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Counting the cost of following Jesus

July 28, 2020 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:28-33)

This past Sunday, I looked at the parable of the treasure hidden in the field and the parable of the pearl of great price in Matthew 13:44-46. These short parables illustrate how knowing and following God is worth giving up all that we have, that the rewards of discipleship far outweigh the cost. I spent some time in my sermon trying to clearly outline why it is that knowing God is such a treasure, including such benefits as eternal life, complete forgiveness, meaning in suffering, and a joy and peace that is not contingent upon our circumstances.

But there is another way of approaching the parable, and that is to focus not on the treasure but on the cost that must be counted before entering into a relationship with God. That is the point of the parable Jesus tells in Luke 14:28-33, which was at the beginning of this article. Jesus soberly tells his disciples that being His disciple will include giving up everything, and that they would be wise to understand that before following Him. Yes, there is nothing we can ever give up that God will not make up for with something more valuable, whether in this world or in eternal life (see Matthew 19:27-29). But in this life, there will be times when the pain of the cost blocks our vision of the reward that is ours. So before you give yourself fully to the Lord, count this cost:

  • You may pay a high price relationally

Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19). Jesus also warned his disciples that following Him might cause a divide between them and the people they loved the most (Matthew 10:34-36).

It is becoming increasingly unpopular to be a Christian in America. Our modern culture places a high value on the right of each individual to decide what is right and wrong for themselves, and is quick to shame and condemn anyone who points to a higher moral standard to which we all must submit and by which we will all be judged. If you choose to be Christ’s disciple, expect to be hated by some. This is a cost that must be counted.

  • You may pay a high price materially

In Matthew 19:21, Jesus tells a rich young ruler who asks him about eternal life, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” While Jesus may not ask each of us to sell all we have, following Him will very likely involve owning less and giving away more than we would were we not his disciple. It takes great faith to trust that it is, as Jesus said, “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

The lesson of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:44-46 still holds true: there is nothing we can lose or give up in this life that will not be made up for by God, whether in this life or in eternity. But that does not change that fact that it may feel very costly to follow Jesus. Do not let the pain – or the fear – blind you from the goodness of God, that His reward far outweighs any earthly cost.

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