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Sunday, October 1, 2017

posted Oct 1, 2017, 9:26 PM by Site Administrator

THE COST OF BEING A DISCIPLE

 

Luke 14:25-35

Key Verse 14:33

 

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

 

            Look at verse 25. Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Wherever he went, people noticed him and eagerly followed him. To them, Jesus was like a celebrity – whenever they saw him, they shouted for joy, and wanted to be with him; they rushed toward him to touch him. It seemed that they were real good followers; it seemed that Jesus must be happy to see them following him with such enthusiasm. But how did Jesus respond? Verse 25 says, "Turning to them, he said." And his entire message to them, which is today’s passage shows that Jesus was not happy with them at all. Instead, he showed them how they should follow him – not just shouting and applauding him as people applaud Hollywood movie stars or pop stars. Let’s say, Jesus is here in Los Angeles today; what will happen? Yes, thousands upon thousands people will gather to see him and wherever Jesus goes, people will follow him, struggling to come closer to him, trying to take selfie with him, or asking him for his autograph. People may think that in that way, they are welcoming and following him very well. But that’s not the way Jesus wants us to follow him. In today’s passage, as he saw so many people eagerly following him, he said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." He also says, "If anyone does not carry his cross and follow me he cannot be my disciple." As a conclusion, Jesus says, "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." That’s the way Jesus wants us to follow him. You cannot follow Jesus by simply coming to church on Sundays; you cannot follow Jesus by simply shouting, "I love Jesus!" Instead, Jesus wants us to follow him with all our hearts and strength, giving up all we have here on earth, our dreams and plans, and taking up the cross of mission. We are very thankful for giving us today’s passage, showing us how we must live our lives as believers. Today’s passage defines what it means to live as Christians. Let’s check out Jesus’ instruction prayerfully.

 

First, "If anyone does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes even his own life--he cannot be my disciple" (26). Look at verse 26. Let’s read this verse together:

 

26"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple.

 

            We are really shocked! If anyone does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, he cannot be Jesus’ disciple. At the same time, we are really confused, because one time, Jesus said that the greatest command is to love God with all our hearts and strength, and the second greatest command is to love our neighbors as ourselves. So, love our neighbors and hate our family members? That’s the Christianity? Of course not! But Jesus says that we must hate our parents and other family members to be his disciples. Why does Jesus say so? It is because these people – father and mother, wife or husband and children, brothers and sisters – become real hindrances or obstacles for us to live as Jesus’ disciple; because of these people, many fail to live as Jesus’ disciples. All these people Jesus mentions here are the close people to a disciple candidate - he loves them, and his heart goes to them very naturally; he is concerned about their well being, and he wants to make sure that they are well taken care of. This person wants to be Jesus' disciple. So in hope to be Jesus' disciple, he does many things - he professes his faith in Jesus; of course, he comes to church every Sunday; he participates in God's work; his desire is great, and his effort is also great. Then, eventually, there comes a time when he has to make his choice very clear - either he would dedicate himself to God's work and serve Him, or he would choose to take care of them; either he would choose to pursue his desire for success or marriage or he would choose to pursue Jesus' will alone. In this situation, those who do not hate these seven, choose them. Thus they cannot be Jesus' disciples; so eventually, as they make their choice clear to pursue them, cherish them, they reject God's will upon them, and thus, fail to live as Jesus' disciples. That what Jesus, as God, has witnessed for several thousand years. Adam, the first man was fully dedicated to God and enjoyed fellowship with God. Then, when his wife wanted him to compromise and do what God told him not to, he was troubled, but eventually, he didn't want to disappoint his wife or didn't want to break his wife's heart; so, he did what she wanted him to do, violating God's will upon his life; because he didn't hate his wife, he could not be a disciple. We also know Demas; he was a fully dedicated disciple under the apostle Paul's guidance. But later, he fell away because he loved the world (2Tim 4:10); when the world offered him what he desired, maybe, a promising future with a good career, or a chance to marry a desirable lady, he gave in, rejecting God's will upon his life. He loved his own life, instead of hating it, thus, failed to be Jesus' disciple. We have seen so many people who fail to be Jesus' disciples only because they have not hated these seven, but loved some of them.  

 

            When we think about this teaching carefully, we see how absolutely we must follow Jesus Christ alone. Even your father or your aged sick mother shouldn't be a hindrance for you to love God and serve His will.  How painful it is to reject or deny your sick mother's tears and live as Jesus' disciples! Such pain cannot stop you from following and obeying your Lord Jesus Christ. How painful it is to turn down a dream job offer - 6 digit income and a promising future, only to serve God's will! Such temptation or promising future cannot slow you down in serving Jesus' will wholeheartedly! How painful it is when we have to leave our own suffering brothers and sisters alone, and we just struggle hard to take care of other people on our campus as shepherds in obedience to Jesus' will! Despite such pains and sorrows, you still struggle to serve Jesus' will. This shows that you truly love Jesus and honor him above all things. Such people are Jesus' disciples.

 

            We remember that Abraham had two sons - Ishmael and Isaac. God asked Abraham to send off Ishmael, his beloved firstborn son into the desert. Abraham's struggle had been to be a good father for him. But at this direction, he sent him off into the desert with a gallon of water and a lunch sack. Then, God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac, whom he loved as a burnt offering to God. At this, Abraham did not back out. He obeyed God's command. Through this action, it became clear that Abraham would do whatever God wanted him to do - nothing or no one, or even no pain or sorrow could stop him from loving God and serving Him wholeheartedly. So, God didn't need to try to see how much Abraham would obey him or love him any longer. Such absoluteness, such single-hearted devotion is the characteristic of all Jesus' disciples. Revelation 14:3,4 talks about 144,000 Jewish evangelists, saying, "These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes."

 

            Second, "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (27). Look at verse 27. Let’s read this verse together:

 

27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

 

            In verse 26, we learned what we should hate to be Jesus’ disciple. Hating those seven is the requirement for anyone to be Jesus' disciple; it is like prerequisite. Now in verse 27, Jesus shows us what we must do practically as his disciples, or he shows us what kind of life his disciples are to live. What kind of life? The life of taking up his cross! Hating the seven is a must, and taking up his cross is a must for anyone who wants to become Jesus' disciple.

 

            Here, "his cross" refers to the cross of mission assigned on each of us. God's kingdom is big, coming with many departments and branches. Let's say, you work at Google or Apple; you never try to do all the important things of your company; instead, you are assigned to a certain department, and a certain branch with a specific task - that's what you are to do. In the same way, God assigns each person to a specific department and branch - this is God's calling. This specific calling comes with a specific mission; each person has this mission assignment, which only he must do - this is his cross. We have this specific calling of God for campus mission. So, in order to serve this mission, we fish and teach students the word of God on college campuses. As we struggle to find sheep, we experience a lot of rejections and difficulties; also, in order to teach students the word of God, we have to prepare our Bible study notes, and utilize our time very effectively as shepherds and shepherdesses. Also, as students, school work is your cross, which you have to take care of. After graduation, you get a job and support yourself - this is profitable for everyone according to Titus 3. After marriage, you have the cross of taking care of and supporting your family. These are all our crosses, which we have to carry. This is how we live our life as Jesus' disciples. Jesus says, "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Saying, "I believe in Jesus," or "I love the Lord," does not make you a real Christian; even memorizing the entire Bible or getting PhDs in theology does not make you a real Christian. If you are a believer, then, you must take up the cross of mission and follow Jesus. This cross-taking makes you a real Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus wants us to do each and every day. When each Christian takes up his or her cross daily, then their Christian life is sound, giving good influence to the people around them - such people are trustworthy and reliable. At the same time, they are fully dedicated to God's will and purpose - they are God's servants, soldiers for Jesus Christ, doing God's work upon their life very sincerely and faithfully; at that time, in their life, there is a clear goal, purpose and direction; simply, they know what they must do and pursue. They do not walk in darkness any longer, but in Jesus, they have the light of life. Such people are Jesus' disciples whose hearts and lives are fully dedicated to God.

 

Third, "Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" (28-33). In verses 28 through 32, Jesus tells us to estimate the cost involved in being his disciples. Those who do not count the cost of being disciples in advance eventually give up when the cost is too high; and when it happens, they become laughingstocks. The key point here is "finishing" or "completion," as Jesus' disciples, not just for a while, but to the end of our life. Not just during college, but all the days of our life. At the same time, Jesus shows that no one can live as his disciples casually without any thinking. No one can live as Jesus' disciple by just applauding him and clapping; no one can live as Jesus' disciple because he likes Jesus' humorous message. Why? Because being Jesus' disciple or being a Christian is not a joke, but a big matter, coming up with many serious decision making moments; there will be painful moments; maybe, you will shed a lot of tears; maybe, you will be misunderstood by your beloved people; maybe, you will suffer financially for a while. When these things happen to you, how will you respond? Jesus does not want us to follow him naively; instead, he wants us to think about these things in advance and come up with our heart's determination to follow him no matter what. Then, what is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? Look at verse 33. Let's read this verse together:

 

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.


            The cost is "everything we have." What does "everything" mean? Everything means everything - whatever you have - your father and mother, your wife and children, your brothers and sisters, and even your own very life. This is the requirement. So, in order to be Jesus' disciple, we have to give up everything?! What about our school? Jobs? Family? Children? What about our cars? I think saw Darius driving a car? Have you not given up your car yet? During Bible study, all of us use a laptop computer. Do you mean that you have not given up everything yet? According to this requirement, it seems that all Christians must be losers and street bums in the society. But that's not what Jesus is talking about. God made Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rich when they lived for Him; God made Job rich. God made David rich. Rather, with this, he shows us that only when we are willing to give up everything for him, we can live as his disciples. When those seven things Jesus mentioned about are not a matter in our life of faith, we can enjoy them freely - beautiful family life, wonderful career job, even a great success in the world becoming very rich - all these are great blessing; as your hearts and lives are fully dedicated to God, God gives you such blessings. When that happens, we will all shout for joy. But when those things become a matter in your life of faith, when you are pushed to the corner where you have to choose only one between God and your mother or father, or your husband or wife, or your sons or daughters, or even your own dreams for success or marriage, you stand on God's side firmly, making your heart's determination to obey God and serve Him only utmost clear, willing to lose them, willing to give them up for God's sake. Widowed, aged and sick mother's tears cannot stop you from obeying God's will; your sons' or daughters' cry cannot slow you down; neither great success nor painful failures cannot stop you from loving God wholeheartedly. Such people are the ones who are willing to give up everything they have for Jesus and God's kingdom. Jesus says that only such people can live as his disciples.

 

What about other people who are not willing to give up everything for him? They may do many Christian things; they may know the Bible a lot; they may give up many things for God - what about giving up father? No problem; mother? No problem; brothers and sisters? No problem! But what about their dream for success or marriage? If they are not willing to give up everything, if they hold on to just one thing, eventually, they choose it, willing to reject God's will upon their life; so, eventually, they fail to live as Jesus' disciples because of that one thing they hold so dear. We are here reminded of the rich young man. Jesus says that such people cannot become his disciples. When we think about this, we see that Jesus' disciples are no ordinary people at all, but really die-hard people for Jesus, completely dedicated to God, and thereby, obey His will in any circumstances; nothing or no one can stop them from loving God and serving Him wholeheartedly. What kind of people are they? They are the very descendants of Abraham, following his footsteps doing what he did. Being a Christian is not a joke; it is indeed an all-or-nothing deal.

 

Many people try to become Christians or to secure a ticket to heaven by just doing some things for Jesus Christ, such as, saying, 'I believe in Jesus," or going to church worship service or having some kind of Christian life. Simply, such an idea does not work, because the cost they have to pay is "everything." Believing in Jesus means our confession that Jesus is our God. If Jesus is your God, then, you worship him by devoting yourself completely to him, pouring out everything you have for him, doing everything He wants you to do, showing absolute loyalty and commitment to Him. If Jesus is your God, you choose him over all other things at any cost. If Jesus is your God, then, you struggle hard to obey his commands. The most basic and fundamental commandment is, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength." Thus comes Christian's lifestyle and struggle as Jesus describes in today's passage. It is very natural when you really believe in Jesus, when you really want to love him. This is what Abraham did when he even did not have any Bible, and when no Bible teacher told him that he must obey God. In today's passage, Jesus is not issuing a new rule for the New Testament believers, but he shows us how we must serve God as children of God, our basic duty as his creatures.

 

People think of going to heaven a very easy one, and they think that the ticket to heaven for eternal life is very cheap to purchase. So, they take a very casual attitude in coming to Jesus, saying, "Yeah, I know Jesus," or, they say, "I come to church, because I feel peaceful when I am in the church." Jesus does not welcome that kind of idea or attitude in coming to him. Even when people are so enthusiastic, applauding and shouting for him, Jesus till does not welcome them. Instead, he wants us to be real as God-worshipers. There was one brother who was determined to pursue success in the world, retire early like his grandfather, at the age of 47, and enjoy his life as a pro bono tutor donating his time to teach math to high school students at a local library. Then, God touched his heart through Luke chapter 5. Peter said to Jesus, "Go away from me, Lord. I am a sinful man." Then, Jesus said to him, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." At this, he was troubled, because he had to give up his dream for success, and live as a Bible teacher for Jesus. But after two weeks, he accepted God's calling, gave up everything in this life, and since then, he has lived as a disciple of Jesus. There was one girl pledged to marry a handsome young man. Then, one day God’s messenger came to her and told her that instead of pursuing her romantic marriage dream, she must be used in God’s salvation work. She was troubled at first, but realizing that she was chosen and blessed by God, she said to the messenger of God, "I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said." (Lk 1:38) Her name was Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Whatever is dear to you, Jesus wants you to be willing to give up, if it becomes a hindrance so that you can follow him in any circumstances, and live as his disciples. Jesus wants us to sell everything we have and follow him so that we can gain him. Job 22 says that if you throw away your gold on the ravines, your valuable things on the river, then, the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you.

 

Look at verses 34 and 35. Let’s read these verses together:

 

34"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

 

            In this passage, we see how absolutely and wholeheartedly we must follow Jesus as his disciples. When the disciples show that kind of absoluteness in following Jesus - hating all 7, including family members and their own life, giving up everything in this life, and living the life of taking up their own cross - their life is powerful and inspirational; they are so zealous and absolute for Jesus. No one and nothing can slow them down from loving Jesus and following him; they are literally invincible and unstoppable. At that time, people can see that these people are different and recognize them as Jesus' disciples. They are like salt, so outstanding and precious, and because of them human sanity is preserved, and because of their influence, the society becomes a better place to live.

 

            But if the disciples compromise and choose anything or anyone in this world other than Jesus, if they don't give up everything but try to secure or fulfill their life in the world, or if they do not live the life of taking up the cross of mission, they are like salt that loses its saltiness - no flavor or fragrance as Jesus' disciples. When these disciples lose that kind absoluteness and complete dedication to Jesus, they become like salt that does not have saltiness - they look like Christians, because they say, "I believe in Jesus," or "I love Jesus," or because they go to church on Sundays or because they pray before eating; but in their real life, there is no true fragrance of Jesus Christ due to their compromise, or humanistic way of thinking or value system; other than their religious life, they are not so different from the people of the world, so people are confused. They look like salt, something white, but when people come and taste them, they are found not salty at all - then, what are they? They are salt that have lost their saltiness.

 

            What are they for? They cannot be used as preservatives; they cannot be used to make food tasty either; simply, good for nothing. Jesus says, "It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out." The expression, "nor for the manure pile" is a contemptuous expression Jesus uses for those compromising people, those who fail to be his disciples. Such people who have lost absoluteness toward Jesus are not fit for God's purpose - due to their relativistic and humanistic value system and attitude toward things of God, God cannot use them at all, simply not fit for the service for the kingdom of God. Not only so, they are not fit for the world either. They know that God is real and Satan is real, heaven and hell are real, and that eventually everything in the world fades away; so they cannot give themselves to the world fully either, and in the world's eyes, they are not good at all. So, they are rejected even by the world. Simply, they are good for nothing. So, what happen to them? They are thrown out. God rejects them, and the people in the world trample on them, despising them and ridiculing them. We remember Lot - he compromised; he lived in Sodom, but it didn't mean that he completely forgot about God; when we study about him in Genesis, we are really confused - is he saved or not? Can we call him a believer or not? Simply, he is like the salt that has lost its saltiness, and thereby, he was rejected and despised, good for nothing, and eventually, he bore very shameful fruit that we don't want to talk about.

 

            In today's passage, we learned how we can be Jesus' disciples - we must hate those 7, we must take up our cross and follow him; we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus. Being a Christian or Jesus' disciple is a very serious matter, requiring us of such complete devotion, with willingness to sacrifice even our father or mother, our wife or husband, or sons or daughters - willing to give up, literally, everything. When God wanted to save us from our sins, it was not a joke; yet, He was willing to pay the ultimate price for us - even the death of his One and Only Son on the cross, and thereby, purchased us back from the enemy. God did this much for us in Jesus Christ. Now it is our turn. Jesus shows us how we can follow him and live as his disciples; Jesus shows us how we can love God and serve Him - we must be completely dedicated to God alone, not anything and anyone in the world, even our own life. Let's live as Jesus' disciples all the days of our life; let's not love anything in the world, but God alone. Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

 

One Word:       Love The Lord Your God With All Your Heart And With All Your Soul And With All Your Strength! 

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