Costly Discipleship

Home Church Devotional 1/9/2021

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”                                    Mark 8:34-38 (NASB)

Most everything we choose to do today has a cost of some sort attached to it. Whether we are simply watching a movie at home, playing an online game, enjoying a night out or taking our yearly vacation – somewhere, somehow, they all cost us something. One cost many of us forget to consider is the cost of our time – we invest our time in everything we do, so we invest our time wisely. Money, of course, is an obvious cost but what about the cost of our mental and emotional state? Cost is involved, and sometimes hidden, in all we do.

What about following Jesus? Is there cost involved in becoming a disciple of Jesus? While many have been deceived into thinking that following Jesus would cost them nothing, Jesus warned His disciples about the cost of following Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus uses two different examples, the cost of building a tower and the cost of a king going to battle, to illustrate the cost of following Him. Once again, it is not just money we need to be concerned about – following Jesus affects our entire life and lifestyle. Following Jesus means Costly Discipleship which carries a price tag too high for many to pay. In our passage today, Jesus lays down three (3) conditions or costs of discipleship that we must address in order to follow Jesus – and trust me, they are very costly!

As we consider discipleship and following Jesus, we must ask ourselves several questions; are there really costs involved in following Jesus? And if so, what are the costs of following Jesus? Can following Jesus really be that expensive in our world today? I mean, we have everything we need right at our fingertips! We don’t even need to buy a Bible anymore we can just download it for free on our phones!! Following Jesus requires Costly Discipleship at a price you may not be willing to pay.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Cost #1 – Costly Discipleship requires complete surrender to Jesus.

Denying self and self-denial are not the same thing. Self-denial is when we give up things or activities but denying self comes when we are completely surrendered to Jesus and have determined to follow His will. From our human perspective it may seem as if we are losing ourselves but from God’s perspective, we are finding our true self. When we live for Jesus, we become more like Him bringing out our unique individuality.

Denying self is the turning away from the idol of self-centeredness and attempts to orient our lives by the demands and desires of self-interest. We are called to put away our selfish ambitions and the desire for immediate material satisfaction and discover our true self and God’s interests. We move from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Here we take up our cross by publicly displaying our submission and obedience to the authority of Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We can choose to live a life of indulging-self or we can live a life of denying self. This means we can choose to live a life of comfort and ease in the world or we can choose to live a life of commitment and discipleship in Christ. We can choose to chase a life of wealth and prosperity in the world or we can choose to live a life of works and compassion in Christ. We can choose to seek a life of recognition and fame in the world or we can choose to live a life of humility and sacrifice in Christ. We can choose to pursue a life of position and power in the world or we can choose to live a life of service and ministry in Christ. We can choose to desire a life of pleasure and feelings in the world or we can choose to live a life of righteousness and self-control in Christ.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Cost #2 – Costly Discipleship requires you to identify with Jesus in His suffering and death.

When Jesus told the crowds to take up their cross, they knew exactly what He meant, they saw it often under Roman oppression. The image of many condemned to death, carrying the beam of the cross they were to be crucified upon would immediately flash into the minds of those who heard these words. The cross is always an instrument of death, not just something to be carried on the shoulder. Christians are to die mentally and actively each day. We are to have the mind of Christ – humbling one’s self to the point of death, allowing Christ to be in us and filling our thoughts every day.

The motivation for true discipleship is for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. To deny self or lose yourself, is not an act of desperation but an act of devotion that does not stop there – our personal devotion should lead to practical duty, sharing the gospel with others in the lost world. Because we live for Christ we must also live for others! The reward for true discipleship is becoming more like Christ and sharing in His glory. Satan, seeking to deceive, promises glory but in the end, we receive suffering. God, in His holiness, promises suffering but in the end that suffering is turned into glory. If we acknowledge Jesus and live for Him, He will acknowledge us that we might share in His glory.

If we are to identify with Christ in His suffering and death, followers of Jesus must be willing to face literal rejection, abuse and even death. So, we have a choice to make, will we choose to save our life here on earth by trying to stop aging, decaying and even death and deny the sacrifice of Christ; will we seek to save our life by making it more and more comfortable and secure and neglect Christ and our relationship with Him; will we seek to save our life by gaining more wealth, power and fame and compromise the message of Christ; or will we seek to save our life by chasing thrill, excitement and stimulation while ignoring the call of Christ? If we choose the former the result is losing our life and our soul, in contrast, by choosing the latter, we save our life for an eternity through Christ Jesus.

If we are to identify with Christ, then we must also share the gospel message with others. Remember, if we live for Christ we must also live for others. The person who abandons their life, who sacrifices and gives all they are and all they have for the gospel shall save their life. But the person who keeps their life and all that they have and attempts to keep themselves and their family free from the suffering and needs of this world—that person shall lose their life. Again, there is a choice to be made; a life of the comforts of home or a life as an explorer and pioneer with Christ; a lifetime spending all we have on the desires of self and family or a life of sacrifice and giving in Christ; a lifetime spent attending to our own self-centered wants and desires or a lifetime invested in others by visiting, sharing and ministry through Christ. Allowing ourselves to die and be replaced by life in Christ is the highest price we must face.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Cost #3 – Costly Discipleship requires you to follow Jesus in complete obedience – wherever He may lead.

The final cost is the most difficult cost for believers to face – complete obedience to Christ. This comes down to what we value most – the things you have accumulated on earth or your eternal soul. While Jesus has called the crowds to gather around as He spoke to His disciples, this message is directed pointedly at the disciples. These are the men who have already confessed Him as the Son of God, so why this message at this time to those who already believe in Him? Jesus is not telling the disciples or the crowd how to be saved and go to heaven, rather He is telling them how to save their lives and make the most of their opportunities while on earth.

Will you choose to use the opportunities God gives you to share the gospel or will you ignore them and choose to build your comfort and security on earth? We can choose money and property and ignore the call of Christ to meet the needs of others. Money and property are fleeting, but the choice is yours. We can choose position and power over the call of Christ to give our life where it will do the most good. Position and power are held for a short time, but the choice is yours. We can choose freedom and pleasure over the call of Christ to strengthen families and children. Freedom and pleasure only last as long as you are in the moment, but the choice is yours. How will you choose to handle the opportunities God has given you?

Here is the hard part, following Jesus will lead us to places unexpected, require work unforeseen and test the limits of our absolute obedience to Jesus. We were never promised this would be easy, only that He would be with us always. To be in obedience is to hear and listen in a state of submission. To obey what we hear as we listen is to trust. Our response of obedience to the call of Christ is a response of trust or faith. Our obedience comes forth from gratitude for the grace we have received. Our love for God should also motivate us to obedience. For the believer, true obedience means we imitate God in holiness, humility and love. A life of obedience is the fruit of our faith and trust in the call of Jesus.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Most everything we choose to do today has a cost of some sort attached to it. Whether we ae simply watching a movie at home, playing an online game, enjoying a night out or taking our yearly vacation – somewhere, somehow, they all cost us something. One cost many of us forget to consider is the cost of our time – we invest our time in everything we do, so we invest our time wisely. Money, of course, is an obvious cost but what about the cost of our mental and emotional state? Cost is involved, and sometimes hidden, in all we do.

What about following Jesus? Is there cost involved in becoming a disciple of Jesus? While many may have been deceived into thinking that following Jesus would cost them nothing, Jesus warned His disciples about the cost of following Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus uses two different examples, the cost of building a tower and the cost of a king going to battle, to illustrate the cost of following Him. Once again, it is not just money we need to be concerned about – following Jesus affects our entire life and lifestyle. Following Jesus means Costly Discipleship which carries a price tag too high for many to pay.

Jesus has laid out three costs of discipleship we must address as His followers. There are choices to be made each day, and they are not easy choices. The lure and pull of the world are strong today. The demands that Christians especially bend to the concepts and ideal of society press harder against us each day. Costly Discipleship will become increasingly costly in the days ahead. There are those who simply do not want God in our country and as Christians we are His voice in a world growing darker by the day.

And so, we fight, but not as the world fights. We fight from our knees, bowed before the Creator of the world, the One whose image we bear. We must intercede for our nation and leaders. We must come before God in true repentance for the sins of our nation. We must cry out to God to awaken His slumbering church to rise and carry the gospel message throughout the land. We must seek to be obedient to the word of God, trusting Him to protect and guide us along the way. Pray like your life depends on it because it just may!

Yes, we have choices to make and no they are not easy but if we are truly trusting Christ, if we remain obedient to His word and calling, in the end the suffering we may experience will lead to the sharing of His glory. While it may be unsettling and a little scary, the One who has called you into fellowship with His Son is faithful and complete the work He has begun in all of us. The three conditions Jesus lays out are indeed costly. But the reward of becoming more Christlike is priceless!

May God strengthen you as you fight to remain obedient and trusting to the call of Jesus in your life.

Amen and Amen.

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