Counting the Cost

Luke: The Road to Jerusalem  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  51:48
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Count the Cost to Your Love

Luke 14:25–26 KJV
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Whenever Jesus gathers a crowd, it seems like His first order of business is always to thin it out. There is a large group of people, maybe all travelling toward Jerusalem for the Passover, walking behind the Lamb of God without realizing it. They want to hear what He has to say, and He has a chance to begin rallying them into an army. It reminds me of Scar in the Lion King, telling the hyneas: “stick with me and you’ll never go hungry again.” How many preachers and teachers would have taken that moment as their chance to rally the troops with a smile and promise them that now is the time to overthrow Rome and usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity. But not Jesus.
He wants every man, woman, and child in that crowd to follow Him badly enough that He was on His way to give His life for each and every one of them. There would be blood and tears to bring them to Himself, but there would be no sugarcoating. If they came to Him and wanted to follow Him without forsaking every other relationship, then they simply couldn’t do it.
I have a friend who went to the mission field and faced great opposition for their grandparents: how can you take those babies away from me? But Christ must come first.
I am going to come back to “and his own life also,” but the first list is exhaustive. It goes up to your parents, side-to-side to your spouse and siblings, and down to your children. No relationship is protected from Christ’s claim to absolute supremacy in our lives. That is what it takes to be His disciple. The word “disciple” just means “student.” You cannot follow Jesus and learn to be like Him unless you are willing to put Him first in your heart. In the Christian life, everything we do is from the inside out. Our heart belongs to Jesus and so our life conforms to Jesus. If you want to follow Him and learn from Him, you must put Him first. You can memorize the Bible from front to back, read every theology book, and pray for insight in the deepest, darkest situations in your life. But if Christ is not first, there will be no light. He doesn’t honor a divided, unstable heart. Someone with Christ in second place cannot be His disciple.
The word “cannot” here is the Greek word for “no” and “dynamis,” or power, where we get our word dynamite. He is saying that if you do not hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, you do not have the power to be His disciple. It is like when your air conditioner kicks on and for a moment, the lights dim. There is not enough power to run both properly at the same time. Your heart doesn’t have the bandwidth to serve Christ and be a people-pleaser. No man can serve two masters - we must choose.
But I can hear you saying, “How can God really want us to hate all of those people”? Obviously Jesus is not overturning the command to honor your father and mother, and we know that the Bible calls us husbands to lay down their lives fore their spouses and to raise up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He is using hyperbole to smack us in the face with the importance of this commandment. In Matthew 10:37, when Jesus was making the same point, He said. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” If we are going to follow Him, our love for Jesus should be so intense and total that every other love seems like hatred by comparison. When Luke wrote these words down, it was no light thing. Following Jesus meant being rejected by your family and cast out of polite society. When push came to shrug, did you choose keeping mom happy or serving God? Jesus said that if you cannot make that decision, you cannot be His disciple - His follower.
In our society, things are not exactly the same. But sometimes they are. I know this is delicate and personal for many of you, but I cannot get around the weight of this text. If one of your family members wants you to support their sin to have a relationship with them, do you love their approval of Jesus’s more? Your brother comes to you and says that he doesn’t love his wife anymore, but he knows that if he divorces her, he can be happy with someone else. You love him, you don’t want to break his heart. But if you are going to follow Jesus, sometimes you will have to. If someone wants you to go to a wedding and celebrate something as marriage which the Bible says isn’t marriage, is your love for Jesus so intense that the deepest depths of familial love look like hate in comparison? If your best friend says that they are a different gender than the one that God gave them and you must choose between God’s side and their side, where is your love, and where is your loyalty? I can imagine Jesus saying, “If any man comes to me like that, he cannot be my disciple. He cannot really follow me.”
That’s a way to thin out a crowd. I picked the hot-button issues because those are the ones where Christians are forced to see who they really love today, but every generation has these pressure points. Some of us are just lucky that our weak spots are not the places the Devil is pushing this week. But Christ’s demand is extreme and total on all of us. He is Lord. He is first. He demands our hearts.
But let’s reflect on this a little bit more, because as we have seen, the Bible does tell us to love our spouses, children, parents, and so on. How can these things both be true? The answer is that when we put Jesus first, I do not love my wife less, I love her more. When my value and purpose in life does not depend on my children being happy with me at every moment, I can be a better, more loving father. If I am a slave to the whims of the people around me, I am not loving them, just enabling them. So while our love for everyone else looks like hatred in comparison to our love for Christ, it is still miles above what the world around us would call love.
Maybe that’s clearest when we think about what it means to hate your own life. Jesus does not mean that we should throw ourselves into the puts of depression and self-loathing. He means that we should give Him our all. Our own life should be of little value to us compared to the cause of Christ.

Count the Cost to Your Life

Luke 14:27 KJV
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
In our world, a cross is a decoration. But the Romans refused to speak the word in polite company. Whenever a convicted criminal destined for the worst punishment their society had devised went to the place of his execution, he drug his cross behind him. The slow scrape was an invitation for mockers to come and wag their tongues at him. It was a chance for him to serve as an example to others. Don’t follow in his footsteps or you will end up like me!
Of course, Jesus flips that whole thing on its head. He tells us that the bulk of it is true: if you follow in His steps, you will end up like He did. And as you carry your cross through life, you will face suffering and shame for His name’s sake. But the reward is that you get to be like Him. One of the strangest verses in the Bible is
Hebrews 5:8 KJV
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
Jesus learned to obey by suffering. He didn’t pick it up in a classroom. Like dragging a knife over a whetstone, learning to obey God requires painful pressure, over and over again. We become like Jesus by bearing our cross. The shame and self-denial dragging behind us sharpens us into who God has made us to be. It’s costly, and requires persistence and dedication. And like a great many things in life, if you quit early, there is little point.
Luke 14:28–30 KJV
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
In those days, wealthy landowners would build watchtowers to look over their vineyards. The bottom served as a kind of shed, and the top let you see what you were doing. Since this had a foundation, it was obviously a serious affair, maybe something more involved and costly than anyone in the crowd had ever built. That may be the point, since Jesus is demonstrating just how costly following Him is.
We have all seen these. The mansions that get started and abandoned. The restaurants that are announced and never open. It is always a bad sign when your “coming soon” sign needs repainting. When we start something and do not realize what it will take to finish it, we make a mockery of ourselves.
If God is calling you into some ministry, have you sat down and looked at what it will take? This is where the parable breaks down a little bit, because of course you don’t have what it takes to do what God is calling you to do! Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing.” But do you see, with clear and sober eyes, what God wants from you? Do you see that the path He is calling you to walk down are you willing to climb that hill, sweat, blood, and tears included?
Something like 60% of pastors leave ministry before retirement age. In some cases, there are legitimate reasons. In many cases, it is because they failed to count the cost.
Jesus’s point is not to discourage people from following Him. It is to get them to consider seriously what He is inviting them to, so that they will not be shocked and discouraged. So they can go the distance.
He switches the metaphors a little here.
Luke 14:31–33 KJV
Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
If none of His audience had ever built a massive tower, they had surely never led an army of ten thousand into battle. But notice the same beginning in verses 28 and 31 - he sits down first. Deciding what to do is not reactive, in the heat of the moment. It is careful, deliberative action. You sit down and say, “Am I ready to do this?”
Scholars debate the exact meaning of this parable, but I am sympathetic to the idea that the other king is God. In this case, then, the cost we are counting is the cost of not following. The King is coming - and you and I cannot withstand Him. We are going to lose everything we thought we had anyway - all of the money and stuff in the world will be ashes. Will we sit down, recognize that, and surrender our lives to Him? Or will they be pulled from us kicking and screaming?
Salvation is free - you need only to surrender! But when you have surrendered to the King of Kings, He calls you to forsake everything and follow Him.
Jesus closes with some ringing words.
Luke 14:34–35 KJV
Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Salt was impure in those days, and the actual NaCl could be leached out, leaving something that looked right, but was useless. Is that us? Are we salt that has lost its saltiness? It wasn’t good for killing the grass or going into the compost pile. Just trash.
So listen.
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