The Cost Of Discipleship

By 21st June 2020Reflections

Read Luke 14:25-35

Anything we do in life, if we want to do it justice, will involve some kind of commitment and some cost to us, no matter what we do. That may come in financial terms, it may be in the giving of our time and energy, and it may involve putting other things on hold so that we can focus all of these on the mission at hand. But what about the cost of being a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

In the short passage we thought of today the cost outlined seems to be quite steep – or at least that’s how it appears. We are to hate members of our own family, we are to carry our own cross and we are to give up everything we have. Only then can we become Disciples of Jesus….but is that what Jesus is really asking of us here.

Knowing the Gospel message as we do this just doesn’t make sense – and that’s not to show any hesitancy of faith on our part. But maybe we can begin to understand a wee bit more of what Jesus is actually getting at here when we look at the two short stories that go along with this.

In the story of the builder, he made the mistake of not doing his sums and calculating what the full cost of his project would be. As a consequence he wasn’t able to fulfil his task – he ended up looking foolish and being ridiculed by others. Could it be here that Jesus is warning against some kind of half-hearted commitment to our faith? A faith that has no substance to it and subsequently leads to other mocking it.

Then we have the story of the King about to go into battle against an enemy. Before he does so he must weigh up all the odds and determine what the outcome might be before fully committing himself and all his resources. Could it be that here Jesus is challenging us to weigh up all the odds before we follow him because once we follow him there can be no turning back.

If we were to look deep into our hearts and souls, we would know without doubt that accepting Jesus as our Saviour and becoming His Disciple is the best thing we have ever done. And if there was ever any doubt about this, we perhaps only need to look at our lives before we came to faith and see how much they have changed for the better since doing so – or at least that’s how it should be.

As a Disciple of Jesus we have something that nothing at all in this world can take away from us. We have a share in the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, something that will last into all eternity.  And in that faith we have something to turn to when we are sad, when we are weak, when we are tired and when everything else around us seems to make no sense whatsoever. That feeling we have within us of knowing Jesus as our Saviour and our friend and that He will never leave us, no matter where we are or what we are going through.

These are often the kind of things we perhaps think of when we consider what it means to be a believer in Jesus. And I know that over these past few months when so much of our lives have been turned upside down and when we have perhaps known loved ones who have been affected by coronavirus, that so many have leaned upon that faith and found comfort and strength in that.

But there is another side of discipleship that we need to consider and these verses remind us of that so vividly. That as we walk with Jesus we will encounter opposition, there will be battles to be won and there will be sacrifices that need to be made – on many different levels. And I suppose the question is, are we prepared for that.

When Jesus called His first Disciples he told them to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men – and they did. They put Jesus first, before their own families and friends and followed Him.  Indeed they left everything they had, everything they had known, to follow Jesus. They had no idea where they were going or what it might involve – but still they left and followed Him.

In doing this they maybe didn’t hate their families in the way that we might think of that word today – but they certainly put Jesus before them. Can we always say that we are willing to do that today? What’s more by doing all this they denied themselves of everything in their lives that offered them a livelihood, security, peace, love, comfort – the list goes on.

That’s what it means to deny ourselves – to forego all we knew and give ourselves over to Jesus. To live out the Gospel message as He would have us every day in the way that we communicate and interact with others, showing love, compassion and  care to all – even if it involves a sacrifice on our part. Again, can we say that we always do that?

Then we have this idea of carrying our own cross. In his letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul said, the Son of God emptied himself taking the form of a bondservant…and being made in the likeness of men and found in the appearance of a man…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…(Phil 2:7-8)

What does this mean for us today? It means all we have already thought of in terms of putting Jesus first in our lives, but it goes beyond that. In the New Testament we find there are two conditions in order to find Salvation.

The first is that our salvation comes to us by the Grace of God – not by anything we can do or achieve or attain – purely by the Grace of God. But in order to fully receive this we must repent and believe. We must humbly acknowledge our need for God’s Grace and accept the price He has paid for us.

For us carrying the cross means carrying Jesus with us every minute of every day, knowing that in His love for us He paid the ultimate sacrifice that we might be saved. And that if we would be His Disciples in the world today we must seek to walk in His footsteps as best we can.

Today, when we pause to consider the cost of discipleship many might ask, why follow? Why did the Disciples leave everything behind and follow Jesus at the sound of his call? Why did the early Christians suffer persecution and death to follow Jesus?

Why, throughout the centuries, have there always been those who have continually accepted the cost of standing up for the upside down ways of God’s Kingdom in an unaccepting world. After all, there are few tangible rewards and there is no promise that life will be smooth. Indeed given all we have thought of today, it would seem quite the opposite.

The fact is that the decision to follow Jesus is not made with hope of any kind of reward, but because of the identity of the One who calls – because there is no greater joy than having a relationship with Jesus Christ. We respond out of love for our Saviour.

The call of Jesus surpasses any other loyalty, any other commitment, any other relationship. The call of Jesus defies logic. But above all, the joy of having a relationship with Jesus surpasses anything else that this life has to offer us – and will continue to do so for all eternity.

Jesus’ disciples answered the call to follow Jesus. And yes, they learned the cost of discipleship – but they also experienced the overwhelming joy of following Him. The question is, are we too going to follow that call…Amen.

Loving God, we thank You again for the wonderful gift of Jesus our Saviour and for the life we now have with Him. We know at times it is difficult to follow Him as we should and we thank You for the gift of Your Spirit to help us to do so. We think today of those whose faith has been tested in these past few weeks, of those who are ill or have loved ones ill in hospital and of those who are suffering emotionally and mentally as a consequence of this pandemic. Lay Your hand upon each and every one we pray and hold each close to You, assuring them of Your continued presence with them. And be with those whom we hold dear to us. Watch over them as only You can and encompass them in Your love and protection. And help us all in the coming days and weeks, in the face of all that we are going through, to continue to hold on to our faith in You – indeed not only to hold on to it but to bear witness to it wherever we go and whatever we do. And all this we ask in Jesus name…Amen

 

Sunday Evening – Call To Prayer

The following is taken from the Church of Scotland website as once again, with churches throughout the land, we respond in prayer to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We live in challenging times. In truth, the challenge of these times is one that continues.

“However, the nature of that challenge has changed. In this present moment, we reflect on where we are now and this allows us to begin to try to understand the past months. Equally, we have the opportunity to anticipate what is to come.

“In the Letter to the Romans (6: 1-11), the Apostle Paul reflects on the foundation of the Christian life which is our sharing in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“As a consequence, the life we live now is one shaped by the present reality of sharing in the life of Christ.

“As we journey together in the gradual exit from lockdown, we do so in the sure knowledge that we share in the life of the Risen Christ. We pray:”

We pray:

Faithful God, we thank you
That you are present with us now
As we share in the life of the Risen Christ.
Continue to be present with us we ask.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who inspires faith, we thank you
That you have been with us
In times of anxiety and uncertainty.
Keep watch over our memories of the past.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Faithful God, we thank you
That you will be with us
In the days that are to come.
Journey with us in the days that lie before us.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who inspires faith, we thank you
For the life of your Son
Who for our sakes embraced human form.
May his life shape our lives in these present times.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Faithful God, we thank you
For the reassurance that you are merciful and gracious
And that your love abounds.
In your compassion, remember us and those whom we love.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who inspires faith, we thank you
For the knowledge that you will be with us
In all that we now face.
Go before us and provide for us we ask.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.