Summary: The cost of following Jesus is but a faithful recognition that he comes first.
Sermon Text: Luke 14:25-33
Count The Cost!
Dog owners often post signs on their property saying, “Beware of dog.” A friend of mine had one of those signs on his fence. The only problem was that his dog didn’t fit the warning. His dog was a lazy, old hound that barely moved. If anything you had to watch out so you wouldn’t step on the dog.
Have you ever felt like that old family dog – sleepy and worn-out? Jesus has called us to be his disciples, to make a difference, to be salt in a world of bad taste, to snatch people from the jaws of spiritual death, but, sadly, we are tempted to just lie there as if we’ve lost our bite.
A disciple is a student. Christ Jesus, the master-teacher, had challenged his students to give up the comfort of the family, a sheltered life, even all the possessions of the world, in order to join him in the school of discipleship. Jesus used the word “disciples” three times to challenge all his followers – you and I included. He challenges us to COUNT THE COST. Christ urges us to do this: 1) Without Regretting the Loss, and 2) Without Rescuing Ourselves.
1) Without Regretting the Loss
We’re told that many crowds had gathered around Jesus. These large crowds had followed Jesus to see what miracle he would do next, how he would restore Israel, and when he would usher in his kingdom. Quite honestly, many people were in those crowds, not because they were following Jesus, but they were following each other. They were there because everyone else was. Many in those crowds were looking for the next great thing.
Instead of tickling their fancies, Jesus gave these fair-weathered crowds a warning. “Count the Cost!” he says. Christian discipleship is about individuals. “And turning to the crowd, Jesus said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” Notice that Jesus did not ignore those who were clamoring around him. He turned to the crowds, but he didn’t really speak to the crowds. He spoke to the individual. “If anyone comes to me…” he says. Count the cost. Realize that discipleship means we must lose something.
First, we’re to lose the crowd mentality, so we don’t get lost in the crowd. Are we here today because we are part of the “Lutheran crowd” as opposed to some other denominational crowd? Do we go to church just because everyone else seems to be? If that’s the case, then we are in danger of getting lost in the crowd, of becoming apathetic and losing our bite. Perhaps we feel safe and secure in a crowd. It’s easy to follow everyone else and not be singled out. It’s convenient, not much is expected. Yet, Christ urges us to count the cost of being part of the crowd.
Jesus does not speak to crowds. He speaks to hearts. And so, to learn from Jesus means that he must speak to us as individuals. Understand that the Lord is speaking to you individually this morning. He is not speaking to us as a nameless, faceless mass; he is speaking to us as individuals whom he knows, as his disciples. That’s not comfortable. There is a cost involved.
Christian discipleship means losing our comfort zone. It means stepping out of the crowd mentality. Even if the crowd we’re in has it right, that doesn’t mean a thing. We cannot save one another. Your faith cannot make me right with God. We need to learn from Jesus ourselves. And what do we learn? We learn to count the cost and to not regret what we lose. That’s exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said what he did: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” Those seem to be harsh words. It seems that Jesus is really contradicting himself, for he also said, “Anyone who hates his brother is subject to judgment.” Now, Jesus is not saying that it is noble to hate our loved ones. We need to compare these words with something else Jesus says, “If anyone loves his father or mother more than me he is not worthy of me.” To hate in this sense means to love less. What it really means is to put Jesus in the proper place.
Count the cost without regretting the loss. That means brothers and sisters, mother and father, spouse and children, take a lesser priority than Jesus in our lives. Let me explain it this way. Pediatric nurses will tell you that they have the worst job in the world. They’re the ones who have to come in with needles and poke helpless babies, making them cry.