Scripture Text: Luke 14:25-33
What does it cost to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? That might sound a bit strange. You probably thought the invitation to follow Jesus is open and free to anyone who will accept it. That is true, to an extent. Whosoever will come to Jesus, call on Him, and confess Him as Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13). However, some people believe in a form of “easy believism”, that you just need to have faith in Christ and that will make you right with God. They believe they will get their golden ticket to heaven, after all, that is what it is about, going to heaven, right? Jesus, however, set a much higher standard to become His disciple and a much grander reason for it than you simply going to heaven. In this passage, a great crowd of people was following Christ. This was not uncommon for Jesus, because He often drew large crowds of people. A lot of people will follow Jesus, for a while. A lot of people will be a part of His church, for a while, until something happens or it becomes inconvenient, or it becomes too costly for them. It is not the large number of people who follow Christ for a while, but the smaller, committed group who remains. Which are you? In this passage, Luke wrote that Jesus saw a large crowd following Him and He took the opportunity to explain to them what the true cost of discipleship was. Jesus mentioned this not necessarily for the believers who were following Him, but for the people who had not yet made a commitment to follow Him.
A Disciple Must Love Jesus More Than Anyone Else
According to Christ, there are three conditions for someone to follow Him. We cannot be Jesus’ disciple if we do not do these things. Think about what that means. Jesus said that if you do not do these things, if these things are not true for you, you cannot be His disciple. You cannot follow Him. You cannot be a part of Him. You will remain separated from Him. What were these things which Jesus said you must do in order to be His disciple? The first condition to follow Jesus is that we cannot love anyone more than Him. Look at the following verse.
Luke 14:26 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.
“Comes to me” means to seek salvation or to make a decision to follow Christ. Therefore, we should understand this as a requirement for salvation. We cannot be saved and have eternal life unless we do what Jesus said here. This does not conflict with salvation by faith and grace, for if one has been supernaturally changed by the grace of God, he or she will be a new creature of love (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now, Jesus did not exactly say we must love Him more than anyone else in this verse, did He? In fact, He said at least two things that were quiet provocative. The first thing Jesus said we must do is hate others in order to follow Him. That is indeed harsh. The second thing Jesus said we must do is about whom we must hate — our family. That is really harsh.
This verse has caused great confusion within the Church, and for good reason. How could Jesus have required hatred as a measure of discipleship when we are told that loving each other is how the world will know we are His disciples (John 13:35)? And consider this, family was extremely important to the Jewish people, as it is for all of us. Jesus seems to demand hatred, even toward one’s parents, wife, children, and siblings— those whom we are specifically told elsewhere in Scripture to honor, protect, and love. Imagine the Jewish people hearing Jesus say they must hate their family in order to follow Him. Clearly Jesus, who summarized all of God’s commandments as loving God and loving one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:35-40), could not here have been demanding true hatred of one’s family. The confusion is due to Jesus’ use of a Jewish idiom. To love one person more than another is described in the Old Testament as “loving one and hating another”. This is how Moses described Jacob loving Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30–31). “Hating” is a Jewish expression for loving less. Therefore, Jesus was not telling us to hate our family, but to love Him more than our own family. We see a similar statement in the Gospel According to Matthew.
Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew clarified what Jesus demanded, that is His followers are to love and obey Him more than anyone else, even their own families. Being Jesus’ disciple means that our primary allegiance is to Him. No one and no thing can replace Jesus’ supreme position in our lives. This supreme love and loyalty to Christ can cause division within a family and may be seen as rejection or hate if the family does not share the same commitment to Christ. This greater love for Jesus goes beyond our love for our families. It is not enough to love Jesus more than other people, even our families, but you must also love Jesus more than your very life. You must love Jesus more than life itself, for He is the Lord of life. We can have no more life, no more abundant life, than in Christ Himself. The truth is a person who commits himself or herself to Christ will develop a greater love for both neighbor and family. If we truly love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we will love others as well (Luke 10:27). Being a disciple of Christ is a marriage to Him, therefore, do not commit adultery with other people or things of this world. Be committed to Christ.
A Disciple Must Sacrifice Everything for Jesus
Jesus’ demand for absolute loyalty to Him is further described by a second condition for being a disciple of Christ. In this passage, Jesus used the illustration of being crucified as a description of truly following Him. A disciple must sacrifice himself and his desires in order to follow Christ and have eternal life. Look at the next verse.
Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Crucifixion was a shocking metaphor for discipleship. It was how the Roman government executed criminals and it was how Jesus paid our debt of sin. Jesus said we must be willing to be crucified, put to death our own desires and our love of this life, in order to follow Christ. Mark recorded a similar statement.
Mark 8:34–36 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
A disciple must deny himself. He must kill his own selfish will, take up his own cross, embrace God’s will no matter the cost, and follow Christ wherever He shall lead him. The goal of denying ourselves and taking up one’s cross is not some martyr complex where you wish to die, but it is being free to follow the Messiah. Denying yourself means letting go of the illusion of controlling your destiny and replacing it with obedience to and dependence on Jesus Christ. We must be willing to die for Jesus, and we may very well have to do so. Christians throughout this world still have to follow Christ at the real risk of being killed. Are you ready to be crucified with Christ? Are you bearing your own cross and following Him to Golgotha?
A Disciple Must Renounce All Worldly Possessions
The third condition to follow Jesus according to this passage is to renounce all that we have. Along with placing Jesus above family and life, Jesus also calls us to surrender our worldly possessions. Look at the next verse.
Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
This tells us that a disciple must relinquish or renounce everything in order to follow Christ. The Holman Christian Standard Bible states this verse in an interesting way.
Luke 14:33 In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple. (HCSB)
Have you said “good-bye” to all of your possessions? This is hard for most people. We love our money, our wealth, and our possessions. People put their trust in their financial situation. When it changes for the perceived worse, we worry. Jesus, however, tells us to say “good-bye” to these things in order to follow Him. This is very similar to what Jesus told the rich ruler when he asked about what was needed to be saved. The rich man claimed to have kept God’s commandments, but Jesus said this was not enough. Jesus told him that he needed to sell all that he had and distribute it to the poor. Then he could follow Jesus and have treasure in heaven. When the man heard this, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich (Luke 18:22-23). Perhaps this man’s wealth was more important to him than following Jesus. Perhaps this man’s wealth was worth more to him than the eternal riches of heaven. How cheap is your soul? How much less valuable is your soul compared to all of your wealth and all of your possessions?
To renounce everything, though, does not necessarily mean that you will sell all of your possessions. That might be required, but it does mean that you give up your right of ownership. It means becoming a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to you.
To follow Jesus and be His disciple, we must leave everything behind. When Jesus told Peter, James and John to go fishing, even though they had fished all night and caught nothing, they then caught so much fish that their boat started to sink. Peter, James and John realized that Jesus was the Master. When they brought their boats to land, Luke tells us that they left everything and followed Jesus (Luke 5:11). Have you left everything to follow Christ? Are you trying to hold on to something in this life? Are you trying to straddle the fence, holding on to Jesus while trying to hold on to your sin or to what you have? Nothing must come before God. He must be first. What comes before God in your life? Is it your family or friends? Is it convenience? Is it work or wealth? What is more valuable to you than your relationship with Christ?
A Disciple Counts the Cost of Following Jesus
So, Jesus told the crowds what they must do to follow Him. Jesus said that we must love Him more than anyone else. He said that we must renounce everything we have including our very lives. Jesus told them these things so that they would know what it costs to follow Him. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is costly. It is not as free as some people believe. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ means we give up our very lives. The three descriptions Jesus gave, loving Him more than others, crucifying ourselves, and giving up all that we have, emphasizes the need to seriously consider the type of commitment we make to be His disciple. Jesus does not encourage a hasty, emotional decision. Instead, Jesus urges those who would follow Him to seriously “count the cost”. That is why He then gave two illustrations to describe the careful consideration of becoming His disciple. The first one involved building and the second one was about going to war. Both warn people to count the cost to see if they will truly be disciples of Christ. Let us look at the first illustration of counting the cost of building something.
Luke 14:28–30 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
How many of you plan before making a big purchase? How many of you plan before building something, like a shelter or a house? Like a person who does not foresee the full cost of building a tower and suffers ridicule for starting something he cannot finish, a disciple must understand what it will take to complete the Christian life before he makes the commitment. This does not imply that salvation must be earned. Rather the point Jesus made was that God’s grace can only be received by those who, in repenting, place Him above everything else. How many people claim to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who claim to follow Christ wherever He shall lead, but do not count the cost of being His disciple? How many start the race but never finish it? Jesus is not looking for pew warmers, but for people who really want to follow Him to the ends of the earth. Is that you? The next illustration was about going to war.
Luke 14:31–32 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
This illustration is probably easy to understand. A king must seriously consider the odds before deciding to go to war with another nation. How many stories have we heard about the foolish leader who went to war with another nation and did not properly plan for it? Imagine going to war with another nation and the opposing side had twice as many fighting men as you had. Would you go to war with them or would you pursue peaceful relations with them? George Armstrong Custer thought he had properly planned to attack the Lakota Indians at the Little Big Horn in Montana but he found that his Calvary was greatly outnumbered. They were all killed. We must consider the cost of being a disciple of Christ as well as not being a disciple. Scripture tells us that we are all under God’s wrath. We all sin, which is rebellion against God. It is going to war against Him. The result of warring against God is death. We will never win that war. We are hopelessly outnumbered; therefore, we must pursue peace with God. In order to be at peace with God, we must agree to His terms. Thanks be to God, He sent the Prince of Peace to make peace on our behalf. The only terms of peace for us is to completely surrender to the King of kings, Jesus Christ. We must count the cost of warring against God, and then count the cost of being Jesus’ disciple. We must surrender all to Him.
In closing, this passage tells us that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is costly. It is not for the faint of heart. A lot of people will follow Jesus, for a while. A lot of people will say they are His disciples, for a while. A lot of people will be a part of Jesus’ church, for a while, until something happens or it becomes inconvenient, or it becomes too costly for them to be with Jesus. It is not the large number of people who follow Christ for a while, but the smaller, committed group who remains. Which are you? What Jesus said in this passage described complete commitment to Him. We must be totally committed to Jesus in order to be His disciples. We must love Him more than anyone else and we must surrender all, including our very lives, to Him. That is the cost of being a disciple. That is what is means to follow Christ. Are you fully committed to Jesus Christ?
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.