Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Cost, and Greater Prize of Discipleship

Luke 14:27-28 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?

So far in these last couple of blogs we have been exploring the meaning of discipleship. Discipleship begins with the call of Christ.  This call is radical.  You must be willing to deny yourself, take up His cross daily, and follow Him in order to gain the appreciation of becoming like the Master in thought, word and deed. (Luke 9:23-24)  The first two lessons we have learned thus far about discipleship are these:
1. Discipleship begins with His call
2. Discipleship must include self denial and daily cross bearing

With the first element dealing with the Sovereign Grace of God calling you to Himself, and the second dealing with the intention of the will set free by such grace to respond, today's element in discipleship involves counting the cost.

Why the cost of following Christ is so high
As Jesus' popularity was growing, the Bible tells us in Luke 14:25 that "Large crowds were going along with Him."  Jesus knew that not everyone who was claiming to be a "disciple" with their lips was truly a disciple in their heart.  Jesus sets forth this principle of "counting the cost" as the standard that must be met if discipleship is ever to be a true reality in the life of the one who claims Christ as His own.  Only by grace through faith that has embraced Jesus as Savior Lord and Treasure will such a standard become the delight of the soul.  Jesus uses three illustrations to reveal why the cost is so high:

1. Christ must be the most important relationship in your life. 
When you trust in Christ, understand that it will regulate and determine who and what will influence your life.  Jesus says that in a comparitive way, the affection we have for parents, siblings or family must be as "hatred" in comparison to the undivided loyalty to Christ.  The realm of human relationships is the greatest test for the disciple.  If they have not resolved in their heart to make Christ The Priority, distraction and apathy will characterize the Christian walk.  

2. Christ must be the most important priority in your life   
Jesus then moves onto his next illustration - the realm of projects and things.  If you have ever tried to build anything, go for a career, plan a family or purchase anything, unless you have sat down and calculated how much it is going to cost - you can quickly get-in-over your head.  Priority has to do with that scale we use to weigh what we are going to do next.  Building a big huge tower takes planning, materials and money.  If a builder goes in with no plan - then he plans to fail.  In following Christ, many people don't bother to count the cost.  Why?  Because if Christ was the main reason, they would be careful in how they approach following Him.  Are you will to place all plans in last place to make Him the priority of your life?

3. Christ must be the main purpose in your life. 
We have seen Jesus illustrate how counting the cost must be at the beginning in our relationships and throughout our lives in the realm of everyday priorities.  But what of our main goal in life?  Where or whom are you willing to risk it all to gain the prize of discipleship - Christ?  Jesus uses the illustration of a King going into battle.  The objective is clear - victory.  However He first of all has to count his army, his supplies and the wisdom of his counselors against the opposing army.  Is the victory desired worth the losses that could come as a result of the impending battle?  Either the King will conclude the cost is too high, walk away and surrender or He'll say - "lets go, we have more than enough to win". 

4. The Prize gained is greater than the cost
The prize gained in discipleship - Christ, is always greater than any cost.  The Prize - Christ - determines the purpose for which I will carryout my life's priorites and relationships.  As Paul writes in Philippians 3:8 - "... I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ".