Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Luke 14:28-30, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

Laura and I used to live in Columbia City. We used to take walks through the neighborhood. Just around the corner from our house was an old and overgrown foundation for a house. It was an eyesore in an otherwise lovely neighborhood. Someone had begun to build but they had been unable to finish. In all the years we lived there no work ever proceeded. The foundation was a testament to somebody’s inability to finish what they had started.

Our text exhorts us to consider the cost associated with following Jesus Christ. The message was given to the “great multitudes (who) were going along with Him” (Luke 14:25). It was proceeded by other “difficult sayings” of Jesus in which he demanded that his disciple must “hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life” (Luke 14:26-27) and that “he carry his own cross and come after me” (Luke 14:27).

It is important to note that Jesus was not calling upon His disciples to literally “hate” other members of their families. This would contradict what is clearly taught in other Scriptures. He was calling for a love for Him--He who is altogether worthy of such love--that transcends all other loves. If love for Him is ever threatened or opposed by members of one’s family, then “love” for them must give way to love for Him. Love for Him is to have preeminence in the hearts of His followers. Likewise, it is expected of His followers that they will suffer tribulation and persecution (Luke 9:23; Matthew 10:22-25). They must be willing to take up their cross. These are amongst the things that Jesus called upon His hearers to consider as they “calculated the cost” of following Him. He demanded of them a preeminent love and unwavering and enduring devotion.

Jesus spoke likewise to the great multitudes who gathered after He fed the five thousand. They sought Him for His benefits, not for Himself (John 6:26). He had an equally challenging message for them: “He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day” (John 6:54). They didn’t understand Him and were unwilling to accept what He said: “Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it? (John 6:60). “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). The great crowd was quickly winnowed by His challenging words.

What are we to make of these events? Great multitudes were following Jesus. His response was to clearly define the costs associated with following Him. The response of many was to turn away. To be sure salvation is by grace through faith. It is freely offered to penitent believers solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 3:18). How then does this “cost calculating” fit in?

No doubt part of the equation is the cultural difference between the experience of NT believers and our own. Those coming to faith in Christ expected to share in the persecution that was the norm for the NT believer. They understood that the one (faith) led naturally to the other (persecution). And this typical cause and effect is clarified elsewhere for us in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:12; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12). The cost of acknowledging Christ as Savior and Lord were clearly perceived—as they are even today in persecuted countries around the world.

The costs of discipleship are not so easily perceived in our day, but that doesn’t mean that there are no costs involved. Salvation is free, but the Christian life is not easy (even in a relatively persecution-free society). There is sin to be put off; a fight to be fought; difficult choices to make; relationships that will be severed; sufferings to endure; etc. etc. Unfortunately, in its neglect and de-emphasis of the doctrine of sanctification, the modern church has failed to clearly articulate this aspect of what it means to be a Christian.

J. C. Ryle commented on these matters: “Now, why did our Lord use this language? Did He wish to discourage men from becoming His disciples? Did He mean to make the gate of life appear more narrow than it is? It is not difficult to find an answer to these questions. Our Lord spoke as He did to prevent men following Him lightly and inconsiderately, from mere carnal feeling or temporary excitement, who in time of temptation would fall away. He knew that nothing does so much harm to the cause of true religion as backsliding, and that nothing causes so much backsliding as enlisting disciples without letting them know what they take in hand. He had no desire to swell the number of His followers by admitting soldiers who would fail in the hour of need. For this reason He raises a warning voice. He bids all who think of taking service with Him count the cost before they begin. Well would it be for the Church and the world if the ministers of Christ would always remember their Master's conduct in this passage. Often--far too often--people are built up in self-deception, and encouraged to think they are converted when in reality they are not converted at all. Feelings are supposed to be faith. Convictions are supposed to be grace. These things ought not so to be. By all means let us encourage the first beginnings of religion in a soul. But never let us urge people forward without telling them what true Christianity entails. Never let us hide from them the battle and the toil. Let us say to them "come with us"--but let us also say, "count the cost."

Steve Camp, in the chorus to his song, “Consider the Cost,” spoke of these matters this way:

Consider the cost of building a tower - it's a narrow way that you must come
For to do the will of the Father - is to follow the Son
To love Him more than father or mother - to love Him more than even your own flesh
To give all that you are, for all that He is - this is the gospel according to Jesus

Many will say, "Lord, Lord" on that day - look what we've done in Your name
"We've prophesied and performed many miracles - and Lord, even demons obeyed"
But He will declare unto them - the most terrifying words of truth. He'll say,
"Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity for I, I have never known you!"

Peter was amongst those who heard Jesus’ challenging words. Jesus asked him and the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you? (John 6:67)” What an amazing statement by our Lord to His disciples! What did Peter say? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life? (John 6:68).” The cost of following Jesus may be high, but the cost of not following Him is infinitely higher (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The eternal weight of glory He promises to the believer will measure the temporal costs light in comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). Peter calculated the cost, chose to follow, faithfully served, and finished the course. God has it for us to do the same.

Pastor Jerry

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