The High Cost of Following Jesus

Counting the Cost of Discipleship

The Cost of Following Jesus

The Lord clearly instructed and affirmed me to proclaim His work in my life through blogging. But when I prioritized my physical needs over the work He wanted me to do, He revealed my heart’s response:

“Yes, Lord, I’ll do what your told me. But first I need to be stable with my new work so I can provide for myself and the task you want me to do.”

Sounds familiar?

In Luke 9:57-62 we find three people who wished to follow Jesus but in the end went away because of the high cost of discipleship.

As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Previous passages tell us about Jesus and His ministry. He preached the Gospel, taught about the Kingdom of heaven, healed the sick, fed thousands, cast out demons, did miraculous signs and wonders. And a large crowd had followed Him.

Jesus’ conversation with these three people teaches us the high cost of following Him.

1. Giving Up Personal Comfort and Convenience

Someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.

Matthew 8:18-22 specifies this someone was a scribe. A scribe is one learned in Jewish law; a religious teacher. They were highly educated and among the wealthier citizens.

Scribes were generally hostile to Jesus. Many times, Jesus opposed and corrected their legalistic teachings together with the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

And here we see a scribe calling Jesus as Teacher and saying he would follow Him wherever He would go.

But Jesus knew what was in his heart. So He replied even animals have their own homes but He, the Son of Man, doesn’t have a place to lay His head. Jesus was functionally homeless; He and His disciples stayed in homes of those who would take them in.

In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus sent out the Apostles to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. They stayed in houses where they were welcomed. Then in verses 51-56 of the same chapter, a Samaritan village didn’t welcome Jesus so they went to another village. Such was how Jesus and His disciples lived.

Jesus didn’t reject the scribe’s desire to follow Him. Instead, He wanted him to count the cost so he would understand what he was committing to. Wherever Jesus would go was definitely not a place of convenience or comfort. It was as if Jesus was saying, “Are you sure you want to be homeless with Me? Are you willing to face the sacrifices? Are you prepared to accept a lower standard of living for my sake? Are you sure you’re willing to give up your comfortable and convenient lifestyle for Me?”

For some people, it comes down to what’s in it for me?  That’s the wrong way to proclaim the Gospel.  It’s not about self-satisfaction, it’s about self-denial.  It’s not about what do I get when I get Jesus; it’s about what am I willing to give up. It’s about the level of desperation that says, “Look, I don’t make any bargains at this point. My condition is so desperate I want forgiveness and I want grace and I want heaven and I put no conditions on it.” – MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Barriers to True Discipleship”  Grace to You.

2. Giving Up Personal and Worldly Priorities

Then Jesus said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

In Jewish tradition, burial takes place immediately after death. The body is washed and not embalmed. There’s no public viewing of the body which, for them, is a sign of respect for the deceased. The end of the funeral signifies a transition of mourning for the immediate family. During the first seven days following the funeral, the mourners generally stay at home.

Jewish burial custom would allow us to understand that this person’s father wasn’t dead and needed to be buried. If he was, this son wouldn’t have been there with Jesus because they would bury their dead immediately and a time of mourning follows. Rather, he was waiting until his father died then he would follow Jesus.

It seems right that this son wanted to fulfill his responsibility to carry out the funeral arrangements of his parents. And he may have wanted to also obtain his inheritance from his father.

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

What does “spiritually dead” mean? The Bible says we’re dead because of our sins. Physically we’re alive but our spirit is dead because of our rebellion against God. This means when we die, we will be forever separated from the love of God and experience His unending wrath.

But because of God’s love, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, as a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins so that by the grace of God through saving faith in Jesus Christ alone we can be saved. When we truly repent of our sins and trust only in the saving work of Jesus then God would make us alive with Christ, and forgive all our sins. And the Holy Spirit would dwell in us. 

The spiritually dead are those who still live in rebellion against God. They can’t understand the things of God because they don’t have the Spirit of God. They can’t preach about the Kingdom of God because this is foolishness to them. Only those who are part of the Kingdom of Heaven can proclaim about it.

Let the people in this world who are outside the kingdom of God take care of the dead. Leave temporal things to temporal people. Leave the matters of the temporal kingdom to the people who live in that kingdom. You are called to come into the Kingdom of God and for the rest of your life to go and proclaim the glories of that Kingdom. Let go of the kingdom of this world, even its good elements, even its noble responsibilities. –MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Barriers to True Discipleship”  Grace to You.

This doesn’t mean that God is indifferent to family relationships and responsibilities. But the man’s request would have involved putting tradition or his own desires ahead of serving Jesus. It reflects his commitment to Christ was only of secondary importance.

Sometimes we may find ourselves in a decision to choose between right and right. It’s good to fulfill our duties but should we choose our earthly duties over God’s calling for us? Would you choose what is good in exchange for what is best?

3. Giving Undivided Devotion to Jesus

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

This man simply wants to say goodbye to his family which seems reasonable.

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus is talking about a farmer using a plow on a field. The man put his hand to the plow to start plowing. The goal of the farmer is to make straight rows in the earth. He does this by looking at a distant object. Jesus creates a picture of a farmer who rather than looking straight ahead at a distant object is constantly looking back at things. This would result in a crooked and curved plow line. If that happens, the field he is plowing will not yield a full harvest.

But why would he become unfit for the Kingdom of God?

Jesus’ reply uncovered the nature of this man’s problem. His heart was back home, not with his Lord.

Putting our hands on the plow means we have decided to commit our lives to God. When God calls us to Himself, we are expected to give our whole heart, our complete undivided devotion. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The description of a farmer who keeps looking back shows he’s distracted with other things. We cannot follow Jesus wholeheartedly if we’re distracted with things of this world.

There was no way that he was fit for the Kingdom of God because he was holding on to the kingdoms of this world.

When Jesus invited someone to come into His kingdom, when Jesus invited someone to receive His forgiveness and salvation, He asked that person for the rest of his life. He didn’t want a moment. He didn’t want the emotion of a moment. He wanted the carefully thought out, understood, commitment of a lifetime. Repentance from sin, confession of Jesus as Lord, obedience from the heart to the Word and the Spirit was for life. And there was always that emphasis in the ministry of Jesus. He disdained the short-term disciple. He made things so difficult for many would-be disciples that, for example, in John 6 it says, “Many of His disciples walked no more with Him.” The standard was just too high. What was required was too demanding. — MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Barriers to True Discipleship”  Grace to You.

Are there things we’re allowing to hinder our service to the Lord? Jesus calls us to give our unreserved commitment to Him. And just like what Paul said in Philippians 3, let us forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead, let us press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Who Do I Love More?

Growing up in a family that values hard work, it became the center of my pursuit. I was driven and didn’t want anything to hinder me from achieving my goals. Until the Lord stopped me in my tracks, changed my perspective, and made me realize the importance of relationships. My family became my priority and my work had become only a means to help and provide.

But now the Lord wants me to reflect: Which is my priority? To whom is my allegiance? What is the utmost desire of my heart? Who is at the center of my pursuit?

Leaving my work means more than literal unemployment:

  • It means leaving any residual desire to pursue and achieve career growth
  • It means being unable to provide for myself which challenges self-sufficiency
  • It means humbling myself down to ask for help and even depend on my family for provision
  • It means forsaking my family, which is a result from being unable to help them financially
  • It means separating myself from the responsibility I’ve always enjoyed doing and instead enabling me to completely focus on God’s call for me

Ultimately, it signifies detachment from everything I value.

Jesus said, “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well.” (Luke 14:26)

Do I love my family more than I love the Lord? Or do I love myself and my work more than I love the Lord?

My work no longer has anything I desire except provision for my family. But the Lord promised me, “I will take care of your family.” His emphasis on I, meaning He will; it’s not for me to do. My family needs the Lord, not me. If the Lord has been taking care of them, what other concerns do I have? My duty is to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the purpose of my existence.

Jesus made His leading clear, affirmed me many times, corrected my priorities and enabled me to see the bigger picture. But there were times I hear myself ask Him: “Why can’t I be generous to my family? Why do You want to remove my joy of providing for them?”

Because this is God’s way of detaching me from my family, reminding me not to worry for them and enabling me to focus on His call for me. I cannot put my hand to the plow and look back.

These examples in Luke 9 allowed me to understand this is the cost of following Him. The cost Jesus requires of me is to leave the people I love to proclaim the Gospel to people I do not know. Should I choose the joy of serving my family over the greatest joy of serving the Lord?

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)

Read the whole series about Olivia Temporal’s “Unconventional Calling”.

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