters in other lands who are constantly burdened with hardship and suffering for the cause of Christ

HOW DOES OUR ‘SUFFERING’ COMPARE WITH THEIRS?

We may be:

  • Teased or ignored by people we hoped would be our friends
  • Overlooked for promotion or criticised for our godly stance
  • Isolated because we refused to ‘go with the crowd’
  • A shortage of suitable marriage partners
  • Weary because we expend so much effort in active Christian service
  • Spending time with the lowly rather than the influential

So we must run the race with perseverance, for we shall find blessing and reap the reward if we are willing to keep going

  • The difference between success and failure in our Christian service is, very often, the extent to which we are willing to persevere

The cost of following Jesus is high… but the rewards are great if we are willing to persevere and finish the race

 

 


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