Victory at all costs…(7)

Sermon‘So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’ Luke 14:33 

Luke 14:25-33 records that Jesus made three statements and asked two questions about discipleship, effectively discouraging from following him any whose interest was in feasts but not faithfulness, in healing but not holiness and in miracles but not morals.

 Jesus argued for careful consideration of the cost of discipleship…

 

 “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?”

 “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?”

Jesus asked, ‘Are you prepared for the cost? Are you prepared for the fight?’

John Calvin commented on these verses, “This doctrine reproves the rashness of those who foolishly proceed beyond their capacity, or flatter themselves without thinking of bearing the cross. Yet we must take care lest this meditation, to which Christ exhorts us, should fill us with alarm or retard our progress. Many persons, not having from the outset laid their account with suffering, relax their zeal through cowardice: for they cannot endure to be Christians on any other condition than that of being exempted from the cross. Others again, when a condition that is harsh and unpleasant to the flesh is proposed to them, do not venture to approach to Christ. But there is no good reason for being discouraged by a knowledge of our poverty, for the Lord grants to us seasonable aid. I readily acknowledge that, if we calculate the expense, we are all destitute of power to lay a single stone, or to wield a sword against the enemy. But as the materials, expense, arms, and forces, are supplied by the Lord out of heaven, no pretext on the score of difficulty can be offered by our indifference or sloth. The design of Christ, therefore, is to warn his followers to bear the cross, that they may prepare themselves with courage.

 
John PatonA wonderful example of this attitude to discipleship comes from the autobiography of John G. Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides in the 19th Century. When a man confronted  Paton with the prospect of being eaten by cannibals, he replied, ‘Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.’

Quoted from John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965, orig. 1889, 1891) page 56.

Would John Paton have answered so confidently and with such humor knowing that his wife and baby would die soon after their arrival in the islands? Perhaps that he did not know and yet survived that devastating loss, eventually to see the entire population of one island come to Christ, is evidence of that ‘seasonable aid’ which Calvin mentions and of that victory ‘at all costs’ which is the disciple’s goal..

Discipleship Bonhoeffer quote

‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.’ 1 John 5:1-5

victory at all costs…(6)

“Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33

possessions
Do we possess our possessions?

Or do our possessions
and our desire for more
possess us?

 

We understand (we say) that Jesus would want us to give up all that we have that is sinful; like those Ephesians who, when they believed in Jesus, came confessing and divulging their practices…and a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.’ Acts 19:18-19

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But can it really be that God, in Christ, calls us to renounce even the good things that he himself has given us and that we have received with humility and thankfulness?
Yes, Jesus calls us to ‘renounce’ all that we have.

The word Jesus used ‘renounce’ is the same word one ‘maybe’ disciple used when he asked Jesus if he could not be allowed first to go home and say goodbye to his family before setting out with Jesus.

 

Jesus wants his disciples to say goodbye to all that we have (or might ever have); if not yet in fact, then certainly already in our hearts so that we are freed from things and to him.

Jesus wants us to hold so loosely to our possessions that we may be free, as he requires us, to live as those first disciples did, who ‘…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’  Acts 2: 42 so that we might, as he blesses us, share their experience of discipleship.

giving‘And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’ Acts 2:44-47


Dr. Jphn Piper comments
, ‘God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many professing Christians have been deceived by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own. God has prospered them. And by an almost irresistable law of consumer culture (baptized by a doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity) they have bought bigger (and more) houses, newer (and more) cars, fancier (and more) clothes, better (and more) meat, and all manner of trinkets and gadgets and containers and devices and equipment to make life more fun. They will object: does not the Old Testament promise that God will prosper his people? Indeed! God increases our yield, so that by giving we can prove our yield is not our God. God does not prosper a man’s business so that he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a man’s business so that 17000 unreached people can be reached with the gospel. He prospers the business so that 12 percent of the world’s population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation.’
John Piper ‘Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist’

 

victory at all costs…(5)

Jesus 3

‘Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’ Luke 14:27 ESV

 

First (Luke 14:26) Jesus said that disciples must choose willing, joyful obedience to him even when it conflicts with their love for their family or for themself. Jesus’ second statement (14:27) ominously emphasizes the first.

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

We tend to take this as poetry today, perhaps reading it with our early morning coffee during a minute or two away from the TV, perhaps thinking of the one hundred and one other inconveniences that our ‘discipleship’ might bring that day.

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The crowd Jesus spoke to knew that a cross was more than an inconvenience; they looked into Jesus’ face and knew that the cost of discipleship was death. Crucifixion, they knew, carried a curse and it was madness to demand it as a measure of discipleship. Wasn’t it?

 

 

 

Staines familyDr. Graham Staines (1941-1999) an Australian missionary was burned to death along with his two sons, Philip (aged 10) and Timothy (aged 6), as they slept in their station wagon at Manoharpur village in India on January 22, 1999. In 2003, the Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh was convicted of leading the gang that murdered them and is now serving a life sentence in prison. 


In May, 2013 the magazine, Christianity Today reported on two further arrests in this case that so starkly confirms Jesus’ comments about the cost of discipleship.
 That article may be visited here .