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To be a real Christian is to be a disciple

 5th Nov 2010

Luke 14:25-14:35

Have you ever filled in a ‘feed-back’ form at the end of a holiday?

The following are actual responses from comment cards given to the staff members at a Wild life Park in America whose purpose was to give people an experience of living in the wilderness.

  • Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
  • Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these pests.
  • Please pave the trails…Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to walk to them.
  • The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.
  • A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
  • Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.
  • A MacDonald’s would be nice at the end of the trail.
  • There are too many rocks in the mountains.

These comments and complaints indicate that the people who made them do not really understand what it means to stay in a "wilderness area." They were looking for something convenient and comfortable, but not truly a wilderness experience.
In a similar way, many people today do not understand what it means to be a genuine Christian. There are lots that often follow Jesus or claim to be a Christian but they do so on their terms and not his.

They do not truly comprehend the biblical definition of discipleship.

Are you a true follower of Jesus or are you just tagging along?

Because of this ignorance there are many who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus who are not, even though in many ways they do look like followers of Jesus. They go to church, have a profession of faith, read their Bibles, pray, even give generously in the offering.

But they are not the real deal or at least they are not living and thinking like the real deal.

Jesus confronts this problem in our text today. He makes very clear what it means to be a Christian, and therefore there is no reason for anybody to be ignorant or self-deceived.

We will take a look at how Jesus defined discipleship in a few moments when we look at the gospel reading. But before we do I want to explain the word "disciple" which is repeated several times in these few verses. A disciple is a true follower of Jesus Christ.  In other words, what we would call a "Christian." If you are a Christian, you are a disciple; if you are not a disciple as Jesus defines it then you are not a Christian. These two terms (Disciple and Christian) mean the same thing in the same way that I mean the same thing when I speak of my "spouse" or my "wife."

In fact the term "disciples" occurs 269 times in the New Testament, while the term "Christian" only occurs three times. In the Book of Acts we’re told that "The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26)." This makes clear that the terms are interchangeable.

I wanted this to be clear because I believe it greatly clarifies the seriousness of what Jesus was saying. For instance, Jesus's words in verse 27, "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" could also be phrased as "Anybody who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be a Christian."  Put that way it gets our attention more and shows the seriousness of the subject Jesus is teaching about.

With that brief explanation let’s now look at this passage.

Read Verses 25-27

The first thing I want you to notice is to whom Jesus is speaking these words about being his disciple. Luke notes specifically that "large crowds" were following Jesus and that Jesus specifically "turned to them" and elaborated on being a disciple.

Jesus was not talking to those who were antagonistic towards him or to those who were uninterested in his life and message. No, these were people who were "travelling with Jesus." They are positive in their attitude toward Jesus. They were interested in what he had to say. They apparently mistook this positive attitude and interest in Jesus for true discipleship, as many people do today. They considered themselves to be followers of Jesus but in reality they were only casual followers and not committed followers.

They were willing and even anxious to follow Jesus providing the cost was not too high or the demands too great. They were like many people today who do "Christian things" like go to church, pray, sing Christian songs, etc. but are not really committed to Jesus.
In a sense they were “along for the ride” but were unwilling to give up everything in their lives that conflicted with following Jesus in a committed way. They were like many today who look to Jesus to solve their money problems, relationship problems, health problems, etc. but who quickly grow disillusioned and unwilling to obey Jesus completely, when following Jesus doesn’t solve these problems or following Jesus requires real sacrifices in their lives. These "large crowds" were casual followers and not committed followers.

Which are you?

Its all about 100% commitment

Jesus addresses this mistaken understanding of discipleship in verses 26 and 27. He explains in vivid and clear terms what it means to be a disciple of his. In summary, Jesus’ message in these two verses is:

To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else.

In our hearts Jesus must come before our loved ones, self-interest, possessions, careers, hobbies, goals in life, and even our very lives. In practice this commitment to Jesus will be tested, and sometimes, perhaps in a moment of weakness, Jesus will not come first in our choices, but genuine disciples have made a sincere commitment in their hearts and will not continue to put other things before Jesus.

In verse 26 Jesus says that this commitment level applies to "anyone who comes to me. . ." In other words, Jesus is not speaking exclusively to a special group of Christians such as apostles, evangelists, missionaries, ministers, or even mature believers. He is saying that this principle applies to everyone who would be one of his followers.

Jesus goes on to say, "Anyone who comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters,-yes, even his own life cannot be my disciple." Now the word "hate" here is not meant to be taken literally but is rather used figuratively to express a point.

It is hyperbole or exaggeration similar to what we use when we say, "That man was as big as a house. . ." In Jewish culture the word "hate" was used to express lesser love, so Jesus is saying that we must love him much more that we love our closest family relationships or even our own lives. We must love him more than our hobbies, more than our goals in life, more than our careers, and more than our self-interest.

Jesus is not speaking of our emotional feelings toward him or our families but rather he is speaking of our level of commitment. He is saying that our commitment to obey and following him must be greater than any other commitment in our lives. In other words, Jesus must be first in our priorities and loyalties.

Is this true in your life?

For instance, if following Jesus obediently results in problems or interferes with your closest relationships, will you still follow him?

This is no mere hypothetical situation. In other countries and some cultures following Jesus can sometimes mean being kicked out of the family, losing your children, even losing your life. In our own country, many relationships have encountered problems because one spouse was a committed Christian and the other was not. In such cases Jesus wants us to know up front what it means to be a disciple. He must come before even your closest relationships.

To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else.

We must not only love or be committed to Jesus more than to our loved ones, but we must also be committed to him above "even our own lives" as Jesus says in verse 26. This refers to our physical lives which we must be willing to surrender for Jesus’ sake. It also refers to our self-lives, which means our personal desires, goals, interests, and even needs. We must be committed to Jesus above our bank accounts, our public image, our jobs, every personal desire, etc. If following Jesus means forfeiting these things, then we must be willing to do that. Again this is not a hypothetical situation. Following Jesus will many times mean making such sacrifices.

To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else

Jesus uses a metaphor in verse 27 to reemphasize this point. Everyone present was familiar with what Jesus was referring to when he talked about "carrying his cross." The cross was a cruel form of punishment used by the Romans. The criminal was forced to "carry his cross" to the place of execution. Everyone knew that this person was saying "goodbye" to everything. There would be no turning or coming back. Jesus uses this vivid illustration with the intent of showing us that following him requires that same kind of saying "goodbye" to our own will and desires because of our commitment to Him.

Now some of you may think that this requirement of total commitment to be a follower of Jesus is contradictory to scriptural truth that salvation is a free gift of God. An illustration may help to clarify this issue

Suppose I had a desire to climb Mount Everest. (I don’t have such a desire and I think that those who do are lacking in common sense.) But suppose that I did desire to climb Everest. But it costs about £35,000 to do it and I don’t have that kind of money. Suppose a wealthy businessman heard of my desire and offered to pay for the entire expedition. He would buy all the expensive clothing and gear; he would pay for my transportation, the guides, and the training. It’s totally free for me. But if I accept his free offer, I have just committed myself to months of difficult training and arduous effort. It could even cost me my very life, because many good climbers die trying to climb Mount Everest. It is free and yet very costly.

Read Verses 28-33.

In these two illustrations, Jesus is expressing one simple but pertinent point. His point is that just as it is prudent to consider the cost involved in building a tower or going to war before jumping in with both feet, so it is prudent and necessary to take in to account the cost and commitment necessary to follow Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want people to make a commitment to him without understanding and seriously thinking about what is involved in this decision.

Jesus does not want a half-hearted, blind commitment that expects only blessings.

Illustration: There is a TV commercial that has a man sitting in the chair at a tattoo parlour expressing his love to Donna by getting her name tattooed on his arm. Halfway through the procedure he asks how much it will cost - £25.00. He pulls out his cash, and says, “Oh, I only have £21”  The advert then shows the couple on the pavement, Donna storming off, with the man yelling after her, "I’ll get it fixed." Zoom into the tattoo which reads, "I love Don!”

That commercial shows the foolishness of considering the cost of something so irrevocable halfway through. One should consider and make sure one is willing to pay the cost prior to making the commitment. Jesus wants us ask ourselves, "Am I in this for the long haul?" Jesus is asking us, "Are you willing to follow me no matter what happens or what you’re required to give up?" There is only one way to truly follow Jesus!

To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else

In verse 33, Jesus once again makes clear the cost of following him.

He says the disciple must be willing "to give up everything." Everything is a fairly inclusive word!

Everything means everything!

Everything means your job, favourite hobby, most prized possessions, free time, money, goals and dreams, and more. Now we may not literally "give up everything" but Jesus is referring to an attitude of the heart in which these things don’t have priority over obeying Jesus in our lives. The Greek word translated as "give up" can also be translated as "say goodbye to or renounce." In other words, Jesus says that we must be willing to renounce or forsake anything when it interferes with following him faithfully and completely.

To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else

Read Verses 34-35

Salt is routinely used by Jesus in figurative ways because of the high value people placed on salt in ancient times. Salt was used as a preservative, flavouring, and as a fertilizer. Salt in this case represents a person’s commitment to Jesus. When that commitment is complete then the "salt is good." This means that the Christian’s life will have a positive useful purpose in the same way as good salt did for the people.

Salt in Jesus's day wasn’t pure like salt is today, so it could by various means "lose its saltiness." If this happened the remaining product had the appearance of salt but with none of the benefits. It could not even be used for fertilizer or as Jesus says, "It is fit neither for the soil or the manure pile." In other words it was useless in every respect.

Jesus is saying that people who follow him without total commitment are like that salt that has lost its saltiness. They may have the appearance of being His disciples but they cannot be used in the kingdom as a Christian should. Jesus was referring to those who only give a part of their lives to him. They will commit to following Jesus one day a week but not seven. They will commit to obeying him in their marriage but maybe not in their finances. The will give up this thing but not that thing to follow Jesus. This half-hearted commitment will not work in the same way salt that has lost saltiness is of no use.

To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else

Jesus concludes by saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." He said this to remind us of our responsibility to listen and respond to this difficult message. The teaching is not difficult to understand but it is difficult to accept.

I want you to understand what a Christian is as Jesus defined it. The question we need ask ourselves is not "Am I able to follow Jesus completely?" But rather "Am I willing to follow Jesus completely?" We are all human and sometimes we will fail in our commitment but the thing Jesus is confronting here is not our ability, but our willingness to follow him with our whole hearts. Let this lesson be a reminder of what being a Christian and a disciple truly entails.

To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else.


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