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But don’t begin until you count the cost… Luke 14:28a

There is a great divide in the world between believers and followers. People who profess belief in Jesus number in the billions, around one-third of the entire world population. A percentage of those believers are also followers of Christ—disciples.

Father Anthony Coniaris, in his book, “Message of the Sunday Gospels,” sizes up people who believe in Jesus but don’t follow Him, when we writes, “They have enough Christianity to make themselves respectable but not enough to make them uncomfortable.” People want Jesus around when there is trouble. When I have a great need I want His help. But daily, when the water is calm and troubles are few, I prefer to follow my own path. 

People and churches that pattern themselves after successful ministries and cultural trends are, really, hoping that Jesus will follow them, instead of the other way around. Then, when a crisis hits, they turn to Him and cry out, but find Him distant, silent, until they repent, and die to themselves, and follow Him. How many times do we need to try and fail before we learn this?

One day a large crowd was following Jesus. You can imagine that within the multitude there were curious people, desperate people, people with nothing better to do, and even a few that had left their jobs and families to follow the Messiah, wherever that choice led them. 

So Jesus turned to them and explained the difference between being a believer and a follower. 

Of course He wanted them all to stay, but in reality, there is a price to pay to be a follower of Christ, and some are not willing or, in their own minds at least, not able, to pay that price. So they pull back and settle for the sidelines, watch Jesus from afar, and hope He is near when really needed. 

Are you a follower of Christ? Do you want to be? Here, Jesus explains the cost of following Him. It’s pricey. Will you take some time and the start of this new year to truly consider the implications of radically following Jesus? You can start right now.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-26 NLT

First, our love for Jesus must be above all other loves. He says, “by comparison”, that is, your love for Jesus must be so profound, so unparalleled, that every other love looks like hate by comparison—I know how much I love my wife and children, so the love Jesus is talking about, that we must cultivate for Him, must be great indeed! And he adds, “Yes, even your own life.” Self-love is the opposite of God’s agape love, because self-love is always looking inward, to protect, preserve, feed desire—while God’s love will direct your focus outward, to those in need, to see through Jesus eyes.

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27 NLT

Second, we don’t follow Jesus empty-handed—we carry a cross. In first century Palestine no one would mistake the meaning here. The cross meant only one thing—death. To follow Jesus would mean martyrdom for many of the followers. Rome viciously persecuted followers of Christ and in the first few centuries, literally millions of Christians died for their faith. The hate for Christianity was palpable. To be a follower was to carry a cross on your back, figuratively, and to live with the daily reality of being crucified on it, literally. Some of the same people here in this crowd watched it happen to their Messiah. Those who followed Him, followed Him to Calvary. 

We still do.

There are still, twenty centuries later, regimes and country-states that opposed followers of Christ with physical persecution and murder. Jesus said it would be true, and it is. How far are you willing to go to be a follower of Christ? If you are a casual believer in Northern Sudan, North Korea, China, Iran, Syria or a hundred other places, you may be able to blend in and keep your faith private. But if you are a follower, a disciple, watch out, the world wants to take that cross you are carrying and plant it in the ground—with you on it. Jesus said it would be so, and it is. 

Many people left Jesus when they started to realize that following Jesus was costly, so Jesus asked His disciples, “Are you also going to leave?” And Peter spoke for the rest of us and said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-68

So we must love the Lord above all others and surrender our very lives in following Him. As noble and romantic as that sounds, it is also the opposite of pursuing self interest in the world. So the third way you count the cost of following Him is to take an honest look at yourself. Look at your past choices, what has gotten you this far? Are you bearing the fruit of a sold-out follower of Jesus Christ? Or do you more honestly resemble one who’s faith is convenient, casual, even situational? What is your personal currency? A good job, looks, charm, work-ethic? Or humility, faith, repentance, transparency? Before you follow, do a self-assessment, find out if you are prepared to make that kind of commitment.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ Luke 14:28-30 NLT

None of us want to start a project, in this case, being a disciple of Christ, only to find it too costly and turn back to our old ways in a week or a year. Fortunately, for all who would choose to follow Christ, you are not alone, for the Holy Spirit comes alongside you, and dwells within you, and will provide all the strength that you might lack, power, dynamite, to be and ambassador and witness, martyr, for Christ (Acts 1:8).

Before diving headlong, though, Jesus has a fourth admonishment, one more area in which to count the cost of following Him, and that is, strategy. You need a plan.

“Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. Luke 14:31-33 NLT

In the same way kings and generals plan the actions of their troops, a man or woman must have a strategy for ordering their lives in such a way that they are able to follow Jesus. Like I told my oldest grandson the other day, “Live so God can use you.”

Jesus states it simply, “give up everything you own.” Now this could be literal because when we take stock we realize that we are under mountains of debt which makes us a slave of the lender, and we are not free to follow Christ to the extent that we desire and the first strategy is to get rid of some stuff! Or there is some other problem, habitual sin, anger, hated, laziness, and on and on. 

The problem is not necessarily what you have, but what has you. Get rid of it.

Dear one, the strategy for following Jesus is to humble yourself before God, repent, surrender, forgive those you are holding in judgement, and put Him first. Listen to His voice in the Word, have an eye for service, watch for open doors in conversation and ministry.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 NLT