What is the Cost of Following Jesus?

A dairy farmer went to buy a new pickup truck. He had seen an ad in the paper about discounts and factory rebates, so he decided to trade in his old clunker. He chose a new model and was ready to write the check for the full amount. The salesman said, “Wait, I haven’t given you the final cost yet.” The farmer said, “Isn’t it the price I saw in the paper?” The salesman said, “No, that’s for the basic model, all the options cost extra.” So after the options were added, the farmer reluctantly wrote a check and drove off in his new pick-up.

A few months later the car salesman called the farmer because he wanted to buy a cow for his son’s 4-H project. The farmer assured the car salesman he had several good milk cows for sale for $500. The salesman drove out and selected a cow and took out his checkbook. The farmer said, “Wait. I haven’t given you the final cost yet.” Then he handed the salesman a bill that read:

BASIC COW $500
Two-tone exterior $45
Extra stomach $75
Milk storage compartment $60
Straw recycle compartment $120
Four handy spigots @ $10 each $40
Leather upholstery $125
Dual horns $45
Automatic rear fly swatter $38
Natural fertilizer attachment $185

GRAND TOTAL $1233

Whether you’re buying cars or cows, it’s important to get to what we call “the bottom line.” What is the “bottom line” of following Jesus? You may go into sticker shock when you discover it.  Many people are only interested in the basic model of Christian living. They want just enough Christianity to keep them out of hell without intruding on their fun. We don’t find the full cost of discipleship advertised very often these days. Few preachers discuss it because it is unpleasant; it doesn’t fill churches.  It isn’t the prosperity gospel that says, “Believe and you will be rich and happy.” As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to die.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

These words applied to the disciples and to all who would come after Jesus—that is, become a disciple and enter his fellowship. Recognizing and confessing belief in Jesus as the Messiah is only the beginning of discipleship. Jesus invites every person to follow, but those who desire to follow him must have three attitudes:

  1. a willingness to deny themselves,
  2. a willingness to take up the cross, and
  3. a willingness to follow.

To deny oneself means to surrender immediate selfish gratification in order to discover and secure one’s true self and God’s interests. It is a willingness to let go of selfish desires and earthly security. This attitude turns self-centeredness to God-centeredness. “Self” is no longer in charge; God is.

To take up the cross was a vivid illustration of the humility and submission that Jesus was asking of his followers. When Jesus used this example of his followers taking up their crosses to follow him, the disciples got the picture. Death on a cross was a form of execution used by Rome for what they considered dangerous criminals. A prisoner carried his own cross to the place of execution, signifying submission to Rome’s power. Following Jesus, therefore, meant identifying with Jesus and his followers, facing social and political oppression and ostracism, and no turning back. For some, taking up the cross might indeed mean death. But Jesus’ words meant that his followers had to be prepared to obey God’s Word and to follow his will no matter what the consequences. We must count the cost and be prepared to pay it. Soon after this, Jesus would take up his own cross. Jesus was speaking prophetically here as well.  To follow Christ is also a moment-by-moment decision, requiring compassion and service. Following Jesus doesn’t mean walking behind him, but taking the same road of sacrifice and service that he took.

Jesus asked for something unique and rare when he suggested that his disciples follow him or to be loyal to him.  What receives our loyalty today? Sports teams . . . as long as they’re winning. Career . . . as long as we’re advancing. Marriage . . . as long as one’s spouse remains attractive. Basically, the self alone seems to deserve the loyalty of the self. It’s each person looking out for number one.  In Christian faith, however, Jesus must be number one, and we must give him our loyalty. Stick with him despite the swift current you’re swimming through. Never think that switching loyalties will reckon to your personal advantage. Remain loyal to Jesus and follow him all the way to heaven!

 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Jesus says to lose our lives for Him to find life.  What does that mean? We do it all the time when we board an airplane. We “lose yourself” in the belly of that plane when we entrust its controls to the trained pilot. Sure, it might be fun to fly that plane ourselves but it would also be a sure way to ruin our life and the lives of others. Likewise if we want to save our life, then lose it in Jesus. He becomes our pilot.   Entrust our life to him whose every word, every thought, and every deed was never for his comfort and convenience but for the benefit of others…and still is. That’s why we can deny ourselves and say “no” to our wants and desires. Jesus knows what we need and he will provide it.   In the next post we will see what is at stake if we don’t follow Jesus.

Darrell

Source: Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.
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Why Did Jesus Come? 

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

While I was in college, I will never forget all the news and coverage about Operation Desert Storm.  It was the code name for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1991.  Have you heard about Operation Moolah? It was a genuine military operation in the early ‘50’s aimed at enticing North Korean pilots to defect during the Korean War.  It was called Operation Moolah because the first pilot to defect with his Soviet-built MiG-15 fighter plane would be offered $100,000; A lot of moolah, or money in those days.

If we look up the names of other military operations, we will notice that most describe the mission’s objective or the mode in which the mission was to be carried out. Desert Storm, for example, was called that because the U.S. military was intent on whipping up a storm as it raced across the Iraqi desert to capture Baghdad, the capital city.

In our post text today Jesus defines the divine mission for both himself and for us, Christ followers. Had he given the mission an operational name it could have been the “Cross.” The Apostle Peter, however, objected to this.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Why would he do this?  Everyone still expected the Messiah to come as a conquering king, to remove their enemies the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom.  Peter certainly found it most unnerving that the King would soon be put to death. His actions show that he really didn’t know what he was saying. If Jesus were going to die, what did this mean for the disciples? If he were truly the Messiah, then what was all this talk about being killed? So Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. The word for “rebuke” is a strong term meaning that Peter was rejecting Jesus’ interpretation of the Messiah as a suffering figure.

Peter, Jesus’ friend and devoted follower who had just eloquently proclaimed Jesus’ true identity, sought to protect him from the suffering he prophesied. But if Jesus hadn’t suffered and died, Peter would have died in his sins. Great temptations can come from those who love us and seek to protect us.

Be cautious of advice from a friend who says, “Surely God doesn’t want you to face this.” Often our most difficult temptations come from those who try to protect us from discomfort.

Peter felt that the divine mission should instead be called something less frightening than “Operation Cross” like “Operation Couch.” He would help rule and make decisions not watch his leader die.  But it is the cross, and not the couch, that defines the divine mission for Christ and Christians. Those who don’t accept this are allies of Satan and will lose their life for eternity.

Jesus replies to Peter,  “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Cephas was now a Satan? Wasn’t Jesus overreacting? Hadn’t Peter meant well by insisting that Jesus didn’t have to suffer and die? He may have meant well but Peter had inadvertently lobbed at Jesus one of the temptations Satan himself had used in the wilderness after Jesus’ baptism. At that time Satan had told Jesus that if he wanted to receive glory and honor from all the nations, he didn’t have to bloody himself on the cross. He could just bow down to him instead. Satan was offering Jesus a crown without the cross. But Jesus knew that there would be no crown for us if he did not endure the cross.

“You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men,” Jesus told Peter. That’s still true of those who are offended by the cross of Jesus and think that a suffering savior is overkill. Why, “Just be good!” Isn’t that enough to gain entrance into heaven? Did you notice, however, that Jesus equated “the things of men” with the thoughts of Satan?

Whenever someone thinks that he just needs to follow the Golden Rule and “do unto others as he would have them do unto him,” these seemingly pious thoughts cause great delight in hell. Satan’s goal is not to make this world a living hell where murderers and child molesters roam the streets uncontested. He’s quite content to have a world full of law-abiding citizens who mow the lawn for the shut-in down the street and who return dropped $20 bills instead of pocketing them as long as these people think that by doing these good acts they don’t need the cross of Christ.

But telling Jesus that he didn’t need to suffer and die would be like telling your insurance company that it doesn’t need to pay for the damage you did to your car. If the insurance company isn’t going to pay, then who is? Someone has to if your car is going to get fixed. Likewise if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross, we would still be on the hook for our sins. Ditch the cross and leave us sinners to fend for ourselves? Aren’t you glad Jesus put Peter in his place? Aren’t you glad that Jesus understood well that the divine mission outlined for him was defined by the cross and not the couch?

The cross, not the couch! That’s the divine mission.

Back to Desert Storm, I read about young man who’d been called up to go to Iraq, because our nation had declared war on Saddam Hussein.

The problem for this young man was – he didn’t want to go.  He explained that he hadn’t joined the army to go to war, he’d joined because of the benefits: the pay, the college tuition, the insurance, etc.   How does that sound to you?  To me, I understand that one of the primary functions of the military is to prepare for war.  Surely it’s somewhere in the job description.

Armies do not only exist to pass out benefits, those are perks.  Armies exist to deal with conflicts, to defend their people, to fight the enemy.  But there are people who actually join up hoping for a free ride.  And that kind of mentality undermines the military of any nation.  That same kind of mentality can also undermine the mission of the church.

Too often believers sign up for the benefits. They expect Jesus to “be there” for them… but they don’t expect to “be there” for Him.   But’s that’s not what Jesus has called us to do.

We’ll look at this in more detail in the next post.

Darrell

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Who is Jesus? 

Can you trust what people say about you that don’t really know you? Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about him. Theories still abound concerning the identity of Jesus: good man, remarkable teacher, founder a religion, martyr, etc. All of them are lacking.  Where Jesus is recognized as Lord and Savior, faith grows and the gospel prospers. Where Jesus is considered one among many others, a “religious buffet” is being served.  Pick any entree besides the living Lord, and we’ll discover that they are all spoiled and laced with salmonella that will eventually lead to death.

Beginning in the 1930s, scientists began their search for a 9th planet they expected to exist somewhere past Neptune until a scientifically hungry farm boy named Clyde Tombaugh made the pleasant sighting while peering into his handmade 9 inch telescope on a clear Kansas night. After the discovery, elementary school students in English speaking countries began the memorization pattern for the nine planets for decades later such as “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas!”

Then, sadly in 2006, the International Astronomical Union took a vote and decided to no longer classify Pluto as a planet. Despite the fact that Pluto orbits around the sun, despite the fact that Pluto has its own gravitational force, and despite the fact that Disney has made a cartooned dog to accompany their ever popular mouse, Pluto has been declassified. The name “dwarf planet” has such an inferior name to it.

Some believe that the IAU has no real authority to declassify Pluto as a planet. Though it may be okay for an organization to explain to others what they feel a word is supposed to be, I believe it is not acceptable to alter the meaning of the word “planet” once it has already been well-defined.

The same thing that happened to Pluto is I believe continues to happen to the Lord Jesus Christ. This man, whose overwhelming historical records indicated that he lived, died, and resurrected continues to be declassified and discredited.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples two questions. “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” There were many answers to this question. Some thought John the Baptist, others thought Elijiah.  But when the disciples were asked “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded back with the correct answer. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

To everyone who accepts Jesus as their Messiah, He is the savior of their life. But to those who are unsure of who Jesus is, please do not accept the world’s attempt at his declassification as something other than Savior. Do not be pluto’ed by those lies. He loves you, He died for you, and He wants to live in you and through you with resurrection power.  And he wants you to go with him someday to a place thats out of this world.

Jesus told Peter that God had revealed the great spiritual truth to him. Often we wonder where certain people get their insight, their faith.  If we knew where faith comes from, we could give credit for being faithful.   If it comes from inside us, we get the credit. Jesus did the work that enabled our salvation, but then we could get credit for believing in it.  If it comes from outside us, then God gets the credit. Jesus both did the work that enables our salvation and provides the means of our accepting it. As blind people need help to “see” the world, so spiritually dead people need help to find spiritual life. Jesus gives us that help.  When it comes to bragging about your faith, brag about God. He is the one who gives us faith.

Next, Jesus says something extraordinary about Peter’s confession.  It’s the first time that the word “church is used in the New Testament. “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

The word “church” (ekklesia) is found in the Gospels only in Matthew, but the concept is throughout all four Gospels. Jesus’ words reveal that there would be a definite interim period between his death and second coming—the “church age.” “Church” means “the called-out people of God.”

The church is the only N.T. institution that Jesus specifically promised to bless and to build. Think about that. Jesus never specifically promised to build the Rotary Club or Lion’s Club. He didn’t promise the build the VFW. He never promised to build the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Jesus never promised to bless and build Christian colleges. These organizations are great but they never specifically received Jesus’ promise.

The church is eternal and bigger than any earthly king or country.  Countries come and go, the church is here to stay!  What that means for us is that church and the Kingdom of God are not always defined by “American” values. Now don’t get me wrong. America can be a blessing, but it is not the institution Jesus promised to bless or to build.

Jesus says, “the gates of Hades will not stand against it.”

The “gates of Hades” represents Satan and all his minions. These words may be interpreted, in light of other passages on the power of Satan, as Satan’s domain in struggle against the church. Christ promises that Satan will not defeat the church; instead, his sphere of operation (death) will be defeated. In these words Jesus gave the promise of the indestructibility of the church and protection for all who believe in him and become part of his church.

The church is Jesus choice of offensive weapons. Gates are primarily for defense. And where does Jesus say the gates are attached? Hades, not on the church. If this is true, then our job as the church is to sharpen and use our offensive skills. As the church we are an offensive weapon.  We know who Jesus is, we are sharing who He is and what He has done and we are moving forward in victory!

Then Jesus said, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  The meaning of this verse has been a subject of debate for centuries.  Some say the “keys of the kingdom” represents the authority to carry out church discipline, legislation, and administration; others say the keys give the authority to announce the forgiveness of sins.  Most likely, the “keys” are the kingdom authority given to the church, including the opportunity to bring people to the kingdom of heaven by presenting them with the message of salvation found in God’s Word.

Do you know who Jesus is? Is He your Lord and Savior?  Do you see yourself as a victor not a victim?  I hope that you will join me will receiving him, living for him and participating in a movement that is bigger and more blessed than any other, the church.

Darrell

In the next post we will look at what else Jesus says about following Him.

Source:  Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.
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What Difference Does the Resurrection Make? Part 2

Life is full of problems that we are powerless to solve. Think about it, have you ever felt like your life was out of control, like you were weak and ineffective in some situation whether it’s trying to break a bad habit or save a relationship or get out of debt or parent your kids or manage your schedule or just powerless to live right?  The fact is, the reason we fail in these, the difficulties of life, is because we were never meant to live life on our own power.  No, we were meant to live life empowered by a relationship with our Creator and Redeemer.

That’s what Paul was talking about in 2nd Corinthians 4:7 when he said, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” In other words the secret of success in life is knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and following Him as Lord—letting Him live in and through us!  Only a personal relationship with our Risen Lord can empower us.

He lives in us and empowers us to forgive. He makes us into the husbands and wives and parents and employees and neighbors…the kind of people we long to be—need to be. In fact, that’s one reason Jesus came back from the dead, to empower us to live as He lived. Jesus didn’t die and then rise again just to be studied.  No. He died and rose again to offer through His blood and His life, new life—transforming power to live an abundant, successful, fulfilling life. Paul’s writes in Ephesians 1:18-20, “I pray that you may know the hope to which He has called you, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead!”  Paul is reminding us here that the same power that enabled Jesus to rise from the dead 2000 years ago is available to help you and me rise above our problems today!  Jesus’ resurrection proves to us once and for all that no problem is too big for God to handle. No situation is hopeless if it is turned over to Him. If God can bring His Son back to life, He can cause a resurrection in any aspect of our lives as well.

What has died in your life? What dreams; what hopes; what relationship; what vision? Is there a particular sin that has you in its grip? What has you “stuck? ”Remember, no situation in life is beyond Jesus’ resurrection power! Claim that power for your own!

Jesus’ resurrection has impacted the PAST. We can look around and see that it changes our PRESENT and

 Jesus Resurrection changes our FUTURE!

And we need our futures changed because we know that death awaits us all one day. In his book, God’s Story, Your Story Max Lucado shares the true story of Carl McCunn, an affable Texan with a love of the outdoors. In the late 1970’s McCunn moved to Alaska. He took a trucking job on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, where he made good money, fast friends, and concocted an adventure that still stirs bewilderment in the forty-ninth state. At the age of 35, McCunn embarked on a five-month photography expedition in the wild. Friends describe how seriously he prepared for the quest, devoting a year to plan-making and detail-checking. He solicited advice and purchased supplies.  And then in March of 1981, he hired a bush pilot to drop him at a remote lake near the Coleen River, some 70 miles northeast of Ft. Yukon. He took two rifles, a shotgun, fourteen hundred pounds of provisions, and five hundred rolls of film. He set up his tent and set about his season of isolation, blissfully unaware of an overlooked detail that would cost him his life. You see, Mr. McCunn had made no arrangements to be picked up. And his unbelievable blunder didn’t dawn on him until August—five months after he arrived. We know this because of a hundred-page loose-leaf diary the Alaska state troopers found near his body the following February. In an understatement the size of Mount McKinley, McCunn wrote: “I think I should have used more foresight about arranging my departure.”

As the days shortened and air chilled, he began searching the ground for food and the skies for rescue. He was running low on ammunition. Hiking out was impossible. He had no solution but to hope someone in the city would notice his absence. By the end of September snow was piling up, the lake was frozen and his supplies were nearly gone. His body fat began to metabolize, making it more difficult to stay warm. Temperatures hovered around zero, and frostbite began to attack his fingers and toes. By late November, McCunn was out of food, strength, and optimism. One of his final diary entries reads, “This is sure a slow and agonizing way to die.” Isolated with no rescue—trapped with no exit—nothing to do but wait for the ending. Chilling thought isn’t it? And puzzling, why no exit strategy?  Didn’t he know that every trip comes to an end? It’s not like his excursion would last forever. And neither will ours.

Take your fingers and feel the pulse in your neck. That pulse will one day end. Your heart will have a final beat. Feel yourself breathe. One day those lungs will empty a final breath.   That’s our future. I know it’s an uncomfortable fact to consider—but it’s true. As Carl Kuehner once put it, “Death is the most democratic institution on earth…it allows no discrimination, tolerates no exceptions. The mortality rate of mankind is the same the world over: one death per person.”

We all die: nearly 2 people a second, more than 6,000 an hour, more than 155,000 every day…57 million a year. The finest surgeon might enhance your life but he can’t eliminate your death. As Hebrews 9:27 says, “People are destined to die, then face judgement.” That’s the fact—plain and simple. And we don’t like contemplating this fact. Death seems like such a dead end but that’s why the news the first disciples learned that first Easter Sunday makes such a difference! The Risen Jesus promises to do to your tomb the same thing he did to His—empty it. The fact is we can face our future, death included, with absolute peace…because Jesus rose. As Christians we know that death is not the final chapter of our story.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-6)

During his historic crusade in London Billy Graham had a private meeting with Winston Churchill where Graham shared the gospel with the famous statesman.  Churchill became a Christ-follower. We can see this in the way the Prime Minister planned his own funeral. According to his instructions, two buglers were positioned high in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. At the conclusion of the service, the first one played taps, the signal of a day completed. Immediately after, with the sounds of the first song still ringing in the air, the second bugler played reveille, the song of a day begun. Churchill made these plans to proclaim the fact that for the Christian death is not an alley with no exit but rather a thoroughfare from earth to Heaven.

Do you know Jesus? If not, who or what are you counting on in life? What is your foundation for your future? What is your “exit strategy?”  There is only one hope for human beings stuck in difficult times of poverty, disease, pain, hardship, and even death itself…and it is this: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.”

Darrell

 

 

 

 

 

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