Jesus confronts us with a calling that challenges us to give up pursuits that we hold dear.
Luke 14:26-27 “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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. [ESV]
I must confess I find Christ’s call strange or even offensive sometimes – I’ll be honest. How do I reconcile myself with what I’m encountering as I seek to follow Christ. If I neglect His demands and still go to Church on Sundays and call myself a Christian, I’ll be a hypocrite. I also can’t afford to soothe my conscience with theological quick-fixes. Reality will catch up with me – I’ll have to deal with it. I’ll share what’s going through my mind and heart recently as I’ve been taking a fresh look at my commitment and Christ’s call in my life.
Christ makes His demands clear
God never beats around the bush. He’s always burning in the midst of it. Jesus makes His call very clear. The terms and conditions of His call are nothing like an insurance company’s – they are black and white. Christ’s call demands that I lay down every single pursuit of personal benefit. At the end of His call, Jesus makes it clear.
Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. [ESV]
This is totally contradictory to the way the world works – and the direction in which my sinful heart is naturally inclined. This is radical but this is what Jesus meant when He called His disciples to “hate their lives”. It’s not about us anymore, not our priorities or our goals in life. I can’t masquerade my selfish desires under the cloak of “God’s Purpose and Glory”. I must “renounce all that” I have, if I am to truly follow Christ.
Christ asks us to carefully count the cost.
Luke 14:28-32 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 out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate 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 a delegation and asks for terms of peace. [ESV]
Jesus is wise, patient and understanding. He understands us more than anyone else can. Jesus is not demanding that we follow Him instantly and blindly – and keep looking back halfheartedly. He asks His wanting-to-be-followers to count the cost. I recently came across a wealthy man in his 50s. He was raised a Hindu but made a decision to follow Jesus in his late-30s. He was convinced at one point of time that Jesus is Lord but he took one long year to make a personal commitment to follow Jesus! I was curious to know why he took so much time, even after knowing the truth. He said, “I knew the Truth, but the fact that I had to give up everything was difficult for me to accept”. I’ve never heard such a testimony before. He was counting the cost for one long year!
Counting the cost is not a one-time event
We might count the cost of following Christ before entering into a commitment or after tasting Christ’s goodness – as was my case. Whatever be the case, I believe that this is not a one-time event. Christ calls us to greater intimacy in our relationship with Him. God wants to give more of Himself to us. Greater joys await us – at a greater cost.
Philippians 3:12-13 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [ESV]
Paul wanted more of God and He was pressing on – and he knew all the while that he was not there yet. We too must have such a mindset. I surely can’t claim to have laid down my all. But I’m working on what I know I have to lay down today. And I know that His faithfulness will see me through, one day at a time.
You’ll lose what you wanted, but find what you really needed
Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [ESV]
This is another truth I’ve learned by experience. When we give up all for Christ, we won’t be disappointed. We will have to go through many a trial or make tough choices but we will find God’s comfort and joy in the midst of it all. And we’ll find God Himself – what we really need. Is it not fair? That God calls us to lay down what we want so that He can give us what we really need? Grasping this truth is helpful indeed.
What a hard way to live! Lose it so as to find it in Christ! So strange, yet so true! As I face the reality of Christ’s call – stunned and surprised at His demands, I sense Him smile and say, “Welcome to life!”
It is definitely not what I wanted or expected. But as I entrust myself to Jesus all over again, I’m sure that He will be all that I really need.
Psalms 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. [ESV]