Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Counting the Cost to Follow

Have you ever been swept up in the moment? Excitement surrounds you at every angle. You seem to be on a high that will never end.

I have experienced times where the spirit of God is so strong in the room that I have felt if He pours anymore of Himself on me I would burst. Those emotionally, spirit filled times are amazing but we all have to come down eventually.

It must have been exciting to be called by Jesus Christ personally and become his follower. What an emotionally charged feeling it must have been to know that the Messiah was calling you to be his disciple. Just like us though, they had to come down to reality eventually. They too were given the truth of what it would cost them to follow.

Let's explore that today. What did it cost them to follow and what will it cost us also?

Matthew 8:19-22 - Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Then another of His disciples said to Him "Lord let me first go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Here we see Jesus with a multitude coming after Him; he had taught them and is ready to climb into the boat to go across to the other side. A young man, a scribe amongst the throngs of people has heard the call to follow. He has wrestled with his decision and in the last instance before Jesus is gone; he says "Teacher, I will follow you where ever you go."

What does Jesus tell this young man to do? Does he tell him come along, the more the merrier? No. He tells him to count the cost. He tells him that even the foxes have holes to sleep in and the birds have nest but the Son of Man lives in poverty and has nowhere to lay his head. Jesus is showing this young man the cost he will pay to follow. Jesus is asking him if he is willing to pay that price. Is he willing to give up everything and live in poverty just like Jesus does?

Then another following says to Jesus "Let me first go and bury my father" and He says "Follow Me, and let the dead bury the dead."

Seems a little harsh doesn't it? You would think this person had just lost his father to death and needed to go do his duty and bury him. Not the case.

Back in those days, it would have been part of the son’s responsibility to care for the father until his death. What this young man meant was he could not leave and follow Jesus until his father had died. Jesus tells him to let someone else care for his father. In other words, Jesus was posing a decision to this man, "Who will you put first, Me or your father?"

Just like these two men, we are asked the same things. Will we pay the price to follow? Will we put Jesus first before all things?

In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus spells out the cost for us:

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower does not sit down first and count the cost , whether he has enough to finish it - lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him. Saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish." Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."

We too must count the cost. Spelled out in black and white, Jesus calls for all. Everything must be given. Forsaking all things. There is no compromising. There is no holding on to old things or people. There is only Jesus and the path he has planned out for you.

He also asks, will we finish? Will we get down the road when the going gets tough and fall short, leaving ourselves open to be mocked? Or will we stay strong and cross the finish line?

For Jesus, there is no dragging along baggage with us. We are called to make the sacrifices needed to remain on the road with Him. We must shed the things of the past, maybe even the things that we love. Are we willing?

Now, I know that the cost looks high and a huge price to pay. But we are not asked to pay such a high price for no reason. We are also not called to pay the price alone. There are benefits that make it well worth the sacrifice here on earth.

In Mark 10:28-31 we see Peter remind Jesus "We have left all and followed You." Which in reply Jesus acknowledges there sacrifices and tells them they will reap a hundredfold in eternity those things they sacrificed. He tells them that many who are first will be last and the last will be first.

We may not reap all we would love to have here on this earth, but we are assured of great rewards lasting eternally. Our reward awaits with lasting benefits. We are assured of an eternity with Jesus in heaven. What better reward could there be?

There are however also some rewards that we are given now. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. That in itself is a great reward. The more we rely on the Spirit and leave behind our human nature we are given the blessing of fruit in our life. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) We are filled with these things in the midst of strife, struggle and trials.

Imagine having a peacefulness and joy filling you even in the midst of horrible circumstances. It is those qualities that gave Paul the ability to sing and praise God while chained in prison. It was also how the disciples were converted and sustained during much persecution.

I myself consider such abilities to be a great benefit and reward right now. We will never escape the bad in this world, whether we follow Jesus or not. Tragedy, murder and evil are here to stay. But we can have the Holy Spirit to give us what we need to navigate through difficult times.

John 8:12 - Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

We are not left alone to navigate through this world. If we choose to follow, we are given the light of the world to shine the way. We are not left in darkness but instead we are given a light to guide us through this life and into the next.


chevonee said...

Wow, this is a great post Sherri!! I believe that every Christian should realize that salvation is free but going higher in Christ comes with a price that we all must be willing to pay. God bless you Sherri, I look forward to learning more from you.

Chevonne Reynolds

Peter P said...

You mean that getting into heaven might actually cost me something?

There's a price to pay for following Jesus?

Personally, I'm happy to pay the cost. Jesus could never ask too much... but that's what holds so many people back from a real relationship with him.

We want it all but we want it for free.

Great post, Sherri!

Sherri Watt said...

Thanks Chevonne and Peter!

We do want it for free and we often think we deserve it. But we don't deserve what He has done for us. I don't know about you but I am grateful for His sacrifice!