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The Cost of Discipleship

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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January 29, 2023 12:01 am

The Cost of Discipleship

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 29, 2023 12:01 am

Jesus calls His people to a lifetime of discipleship. We must count the cost of following after Him. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in the gospel of Luke by acknowledging the sacrifice involved in living for the Lord and declaring the immeasurable worth of Christ Himself.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind, are you serious about your faith? Is it a consuming passion for you to serve Christ? If it isn't, you're just playing. It's not the real thing. Jesus said, if that's the way it is, you just can't be My disciple.

I won't have it. When we first come to Christ and repent of our sins, a lifetime of discipleship and sanctification follows. We begin to study to find out more about our Savior, and we begin to discover that suffering often attends the life of a Christian. That's when we stop and think, have we considered the cost of the journey? Have we considered the cost of discipleship?

Here's R.C. Sproul teaching from the gospel of Luke. Well, this morning we're going to continue with our study of the gospel according to St. Luke. It's Luke 14, 25 to 35, and I'll ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. Now great multitudes went with Him, and He turned and said to them, If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you intending to build a tower does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it, lest after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build but was not able to finish? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dung hill that men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. These are the words of Jesus. These are the words of our Lord, carrying the full measure of His authority with them.

Please receive them as such and be seated. Let us pray. Our Father and our God, again we come before You as Your people, and sometimes even as having been converted by Your Holy Spirit, we still have difficulty hearing Your voice. So we ask that in this hour indeed You will give us ears to hear ears to hear what You have said to us in Your Word. For we ask it in Jesus' name.

Amen. If we have a desire for evangelism, a concern for our loved ones and friends who don't know Christ, sometimes we'll do everything that we can think of to win them to Jesus. We'll plead with them. We'll beg with them.

We'll cajole them. We'll give them all kinds of marvelous promises of how their lives will be changed wonderfully if they would just come to Jesus. That's a good thing that we have that desire in our hearts to see others come to Jesus. But we often forget that when Jesus called people to come to Jesus, Jesus often went about it in a somewhat different way from how we do it. We want to make the path to Christ as easy as we possibly can.

For Jesus, when He called people to Himself and called them to discipleship, as they began to move forward in response to His invitation, as it were, He would say, Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold it. Stop right there.

Think about this for a minute. Is this really what you want to do? Before you come to Me, don't you think you ought to stop and at least ask the question, how much does it cost? What will it really mean if I fall in with you?

What will the price tag be if I declare my commitment to you? And that's what Jesus does here in this text. He posts a warning to all who would come to Him, to all who would rush to Him and seek shelter under His wings. He said, Just a minute.

Hear this. If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and his own life, he can't be my disciple. Let me tell you how much it costs.

Let me tell you the price tag. If you want to come with Me, I have to ask you, are you willing to hate your mother? Are you willing to hate your father, your brother, your sister, your wife, your children?

Are you ready to hate yourself? Because if you're not, you can't be my disciple. Now when's the last time you heard an evangelist put that in his evangelistic message?

Of course, we're stunned by these words. What's Jesus saying here? He tells us to love our neighbor, to love our mothers and fathers and our children. Now He says we have to hate our mothers and our fathers and our children and our wives and so on.

He can't possibly mean this. Well, I think that we stumble a little bit over the word hate here and tend to interpret it the way we use it customarily in our own culture. But if we look carefully at how the Bible uses that term, it frequently, but not always, means simply to love less. You go back to the Old Testament and you read the story of Jacob and his marriages to the daughters of Laban to Leah and Rachel, and he worked seven years for Rachel, and then he was deceived by his father-in-law, and he had to marry Leah and work another seven years before he was finally given the patriarchal blessing to marry his first love, Rachel. And it says that not Jacob hate Leah and love Rachel, but in the next breath the Scripture clarifies that and says, that is to say, he loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. Or conversely, he loved Leah less than he loved Rachel in comparison to the love that he had for Rachel.

The love that he had for Leah seemed like hate. So I think what our Lord is saying here is not that we are to despise or abhor our parents or our children or our spouses, but the devotion we have to Jesus must be even greater than that which we have for the dearest ones of our family and of our friends. Many of you who have been converted to Christ have experienced this very conflict with loved ones. I remember when I came home full of excitement and joy after being converted to Christ and telling my mother that I had become a Christian, I fully expected her to rejoice.

Instead, she became angry. What do you mean you became a Christian? You've always been a Christian. We had you baptized. You went through catechism.

You grew up in our family. You've always been a Christian. And she was hostile to my conversion narrative. Fortunately, by the grace of God, she finally came to understand what I was saying and became converted herself and a devout student of sacred Scripture. But the initial reaction, she was not pleased.

And many of you have had the same experience. When I was first converted and wrote to my fiancé and explained it to her, she thought I had lost my mind, and I trembled at the thought that she remained in that posture whether we were able actually to become husband and wife. But again, by the grace of God, her heart was changed.

She too was converted and acquiesced to my marriage proposal. But we go through this where there's conflict between the ones we love the most and our love for Christ. And so Christ says, just a minute before you come with me, what I demand from my disciples is that their first devotion, their first love, must be to me. You must love me more than your family. You must love me more than you love yourself. Otherwise, you can't be my disciple. And unless you're willing to bear your cross, as I must bear mine, you can't be my disciple.

Then He follows this with this brief parable, and I'll read it to you again. When He says, For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? If you build a house, if you build an outbuilding, if you build a tower, a silo, whatever it is that you have under construction, before you build it, you ask, How much is it going to cost me?

Do I have the money to complete the job? Or am I going to start to build a great building and put it beside I-4 and then stop construction in the middle and call it the I-4 eyesore? When I was growing up, I had more than one friend who lived in the foundation of a house. In those places in Pennsylvania, every home had a basement or a cellar, and so the foundation was built, and first you had the cellar, and then you built the house on top of that. But there were people who began to build. And after they dug the foundation, put up the cement blocks, and had their cellar, as it were, they ran out of money. And so they would take plywood and cover the top of that foundation and move in and live in the foundation of the house. I had friends who lived in foundations like that.

And you know, they never asked us over to their house because they were embarrassed, because their fathers had started to build a house, but didn't think how much it would cost. And then the second example, Jesus says, has to do with warfare. What king, having ten thousand troops, will go out to meet another king who's coming against Him with twenty thousand troops without first asking the question, do we have what it takes to win this war, or should we sue for peace? You know, there are wars, and there are different kinds of wars I remember.

I don't remember, I wasn't there, but I've read that the Battle of Bull Run, which opened the conflict of the Civil War that took place a short distance outside of Washington, D.C., that the wealthy women of Washington rode out in their carriages to watch this conflict, because they, like their husbands and everybody in Washington and basically everybody in the north, figured this war was going to be over in two weeks, because all of the military power, all of the industrial power was concentrated in the north. And so, all of the industrial power was concentrated in the north. But what people didn't understand at that time was there wasn't one war going on, there were two. There was a war of conquest and a war of attrition. For the north to win the war, they had to conquer the south to keep them in the union. For the south to win the war, they didn't have to capture a single square inch of the north. All they had to do was to protect their own borders and outlast the will and determination of the north to conquer them.

That's called a war of attrition. And if you know anything about that history, if it weren't for the space of 48 hours between Gettysburg and the fall of Bixburg, nobody, nobody in the north gave Abraham Lincoln one chance and a million to be re-elected, because the south was winning that war of attrition, because after 800,000 casualties, the north was losing its stomach for this battle. Same thing in the Revolutionary War. For the colonists to win the Revolutionary War, they didn't have to conquer the south to conquer a single village in England, to conquer a single square foot of British soil. All George Washington and his ragtag militia men had to do to win was to outlast the resolve and determination of the British who were fighting a war of conquest, while Washington was fighting a war of attrition.

You understand the difference? Oh, no, probably don't, because America hasn't learned that lesson since the 18th century. That's what happens when you fight in Afghanistan. That's what happens when you fight in Iraq. That's what happens when you fight in Vietnam.

All they have to do is outlast us, and they win. They're fighting wars of attrition. We're fighting wars of conquest. World War II was different. Germany had to be conquered. Japan had to be conquered by the Allies for that war to succeed. But before you get engaged in either a war of conquest or a war of attrition, you have to say, can we win this thing? Or should we send our ambassadors to the enemy and plead for terms of peace? So Jesus is taking illustrations here from common life, from the building of a building to the waging of a war to say to those who would be his disciples, wait just a minute.

Count the cost and ask yourselves, can I afford this? You know, of course, during World War II, there was a plot put together by German leaders to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Included in that plot was a prominent clergyman and theologian by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer was discovered as being involved in that plot, arrested and executed by Adolf Hitler. And then a book of his appeared. It has become something of a Christian classic entitled, The Cost of Discipleship. And in that little book that Bonhoeffer wrote in the 20th century, he invented the term cheap grace, which is equated with the concept of what we call easy believism. Where people say, oh, sure, I want to be a Christian. Yes, I'll make a confession of faith.

I believe that God forgives me of my sins. It reminds me of the story I think I mentioned before that John Barrows taught of a woman who came down there to the Women's Center to have an abortion. She had a fish on her car and all of that. And John said to her, are you a Christian? And she said, yes, but I'm going to have this abortion because I know that Jesus will forgive me. Imagine how presumptuous that is to sin willfully and knowingly presuming on the grace of God. That's cheap grace, easy believism, which isn't true faith at all.

Oh, Bonhoeffer was saying, if you're going to be a Christian, there will be a price tag, and it may be your own life. I mentioned before how when I was converted to Christ and began to read the Bible for the first time in my life, I started reading through the Old Testament beginning at Genesis 1 like it was a novel. And I was staying reading day and night for two weeks to read through the Bible. And I can remember walking the halls of my dormitory in college at three o'clock in the morning. Everybody else was sound asleep.

There wasn't a sound in the building. I couldn't sleep. I was walking back and forth like a caged lion, haunted by what I was reading in the Old Testament, the flood, the destruction of Korah and Korah's rebellion, God's killing Nadab and Abihu, killing Uzzah when he touched the ark of the covenant, instituting the harem against the Canaanites, killing men, women, and children. And I walked with this lion saying, this God, a place for keeps. If I'm going to be a Christian, if I'm going to be a Christian, I've got to be all in or get out of here. That was my maiden impression of the revelation of the person and character and nature of Almighty God that He plays for keeps. Then came to the New Testament, and Jesus made the comment, He who puts His hand to the plow and looks back isn't worthy of the kingdom of God. And then I got to the end, to the book of Revelation.

The church of Laodicea, I know your works. You're neither hot nor cold. You're lukewarm, and I will spew you out of my mouth.

What's He saying? Are you serious about your faith? Is it a consuming passion for you to serve Christ? If it isn't, you're just playing. It's not the real thing. Jesus said, if that's the way it is, you just can't be my disciple.

I won't have it. I've also noticed in reading the Scriptures and reading the experiences of life as a Christian that there is something paradoxical about being a Christian. In the first place, on the one hand, is there anything sweeter? Is there anything more blessed? Is there anything that can possibly produce more joy than being a Christian and being in Christ, knowing that all of your sins that you've ever committed have been forgiven, knowing that He has gone into His Father's house to prepare a place for you, for you to live forever? I mean, what a wonderful thing it is to enjoy the Christian life.

Sometimes I wonder how people who aren't Christians are able to cope with human existence. The Bible says that without Christ, you're without hope. You're hopeless. You're living in a state of hopelessness. Oh, you may protest and say, hey, I'm having a great time. I'm living the dream. I'm having all kinds of fun without being a Christian.

Yes, you can have all kinds of fun. But that is a fun that in the final analysis is a futile fun, and you know it. So, on the one hand, there's no greater thing than to be a Christian.

But the other side of the paradox is this. To give your life to Christ in this world is a throwaway life. And you've just thrown your life away because you're not your own anymore.

You're not autonomous anymore. Now you're under the lordship and the command of the Prince of glory. And you're baptized, and you're given the sign, not only of all of the promises of salvation that come with the sign of baptism, but the baptism among other things is a sign of your death in Christ. Oh, and a sign of your resurrection as well. But in baptism, we participate in the death and in the burial of Jesus. And as the Apostle tells us again and again and again in the New Testament, that if we're not willing to identify with and participate in the humiliation of Christ, we'll never possibly experience participation in His exaltation. To the Colossians, Paul wrote these words in the first chapter, "'I now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up in my flesh what is lacking the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body, which is the church.'"

What? You know, sometimes Paul the Apostle is hard to understand, but here he goes over the edge when he says he fills up in his body, that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ? Was there some deficiency in the sufferings of Jesus that had to be fulfilled by the Apostle Paul?

Did the Father say to the Son, you did a nice job as far as it went, but I have to wait for the Apostle Paul to finish the job? No, Paul is not saying that there was any lack of merit or sufficiency or efficacy in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus in our behalf. But what Paul is saying is the suffering of Christ in His body did not end with His death but continues in the sufferings of His body, the church.

And the testimony of history shows how the afflictions of those who identify with Jesus continue to add to the total summation of the sufferings of His body, even to this very day. You know, as I do, that around the world there are many hotspots of persecution where Christians are being executed daily by hostile forces. If you've watched the American reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, you had to notice a sudden and dramatic increase in outspoken hatred and venomous attacks not only against Hobby Lobby but against all Christians. Beloved, there is a growing hostility in our culture and our nation towards you and towards me and to all who take the name of Christ. And I don't think that it's unlikely that in the near future push will come to shove. And if that happens, it's also not unlikely that some of us in that hour will say, Me? I never knew the Man, because we will love our own lives more than we love Him.

Peter fled and came back and became this kind of a disciple that Jesus describes so that when he faced his execution, he has to be crucified upside down because he didn't believe he was worthy to be executed in the same manner as his Lord. This isn't a scare theology. This is the truth.

Jesus said, the world has hated Me, and if they hate Me, they're going to hate you. So wait just a minute, please, before you sign up. Count the cost. Count the cost. It's a heavy cost, a heavy price.

But when you count the cost of anything, along with it you have to count the value of that which you're getting in return. And in return for the cost of your life is the pearl of great price. Is the pearl of great price.

No, it's not even a pearl of great price because there is no price that you can attach to it. It is priceless to own Him, and to have Him to own you is worth everything because He said it Himself. What do you profit if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul? So be mine but disciple, and be salt for me, not salt that's lost its saltiness because the salt that came from the Dead Sea had a mixture of other substances with the salt, and it could on certain occasions under evaporation lose the saltiness and become worthless.

When it was fully potent, it could be used for seasoning and also for preservation, but if it lost its saltiness, it was only worthy of being thrown into the dung heap and cast away. So Jesus wants disciples who have counted the cost and who keep their salt no matter what. There is a steep cost to following Christ. Christian martyrs through the centuries have proven that over and over. When we think about the disciples, it cost them everything to follow Jesus.

Are we willing to count that cost and be owned completely by Jesus? We've just heard a challenging message from R.C. Sproul today here on Renewing Your Mind, and we're glad you could be with us on this Lord's Day. I'm Lee Webb. Each Sunday, we return to Dr. Sproul's sermon series through the Gospel of Luke, and today when you contact us with a donation of any amount, we will provide you with a digital download of R.C.

's commentary on Luke. In this Gospel, we learn from a first-century physician who set out to gather eyewitness testimony of the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus Christ. I trust that you'll benefit from Dr. Sproul's careful and meaningful insight. Contact us and request this resource offer.

You can do that online at Your financial support is making trustworthy Bible teaching available in more languages to reach more people around the world. That includes the recent milestone launch of the Portuguese edition of the Reformation Study Bible, along with our ongoing Study Bibles for Africa initiative, and that's why we are grateful for your support. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Thank you for joining us, and I hope you'll make plans to be with us again next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-29 03:03:10 / 2023-01-29 03:13:17 / 10

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