Archive for the ‘cost of discipleship’ Tag

Let the Dead Bury the Dead   Leave a comment

One day Jesus invited a man to follow Him and become His disciple—but the man refused. He said he would follow Jesus later, but first he wanted to go bury his father. Jesus responded, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22).

What did Jesus mean by that?

It brings up a rather ludicrous image of zombies burying dead people, if I approach it completely with my rational, human mind. That wouldn’t make sense, of course. We all know that the physically dead don’t do much, let alone bury others who are also dead. So, Jesus must have been talking about something else.

If you accept that Jesus is God (which is a prerequisite for being a Christian), it’s pretty easy to figure out what Jesus meant in this statement. He was talking about the spiritually dead — those who are alive physically, but unregenerated at the spiritual level and therefore, not alive unto Christ, but dead toward God in their souls. We can be strong and virile physically and still be spiritually dead, which is a much more serious condition than on death’s door.

There are those who might think Jesus was incredibly harsh to this man, but that’s because they (or we) do not understand what the man was really saying to Jesus. In 1st century Jewish life, to say “I want to go bury my father” did not necessarily mean Papa had ceased to breathe. It meant that they wanted to stay with their father until he died. That could be years away. This man was simply excusing his avoidance of becoming Jesus’ disciple.

Christians. we all have some dead man still clinging to our boots as we try to follow Jesus. We all have excuses for hanging back. I don’t want to insult the people I know who are not Christians, so I’ll not say what I know to be true about the sin they are living in. That’s my dead man, btw. I’m a lot bolder here than I am in my personal life when I might hurt someone I care about.

And, no, I am not calling for laws to legislate morality. Get over that, Church! It’s not our world any longer! I suspect we’ve done great harm to the cause of Christ by fighting to force others into our mold.



I am call for honesty with the world and Christians living the way we know God wants us to live. Yeah, that puts us at odds with the world around us and that will be uncomfortable. The world is becoming more secular and less moral everyday and very comfortable with redefining morality to its own design. The clarion call of society is “Christians, change with the times.”

But Jesus’ call to us hasn’t changed. “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Anything less is hanging back making an excuse for not following Him!

Count the Costs   Leave a comment

So, here I go calling for the universal church to turn toward discipleship and now I’m going to say “Count the cost!”

Most people don’t. American Christianity of the evangelical flavor tends to teach easy believism. We urge people to be saved and become disciples of our Lord, highlighting its benefits and blessings. In doing so, we conceal the true cost of discipleship and “the fine print” liabilities. Many churches don’t mention them at all.

This is completely different from what Jesus did. He repeatedly cooled the enthusiasm of eager candidates for discipleship by urging them to consider the cost. We shoud heed His words and do a cost-benefit analysis of being a follower of Jesus.

“Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus, and turning to them, he said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it. Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. They will say, “This man began to build and was not able to finish!” Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with teen thousand to oppose the one against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renouce all of his own possessions.” (Luke 14:25-33)

It’s vitally important that we understand that Jesus said this to “the multitudes”. His disciples were part of that group, but this was a large crowd of the uncommitted. It’s also important to remember that this is an English translation of Greek, which was a much richer language than English. So, for example, the word “hate” operates on a relative scale in Greek, meaning that we must love God more than family or self. The Greek translated “his own life” has the clear meaning of one’s own body. Verse 27’s reference to carrying your own cross is a reference to the common Roman crucifixion practice of forcing the condemned to carry their own cross to the place of execution. This was used by the community to show rejection of the prisoner.

So if your family is more important to you than God, you might want to reconsider whether you can be His follower. If you value comfort at all costs, then discipleship may not be for you. If you would be bothered by societal rejection, consider joining the Rotary as an alternative to accepting Christ.

The Christian church is not a social club. It’s a training ground for hard times.

Of course, everyone of us probably has in our pocket or purse two keys. One is to our home and one is to our car. Peter, James and John all returned to fishing right after Jesus died. How did they do that if they got rid of their boats and gave away the proceeds? Paul was living in Taursus when Barnabas came to find him. There’s no indication he was homeless or jobless for the 14 years that he spent studying to show himself approved. When Paul wrote those words to Timothy, there is no indication that Timothy was wandering around Ephesus living in ditches, naked.

Clearly this passage can be misinterpreted. It’s not about going to an extreme to prove your love of God. It’s about putting God first before all other things and standing the consequences for that commitment.

Discipleship centers upon the issue of dependence and submission. It involves a complete rearrangement of our priorities. To be a disciple of our Lord demands that He becomes the most important thing in our life.

Do we teach people that in the church when they walk an aisle or bow a knee? Or are we afraid that we’re going to scare them off if we tell them the truth.

  1. A disciple of Jesus Christ must put his Master above those nearest and dearest to him (Luke 14:26). We can continue to love our family (and in fact, Scripture speaks plainly of our obligations in that area), but our love for Jesus must hold precendence over any other attachment. No human relationship should be more intimate, no human bond more inseparable than that between the disciples and his Master. When my husband accepted Christ, the hardest thing for him was to tell his Boston Irish Catholic family (that included nuns) that he was submitting to full immersion baptism at an evangelical church. They still consider him a heretic, though they’ve given up trying to shame him out of his decision.
  2. A Christian must value following Jesus Christ above life itself. It’s a basic instinct to preserve you rlife. The history of the church convincingly proves that following Jesus can result in death. American Christians really don’t grasp the gravity of that … yet, but that could change. Our Chinese brethren have been praying for decades that we encounter some persecution to strengthen our faith.
  3. Our commitment to Jesus must come before material possessions. Ouch! For complacent, affluent American Christians, that’s a tough one! We all want eternal life, but not at the expense of the large screen television. The story of the rich young ruler (which follows on the heels of the subject passage) is often interpreted to mean that the rich cannot become Christians until after they dispose of all their material assets.  Every poor American I know has at least one of those two keys in their pockets and they are often far more materialistic than the “rich” I know. They tend to assign far greater importance to material things, perhaps because it costs them more effort to get them.  I Timothy 6:10 says the LOVE of money (not the possesion of it) is the root of all sorts of evil and that SOME have wandered from their faith by longing for it …. Paul instructed the rich in material things to be rich in good works and not trust the uncertainty of wealth. He didn’t say to destitute themselves financially, but to not make financial solvency their priority.
  4. Christians must die to self-interest. The cross we bear will not save us – only Jesus can do that – but every day, we must put aside selfishness and the ambitions of our old selves (Romans 6:1-14, 1 Corinthians 15:31, 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, Colossians 2:20; 3:11). As Christians we will suffer and be persecuted for the sake of Christ, but our suffering does not atone for our sins or anyone else’s. Our cross involves as much recognizing that central point of the gospel as it does suffering.

Salvation costs. There’s no doubt at that. Jesus warned those who would follow Him that it wasn’t going to be sunshine and lollipops. The world was going to hate them because they loved Him and the world hated Jesus. Nothing’s changed. And to teach otherwise, church, is to lie to people who want to follow Jesus. We can make church members that way, but church membership doesn’t save. Only Jesus Christ can save and He warned that there would be costs to accepting the salvation that He offers.

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