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“Counting the Cost: Is Following Jesus Really Worth It?”

Outdoor Baptism Service June 23/13 Lk.14:25-33


Counting the cost is so important if you want your project to have a satisfactory completion! A week ago Saturday we were replacing the south half of the roof on our house. We wanted to support local business so we ordered through the nearby building supply dealer. The truck only comes in once a week so we needed to get it right. We were OK with the shingles - 30 bundles, of which we had three left over; that’s all right, you want to err on the high side. But it was a different story with the ridge cap, of which we’d ordered 2 bundles of shingles. About a quarter to 4 on Saturday afternoon we’d done the nook ridge but realized we had just enough left to do about half of the roof’s main ridge. Rain is forecast for Saturday night (you may recall it rained quite a bit through the night). There’s also the embarrassment of having a ridge half-done – would have looked sort of strange! Now, the local building store closes at noon on Saturday. I call the Clinton supplier - they didn’t have that kind in stock. I’m starting to get a little more anxious. I call the Wingham supplier, it’s now about 5 minutes to 4; yes they do have 2 bundles, and then he adds, “You know we close at 4"! In desperation, I asked if I could give them my credit card and pick them up as soon as I could drive there. Thankfully they agreed and someone waited to meet me with the much-needed ridge shingles so we could finish the project. We got the job done – but for a while there I was pretty concerned! (Song) “Oh no, don’t let the rain come down – my roof’s got a hole in it and I might drown!”
    I was desperate because I hadn’t counted the cost; I hadn’t estimated accurately what it was going to take to finish the job. Is our spiritual life like that? Is it a bit of a rush job, something we take casually and sort of get around to after everything else is looked after? Do we give our relationship with God the attention and priority it deserves – or do we risk finding our spiritual supply coming up short because we have never really sat down and pondered how much it’s going to take on our part, what faith really involves?
    Jesus told this parable in Luke 14:28-30: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”
    What might ‘a tower’ represent in our lives? What was its significance back in 1st-century Palestine? Perhaps some people build towers for ornamentation or to live in; but remember, there’s no RCMP, no OPP, not even “Neighbourhood Watch”: when it comes to security, “You’re on your own, bud!” So if you had a vineyard or olive grove, a tower represented security from robbers – you could store crop in the base, and from the top keep a lookout, then if thieves or foreign raiders attacked, you could hurl heavy rocks and throw sharp pointy things to dissuade them. Note: your tower doesn’t have to be impregnable – it just has to offer a degree more security than your neighbour’s farm! Make it look tough enough that they’ll decide to pick on somebody else.
    “Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost - calculate the cost - to see if he has enough money to complete it?” Do you have enough resources on your own? What’s your “tower” you’re trusting in? Money? Material possessions? A nice big fat RRSP? “Real” estate? (When you get frail and can’t live in your own place any more, the estate suddenly doesn’t seem very ‘real’.) Maybe what you’re trusting for security isn’t material; maybe your abilities, your reputation, your good name. But when evil and catastrophe come knocking, suddenly you need more than just your ability. Something is going to swamp you, sometime in your life.


Let’s back up a bit to verses 25-27. Large crowds are travelling with Jesus, perhaps en masse to the annual Passover celebration in Jerusalem. What He does next has to be classed as a “PR Disaster”...“turning to them He 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.And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’” The Twelve must have been scratching their heads: just when things are starting to go good – when the Master is FINALLY being recognized for the supernatural miracle-worker and wise Teacher He is, He speaks as if He wants to dissuade people, send them away, rather than attract more crowds.
    But Jesus isn’t interested in numbers. He wants deeply committed followers, not casual hangers-on or “groupies”. Not ‘fans’, not those who’ll grant Him a grudging hour once a week, but those who are totally faithful, sold out. He’s setting the terms, raising the bar for what it’ll take to be one of His: If you don’t “hate” your family by comparison (v26) you CANNOT be My disciple. If you don’t carry your cross - don’t pick it up voluntarily, make the CHOICE to bear that instrument of torture that will suck out your whole life – (v27) you CANNOT be My disciple. V32 Any of you who does not give up everything he/she has CANNOT be my disciple. Cannot, cannot, cannot – is there any hope for us? He’s cutting so many people out!
    Granted, the Lord is using vivid hyperbole in v26, exaggerating to make a point. He’s not saying to actually “hate” our family; in other places like Matthew 15:4 He emphasizes the need to honour our parents. What He’s getting at is stated with less exaggeration in Mt 10:37, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me...” By comparison with our attachment to family members, our ardent love for Jesus should outshine those family ties. Our dedication to Him needs to such that if there’s ever a contest between what family is pressuring you to do and what God through His Word and your conscience is showing you you OUGHT to do – God’s way wins every time, even if your family doesn’t understand and even cuts you off.
    I’ve heard of believers coming from Islamic background who, once they trust in Christ, can’t go back home. Some immigrants to Canada can’t go back home because family members would kill them for honour’s sake, because they’ve deserted the Muslim faith and become Christians. Some Canadian Christians have welcomed such refugees, putting them up in their own homes until more permanent solutions can be found. That may mean your own family has less space if you’re housing a refugee. The call of Christ on your life and resources, including your residence, comes first. Today we don’t have to look far to find a home where a family of Christians has opted to give up space in their house (along with time, emotional concern, and other resources) in order to provide a safe nurturing place for kids in the foster-care system. And now that family is expanding by adoption – that’s something they sense God calling them to do! There’s a precious bonding going on, beyond biological boundaries. The call to discipleship stretches the strings and attachments of family ties, and clan, and race.
    Sometimes Jesus calls us to follow even when that clashes with our natural social networks. Are we going to “go along with the crowd”, or do we dare to be different, holy? As a boy under the age of 12 going to church, we had a couple of choices to amuse ourselves after the service while the older folks stood around and visited. The church stood at the edge of a large gravel pit which filled with water much of the year. We could stand at the top of the cliff and chuck stones into the ponds far below. Or, on the other side of the church was a cemetery amidst a shady grove of trees, including chestnuts. In season the ground became littered with chestnut fruit about the size of a small baseball, covered with green peel and spiky protrusions. We had great fun hurling these chestnut fruits at each other – not giving much thought to the chance a direct hit could have taken an eye out. Neither activity was recommended from a Risk Management point of view! Sometimes we need to separate ourselves from what others claim would be “fun” but actually is dangerous...from hurling chestnuts, to spouse-swapping, to driving too fast with a carload of teenagers or experimenting with weed or crystal meth. If you call yourself a disciple of Jesus – lay it down, carry your cross and follow HIM!


Jesus’ next illustration shifts from the farmyard to the battlefield. In the “tower” analogy, the only choice is to build or not to build. In this military scenario, there’s another choice, which is more like the walk of faith.
    Vv31-32, “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” DUH, I guess so! Odds are 2:1, you’d BETTER give this some serious thought! Of course, factors such as an advantage in terrain or strong battlements or superior weaponry MIGHT make it possible for an army to win even if half the size. But you want to make the right call.
    Jesus continues, “If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” Are you able? Do you really have the resources in your own strength to stand up to all the attacks and troubles that are coming your way in life? Do you even realize you’re in a war? There is an enemy out there, the Bible says, prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour (1Pet 5:8). He’d love to have you for lunch, in all your naivete! That’s why we need to put on the full armour of God, particularly the shield of faith, handling well the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph 6). You think your life is a piece of cake? Wake up! The enemy would be only too keen to wipe the floor with you, catch you in some temptation and thus bring dishonour on the name of Christ. A commentary cautions: “despise not your enemy’s strength, for the odds are all against you...Without the absolute surrender of self, the contest is hopeless.”
    “If he is not able, he will send a delegation...and will ask for terms of peace.” A delegation, literally an ‘ambassador’ – someone to secure an arrangement of peace, shalom, salvation. Jesus is our Ambassador, our Mediator, sent from the Heavenly Father to be redeem us from our sin at the cost of His own self. He took up His cross willingly so we might be saved. Baptism is a vivid picture of that - dying with Jesus by going under the water, rising in Him to new life. It’s all because of what He accomplished at the cross for us. We receive that by faith, by surrendering, yielding our lives entirely to His control. V33 “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
    John MacArthur writes, “This speaks of something far more than mere abandonment of one’s material possessions; it is an absolute, unconditional surrender.His disciples were permitted to retain no privilege and make no demands.They were to safeguard no cherished sins, treasure no earthly possessions, and cling to no secret self-indulgences.Their commitment to Jesus must be without reservation.”
    Jesus is very point-blank about it: “You cannot become My disciple without giving up everything you own.” The verb “give up” here is to set apart, take leave of, bid farewell or say goodbye to, renounce, forsake. Are you really ready to do that?
    Canada’s a pretty civilized nation. Could taking a stand for Christ really cost you your job? Your life? In May 2011, Damien Goddard was a sports broadcaster with Roger Sportsnet. A hockey player named Sean Avery had just spoken out in favour of gay marriage, along with other high-profile New Yorkers. Todd Reynolds, VP of Uptown Players which acts as agent for various players, tweeted that by contrast he was for traditional marriage. Damien Goddard (the broadcaster) tweeted that he supported Todd Reynolds in his stand for traditional marriage. Here’s a short clip in which Kirk Giles of PromiseKeepers Canada interviews Damien Goddard on what happened next...[AUDIO EXCERPT]
    Nasty stuff! Lost his job within 24 hours. Threats on his life that scared his wife. There IS a battle going on; standing for the principles in God’s word is going to put you on a collision course with those who just want to ‘do their own thing.’


This is a hard saying of Jesus. He’s really turned and faced us and asked if we’re serious about this whole discipleship thing. To follow Him requires letting a lot go – everything, in fact – so we can find true life in knowing Him.
    This isn’t the only place He says this. Listen to Matthew 10:37-39: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
    Is it worth it? If it’s really going to cost everything I have, all I could ever boast in or revel in physically speaking, is it WORTH it? Note the context in Luke 14. Before, the kingdom of heaven is likened to a banquet a man invites people to but they make excuses about why they can’t come. After, in Luke 15, we have the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son; in each there’s a celebration and rejoicing when the lost is found. “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God,” Jesus says, “over one sinner who repents.” God is pleased today when one young man demonstrates repentance by submitting to the waters of baptism. Even more, in the parable of the prodigal son, along with a party, the returnee is clothed in a robe, given a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. God has for His children a robe of righteousness awaiting – the righteousness of Jesus to clothe us. Back then a ring on the finger represented authority to do business: God would authorize you to act for Him, to give expression to what He’s doing in the world. And sandals represent sonship, daughterhood, you’re a member of the household unlike the slaves who went barefoot. Surrender – into sonship! It is worth it. Let’s pray.