Roger's Postings

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Luke 14:25-33.                   The cost of being a Christian                                      8/9/13

 {25)  Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: {26} "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. {27} And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. {28} "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? {29} For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, {30} saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' {31} "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? {32} 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. {33} In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

 One of the key problems in our society today is that of the rising costs of producing a quality product. As a society we are demanding high quality products and services; but the cost of doing so is beyond what we are prepared to pay. Too often we are prepared to pay less even though the quality is not up to standard; as long as it looks good; but then we grizzle and complain when it doesn't live up to expectation.

 Now in many ways, this is the same issue that Jesus is raising here in this reading with regard to our Christian lives. He too, in this regard, is concerned about quality products and whether we are prepared to pay the cost of it: But here in a far more important area of our lives. He is pointing out the need for quality control in our spiritual lives as well. And is suggesting that there must not be any thought of cutting quality in order to keep the costs down. He is also concerned about whether we are prepared to count the high cost of maintaining that quality: Then after realizing the high cost, whether we are still prepared to follow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 I believe this is an issue that we all here need to consider very carefully. A question here is, are we really all that concerned about the quality of the Christian life of this congregation, and even more particularly, our own spirituality for that matter? Have we individually perhaps counted the costs and decided that we are not going to commit ourselves to it? Opting instead to try and get away with as little commitment as we possibly can; yet hoping to still achieve a place in heaven?

 The indication given here by Jesus is that this is very dangerous thinking. Elsewhere in the Bible God is quite vocal about those who are lukewarm: he will spew them out of his mouth. So the quality of our Christian life is vitally important. So if that is the case, then we need to consider carefully this reading here this morning.

 Our text begins by saying; large crowds of people were travelling along with Jesus and turning to them he addressed this whole issue. Jesus was concerned by fact that a large crowd was following him and what the reasoning was for their doing so. Now that is a real change from the attitude of many today in the churches. They delight in having masses of people following and sitting in the pews. They thrive on having large crowds in their midst - even if their attitude and reasoning may be all wrong.

 Now off course, we know that Jesus wants all people to be saved. In fact he wants large crowds to be saved. But the situation was that many where following simply out of curiosity – to see someone perform miracles; perhaps thinking that he might be a greater leader and provider who will make life easy for them as a people: giving them health, wealth and happiness, without them having to lift a finger. Perhaps some of them were hedging their bets; having a leg in the Christian camp, just in case.

 But whatever their thinking, Jesus was not prepared to accept a superficial following of him by the masses. So he turns to them and lays down his absolute demands for those who would be his disciples.

 Then what he says next must surely make us all stop and think. "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.

 Not loving father, mother, husband, wife, children; and even self more than  - or should I say instead of God - is the central issue here. Those who follow Jesus, must choose him so unconditionally as Lord, that all other loyalties and ties are subordinate. Nothing must come before total allegiance to Christ; neither family, business, sport, anything. Nothing must distract us from complete devotion and obedience to our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ. In fact he even goes on to say that those who are not willing to die even the most hideous of deaths for the sake of love and loyalty to Jesus Christ cannot be a disciple of his. That is the quality that we are called to have in our Christian life: complete and whole-hearted loyalty to Jesus Christ. Nothing less will do. And that is what God is asking of you and me.

 Now that does not mean that we cannot be involved in and with many of these other things. In fact we need to be; and will find greater fulfilment in them if we take God and what he has to say to us seriously. It is a matter of where our priorities lie. When God is first then all these other things find their proper place and will then be a blessing rather than a curse.

 It is here then that Jesus goes on and uses two parables to emphasise this point; each with a slightly different thought. In the first he asks us to sit down and reckon on whether can afford to follow; just as we would sit down and work out the cost of a house before we build it; making sure that we have enough to finish the job. We are called to spend time working out what are the costs - what it means to be a Christian - what is involved. And then whether we are prepared to follow through with it, all the way. Remembering the same sort of ridicule is there for the half-hearted Christian who drops out along the way as there is for the person who sets out to build a house but can't complete it because he hasn't got the money.

 In the second, Jesus asks us to stop and think if we can afford to refuse the cost Jesus is asking of us. The king and his country are being invaded from outside; and if he can't reckon on beating the invaders with his smaller army, he had better do some fast talking: he had better accept the terms put forward by the invader. Likewise, Jesus has invaded our lives and places a huge demand on us; calling for our unconditional loyalty and trust. Can we afford to refuse? Can we afford not to be prepared to give up everything else in order to be his disciple? Remember eternal life in either heaven or hell is at stake here.

 Then Jesus concluded his address with this message; "Salt is good, but if it loses it's saltiness , how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor the manure heap; it is thrown out. The person who has ears, let them hear." What good is flavourless salt on our Sunday lunch? What good is a Christian with no substance to their discipleship? Jesus says they are only fit to be thrown out. So take good note - says Jesus.

 What a tremendous challenge then he puts in front us - an enormous one - an impossible one - but one that we have to have. Total loyalty, commitment and trust in and to our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. And there are no excuses!

 Thankfully and of great encouragement to us in regard to this, is the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our forgiveness. Our failures have already been taken care of; so we can set our hearts on doing the very best we can. We also know that through and with Jesus Christ we have top quality on our side all the way: we have all the very best help that we could ever possibly want. With the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacraments in his Church we have all the help that we need to have a top quality Christian life in the midst of the troubles of this sinful world and even our own weaknesses and failures. Yes the cost is high - it cost Jesus his very life on the cross for our forgiveness. It also costs us heaps in commitment and cross bearing. But with Jesus we can do it.

 So in conclusion; count the cost of being a Christian and don't be found wanting. Look for a quality Christian life that focuses on Christ and holds to his truths; and see that the price has been paid so that we can now give our all and not go short. Don't follow the way of the world in giving half-hearted support and in cutting the quality in order to keep the costs down. Let us continually call on Jesus to give us the strength and courage needed to be totally loyal to him: Asking the Holy Spirit to help us be wholehearted in our attempt to follow. Then with that help guaranteed to let nothing stand in our way and hinder us in our discipleship. With Jesus with us, let us take up our cross and follow wherever he leads, faithfully living a quality Christian life. Then through it all God will bless us and our whole community. To him then be all glory and honour now and always.  AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish



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