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First, count the cost of following Jesus

Renew / Identity
Jesus warns everyone to not begin a relationship with Him until we have fully understood the personal cost that we have to pay each day. This is not the teaching of Someone who is interested in a mass following. The Lord Himself has said, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” There are many things in this world that will keep tugging at our hearts. It is only when we decide to renounce their priority and position, that we will be able to fulfil the first commandant in the Bible, which is to love God with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds.

 

Luke 14:33 ESV  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 10:27-28 ESV  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

This is not the only statement that Jesus made that would have been considered politically incorrect by today’s standards, but because His are the words of God, we need to study them and allow them to transform our hearts and minds.

Some of the costs of following Jesus

Let’s look at some of Jesus’ more challenging teachings.

1. “Forego all human relationships to follow Me.”

Jesus has told us to follow Him so ardently that we appear to hate our dearest loved ones by comparison.

Luke 14:26 NLT “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.

Of all the relationships we can have in our lifetimes, the only one that will last eternally is the one with God. There are no family relationships in heaven, everyone will be like the angels.

Luke 20:34-36 ESV  And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Jesus is essentially teaching us to make the wise choice when it comes to prioritising our relationships during our time on earth.  On Judgement Day, each one of us will have to give an account of our temporary time here on earth. We insult God when we make another human being, someone whom He created for His glory, more important than Him. That person/s may even (intentionally or unintentionally) lead us to follow Satan, the god of this world. They do this by pressurising us to follow the ways of this world more than obey God’s good and perfect will for our lives.

Isaiah 42:8 ESV  I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT  Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

2. “Be prepared to be despised and rejected for following Me.”

Jesus warned us that we may be despised and rejected for following Him.

John 15:18  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

Not everyone celebrates with us when we turn to Jesus. Some of them may raise suspicions, threaten us, ridicule us, or try to forbid us from pursuing a relationship with God. (Note: Some of these concerns may have some validity, if we are danger of following a different Jesus from the Bible, a false teacher, or a cult. For the most part, however, we typically face opposition for other reasons.)

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 ESV  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

We can expect opposition for the very simple fact that we have been transferred from the domain of darkness into Jesus’ kingdom. Those who choose darkness will not rejoice with those who choose the glorious light of the Good News. 

Colossians 1:13-14 ESV   He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

But God reassures us that our reward in heaven is great when we stay faithful and will not betray Him to follow the ways of this world. In fact, Jesus calls us blessed for facing persecution for our faith and tells us that we ought to “leap for joy”. Such testing of our faith produces perseverance, character, and hope. 

Luke 6:22-23  “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Romans 5:3-5 ESV  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Satan, on the other hand, will tempt us to doubt God’s character, to question if staying faithful to God is worth the trouble, to lust after the things of this world, and to hate or reject our opponents. But this is not God’s will for us. God calls us to be compassionate towards those who cannot see or understand about the glory of Christ at this point in time, just as He has been compassionate towards us when we were still spiritually blind.

2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT  Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

3. “To follow me, be prepared to have nowhere to lay your head.”

Jesus pointed out that He had no place to call His own when He was fulfilling His Heavenly Father’s will during His time in ministry, and that anyone who wants to follow Him needs to be prepared to be like Him. 

That is not to say that we are all meant to be homeless. Rather, we are not to be so bonded to any particular place that we are not prepared to go where God calls us to go. As believers, our roots and identity are planted firmly in God, not in any physical place. Before God, we are not defined by our earthly passports.

Luke 9:57-58  As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

This can be challenging because the biggest financial investment that any family can make is often related to their home. We spend a lot of time saving up for, setting up, and settling into our homes, so much so that they can become our “temples of comfort and identity”. 

God has already determined the times and places we are to live in, and we might fall out of God’s plan if we become too attached to any particular place and refuse to go where He calls us to.

Acts 17:26–27 ESV  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

4. “Be ready to relinquish material possessions to follow Me.”

Jesus calls us to not hold onto excessive possessions but to sell them off and use the proceeds to give to the needy.

Luke 12:32-33  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

We have been conditioned by this world to think that the more we have or are able to afford, the most successful and accomplished we are. Yet lasting joy and peace cannot be bought with the things of this world that will not last. Economic cycles can wipe out their value and new trends can make them obsolete. Scammers can steal them and natural disasters can destroy them.

1 John 2:16 NLT  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

Rather, we are called to help others with the resources that God has blessed us with. Jesus has told us that He will return one day and sit on His glorious throne to judge those who help the needy and those who don’t. He will cast those who have not helped “the hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is because when we fail to do such things, we failed to do them to Him. We see that if everyone followed God’s will, there would be no inequality, poverty, hunger, suffering, and depravation in this world. 

Matthew 25:31,41-46 ESV  When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

5. “Follow Me to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, just as He prayed to God the Father for those who crucified Him on the cross.

Matthew 5:44-45 ESV  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Luke 23:33-34 ESV And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Before we become anxious about loving our enemies, it is helpful to look at 1 Corinthians 13 and examine how God’s Word defines love. Love does not involve liking, condoning, approving, or agreeing with the evil that others do. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but it also does not insist on its own way, nor is it irritable or resentful. Love involves respecting others and also respecting ourselves. We remain hopeful for the best for someone else’s sake and will not easily forsake them just because we disagree. We express God’s love when we are patient, kind, and humble while having the wisdom to draw the right boundaries.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Loving others does not let them off the hook for their sins, because God is the One who will judge them for their schemes and actions. But because God is just, He will also judge us for our responses. Hence, we need to be careful not to sin against God by failing to demonstrate and pass on His love and mercy to others. 

2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Matthew 12:36 ESV  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,

These are just five examples of the costs we are expected to pay to follow Jesus. They may seen costly at first glance, but in reality, the price becomes immaterial when we look at our lives in terms of eternity with God. We can’t take our earthly reputations, earthly relationships, earthly identities, earthly possessions, and earthly justice with us into heaven anyway. These things only matter when we are on earth and we need to be careful not to allow them to distract us from our eternal prize.

Matthew 6:19-20 ESV  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Following Jesus leads to new life

When Jesus told everyone to deny themselves and take up their across daily, He gave His listeners a very vivid picture of what it would be like to follow Him. 

Luke 9:20-26 ESV  Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 

To carry a cross would mean that they had to be wiling to:

  • humbly acknowledge that they were “criminals” who deserve the worst sentencing and death — as only the most reviled and the lowest in society were crucified on crosses i.e. slaves, traitors, and the most notorious criminals.
  • be openly disgraced, ridiculed, and rejected for following Jesus — since taking up the cross meant walking in public, after being flogged and whipped, to the place of crucifixion
  • follow Jesus til the very end, even if it meant death to their their self-curated image and goals, and 
  • even pay the price for other people’s sins so that they may experience the love and mercy of God as we have

The good news is that by following Jesus’ example of crucifixion, we will also 

  • experience the power of the Holy Spirit to resurrect us to a new life reformed by God
  • die to our old selves, which have been stricken by sin and the painful consequences of our sins
  • experience the miracle of new beginnings through the Holy Spirit by overcoming the fear of death, and
  • become a living testimony of God’s power to transform us

Romans 8:11-13 ESV  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV  Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

God does not call us to do anything that He has not first done for us. Can you imagine leaving behind all your loved ones, home comforts, and legal rights, to live amongst hostile people whom you know will reject you and even brutalise you one day – to a point of crucifixion? Would you step up to the job? Truly, no one has given more to love us than God has.

John 15:13 ESV  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice

In Genesis 22, we read the heart-wrenching story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as an offering to God. Imagine Abraham’s immense grief and conflicting emotions, especially when Isaac turned to him on the way to the sacrificial altar and innocently asked, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Isaac was unaware that Abraham was planning to sacrifice him. Later, God honoured Abraham’s faith and obedience, and of course, spared Isaac’s life. It was a test for Abraham, the man whom God had called the “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5).

Genesis 22:6-12 ESV  And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

Genesis 17:5 ESV  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

God hates child sacrifice and would never have condoned the sacrifice of Isaac – which is remarkable because God eventually sacrificed His perfect innocent Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price of our sins in exchange for us! Jesus’ death on the cross was no small sacrifice for God.

Ezekiel 16:20-21  And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

Not only did Jesus sacrifice His immense privileges and universal power to become vulnerable and human like us, He humbled Himself to the point of dying on the cross — the most shameful, painful, and humiliating way to die at the time. 

By His ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our sins, Jesus has been given the ultimate Name above all names. We will never suffer as Jesus has suffered for us but we will get to share in His glory as long as we remain faithful to God til the end. This is because of God’s immense and indescribable grace, it is not something any one of us deserves.

Philippians 2:5-11 ESV  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In closing 

We see that large flocks of people followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. Many eventually left Him because they became offended by His teachings. They also complained about Him. Such followers were satisfied to listen to His teachings, be fed by Him, and witness His miracles – but not to follow Him all the way as their King and personal Saviour.

John 6:26-27,30 NLT  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do?

John 6:60-61,64,66 NLT  Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? .. some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) …At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.

Let us make sure that we do not make the same mistake but enter a relationship with God with our eyes wide open. Otherwise, like the builders Jesus described in Luke 14, we can set up a basic foundation of faith and not be able to finish. Following Jesus is not just about how we first started but about how we persevere to the end in our faith. Then we can complete the “building” we began and enjoy an eternity with God filled with rejoicing every single day afterward. 

Luke 14:28-30 ESV  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a 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.’  

 

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