Counting the Cost of Discipleship

Luke 14:25-33 ESV

“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’”

Discipleship Not Optional

Believing in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives is not a “light and fluffy” decision we make once in our lives and then when we die we get to go to heaven, even though this is what is largely being taught. Jesus never painted that picture of salvation, and neither did his apostles.

Also, discipleship is not optional. Following Jesus in surrender and in obedience to his commands is not optional. Leaving our lives of sin behind us and submitting to Jesus as Lord of our lives is not optional. We don’t “get saved” and then spiritual growth is optional (Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58).

The whole point of Jesus’ words here is to let us know what it means to follow him, and we can’t be saved from our sins and not follow him, for that is not true salvation. For, when Jesus saves us he delivers us from our slavery to sin so that we now become slaves to his righteousness.

When he saves us from our sins, he crucifies us with him to sin and he raises us with him to walk in newness of life in him, not like the old life, but created to be like Jesus in true righteousness and holiness. The old has gone. The new has come. Now we live for him and not for ourselves.

Believing in Jesus means surrender of our lives to him to follow him in his ways, doing what he says to do, no matter what it costs us. It is being willing to be hated and rejected by family members, by friends, and by the church in order to go where he sends us and to do what he commands.

Counting the Cost

It is not coincidental that Jesus spoke these words here about counting the cost of building a tower or of the king who needed to consider whether or not he could do what he had planned to do. For, he was relating this to our salvation. Before we “believe” in Jesus, we need to count the cost of it.

The point is that if we are saved from our sins that means we are now the Lord’s disciples, and that means that we are to be fully surrendered to him, now walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, and now walking in obedience to his commands, no matter where he leads us.

Not many people are teaching that these days, though. Too many are preaching a “light and fluffy” gospel which is all about what Jesus can do for us, but not much or nothing about what he requires of us if we are to follow him with our lives.

They are selling the gospel short, and thus many people believe they are saved from their sins and bound for heaven when they are still dead in their sins and headed for hell. They bought into a cheap grace substitute of God’s true grace and his true salvation. Thus, they believed the lie instead of the truth.

For the truth teaches we must deny self, die daily to sin and self, and walk in obedience to our Lord’s commands. The truth says that if we say we have fellowship with God or that we know God, but we are still walking in darkness, and we are not obeying his commands, then we are liars!

Finishing What was Started

In order to finish what was started in our lives by the way of our salvation from sin, we have to have the right start. We don’t just pray a prayer to receive Christ into our lives and then that is it until we die and go to heaven. Jesus said if we are going to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow (obey) him, or we don’t have eternal life.

We have to understand that there is a cost to following Jesus. Yes, our salvation is a free gift in that we did nothing to earn or to deserve it, but we still have to understand that “free” only means we didn’t pay the price in order that we can be free from our sins. Jesus did that for us!

But “free” doesn’t mean we do nothing, and Jesus does it all. He made it perfectly clear, and his apostles made it perfectly clear what it means to be a follower of Jesus and to be saved from our sins and to have eternal life with God. We must die to sin, deny self, and follow Jesus in obedience.

And that is the point of what this is saying here in Luke 14. We have to renounce, to give up everything to follow Jesus. That doesn’t mean we have to leave our homes behind us and live out on the streets, but it means the Lord now owns our lives and our houses and we let him determine what we are to do with our houses, possessions, and our very lives.

So, if he says “Go!,” we go. If he says, “Speak!”, then we speak. We obey his written word (in accord with the New Covenant), and we obey the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives, too, which must also be in accord with the teachings of Scripture and with God’s divine character and will.

If we are not willing to lay it all down to follow Jesus, then we will not be able to finish with Jesus, either. And the apostles taught this, too. For we must walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit if we want to be saved from our sins and have eternal life with God.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 3:4-10]

The Longer I Serve Him

By William J. Gaither

Since I started for the Kingdom,
Since my life He controls,
Since I gave my heart to Jesus,
The longer I serve Him,
The sweeter He grows.

The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows,
The more that I love Him, more love He bestows;
Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.

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