Summary: Discipleship is not a casual affair. In a series of three encounters, Jesus shows the high priority he places on discipleship.
“Let’s cut to the chase. After nearly two decades of studying Christian churches in America, I’m convinced that the typical church as we know it today has a rapidly expiring shelf life.” This dire assessment of the state of the church begins George Barna’s 1998 book, The Second Coming of The Church. He continued:
“Americans today are more devoted to seeking spiritual enlightenment today than at any previous time during the twentieth century. Yet, at this moment of optimum opportunity, Christianity is having less impact on people’s perspectives and behaviors than ever. Why is that? Because a growing majority of people have dismissed the Christian faith as weak, outdated, and irrelevant.
“Interestingly, the stumbling block for the Church is not its theology but its failure to apply what is believes in compelling ways. The downfall of the Church has not been the content of the message but its failure to practice those truths. Christians have been their own worst enemies when it comes to showing the world what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like – and why it represents a viable alternative to materialism, existentialism, and mysticism, and the other doctrines of popular culture.”
Here is the heart of what Barna concluded: “Most Christians – not those who merely call themselves Christians but those who have confessed their sinfulness and have asked Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior – have fallen pray to the same disease as their worldly counterparts. We think and behave no differently from anyone else.”
Those are some pretty strong statements. What do you think of them? Agree or disagree? Take the next minute and a half to gather in groups of three, and each person take 30 seconds to share why you agree or disagree with Barna’s assessment of the state of the Church.
Increasingly, those who are studying Christianity are becoming more concerned about the viability of Christianity in America. In most churches it is as if discipleship, living a life that is continuously becoming morphed into the likeness of Christ is purely optional. We liberally drink in God’s grace, but kindly pass on the parts of Christianity that would radically transform the way we live.
It is as if Christians have forgotten that there is a cost to following Christ. And in our malaise, we have gotten too comfortable, not only in our pew, but far too comfortable in our world. Our faith has become as casual as the clothes we have begun to wear on Sunday morning.
Discipleship is not a casual affair to Jesus. In a series of three encounters, in Luke 9:57-62, Jesus shows the high priority he places on discipleship. In three statements, directed at three would-be followers, Jesus establishes the high cost of following him.
If you have your Bibles please take them out, and turn to Luke 9, and keep it open there during the message. We will keep coming back to this passage.
Interestingly, Luke does not provide many scenic details for either of these encounters. He tells us astonishingly little about any of those Jesus encountered. The reason is that any of these three people could be you and I.
1. Rejecting your personal comfort …
The first incident involves a volunteer who confidently states a commitment to follow Jesus wherever he may go. Look at verse 57: “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’” Interestingly, nothing is told about this man or how he came to this decision.
Students of Judaism lived with their teachers in order to learn the Torah. In Matthew parallel account the man addresses Jesus as “Teacher”, demonstrating that the man probably has in view the example of students following a rabbi, where they lived and learned from the teacher.
But following Jesus means a different form of discipleship. It is a reorientation of life, involving suffering and perhaps death. If one is to go wherever Jesus goes, one must be ready for the rejection that he experienced (9:51-56). It is no accident that this text follows a passage that centered on rejection. Part of what makes discipleship so demanding is the fact that some type of rejection is a given for the believer.
Jesus is no mere rabbi. To follow him is more like following a prophet. The prophet was an itinerant teacher, often excluded, treated as an outsider by the rest of the community.
Jesus describes what disciples can expect when he is their example. His situation is worse than that of beasts: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Darrell Bock paraphrased Jesus response as: “foxes and birds have places to say, but the Son of Man has no [place to call] home.”