Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:25-33
We have deeply perverted the message of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed. In our bid to build larger churches we have made it seem very easy for someone to become a follower of Jesus. Jesus didn’t do that, he didn’t sugar coat what it would mean to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus said it plain, “any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” In other words, fully detach your affections from this world, its relationships, and its stuff, including family if need be.
Let me address three errors that are prevalent in the American church and maybe in the church around the world.
- Come to Jesus and he will make all your dreams come true. Just walk by faith and what you desire will be given to you. This is a me-centered message. It’s all about me and bettering my life. It’s not about the kingdom of God.
- Just believe the gospel and you will make heaven, no problem. The gospel is a gospel of grace so how you live is of little consequence. You were chosen before the foundation of the world so relax, God’s got this. Again, this message is not about the kingdom of God, but my salvation.
- How you live determines whether or not you make heaven. This is a legalistic message that is also not about the kingdom of God. The grace of God is lost in this message and God’s sovereignty is subservient to human behavior.
All of these positions contain an element of truth but are a perversion of what Jesus taught. If we come back to the truth that Jesus actually challenged his followers with these falsehoods will be addressed.
If you don’t give up on your own dreams, the priority of your own family, the idea that it is your spiritual work that will determine whether or not you are deemed one of Jesus’ disciples, then you will never know the joy of really being a disciple of Jesus.
The metaphor of the cross speaks to the fact that we are to die to ourselves or else we can’t be a disciple of Jesus. Selfish motives have to be repented of and renounced. “…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.“
Jesus was letting us know that following him, being his disciple, will cost us something and if we haven’t already renounced our attachment to “all that we have” we will find our faithfulness to Jesus challenged by our affections for things of this world.
In our culture in the United States, we don’t generally face physical persecution. We aren’t usually beaten or stoned for our faith nor have our heads cut off. Brothers and sisters around the world do face these precise forms of persecution. So, what are we attached to that blunts our ability to be salt and light to those around us? A common attachment is our employment. If I follow Jesus at work, will I lose my job? Have you renounced your job or career in order to be a disciple of Jesus?
My family doesn’t like me following Jesus. If I speak up about what Jesus has done for me, I may be ostracized from my family. Have you learned to hate your own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even your own life? Hate, as used here, is hyperbole. We are actually taught by Jesus to love our neighbors which include our family. Jesus is saying that our love for him is so primary that our love for our families will look like hate when compared to our love for Jesus.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”Luke 10:25-27
Jesus is reiterating this Great Commandment from another point of view. Instead of saying, “Love God,” he is saying, “Love me.” Our love for Jesus as expressed in the Great Commandment is all-encompassing, all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our strength, and all of our minds. There is no part of our being that is left out of the Great Commandment.
What do we do with this all-encompassing demand of Jesus?
Step one is an honest heart, willing to repent, turning to Jesus in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what areas of your life are not fully loving Jesus. What things or people are there in this world that hold a more prominent place in our hearts than Jesus. These things or people are idols from which we need to repent and renounce, to use Jesus’ word.
Step two, I am reminded of the words of Mary, “Whatever he says to you, Do it!”