“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been putting an emphasis on being lukewarm and the church in America as contrasted to the early disciples of Jesus. It’s something I’m very convicted on and I think that the passage above has something to do with the abundance of lukewarm people who happen to fill pews each Sunday.
I’ve been guilty of trying to avoid discussing the difficulties of being a Christian and the harder doctrines with prospects, out of fear that they may no longer be interested. As a teenager, I had that same sort of mindset in dating. I couldn’t comprehend how “being myself” if it caused the other person to no longer be interested in me, would be the best choice. The notion that perhaps the one who couldn’t accept all of me wouldn’t be the right person to be with, when I was very convinced otherwise, seemed illogical. In a somewhat similar way, I have occasionally tried to “hook” some with the softer aspects of Christianity that would appeal to anyone: the blessings that may come, the positives.
But that’s kind of like the military advertising only the benefits of joining and entirely neglecting the requirements or serious risks, like death. They could easily draw millions of people, but how many, upon realizing the cost and deception, would regret their decision and go AWOL? There would be a divide between those who understood the cost was worth it, and those who didn’t agree.
We accept that and we encourage those who consider joining the military to think seriously and understand every danger before making such a commitment.
And there are many who weigh the risks and are devoted regardless. And I don’t think we would argue that the devotion is necessary for success as a soldier.
Yet, at least in my case and out of fear, I wouldn’t approach telling people about Christ in the same way. The truth is, becoming a disciple means rejecting our former selves, rejecting the world, rejecting the pursuit of worldly things, possibly losing our families, our friends, our jobs. It may mean a drastic change in our lifestyles. It will definitely mean changing behaviors, interests, attitudes, words, entertainment, goals, the way we spend our time. Obviously, it will mean going to services on Sundays and reading our Bibles daily and giving money and taking time to pray, but mostly, it will mean changing every other day and moment and how we interact with others. It means actually loving God with that sacrificial (which implies voluntary pain on our part) love. It means being devoted even if we have to suffer uncomfortable situations, or more seriously, death, persecution, abuse. It means we’ll become a member of the Lord’s army, and if we wouldn’t expect our government to accept half-hearted devotion to the nation from its soldiers, we can’t expect God to accept any less from those for whom He sent His Son to die, in hopes that we would repent and follow Him.
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that we’ll be healthier, wealthier or more successful.
It means that we will have a peace and comfort and joy, even in destitution. It means that we’ll have to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t think to do without that love for God and His word- things that are hard and contrary to our desires and things that don’t favor our egos. We may be mocked and ridiculed and people may gossip about us for many of our decisions that simply won’t make sense to the world, and we may lose friendships and respect that we enjoyed from those who are no longer like-minded.
When we come to the truth, we have a decision, and our decision to obey God needs to come from an understanding that we are telling Him that we’ve weighed everything and He is without any doubt, worth far more than anything else. When we decide to obey the gospel, it needs to come from an understanding that because of that understanding, we are going to throw everything else away and just simply follow Him. We’re going to repent- that means we’re going to decide to stop giving in to our lusts and temptations and sinful desires, and then we will bear the fruits of that repentance. The Bible compares baptism to a death, a burial: we kill that old man in those waters which means that there must be a stark contrast in who we are without God and who we are with Him.
Are you willing to pay that price?
Truly, there will be no one who has anything less than complete faith, and a true sacrificial and abundant love for and devotion to God that will make the commitment after counting the cost.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 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. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:34-29
“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” – Matthew 8:18-22
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “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 will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” – Matthew 16:24-27
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4