A few weeks ago, I met someone in Chicago that left a great impact on me. He was a former pastor who was now a commercial banker and was doing well for himself. He had an incredible story of how he immigrated to the United States as a teenager and while he was living in California encountered the love of God and left Islam to become a Christian. As he started to walk with Jesus all he wanted to do was tell people about this love he had found in Jesus. He felt this call so strongly that he became a pastor and for 15 years this man went from being a youth pastor to a successful church planter in one of America’s most diverse neighborhoods. He saw people from dozens of nations saved and saw many discipled and lead others to Christ. His story was so many things all at once.
One thing that stuck with me in his story was the cost he paid to follow Jesus. He could no longer go back to his home country because of the sermons he had preached and the book he wrote. Family had disowned him because he had chosen another religion and yet he saw that cost as being nothing compared to what he had found in Christ.
There is a cost to following Jesus the Bible never hides this from us, we just sometimes choose to ignore it. Jesus would put it this way in Luke 14:25-35.
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
If a large crowd gathered around us, our instinct would probably lean toward keeping the crowd by not saying such a strong truth. We would have been tempted to slip the cost in there and maybe do what timeshare salespeople do and try to break it up into 4 easy payments. But Jesus doesn’t do that, he doesn’t hide the cost. He uses strong language. Very strong language.
The Bible constantly points us to people who lost friends, family, national identity, source of income, and much more to follow Christ. We see in the New Testament that many were willing to not only lose earthly possessions and relationships; but their very lives. Jesus then instructs the crowd to be prepared to give up everything or else this might not be for them. That word everything means what it means in every language… Everything!
The testimony I began this note with is often celebrated in the churches I’ve been to. It is one where we can applaud someone for having the courage to stand firm in the faith even if it means being disowned by your own family, yet I think we somehow minimize that loss. What if it was our family that drew a line in the sand? What if society drew a line in the sand? Would we try and blend Jesus with whatever helps us fit in, or would we stand firm in Christ and continue to walk out our faith in truth and love?
It is my sense that the time is coming where those lines are going to be drawn much clearer and the boundaries are going to become much firmer. This passage wasn’t written for just some group of Christians out there, but this passage is for you and me too. To prepare our hearts for what it may truly mean to follow Jesus. At some point we won’t be able to keep going forward without paying the cost. The privilege of living in a society that accepts Jesus may erode and it may do so quicker than expected.
Jesus never said this walk wouldn’t cost us something. Jesus said in his words not mine, be prepared to lose everything. I know this isn’t the cute “everything is going to be okay” message we may want to hear but it is Jesus’ words. The faith walk is not for the faint hearted. The good news is we don’t have to do it alone and we have Christ in us to strengthen us to walk it out.
What I want to leave you with is this.
I spent time thinking about how I can’t live without Jesus in my life. Yes, there are many things and relationships that would devastate me if I lost them but none more than Jesus. I listened to this man explain how nothing, not even the pain of never seeing his father again or the pride in his eyes that every child hopes to see in their parents, was greater than the surpassing beauty of Christ. This struck me deep in my soul. What a loss that would be, and praise God I don’t have to face that, but what a beautiful truth that is for those who have said "yes" to Jesus.
My question to you today is this:
Is Jesus that beautiful to you?
Have you counted the cost that lies ahead?
Are you willing to lose it all to follow him?
I’ll end with Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Philippi.
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. - Philippians 3:8-9
Let us meditate on these words and pray that they fortify our hearts for the mission God has set us on.
Christ is All,