Friday, March 21, 2014

COUNT THE COST (Luke Chapter 14)

Luke 14:28-30, “For which one 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 it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

Laura and I used to live in Columbia City and would regularly take walks around the neighborhood.  Not far from our house was an old and overgrown foundation of a home.  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 silently mocking the builder’s inability to complete what he started.

Our text exhorts us to consider the cost associated with following Jesus Christ.  Jesus addressed the “great crowds (who) accompanied him” (Luke 14:25).  He had already spoken, in other “difficult sayings,” of His high expectations regarding His followers, saying, “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” (Luke 14:26-27).

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 passages.  He was demanding a love and allegiance--He is altogether worthy of such love—that would transcend all.  Nothing is to be allowed to replace Him in this role.  He demands not just a place in our lives (to be added on as a hobby), or even prominence (to be one of many things of importance), but preeminence (the object of unrivaled love and devotion).  With this kind of devotion, it is expected of His followers that they will be willing to suffer persecution in His name (Luke 9:23; Matthew 10:22-25).  They must be willing to take up their cross (Luke 14:27).  These are amongst the things that Jesus called upon His hearers to consider in counting the cost of following Him.

What are we to make of all of this?  Is it necessary for a person to consider such things before they trust in Jesus?  Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), how does this counting-the-cost matter fit in?  There is a cultural bias that we bring to our understanding of the Scriptures.  We, as Americans, live in an exceptional period of human history.  We have experienced unrivaled freedom and very little by way of religious persecution.  But that hasn’t always been the case in this world, nor is it the cast in many places today.  The persecution church is well aware of the high costs associated with following Jesus.  In such places people trust in Jesus, mindful of the potential consequences that accompany a persons’ allegiance to Him.

The health, wealth and prosperity gospel (which isn’t really a gospel at all) has perverted the thinking of many with respect to such matters.  They suppose that Christ’s purpose was to prosper us in the here and now, but that’s not why He came.  To be sure He improves the life (on earth) of a believer in a variety of ways, but the focus of His work has to do with reconciling lost sinners to God, transforming them, and bringing them safely home to heaven.  Salvation is all about Him (John 17:3).

Even for those not suffering much in the way of persecution there are costs associated with following Jesus Christ.  To the ordinary trials, which are experienced by believers and non-believers alike, others are added.  There is a race to run, a fight to fight, a salvation to be worked out (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Timothy 1:18; Philippians 2:12).  The world, the flesh, and the Devil stand in opposition to all these things.  Tough choices and sacrifices are involved.

Salvation is a free gift, but it was not cheap and it is not easy.  There are costs associated with following Jesus, but what’s the alternative (Cf. John 6:66)?  In God’s divine economy he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot loose.  The cost here might be high, but “eternal glory” stands on the other side of the equation (Cf. 1 Peter 5:9-10; 2 Corinthians 4:17). 

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