Sunday, October 14, 2012

Luke 14:25-35 - The Cost of Being a Disciple

At your place of employment, have you ever had to do cost-benefit analysis? It is a study whereby you look at the costs of investment of some particular project versus the benefits to be gained from the project. If the benefits outweigh the costs, then the project may move forward. If not, then the project would be scrapped. Today’s passage is about spiritual cost-benefit analysis to which Jesus calls us in following Him as disciples.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 14:25-35 to teach believers that discipleship calls for allegiance and sacrifice.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about discipleship.
Pray and Read:  Luke 14:25-35

Contextual Notes:
Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has focused on the importance of walking in faith and not in unbelief. After the major shift in the Gospel at Luke 9:51, Jesus leaves his ministry in Galilee and turns with determination toward Jerusalem and His coming Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Luke’s message of trusting Christ sharpens, and his warning against unbelief hones in on the very religious yet unbelieving Jewish leadership. 
We see Jesus’ rising determination in his call to realign our priorities to those of our resolute Lord: the priority of His Gospel to the nations (Luke 10:1-24); the priority of our love for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37); the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42) lived by the priority of prayer (Luke 11:1-13); the priority of Jesus’ authority (Luke 11:14-28) which calls us to the priority of repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
Luke 10:1-24              The Priority of His Gospel (for the nations)
Luke 10:25-37            The Priority of Your Love (for your neighbor)
Luke 10:38-42            The Priority of His Presence
Luke 11:1-13              The Priority of Your Prayer
Luke 11:14-28            The Priority of His Authority
Luke 11:29-36            The Priority of Your Repentance

Next Jesus condemns the wrong kind of religion – dead religion that is devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54). Then he warns his disciples of hypocrisy and points away from the fear of man to the right kind of fear, the fear of God (Luke 12:1-12). Jesus next warns against materialism but instead to focus on being rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21), then warns against worry and encourages his disciples to trust the Lord for provision (Luke 12:22-34). The right kind of focus follows (Luke 12:35-59), then Luke’s outline calls us to the right kind of religion, one of repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-19).
Luke 11:37-54            The Wrong Kind of Religion (not ritual, but relationship)
Luke 12:1-12              The Right Kind of Fear (not of men, but of God)
Luke 12:13-21            The Wrong Kind of Focus (not greed, but God)
Luke 12:22-34            The Wrong Kind of Fear (not worry, but trust)
Luke 12:35-59            The Right Kind of Focus (on eternity, not this world)
Luke 13:1-9                The Right Kind of Religion (not pride, but repentance)
With a series of illustrations, Jesus reminds us that the world is rushing toward Christ’s Second Coming. To be ready, believers must serve God actively (Luke 12:35-53) and unbelievers must make peace with God before it is too late (Luke 12:54-59) with the right kind of religion, one of repentance (Luke 13:1-9).

Luke 13:10-21    Kingdom of Grace (to the nations)
Luke 13:22-30    Kingdom of Repentance (deadline with consequences)
Luke 14:1-24      Kingdom of Provision (healing, honor, harvest)
Luke 14:25-35    Kingdom of Commitment (allegiance, sacrifice)

Jesus encourages us to embrace the Kingdom of Grace (Luke 13:10-17) which begins humbly and grows rapidly to embrace the nations (Luke 13:18-21). It is a Kingdom of Repentance with a strict deadline (Luke 13:22-30), its rejection having dire consequences (Luke 13:31-35). It is a Kingdom of Provision of healing (Luke 14:1-6), honor (Luke 14:7-14), and harvest (Luke 14:15-24). It is a Kingdom of Commitment calling for allegiance (Luke 14:25-27) and sacrifice (Luke 14:28-35).

Sermon Points:
1.   Discipleship calls for allegiance (Luke 14:25-27)
2.   Discipleship calls for sacrifice (Luke 14:28-35)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   From the Pharisee’s house, Jesus is again on the move toward Jerusalem. Large crowds are following the Lord. With the coming rejection of Him by His own people, those who identified themselves with Him faced great personal peril. Knowing this, Christ spoke a word to the crowds, defining discipleship and what it entails. The demand that Jesus disciple value the needy above respectability (Luke 14:7-24) takes away the right to remain socially upward.
b.   Luke 14:25-26 – (cf. Matt 6:24; John 12:25) First, Jesus says that family relationships must yield to love for Him. Jesus’ statement is offensive to his hearers in a society where honor of parents was considered virtually the highest obligation and one’s family was usually one’s greatest joy. Only God demanded the wholehearted devotion Jesus demands here (Deut 6:4-5).
c.   Hate here is used in the sense of decisive rejection of competing claims to one’s allegiance. We must understand the Lord’s use of hate in terms of Jewish hyperbole (Remember the Lord says we must love even our enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). The words “love” and “hate” can express emotion, but Jesus is using them to express the will as in God’s use of Jacob and Esau in Mal 1:2-3 and Rom 9:13. God chose Jacob. He had set Esau, the firstborn, aside. To love is to choose or to submit to. To hate is to set aside or refuse to submit to.
d.   Luke 14:27 – Carry his cross. A familiar sight for Jews under Roman occupation, but shocking to connect criminal execution to Messianic promise. Roman prisoners were forced to carry the horizontal cross beam (the patibulum) to the place of execution (Luke 23:26). The image reflects not only self-denial, but humiliation and sacrificial death. Count the cost. But choose to follow Jesus to the end.
e.   APPLICATION: Disciples must reject every other authority and be solely under the authority of Christ. Unless they are willing to do so, they cannot be Christ’s disciples. They must hate their own lives, i.e., they must set aside their own wills and accept the will of Christ for their lives. In order to be a true disciple, one must be willing to identify with Christ even though He was rejected. The Cross for Christ was the test of His obedience to the will of the Father and the sign of His rejection by Israel. One must be willing to identify with the rejected One to be willing to assume what is involved in that identification in order to be Christ’s disciple.
a.   Luke 14:28-30 – Count the cost: Having laid down the requirements for a disciple, Christ encouraged His hearers to consider the cost of being a disciple. He uses three illustrations of spiritual cost-benefit analysis: an unfinished tower, an unsuccessful army, and flavorless salt. The builder did not begin until he had considered the cost (Luke 14:28-30). Just a few years earlier, A.D. 27, a poorly built amphitheater had collapsed, with about 50,000 casualties, so the image was powerful for Jesus’ hearers.
b.   Luke 14:31-32 – Measure the strength of the foe: The king did not go headlong into battle without counting the cost (Luke 14:31-32; Prov 20:18; 24:6). Herod Antipas had recently lost a war with a neighboring Roman vassal, so the image of foolhardy war would be meaningful as well to Jesus’ hearers. They must consider the cost in identifying with Him. Otherwise, when persecution came they would forsake Christ.
c.   ILLUSTRATION: In the 17th Century, the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) who developed mathematical probablility theory, put forward Pascal’s Wager. His idea was that, rationally, whether or not to believe in Jesus’ Lordship and atonement should depend on two factors: the value of what you stand to gain or lose by believing or not, and the probability that it is true. These two things determine the probabilities of your receiving those gains or losses. The Bible says that belief in Jesus has finite costs – foregoing the passing pleasures of sin (Heb 11:24; Luke 14:28-35), living an upright life, possible persecution, but the benefit is eternal life with God, a benefit of infinite value. On the other hand, if you reject Jesus then you may have finite benefits (enjoying whatever happiness the world and the Devil offer, being in charge of yourself, doing whatever you want, etc.), but you will go to hell and be separated forever from God and all goodness, an infinite cost. Now suppose there is only one chance in a billion that Jesus is who the Bible says He is and that hell truly exists. Then it is still absolutely worthwhile to believe in Jesus because although you have a very high chance of paying some finite cost, nevertheless a tiny chance at an infinite reward still has infinite value – one billionth of plus-infinity is till plus-infinity. On the other hand, it is equally non-worthwhile to disbelieve, because, although you have a high chance of gaining some finite amount of benefits, even a one-billionth chance of minus-infinity has a value of minus-infinity, which outweighs all finite benefits. Only those who are absolutely certain that the Bible is false, who can give absolute zero probability to its truth, can rationally choose to disbelieve. Everyone is faced with Pascal’s Wager, and in every case the rational way of counting the cost always leads to trusting in Jesus.
d.   The Apostle Paul understood this. In Philippians 3:7-8 (AMP), he says, “But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),”
e.   Luke 14:33 – give up everything: The word here (apotassetai) means “say farewell” when used of a person or “renounce” when applied to things. Jesus does not say “sell” or “give away,” but renounce. As disciples of Jesus, we surrender to Him the title deed to all we possess. From now on we live as those conscious that we are stewards of our Lord, and that all we have belongs ultimately to Him.
f.    ILLUSTRATION: On California Prayer Walk and on Operation Restoration in the area of Hope Mills, NC, where there was a high concentration of witch-craft, because of the truth of Prov. 26:2, our prayer team renounced ownership or possession in all things, relationships, people, and affirmed that everything was brought under Lordship of Jesus Christ.
g.   APPLICATION: There must be an inward resignation toward anything but Christ. There will be times that that inward separation is what keeps you moving forward in commitment to Christ. There must be a complete inward surrender of everything to Christ for the sake of Christ so that when the outward trial comes, we may be prepared to conquer in the fight. He fights well who has first fought and conquered within, and lives a surrendered life.
h.   Luke 14:34-35: If one became a disciple without due thought and then forsake Him under persecution, such a one would be like salt with no saltiness. Worth nothing. Defection would prove that he was not a true disciple after all. He would be rejected. (Sodium chloride cannot actually lose its saltiness, but Dead Sea salt is a mixture of NaCl and other compounds. When water evaporates from the mixture, the sodium chloride crystallizes first and may be removed. The gypsum and other impurities remaining is salt which has lost its saltiness.)
i.    APPLICATION: Let him who has ears hear and hear the warning! Disciples must put Jesus first in personal relationships (Luke 14:26) and with personal possessions (Luke 14:33). So what must we do? We must stop being lazy in our commitments. This is not an assignment for a hammock under a palm tree. We have a job to do, a mission to accomplish. We are not gathering wildflowers. We are in Satan’s domain to overthrow his work and establish the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. We must start demonstrating what we know to be true. We must live the life of a disciple. We must make a decision what to do when the parent we adore needs our signature to finalize a less-than-legal business deal. Or our supervisor offers you the promotion of your dreams, as long as you agree to compromise a few family priorities. Or you finally find the one you want to marry, but they’re not a Christian. Christ calls us to obedience. Discipleship is walked out in obedience.

F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1212-1213.
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 685-686.
S. MacLean Gilmour, “Luke.” George Arthur Buttrick, gen. ed., The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 8:259-263.
Paul John Isaak, “Luke,” Africa Bible Commentary, Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen. ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 1233.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 230-231.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 331-332.
Alfred Plummer, International Critical Commentary on Luke, 5th ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 28: .
Lawrence O. Richards, The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 190.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 665.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 128-130.
Mark Strauss. “Luke.” Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:444-446.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 113-120.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 543.
6pm Sunday, October 14, 2012, at Union Missionary Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, NC