It’s Worth it to Follow Jesus

Luke 14:25–35

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. He turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, if he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, everyone who sees it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build, but was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, as he goes out to confront another king in war, will not first sit down and consider if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if he is not able, he sends out a delegation and asks for terms of peace while his opponent is still far away. 33So then, any one of you who does not say farewell to all his own possessions cannot be my disciple. 34Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its flavor, how will it become salty again? 35It is not fit for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. The one who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (EHV)

Dear Friends in Christ,

Little children count their pennies and quarters and dollars to see what candy or what toy they might buy. It’s sometimes refreshing to see how much a smaller amount of money can mean to a child. When we get bigger, we deal in larger amounts. But we still have to make choices. None of us are so rich that we can buy everything we want—at least, I don’t think!

When it comes to spiritual matters, we also have to make choices. We can’t have it all. No one can serve both God and money. No one can have the Lord Jesus as his Savior, and Satan as his master.

We are here today because we want to be Jesus’ disciples. We want to be Jesus’ disciples because His disciples inherit all the blessings of heaven, and because of all the other blessings that overflow to us from God here in this life.

“Is it Worth it to Follow Jesus?” That’s the question Jesus leaves His pondering today. He wants us to think hard about it. Are we ready to Count the Cost? And do we have The Resources We Need to Pay the Price?

Count The Cost

Our world, our country and sad to say, even the church are littered with the stories of individuals and families who counted the cost of discipleship and deemed it too high a price to pay. They looked at what Jesus demands and decided it wasn’t worth it to follow Him. Some say it outright—loudly and with conviction. Some say it with a whimper, under their breath. What is it that causes people to reject their Savior? Oh, the immediate causes vary. A young couple doesn’t want to give up “living together.” And older man doesn’t want to commit to coming to worship every week. A young lady doesn’t want to believe everything the Bible has to say. There are a thousand outward triggers and excuses, but they all boil down to this: they found out how much it really costs to be a disciple, and decided it wasn’t worth it. In their minds it didn’t pass the cost/benefit analysis.

There’s no doubt about it, it’s not cheap and easy to be Jesus’ disciple. Jesus doesn’t hide that truth. In fact He intentionally uses what sounds like outrageous terminology to make it clear as a bell. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” There is no way to ignore, or read past Jesus’ words here. And that’s exactly what He had in mind.

But does he really mean hate? Doesn’t God tell us to love and honor our parents? Doesn’t he tell us to love our spouses, our neighbors and even our enemies? Yes, of course, and since Jesus isn’t going to tell us to go out and break His own commandments, just what does He mean? What Jesus demands of us is that we look at all our human connections, our friends and dear ones included, from the perspective of a royal subject completely loyal to Him as King. Our U.S. government does the same thing when immigrants want to take the oath of citizenship. In order to become an American citizen, you have to renounce your loyalty to wherever you came from. You may still love the old homeland. You may still think of it as home in many ways. But if we ever go to war against that country, your loyalties have to remain undivided to our government. There’s no room for traitors!

That’s the same kind of loyalty Jesus expects of His disciples. How many a minister hasn’t heard the sad confession: “Pastor, I have to leave the church, because my cousin Judy doesn’t like what we teach about abortion.” Or Aunt Hilda, or Uncle Joe or even my husband or son or mother doesn’t like what the Bible teaches about creation or fellowship, and now I have to leave.” Does that sound familiar? It happens far too often, and this is exactly what Jesus was talking about. That someone would think a human being is more important than God and His Word — this makes one unworthy to be a disciple of Jesus. And the consequence of such foolhardy idolatry—treason—is death.

It can cost dearly to be a disciple. As if it weren’t enough to demand that we keep our highest loyalty to Him, Jesus also tells us frankly we can expect a more difficult life as a consequence of following Him. He says: 27Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple—torture and death, in other words. That’s what crosses were for! Tough choices regarding family are only one example of the crosses we bear for Christ as Christians. Whether we suffer physically or economically for our faith or whether we have to endure intense temptations from Satan the way Job did, or even if none of these things come our way, still, Jesus never promised us that life would be easier for His followers than others, as some falsely claim.

Jesus spoke these words to what our text calls “large crowds” that were following Him, and this was His recruitment speech! ‘You can follow me, but it’s not going to be easy.’ ‘The costs are really high. You have to be more loyal to me than to anyone else on earth, including your spouse or your parent or your child! And you might as well know up front, it’ll be hard at times. It’s much easier to be a worldling, to go along with what everyone else says and does. Are you still sure you want to follow me?’

So those are the costs. Jesus lays them out plainly up front. Do you still want to follow Him? Can you afford to? Before you decide, Jesus also wants you to consider the resources at your disposal.

Check Your Available Resources

Jesus said: 28For which of you, if he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, everyone who sees it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build, but was not able to finish.’

It’s interesting that Jesus compares discipleship, building a Christian life, to building a tower. Whatever that tower was for—watching over vineyards or guarding the entrance to a property, we’re not talking about a small shed that blends in with its surroundings. Jesus chose a more majestic structure—one that stands out and can be seen from all around. He’s talking about the lives of His disciples that stand out for all to see, not like a shed, but like a magnificent tower—the way our Psalm (1:3) promised: “He is like a tree planted beside streams of water…. Everything he does prospers.”

But do we have the resources to grow and build it? Have you got what it takes? How many have set out to be disciples of Jesus and have left their tower more or less half-finished and abandoned it. Then how foolish he looks, not just in people’s eyes, but in God’s. It would be better to never start. But is that really an alternative? Not when you look at Jesus’ second comparison, which is war. 31Or what king, as he goes out to confront another king in war, will not first sit down and consider if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if he is not able, he sends out a delegation and asks for terms of peace while his opponent is still far away.  What an appropriate comparison! The Bible often tells us that we are at war with Satan and he with us. Do we have the resources to fight him? The king in Jesus’ comparison has only half as many men as his enemy, and when it comes to fighting Satan, we also are facing an enemy of twice our strength. So should we beg for terms of peace? Before you answer that, know your enemy.

The ancient Assyrians were known for their brutality in war. Capture meant torture, then death. They impaled their victims on poles like human shish-ka-bobs. They used every gruesome torture known to man and some that have thankfully been forgotten. Would you surrender to an enemy like that and hope for mercy? Our enemy Satan has tortures not even known to man. Should we meet him on the battlefield and sue for peace? That’s not an alternative.

And so we go to battle, knowing full well that we’re outnumbered, but also that we are not alone. We have an almighty Ally in this war, and His name is Jesus. “He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.”

Have we got the resources? Do we have what it takes to build a tower—to build a godly, Christian life that the world around us can see? If it’s God telling us to build that tower, then we know the answer is yes. He’ll give us what it takes. Do we have the resources to fight a war with Satan and all his troops. Yes. It’s God who’s sent us into battle. He’ll give us the weapons and strength to fight. As Saint Augustine once prayed: “Give me what you ask, O Lord, and then ask anything of me!” The Lord does give us what he asks of us. He made us His disciples in our baptism. He forgives us our sins. He sends us His Holy Spirit. He gives us His power. He is with us.

Cost/Benefit Ratio

The costs of discipleship are high. Yet we know the resources are there. When we trust in God and live for Him, the impossible is no longer impossible. So back to our original question now that we’ve counted the costs and tallied up our resources: ‘Is it Worth it to Follow Jesus?’ If we were going to make a purchase, we’d consider not only the costs, and whether we had the resources. We’d also consider what we were getting—the cost/benefit ratio. Is it the deal of the century? Here’s how God describes it through Isaiah:  Hey, all of you who are thirsty, come to the water, even if you have no money! Come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why do you spend money on something that is not bread? Why do you waste your labor on something that does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good. Satisfy your appetite with rich food. [55:1-2] That rich food is the Gospel. It promises us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. It promises that God loves us and is on our side each and every day. It promises us an eternal inheritance in heaven, all for free—if we just get through the hardships and suffering and remain faithful. Jesus earned that for us by His perfect life and innocent death on the cross.

‘Is it Worth it to Follow Jesus?’ “Most certainly” Christianity is not easy. Count the costs. Rely on God’s Resources, and follow on! Amen.

Pastor Timothy Buelow

Our Saviour Lutheran Church

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

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