Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 13, 1999
Please turn with me to Luke 14:25-35. Jesus came with a mission to save mankind. He lived and shared - died and was resurrected - so that we can know God. He was on a mission - and in these verses there is a very hard challenge for us if we are to follow Jesus in reaching our world with the Gospel.
Luke 14:25: Now great multitudes accompanied Him.... Let me pause there for a moment. When Jesus was teaching and ministering to the people - there were huge crowds that followed Him around - mostly with very selfish motives.
They were “Jesus groupies” - fans - an entourage - who were looking for Him to do miracles - or cause political revolt - or they followed Him out of curiosity. They followed Him for what they could get for themselves - good feelings and their own agenda. This is the multitude that Jesus is about to tell what it really means to follow Him in His mission.
Verse 25: Jesus turned to the multitude and said to them, “If any one 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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
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. Otherwise, when he has laid a 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 encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men throw it away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
There are three significant things that Jesus says here about what it means to follow Him in His mission. First, Jesus says, if you want to follow Me then....
1. SERVING GOD MUST COME BEFORE EVERYTHING ELSE (verse 26)
In our Armenian culture - as in the culture of Jesus’ day - the family was sacred - to be valued above everything else. In Turkey - not many years ago - the preservation of family was at the heart of our culture. Everything revolved around what kept the family safe and healthy - the way our houses were built with multiple generations living together - the customs of marriage and work and relationships - the order of authority in the home. All of this was well defined and respected and it kept the families going. And we experience this in our families today - even subconsciously these customs are still there.
Its not hard to imagine why this was. Outside of the family there was a hostile - dangerous - deadly world. So, to betray the family was sacrilege. It was unheard of. It was a disaster. To betray the family - leaving it or going against its will or structure - was the greatest sin a person could commit.
Jesus says, to follow Me comes even before your family. What's most valuable to us? Our family? Occupation? Schooling? Ethnicity? Ourselves? Jesus said, put aside everything else and follow Me.
Second, Jesus says, if you want to follow Me then....
2. YOU MUST COUNT THE COST (verses 27-33)
Verse 27: “anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
The cross - for Jesus - stood for shame - humiliation - degradation. He was hung on a criminal’s cross. On the cross Jesus was demeaned and debased.
The cross we carry isn’t just inconvenience or hardship - something we have to “endure” because we’re Christians - its not a difficulty or a trial. The cross is symbolic of what reduces us to humility - offends our pride - shames us - exposes the sin in our lives - until we are totally surrendered to God. And that’s a painful process of daily living - before others - in deepening openness to God.
Paul describes this in Galatians 2:20. He writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”
Jesus gives two illustrations of counting the cost.
First the tower - verses 28-30. In this day of cost over-runs and padded expense accounts this almost seems silly. A wise builder should calculate the financial cost of his project before he begins to build - to make sure he has the resources necessary to complete the project.
This is a hard question: If we want to follow Jesus - to take up our cross - are we willing to see that commitment through to the end?
Second - in verses 31 and 32 - Jesus talks about a king confronted with a battle. The wise king will seek council - how to approach the battle. He asks the questions, “What am I up against? Can I win?”
Its a question of choosing our enemies - picking our battles. Thinking about what we’re getting ourselves into.
Matthew suffered martyrdom - being killed with a sword in Persia. Mark died in Alexandria - after being bound and dragged through the streets. John was put in a caldron of boiling oil - but miraculously escaped death - and was exiled to Patmos. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. James - the Greater - was beheaded at Jerusalem. James - the Less - was beaten and stoned to death by a mob. Bartholomew was flayed alive in Armenia. Andrew was hung on a cross for three days while he preached the Gospel to his persecutors until he died. Thomas was run through with a spear. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Matthais was first stoned and then beheaded. Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death at Salonica. Paul - after various tortures and persecutions - was finally beheaded in Rome by the Emperor Nero.
The Bible describes the Christian’s adversary - Satan - as a roaring lion - constantly seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) The Apostle John wrote, “Do not be surprised if the people of the world hate you.” (1 John 3:13) Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before you.” (John 15:18) To follow Jesus means being a target for Satan and this world’s enemy.
Jesus says, think about what you’re getting yourself into. Do you really want to be my disciple? To follow Jesus in His mission means to be laid completely open so that all that is left is the visible working of Jesus in our lives.
Third, Jesus says, if you want to follow Me then you will....
3. BE BURDENED WITH THE NEED TO REACH OTHERS WITH MY GOSPEL (verses 34,35)
On the morning after Palm Sunday, Jesus and His disciples were on their way into Jerusalem. While they were walking Jesus became hungry. So, He went over to a fig tree - there by the side of the road - looking for figs. But, all He found on the tree were leaves.
Jesus said to the tree, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit on you.” And the tree withers from roots up - it dies. (Matthew 21:18-20) The tree is cursed by Jesus because it failed to bear fruit.
This is a teaching that’s repeated over and over again in scripture. My disciples bear fruit. Jesus said to His disciples: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit...” (John 15:16) Jesus chooses us and appoints us to the task of bearing fruit. Jesus said, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15:8) A fruitful ministry is the proof that we are Jesus’ disciples.
What does Jesus say in Luke 14: “Salt is good, but if it loses its taste there’s no way to make it good again. Its not good for the soil or for the manure pile.”
There’s either good salt or bad salt. Good salt is infectious - it adds flavor - it transforms food - it produces something good - “fruit.” Bad salt is thrown out - its worthless - its “cursed.”
This parallels what Jesus said to His disciples during the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13) What Jesus is talking about is the basic command that is given to every disciple of His: You are to produce fruit - infect others with My Gospel - reproduce yourself by bringing others to Me. It not an option. Its a command. The alternative is being cursed by God.
Jesus spoke to the religious leaders of Israel. He warned them, “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a people who will produce the proper fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) The same principle can be applied to individuals and churches - and I’ve seen this - God removing His hand of blessing because they’ve become complacent with the great blessings of the past - because they’re self-satisfied and self-absorbed and have stopped bearing fruit.
The definition of fruitfulness for us - here at Calvary - must include the conversion of unbelievers.
Many churches are like fisherman who go out on a lake and expect the fish to jump into the boat and then they club them to death. When Jesus told the disciples to follow Him - He said “Come with Me and I will teach you to catch men.” (Mark 1:17) There are skills to be learned - a plan to be developed and followed. Catching fish - catching men with the Gospel doesn’t just happen.
We’re not just to live faithful Christian lives - attending church - financially supporting the ministry - being morally pure - and somehow through all this God will work and bring people to Him. Jesus says we are to burdened with reaching people with Gospel. That means we need to purpose and plan to reach others.
These are tough questions. But in faithfulness to Jesus we must ask ourselves these questions. As an “evangelical” church what plan do we have to reach others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As individual Christians, what plan do we have to reach others with the Gospel? If we don’t have one. We need one.
Jesus said, if you really want to follow Me - not just follow along because of the good feelings and what you hope to get from Me - if you really want to follow Me - as My disciples - on my mission - then serving God must come before everything else - you must count the cost - and you will be burdened with the need to reach others with My Gospel.
Many years ago, archaeologist discovered the tomb of Charlemagne - the 8th and 9th century king and emperor of France. When the tomb was opened - after being closed for centuries - the men who entered it found something amazing. Of course they found certain treasures of the kingdom. But, in the center of the large vault was a throne - and seated on the throne was the skeleton of Charlemagne - with an open Bible on his lap - and a bony finger pointed at the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:26: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
What really is the priority of our lives? Are we the mission field or the missionaries? Do we follow the world or do we follow Jesus?