Sermon for Pentecost XIII
September 8, 2019
In the Gospel reading for today Jesus calls upon us to count the cost of discipleship. An important factor in counting the cost is the timing. Before you begin a building project, you want to know how much it is going to cost so that the project can be completed. That way you can have the necessary cash on hand or make application for the loan that will cover the cost and the project can be completed. It saves heart ache and embarrassment.
In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus shows how being a casual Christian just doesn’t cut it. Part of counting the cost in our relationship with the Lord is recognizing how difficult it can be.
Jesus said, “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.” But didn’t Jesus also say that we are to love our family members and show concern for them? Jesus is pointing out that to count the cost, we are to love and honor Him above everything else, including our family members, and yes, even ourselves.
Abraham waited many years for the Lord’s promise to give him a son to come true. He even tried to help the Lord by fathering a child with Sarai’s maidservant, Hagar. Ishmael was not the son of promise. The Lord God would keep His promise to Abraham by opening Sarah’s womb and giving them a child when Abraham was 100 years old. Isaac was the fulfillment of that promise. He brought great joy to Abraham and Sarah. But, did Abraham love Isaac more than he loved the Lord? The Lord tested Abraham, commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice. God said to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2) The next morning Abraham saddled his donkey. He followed the Lord’s command. He was willing to kill his son. The Lord saw Abraham’s faithfulness and blessed him for it. He even provided a ram, caught in the thicket for Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son. Counting the cost involves Godly choices and sacrifice.
While we want what is best for our families, I want you to wrestle with a few questions as it relates to the care of your children. In what specific ways do your children see you demonstrate to them that your relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in your life? Do you talk about Jesus at the dinner table or in the car? Do your speech and your spending show that you belong to the Lord? Do you take the time to hear God’s Word and celebrate His love around the dinner table or at bed time through daily devotions? Are you instilling habits like regular worship and Bible study that will set the path for a lifetime of faithful devotion to Christ? As much as we might desire to count the cost and bear the cross, we are not able to do so on our own. With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
To turn our back on the Lord is to put our eternal life at risk. The devil works overtime to sever us from our loving Lord Jesus. There are so many voices out there screaming at us to renounce the Lord. They are getting louder and bolder. It is part of bearing the cross. Consider the swift response to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees calling on students to participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day as a celebration of faith and religious freedom in America. There have been calls for him to retract his invitation because he is anti- LGBTQ. Really? Encourage students to simply bring their Bible to school and get accused of hate-speech. There is more of that coming our way.
There is One who counted the cost and bore the cross. It was Jesus. He prayed that there might be another way. “Father, if You are willing, let this cup pass from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” He willingly drank that cup of suffering in our behalf. He went to Jerusalem, knowing it would cost Him His very life. He was stripped and mocked and beaten to a pulp. He suffered the pain that our sins deserve. It is only through the cross that He bore that there is any hope for us. His bearing the cross for us means that we are forgiven and can look forward to heaven. As followers of Christ, we also bear crosses of suffering, knowing that ultimately, the victory is ours through His sacrifice and victory. We will be told to keep silent. And yet faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. Jesus Christ is the only Savior from sin and it is a message that needs to be proclaimed boldly and with love.
What does it mean to be a disciple? It means that family comes second and God comes first. It means that we count the cost and recognize that, as Christians, there certainly is some cross bearing. And third, it means that we are to renounce our possessions. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33). Jesus is declaring that our possessions can be a roadblock to faith. What is important to you? What is it that gives you a sense of well-being and comfort? Having the nice things that money can buy is not a sin. Loving those things and having them take the place of God is a sin. We live in a such an affluent society that, for the most part, we don’t really know what it is to live without the necessities of life. We tend to the take the Lord for granted, expecting that He is going to continue to provide for us, even when we forget to thank Him. Having the nice home, the new car, the lake or river front property, the latest technology in our computers, and kids that are active in their favorite interest, tend to drive our lives. The challenge for us is striking the balance that recognizes these as gifts from the Lord so that they don’t become the driving force in our lives. If there is an activity or a possession that is driving a wedge between you and the Lord, He is calling upon you to seek His will and take action that truly honors Him. To not follow Him is to put at risk all that He accomplished for us. It is to throw away the peace that accompanies His forgiveness and joyful anticipation of heaven.
In order to truly honor Him, we are all called to listen to His Word. As Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Even when we hear things that may sting us, we are called to listen in order that we might confess our sins and receive the gift of forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. As the crowds followed Jesus, He was calling upon them to be hearers of the Word of God. Today, that call goes out to you and to me. As hearers of the Word, we will follow Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross, and beyond that to the empty tomb and ultimately up to heaven. The road to heaven leads through Calvary where our Lord Jesus suffered all, even death, out of love for you and for me. In fact, His blood covers all of our sins. To be sure, our Lord Jesus not only counted the cost, He paid the price and carried our cross that we might be His forgiven children, both now and forever. To Him be all praise!