“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cost of Discipleship - Part I

I spoke this weekend on the Cost of Discipleship. It seems that this is a topic that has gone out of favor amongst the Christian community. I have heard a variety of reasons, mostly those that have to do with 'chasing away seekers', I even had one person tell me that it was this type of preaching that was hurting the church!

It would seem that some believe that the way to get someone to come to Christ is lull them into it through good music, designer coffee, and a rational 'discussion' that enables them to weigh all the options and make a decision as to the 'validity' of the claims of Christ!

And you would definitely not tell these people that there is a cost to discipleship! So often the message, implicitly, or explicitly from Christians, is that once you come to Christ EVERYTHING gets easier. If you want to be richer, prettier, more athletic, and have a winning smile, just come to Christ! This is often the message posed to people but it paints an unrealistic picture of discipleship (true discipleship)

True discipleship is a call to die to self! That is not a popular message, so it is often muted, or ignored.

Yet, in the passage I spoke on this weekend, it would seem that Jesus Himself approached things rather differently. I spoke out of Matthew 8:18 - 22. This is an interesting juxtaposition from the immediately preceding verses.

In those verses Jesus approaches two people who, it would seem, would have been outside the pale of God's 'acceptance'; a leper, and a Roman Centurion.

The first would have been an outcast considered unclean, and adjudged by God as accursed (see Numbers 12 and 2nd Chronicles 26). This rotting, stinking walking corpse would have been in constant torment, separated from the family of God (Israel) and forced to live in the outer areas of town.

The second man was an avowed enemy of God and His people -- a man who oppressed and subjugated the nation of Israel. And this was no ordinary man in the Roman ranks, He was a centurion -- a leader who commanded the men who were oppressing Israel!

Yet Jesus heals the one, and heals the servant of the other. This would have been shocking in that day and age.

And then this week we see a SCRIBE approach Jesus, and make a wonderful profession as to his willingness to follow Jesus. Now, you would think that after Jesus had been willing to heal the aforementioned two, then He would gladly welcome this scribe. But, Jesus does something unexpected -- He challenges the scribe; "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Interestingly, we never hear from the scribe again.

The second man makes a seemingly simple request - "Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” but Jesus, in a seemingly callous way, says “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”.

It would seem that Jesus is acting in an irrational manner, wouldn't it? Yet, when this passage is examined we find a profound message. First, in the case of the leper and the Roman Centurion, we see those whom Jesus came to save -- the ones who were outside the gates, doomed to death and avowed enemies of God.

Are we really any different than the leper? We were, before Christ, clothed in the stinking rags of our own righteousness, outside the gates with no hope of entering in, separated from the people of God and cursed with an incurable disease. Yet, like the leper the redeemed are drawn to Christ to say "If you will, you can make me clean", and He has said "I will, be clean".

And likewise, we are reflected in the Centurion -- an enemy of God and His people (witness Paul); one who oppressed God's people. Yet, Jesus brought healing into our lives, even with our enmity towards Him -- "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Now, what of these next two? Well, the Scribe seems to have been caught up in the moment -- I am sure it was an exciting time; this rabbi had come down from the mountain and healed two men, the crowds were growing, and in his exuberance, the scribe exclaims "Jesus, I will follow you anywhere". Sadly, in today's church we would go no further and instantly put him in a leadership role (he was, after all, a scribe!). I see this in many cases where a celebrity or sports figure (what is the difference anyway?), has a salvation 'experience' and the next week is preaching to throngs of people. But Jesus informs the scribe that following Him may not be what the scribe thinks it is. There is a cost to discipleship. And it does not matter if you are a scribe or a leper, the cost is the same -- “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?"

As I said previously, we never hear from this scribe again.

I just realized that this post is getting a bit lengthy, even for me, so I will continue these thoughts in my next post.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe the person who said this kind of preaching was hurting the church was in OUR congregation (at least I hope not). We need more of this kind of preaching and plenty of it.

You go, Ray!


Ray said...

No, it was not in our church -- but it was a friend that I thought I knew...