Warning to Disciples Part 3 (of 3): "Get Real"
Warnings to Disciples Part 3: Get Real
I’ve been re-reading the Gospel according to Luke, the story of Jesus ministry in what we call Israel today. Jesus often teaches using stories, some of those stories are warnings to those who would be His disciples. We’ve looked at two, the first one concerned waiting to the last possible moment to make a life-changing commitment. Last time we examined the problem of “Fakin it” and discovered it is easy to self-deceive and believe we are living up to the spiritual high water mark of the Christian faith but actually have sunk to a casual Christianity that believes a lot but does little. Today the teaching is “Get Real.” It is Jesus teaching about counting the cost of the commitment to be a disciple so that you don’t start to follow and then fall away.
It’s not the wisest thing to do to sign a contract and not fully understand what you are agreeing to. You’ve seen the commercials for some new drug. The ad states the problem in a clever way, then tells you this new medication can fix you right up. Then quickly or in magnifying glass required to read print lists a string of side effects that are worse than the problem you’re trying to treat. “If you stop breathing call your doctor immediately.”
In the Church here in America, there is a trap that many have fallen into. We present the gospel in such a way that we leave people thinking there are no responsibilities or expectations once you say the Sinner’s Prayer. In order to build little fiefdoms, to fill the seats, to boast of the number of converts, we have made belief in Jesus sound like once you make a commitment everything in your life is going to get better, and never spell out fully what getting better actually means.
When you get a heavy dose of the teaching that says God loves you, God is in control, therefore everything that happens to you is His will; when something really bad happens the cry is “Why if you love me, did you do this to me?” You begin to doubt because the way this truth has been taught seems to you to be a lie. Trust is eroded; the temptation to reject the faith becomes a sensible option.
What happens when what you determine to be your needs are not met? When life injures you or when prosperity is elusive or when you get sick? Worse when it happens to someone you love. You feel like you’ve been ripped off, that God lied.
Philippians 4:19 (NIV)
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Psalms 121:7 (NIV)
The Lord will keep you from all harm-- he will watch over your life…
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Psalms 103:2-3 (NIV)
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Too many times these verses have been used to paint the picture that after you become a believer, life is always going to be good with good always being defined as some variation of American Dream fulfillment, of God, doing what you want. I have heard sermons that take verses like those and call them blank checks, that faith signs and God cashes for you. Get Real.
When we take verses like these and fill them with our own expectations of what they mean the motivation to remain a believer is truly personal gain. When accidents, great challenges, mountainous difficulty, disaster, catastrophe, occur, and God doesn’t do what you want, you don’t finish what you started, you turn away, feeling cheated, feeling like what you came to believe was a lie, and you reject the faith.
There are two parables or stories that Jesus tells concerning the cost of discipleship. Let’s set the stage.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Because of his teachings backed up by signs and wonders, miracles of healing there is a large crowd following him. Jesus attracted a big following. But why did these people follow? Why after wanting to crown Jesus king did they seemingly disappear when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time. Did they follow because it was the thing to do; a fad; mob psychology; just catching people up in the passion of the moment? Was it for personal gain? Jesus fed them, healed them, taught them that the religious system was corrupt. Was it Jesus’ charisma, their hope of a hero, a messiah, that would make everything good for them? Jesus tells these would-be followers to get real.
Jesus’ message to all who would follow is this: Count the cost because living as a disciple is not easy.
Luke 14:25-33 (MSG)
One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.
Let me stop our reading right there. What Jesus is telling us is that any relationship in life can’t compete with the loyalty we must have for him. He takes preeminence, first place. Putting Him first, setting aside our desire to be served and having lived the way we want it, to humble ourselves and submit to His way, is the cross we are to shoulder. Let go of your expectations of what you think you’ll get by following Him. I have found this a very difficult thing to do, picking up my cross, the cross that crucifies my egoism, and instead of doing what I want, do what God the Holy Spirit leads me to do. The cost is whatever has your allegiance, that which gets first priority is now secondary.
Our reading continues with verse 28
28 "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 "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?
Let me stop our reading right there. The message is: know what you’re getting into. Read the fine print. There are some side effects to salvation that just may not be to your liking. You just might conclude that the cure is not worth the commitment. It was Milton who put the words in Satan’s mouth—Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven. It is better to say no up front than to make a commitment and not follow through on it. The cost is giving up your self-governance.
Our reading continues with verse 33
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.
The cost: what is dearest to you—no longer has precedents. What is dearest to you is no longer yours to keep. Because follow through may require you sacrifice it in order to accomplish what God wants you to do.
You know the sinner’s prayer. It is also called the prayer of salvation. There are many variations
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Savior and Lord. In Your Name. Amen” (Billy Graham).
Forgiveness of sins, empowerment to clear your conscience, courage to make amends, a fresh start, a do-over, get out of the foxhole, power and guidance to get life right, being loved and becoming a lover, finding acceptance in a new family, knowing peace and contentment, discovering your life has purpose, that there is meaning to your existence and the promise of eternal life. Who wouldn’t want: To live their life to the full.
All I have to do is believe? Sign me up.
Salvation may be free but discipleship is costly and you can’t have one without the other.
Saying the words don’t make you a Christian, Believing truth doesn’t make you a Christian, what makes you a Christian is obedience to that truth and loyalty to the person. Did you notice in the sinner's prayer the word Lord? I want to trust and follow you as Lord.
I’ve been searching for a way to communicate what Christ’s Lordship in a person’s life means. I found a very unlikely source. There are millions of people around the world watch a show on HBO (Home Box Office), it’s a cable channel that people pay for, like going to the movies, the show is called Game of Thrones. I can’t recommend the show to you because HBO is a purveyor of the violent and pornographic. I’ve read the books, much to my disappointment the author says there are two more in the works so its left readers hanging for about 8 years now. But back to the show because there are clips – Bend the Knee (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJbsXeRc_Fw)
What does it mean to bend the knee?
In a time when the elite where called Kings and Queens instead of Presidents and Senators, Representatives and Moguls and billionaires "Bending the knee" is a formal act of submission to a king, queen or lord, a recognition of authority and a demonstration of loyalty and a pledge to serve. It is common for surrendering parties to bend the knee after being defeated in a war or rebellion; in return, the ruling king or lord will usually treat those that bend the knee with leniency.
Bending the knee is a contract. The one who bends binds themselves to serve at the pleasure of the King. They are to represent the King in his absence, they are to ensure the king’s justice and keep the king’s peace, they are to obey the king's decrees and commands carrying them out, enforcing them when necessary, they are to collect taxes. In turn, the King provides protection to his vassals, those who have bent the knee and rewarding them for faithful service.
The one who bends the knee is at the command of the one to whom that knee is bent. They are no longer autonomous, calling their own shots, masters of their own destiny. They have pledged themselves to another. They serve. They do not rule. That’s the cost.
Bending the knee is what a disciple does. Jesus tells us to count the cost. Get Real Jesus said: “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties” (John 16:33 (MSG). “Servants don't get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you” (John 15:20 (MSG). “They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he's doing God a favor” (John 16:2 (MSG). “…they'll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name” (
Luke 21:12 (MSG).
Count the cost, get real, the Apostle Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (MSG)
We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us.
Count the cost, get real. Belief in Christ does not mean protection from the terrors of this life. Even obedience doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to hardship.
Hebrews 11:37-38 (MSG)
We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn't deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Too many Christians believe a lot and do very little. They have shallow roots. Casual Christians. When things don’t go their way, when other believers don’t meet with their expectations, they blame God and fall away from the faith.
One more parable
Matthew 13:1-6 (NIV)
Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. (4…) 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root…
Count the cost, get real, set down deep roots. The life of a disciple is not easy. But remember this, even though the demands of discipleship are high, you are not left on your own to overcome. Jesus who called you to Himself on this steep road will walk with you every step of the way. (William Barclay) Salvation is free but discipleship is costly and you can’t have one without the other.