September 4th 2016
Introduction: We are continuing our walk through the Gospel of Luke this week. We have a text that has been at the very core of who the Church of the Brethren has been since it beginning. “Counting the Cost” is the title of a book about the life of the founder of the Brethren movement, Alexander Mack(Sr. &Jr.). It is written by William G. Willoughby. Counting the cost of discipleship is who we say we are, it is chief among our core values.
What does it cost to be a disciple, a student, a follower of Jesus Christ? In our text, Jesus teaches that being his follower means being willing to give up everything, even one’s own life!
Ill. As a young pastor and father, I loved my children and Vivian deeply, and I wanted to participate in their lives. The work of ministry often called me away and made this passage especially difficult. Was I willing to give up those I loved and even my own life for the sake of Jesus Christ? Was I willing to give up everything?
How about you? Many of you have families, careers, interests that are very near and dear to your hearts, are you willing to give them up, to sacrifice them for the sake of the Gospel? I think before we can honestly answer this question we need to know and understand just what the Gospel is. It is the good news of God’s love for all of God’s children, to put it in simple terms. On the surface this teaching seems pretty harsh and difficult, so let’s dig a little deeper and see if we can make sense of it’s deeper meaning. How is this message and relationship to Jesus in conflict with our love for family, and our work, and our very lives?
The text talks about our “hating” parents and siblings, even our very lives. What is it saying to us? I have often reflected on this as the depth of love that we are called to for Jesus. Perhaps hate is the wrong word here but I cannot think of one better. It is not saying that I don’t love these important persons in my life, instead I understand it to mean that my love for Jesus is to be so great that these other relationships would appear to be as hate, even for my own life. My life does not belong to me but rather to God!
Two powerful principles emerge from this important text, first, Jesus Christ is the founder of a new family line in the family of faith. There is no bloodline accept what is common to ALL of humanity. That is, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and only through the shed blood of Jesus do we have hope and salvation!
Second, being whole heartedly, and single mindedly, committed to Jesus’ vision of sharing the message of God’s love is our soul purpose as individuals and as a community of faith. Everything else is superficial!
I.) I learned in my study of this text that willingness is the key.
A.) Most of us, myself included, have never been asked by God to actually give up those we love or to give up our physical life.
1. We have been and are being asked by God, to take careful stock of the things that we believe that are simply false.
2. We have been and are being asked by God, to give up not so Christlike attitudes madeand prejudices that we hold onto.
3. We have been and are being asked by God, to forgive those who have wronged us and to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged.
4. Being a follower of Jesus requires us to make ourselves completely available to God, holding nothing back.
5. Willingness! Truly this is the key to living the Christian life to it’s fullest.
Ill. This made me think of the powerful hymn, I surrender all, all to Jesus, I surrender all!
II.) We must count the cost before we agree to go the way of Christ in our lives.
A.) All to often we don’t read the fine print of the agreement, so to speak.
Ill. I love the commercial about auto insurance where it talks about reading all of your policy and knowing what really says is and isn’t in it. Did you read what was on page 5? No? Well that’s when you find out it isn’t covered, whatever it may be!
1. In my experience, we often count the cost along the journey of our Christian living.
2. We are tested in our commitment and willingness to serve God rather than humans; people get angry with us or shut us out of full participation or treat us as invisible; we experience betrayal or are forced to leave a place or a relationship.
3. Being willing to give up everything is taxing, scary, and risky; but the rewards far outweigh the cost!
4. How do we know it is worth the risk? Jesus said so and we must ask ourselves if we truly trust him or not!
III.) God calls us to be true to our deepest nature, our highest potential, and our greatest visions for human good.
A.) Jesus came to model the ways we can do this.
1. We can and will speak the truth even when it’s not popular.
2. We can and will focus on relationships rather than positions.
3. We can and will find joy in giving all that we have for the sake of Christ and the kingdom of God.
4. We can and will discover solutions that heal hearts, minds, and bodies, in individuals and in communities.
5. We can and will stand up for those prevented by injustice, prejudice, and hatred, from standing up for themselves.
Conclusion to message: Today is Labor Day. A day in which we celebrate the labors we preform. I think it would be good for us to acknowledge and celebrate the labors that we preform on behalf of Jesus Christ and his Gospel of love and peace.
As Christians we have different understandings and interpretations of Jesus and what he said and did. There is nothing wrong with that as long as we are willing to be tolerant and understanding of those who differ with us. The most important thing is to count the cost for our own lives of following Jesus so that we can make the commitment to stay with him no matter what. As we do, we will find that not being his disciples actually costs much more in stress, pain, and struggle. Jesus came so that we, all of humanity, can have abundant true life. He paid the ultimate cost of our weaknesses, failures, willfulness, and sin. Now we can do far more than we can hope for or imagine because of Christ within us. We truly have nothing to lose! Everything!