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I have a book by Paul Johnson about the history of the American people. It describes the development of the United States and discusses at length the role of religion in our history. One point he emphasizes is the tension throughout our history between the importance of religion and spirituality on the one hand and the urge for possessions and materialism on the other hand.
At one point he describes the occupations, material success, and living arrangements of Americans in the 1700's, including a description of their homes. Page 100 includes the following about what was to be the most magnificent home built during the 1700's:
The greatest early 18th-century house in America was Rosewell, erected by Mann Page ... in 1726 on the York river. Page had this superb house built using designs ... published in London ... Page overspent, his grand house was unfinished when he died in 1730, and his debts exceeded the value of all his property ... Rosewell ... was burned down in 1916.
Compare this to Luke 14:26-30,33, where Jesus said:
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it - lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' ... So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Consider the lessons we can learn:
Jesus said one cannot be His disciple unless he first hates his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even his own life.
"Hate" here does not mean to have no love at all nor to actively seek the harm of others. Jesus also said we must even hate our own lives. Surely this is not absolute or literal. We should love others as we love ourselves, and no one hates his own flesh (Matthew 22:36-40; Ephesians 5:29). The Bible teaches us to love all people, especially our family (Matthew 22:36-40; Titus 2:4; Ephesians 5:25-29).
The meaning here, as shown by context, is to love them less than we love others. In this case we must love Jesus more than we do our family members, so we are willing, if necessary, to give up our relationship with them or give up our lives in order to follow Jesus fully.
We may never actually be required to literally give up our relationship with our loved ones to please the Lord, and we may never be required to actually die for His cause, but we must be willing to do so.
This is what it costs to be a disciple. And Jesus says that people who are not willing to pay this price simply cannot be His disciple. They may think they are disciples, and they may appear to others to be. But Jesus does not consider half-hearted followers to be true disciples. There is no point starting to serve the Lord, unless we are willing to give true, whole-hearted commitment, seeking His will above all else.
[Compare Matthew 6:19-33; 10:34-39; 16:24-27; Romans 8:5-8; 12:1,2; John 6:27,63; Luke 12:15-21; 1 Timothy 4:8; 6:6-19; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 8:5; 10:3,4; Colossians 3:1,2; Galatians 2:20.]
To be a disciple of Jesus one must pay a severe cost. Sacrifice and hardship are required. So Jesus urges people to consider the cost before becoming disciples. Many, after becoming disciples, will be rejected because they are unwilling to continue. So one should realize from the outset what he is getting into.
Jesus illustrated the need to count the cost of discipleship by describing a man who would begin to build a tower without first considering how much it would cost, to see whether or not he could afford it. If one does not consider the cost beforehand, he may begin to build but be unable to finish. People will then see how silly he was.
Likewise, if we are not willing to pay the price to serve Jesus, there is no point in beginning. We should consider this beforehand.
Of course, Jesus is not really hoping people will decide not to become disciples. He wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). We need to consider, not just the cost of being a disciple, but also the cost of not being a disciple. That cost is far greater (Matthew 10:28).
The point is that we are better off not to start at all than to start and quit (2 Peter 2:20-22). And even further, if we start serving Jesus without realizing the sacrifices involved, we are likely to be discouraged and quit when we learn what it requires. However, if we know from the outset what is required, we are more likely to make a true commitment and then remain faithful when the hardships come.
Jesus then said that the price we must be willing to pay is to forsake all that we have (verse 33). Again, we may not physically lose all we possess, but we must be willing to do so if necessary to please the Lord. And many have made exactly this sacrifice. And even if we do not lose all our possessions physically, we must commit ourselves to using them for His service.
Far too many of us are too attached to our material pursuits: possessions, pleasures, sports, travel, entertainment, recreation. If we are not willing to sacrifice them for His cause, we simply cannot be disciples.
Are we willing to pay the price?
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2017
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.