A Costly Endeavor
Two weeks ago we were celebrating Easter and we got excited about event – and many people were in worship maybe the first time since Christmas.
Now the hoopla is over. Some folks won’t be back until Christmas but even for those that are active this is kind of a still time. It is a down period until we get to Pentecost.
In the excitement of Easter we forget that Jesus hung around for 40 days before ascending into heaven. He wasn’t in a big hurry to leave – He had some more to say and do. The beginning of Acts tells us that.
Acts 1:1-3 (NLT) In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.
One set of instructions was for the disciples to wait on the Holy Spirit which came to fulfillment on Pentecost.
But I wonder what further instructions did Jesus give? Here is what I think Jesus went over:
- He taught them about what they should expect if they continued to follow Him.
- He repeated His teachings on being a disciple, about what it means to live for Him.
- Jesus taught His disciples about the Kingdom of God.
Christ told His disciples to count the cost of following Him. He knew that following Him would cost them everything.
- Of the original 12 apostles minus Judas 10 of them were put to death for their faith.
- John died of old age probably in house arrest on the island of Patmos
- When Jesus calls His disciples He doesn’t call them to an easy life. He calls them to count the cost and then follow. Listen to what Jesus told His disciples before His death and resurrection:
Luke 14:27-34 (NIV)
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
- I would like to primarily look at verse 27. AND ANYONE WHO DOES NOT CARRY HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE. There are three words that set the standard for the cost of following Christ in verse 27: “CROSS,” “FOLLOW,” AND “DISCIPLE.” Between the resurrection and the ascension I believe that Jesus retaught what the words cross, follow and disciple mean.
- FIRST, WE ARE CALLED TO CARRY THE CROSS. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus declared this way about carrying the cross: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (8:34). One of the key words in this proclamation about being a disciple is the word “if.” If we answer Jesus’ call to be a disciple then we have to take up Christ’s cross.
- Jesus uses two symbols for commitment one was the yoke, a symbol of work, and the cross, a symbol of sacrifice and death.
- The cross means that we are willing to deny ourselves, dedicate ourselves and declare ourselves.
- Denying ourselves is an act of surrendering our will to the Lord Jesus and that we obey Him in all areas of our lives.
- Dedicate ourselves: Self-denial alone is not enough we must dedicate ourselves to Christ. Dedication demands that we put God first in our lives. What are you willing to do for the Lord? We are going to have a dedication service for our new organ. We are dedicating for the Lord’s service.
- Thirdly the cross means that we are to declare ourselves as a disciple of Christ. What we are to declare / speak about is that Christ is our Lord. If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark:8:38)
- TO FOLLOW MEANS FOR US TO BE LIKE JESUS. The word “follow” comes from the same Greek word that follower comes from. It infers that there is a union or likeness. The word literally means “one going in the same way.” We are to walk the same path – be in His likeness. We are to copy His example.
- When Jesus calls us to “follow” he is calling us to an exclusive attachment to Him. The old life is left behind and completely surrendered so that we may be under His Lordship.
- Following means movement to me. The problem with us Christians and the Church is that we are not moving. How much movement have you made for the Lord recently?
- To follow means that we have to go from point “A” to point “B.” We can’t just sit in the pew; hear some nice words and smile or frown and get up and leave without making a difference in this world. Follow means that we are in Christ’s company.
Illustration from Facebook:
So I was just on my way to work and I had to stop for gas so I allowed myself some extra time to get to work. When I pulled up to the pump I shut my car off and saw this middle aged man crying looking at the gas pump. I began to wonder what happened with this man and as I got out of my car and looked at him my heart felt like it stopped.
In Apple Valley, Minnesota it is 10 degrees and freezing cold with the wind. This man was wearing flip flops with socks covered in holes. I look in his car and see his wife in the front seat covering her face in her hands and the 2 teenage girls both of cuddling under a blanket in the back seat.
I didn't even think and I went up to the man and said sir is something the matter? He looked at me and I could tell he was on the verge of giving up because he didn't even try to conceal his tears when he said I can't even provide for my family.
Without even thinking I put my card in his machine and tell him Jesus Christ the Son of God died to provide for you. Fill it up. Something, something came alive in him. He was in shock and it was like he forgot how to pump gas.
In that same moment his wife got out of her car, she asked her husband what was going on and he told her I just paid for their gas she started to cry and came around the corner to shake my hand when I saw her pants dirty and torn. I asked her to come to my car.
The airport lost some of my luggage on my way to Minnesota from California and I had to clean out my closet to find stuff to wear and get rid of a lot of stuff all of that stuff that I had yet to give away was sitting in the back seat of the car and in the trunk. I opened up my car and told the lady to take what she wanted.
This lady RAN back to her car. I was so afraid I had just embraced her but a moment later her and her two girls were digging through those clothes layering my sweatshirts and shirts and sweat pants over the worn out clothes they had been wearing.
Soon the father had finished pumping the gas and came over. This attracted a little crowd at the gas station. And some older man gave the family a gift card and another middle aged man gave away his jacket to the father. Never in my life did I think I would see this kind of thing happen at a gas station with a handful of complete strangers.
But it gives me hope. That the love of God can be so contagious. That we are not alone in being part of the change we want to see in the world. God's love is greater than anything and we get to be a part of that love changing lives. And HE always provides!
That is getting up and following.
- A DISCIPLE IS “A FOLLOWER OF” JESUS CHRIST. SYNONYMS ARE LEARNER, STUDENT, AND APPRENTICE.
- Luke 6:40 Jesus said; A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. As a disciple we must be in training full time; learning how to live like Christ.
- My responsibility as a pastor is to prepare (get ready) God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12)
- Discipleship means adherence to Christ. Adherence means that we are glued – stuck to Christ. Discipleship is devotion to Christ.
- A disciple places him/herself at the Master’s disposal. This type of following cuts us off from our previous life. We can’t stay in the old we have to move on to the new.
- We can’t have both worlds. It is like getting married we live out one life and when we get married we enter into a new life. To stay in the old life and be married should be impossible. Even though some try it doesn’t work. We are either totally married or we are totally single there is no in between. And that is true of discipleship we are either a disciple or we aren’t.
- Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
- Areas of our life that need to be developed in our pursuit of being a disciple:
- First Is Our Inner Character: The word Attitude is overused and has lost much of its meaning therefore I want to use the word character to describe what is going on inside us. What is it that makes me do what I do, or think what I think or act the way I act; it is my character.
- Many times what we think or feel on the inside is different than we act, say or do. Many times we hide that inner character because it is not Christ-like.
- Are the inner thoughts of my life Christ-like? Do I treat people like my inner most thoughts have treated them? Maybe we ought to be thankful that we don’t react in that non-Christian way.
- We Must Be Proficient (skilled) In Our Ministry And Service. We are to give our best efforts to the service of our Lord. We should have a commitment of excellence for all that we do because what we do is ministry in the name of Christ.
- We should never do the minimum for Him He gave all for us – so let us do our best for Him.
- Whether we are preaching or sitting behind a desk or waiting tables or going to school or teaching school or working heavy equipment or a parent or a child it makes no difference what we are doing for the Church we need to do it with excellence.
- Our Plans For The Future, Our Perspectives, Need To Be His Plans. We are quick to plan out our future. But have we considered what the Lord wants? The 2 parables of the builder and commander and chief of the army talks about counting the cost of what future will hold if we execute our plans with consulting God.
28-30 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’
31-32 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?
33 “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple (Luke 14: 28-33 The Message)
Is the Lord the Lord of every area of our lives? Is He Lord of everything?
- Our total being, physically, emotionally, rationally, spiritually – every part of us need to be His.
- Before following we must count the cost. Once we have then we need to be totally His to be in ministry.
- If we are totally His do we show that we are Christ’s servants?
A woman stood in the checkout line at the supermarket. The poor woman right in front of her, the one trying to corral three small children, was having a meltdown. It was every young mother’s nightmare and then some. One of her children was standing, runny nose and all, in the now-empty shopping cart; another was wailing at around a hundred decibels and hugging mom’s leg like it was a tree in a hurricane; a third had run off somewhere.
Meanwhile, the frantic young mom’s only credit card had been denied. She’d dumped half the contents of her purse onto the grocery belt and was desperately pawing through the clutter of keys, crumpled receipts, makeup, and baby gear, trying to find enough cash to pay for the groceries, now bagged and ready. Like any good mother, she was also scanning the area for her missing son, in full panic mode. The unfortunate mom appeared to be in her early thirties, but time and life had not been gentle. The lines on her face, the limp strands of hair now straggling across it, and the cheap clothes she wore screamed poor— poor financially and poor in spirit. If to such belongs the kingdom of heaven, in the next life she might be queen. But right now, hope for anything other than day-to-day survival had fled; hers was the face of desperation. Suddenly she slowed and stopped, both hands in the pile of purse contents on the checkout counter, eyes staring blankly downward at nothing, as if she had reached the end of her energy and of whatever momentum had been carrying her forward.
The woman behind her who’d been watching quietly spoke. “Here, this ought to take care of it.” She handed the clerk her credit card. The clerk looked from the credit card to the startled young mother. Neither seemed to know what to do next. “You don’t have to do that,” the mother said, swiping the hair out of her face. She looked even more embarrassed than before. Finding her drive once again, she resumed clawing through the pile from her purse. “No, I’m serious,” said the woman in line, discreetly enough to preserve what little was left of the mother’s dignity. “Please let me do this for you— and for your children.” She motioned for the clerk to complete the transaction.
“I’ll watch your groceries if you want to go find your son.” The young mother was clearly struggling to understand what had just happened, but with that reminder, her mothering instincts kicked in. After a quick, embarrassed “Thanks,” she hurriedly dumped her stuff back into her purse and, with one child in her arms and the other clasped tightly by the hand, rushed off in search of her lost lamb. A few moments later, when the Good Samaritan saw the mother returning, family restored, she turned to leave. “Stop, please,” called the young mother. Dragging her three still-squabbling children up to the cart of bagged groceries, she said to the woman standing next to them, “Thank you so much, but have we met?”
The woman smiled. “No, I don’t recall seeing you before.” “But then why did you offer to pay for my groceries?” “I’m a Christian,” the woman said simply. “As I stood behind you, I sensed that God was telling me to pay for your groceries, so I did. Simple as that. Since everything I have belongs to God anyway, he paid your bill— not me. Just thank him, if you’d like. I hope you have a great day.” And with one last smile, the woman turned and left.
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5: 16)
(De Graaf, Clare (2013-02-05). The 10-Second Rule (pp. 9-10). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)
- For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
- Here I am use me.