The Cost of Discipleship

As usual, Jesus was surrounded by thronging crowds who were listening to his every word. Luke 14:25 states, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus.” They were fascinated by the novelty, the winsomeness and the authority for this new teaching. The situation presented him with the unique opportunity to capitalize on his popularity. But Jesus did not do that. He did not flatter them, offer some inducement, or perform some miracle to win their allegiance.  Rather, it seems as though he was intent on alienating their interest and actually discouraging them from following him.

Becoming a Christian is a free gift. It costs absolutely nothing; it is a work of grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9) But there is a cost attached in becoming an authentic disciple. Jesus states in this passage that the cost is great. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died for his commitment to Christ in a Nazi concentration camp understood this principle. He once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die. But only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ.” As Jesus preached many would attempt to join the crowd. And then Jesus would challenge many “would be” followers to stop and to count the cost before answering the call to discipleship. I once read this quote, “A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing.” What is the cost of discipleship? Basically it will cost you everything to be a true disciple.

The cost of discipleship demands a willingness to sacrifice any possession, practice or relationship that might be a hindrance or a stumbling block to following Jesus. Jesus called many to follow him but only a few accepted. Like the rich young ruler and many others who made excuses when confronted with Christ’s call to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him we may find that our first reaction is defensive – we too make excuses. In almost every case our excuse stems from the fact that we don’t want to give up control of our lives. In a very real way the decision to follow Christ is to lay down our lives to follow him is quite similar to Jesus playing let’s make a deal with the rich young ruler. “Go, sell everything that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come and follow me.”

Jesus was saying that, “I am offering you the greatest adventure of your life. I’m inviting you to partner with me in my great kingdom mission. I promise you will find your deepest purposes and your greatest fulfillment in life doing what I have created you to do. All you have to do is to lay down what you have already won, and I will replace it with the treasures beyond your imagination.” It was that last sentence that was the hard part – “Lay down what you have already won.” “Can I keep it all, Jesus?”  Jesus replied, “No my child, because no one can serve two masters, you will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) The more you have the harder it is to sell everything you have and give it to Jesus. That may be why so many people give their lives to Jesus Christ when they have nothing left to lose. As one bumper sticker states, “If God is your co-pilot switch seats!”

Being a Christian disciple has never been easy. The cost is great. The cost is everything, all that a man or woman has or is. “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” What are you clinging to? What holds you back from being a totally committed disciple of Jesus Christ?

See you Sunday in church!