Hardly a day goes by when we are not making commitments or honouring commitments we have made. Every commitment we make involves considering the costs involved and whether we are able to meet them.
The Christian life is also one of ‘considered commitment’. We might ask the question: What does it cost to be a Christian? What are the things to be considered? The answer to that question highlights two different perspectives on the Christian life, both of which are true. On the one hand the answer to that question is: It costs nothing! Our salvation is a free gift of God’s grace. Jesus has done everything needed for us to be saved (Eph. 2:8, 9). God simply calls us to trust in what he has done. On the other hand, the answer to that question is: It costs everything to be a Christian! God calls his saved children to be totally loyal, dedicated or committed to him. He wants nothing to come between him and us. So before we heed his call to follow, we must first weigh up the cost.
In chapter fifteen of his Gospel, Luke tells us that large crowds were travelling with Jesus (25). They had seen or heard of his miracles and had, perhaps, listened to his teaching. They were truly impressed by him and many wanted to become his disciples. Jesus was concerned, however, that they didn’t take their decision lightly. He didn’t want people to follow him simply because of his popularity, so he advised them of the considered commitment that was involved in being his follower.
Jesus teaches us that trusting in him, or following him, will sometimes bring us into conflict with the ones we love in our own family – sometimes even the things we hold dear to ourselves. Jesus confronted his followers: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sister – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple (26).
That word, ‘hate’, seems a very strong word to use. Obviously, Jesus is not contradicting God’s command for us to love and respect the members of our family, or to care for our own bodies. One agonizing cost of discipleship is that sometimes God will call us to ‘hate’ and turn away from desires, values and habits that are held by those we love most, if they come into conflict with our discipleship. Jesus is not pretending that will be easy. It is a cost we have to weigh up.
Jesus went on to say: And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (v. 27). There will be crosses we have to bear. If we openly confess and live our faith there will be the risk of receiving a hard time from others, which may vary from persecution like that encountered by many Christians across our world today, to ridicule, or to teasing in the schoolyard or workplace. It will cost us the time and effort involved in growing in God’s Word, in Worshipping, Witnessing, Working and Walking with the Lord. It will involve us in daily battles; against the devil’s temptations, against pressures from the world around us, and against desires within ourselves.
Jesus illustrated his point about ‘considered commitment’ with two parables. First, he says that we are like a man building a tower. He needs to consider carefully whether we have what it takes to complete it (28-30).
Secondly, we are like a king going to war, who must weigh up whether we have what it takes to win those battles (v. 31, 32). As we know, war involves great sacrifice.
Jesus continues with a call to personal sacrifice: In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (v. 33). This is a call, not to make a vow of poverty, but to trust his abundant grace so completely that we should be willing to go without anything on this earth in order to keep our faith in Christ.
That is why it is so important that we weigh up the cost before following Jesus each day. If we are not prepared to try to make the commitment involved then there is a good probability that we have not understood God’s amazing grace or love. Our commitment is nothing more than a considered response to God’s amazing commitment to us.
We know a God who loves us so completely and is so personally committed to us that he sacrificed his own Son for us. We know a Saviour who personally entered this troubled world for us, who endured conflict with his earthly family because of his calling; and whose mission caused him to be forsaken by his heavenly father.
We know a Saviour who, at great cost, set about building the kingdom of God for us. He knew he would go hungry, get tired, be criticized, abused, bruised and crucified. He knew the cost of going into battle against sin and Satan for us. Yet the amazing thing is that he considered us worthy of such an amazing sacrifice.
We know a Saviour who wants us to trust, even in the struggles of our Christian faith and life, that his grace is plentiful enough to see us through to the end. He is not trying to put us off our commitment but to test our confidence in him. He is able to enter our conflicts and bring us his peace, to stand by us in our crosses and bring us his victory, help us in building our Christian life by his plentiful supply of grace, enter our daily battles with his almighty power and win them, replace our sacrifices with his abundant life, and forgive our failures by his own perfect sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus is saying to his would-be followers, “Look! By my commitment to you I have given you everything you need to be totally committed to me. Weigh it up and you will not be found lacking in anything!”
Jesus’ words call for some serious reflection on our part. Have we really understood what his abundant grace means to our daily life? Why are we following Jesus? Could it be blind fanaticism, social or family tradition rather than a real, personal commitment founded on God’s amazing grace? On whose terms have we accepted Christianity – our own terms, or Christ’s?
Are we compromising God’s values and our own discipleship just to avoid conflict in the home? Are we looking for an easy, convenient religion with no crosses, one that fits snugly and comfortably around our other programs and commitments? Are we frightened to share our faith for fear of ridicule? Are we content with where we are in our spiritual growth and not particularly interested in building our lives to maturity in Christ? Do we find it easier to surrender to the daily temptations of the devil, the world’s priorities and values, or our own desires rather than go into battle against them? How much are we relying on things we own or do rather than trusting completely in God’s goodness? Have we sought to understand more fully the supply of grace and help available to us in Jesus?
Our level of commitment to Christ may well reflect our understanding of his grace toward us. It is precisely because our life in Christ cost us nothing that we can be prepared to commit everything into his gracious care. In weighing up the cost of following Jesus let’s always seek, in God’s strength, to balance the commitment he requires with the grace he supplies. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
This message is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at Lutheran Church of Australia Pentecost 13 Proper 18 Series C