Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: 4th Sun After New Sunday, Discipleship
Volume 7 No. 416 May 19, 2017
 
III. Featured Articles: Discipleship

Giving Up Everything…Except Christ

by Brian Evans

Gospel: Luke 14:25-35

All Christians must be ready, if need be, to give up everything for the call of Christ.

Today, as we follow Christ toward the cross in the Gospel of Luke we come up against an extremely demanding text. I've approached this text today with much prayer and much fearfulness. This is a text of Scripture we must get right. The big problem with understanding this text is that we've been conditioned by the world we live in to not think this text is true. We read it and then immediately make some excuse as to why Jesus surly can't mean what He says.

Most in America, if you asked, are you a Christian would answer, Why, yes I am. Most of the time this answer is based on some social idea that basically everyone is a Christian. Most in this group have no idea what the Gospel even is. At best they're moral Americans who own Bibles.

The second group believes that they are Christian because they can affirm a few truths found in the Bible. If you believe a few correct things about Jesus then you must be a Christian. If you asked them certain questions, they might be able to give correct answers. They own Bibles and perhaps even on occasion read it some. If you asked them the same question, are you a Christian, they would answer, Why yes I am.

We've also been conditioned to believe that saying a short little prayer makes you a Christian. If you come to the front of the church with tears in your eyes and hold the preacher's hand a repeat after him then you are a Christian.

All these ideas are what we must get out of our heads because they are not true. Yet, what makes it so hard for us is that these ideas are what we've grown up with and been taught all our lives.

If it's possible, today, let's not approach Christianity with these preconceived unbiblical notions but approach it fresh and listen to what Jesus, Himself, tells us what being a Christian really is.

For the next few minutes, lets pretend we're hearing the requirements of a Christian for the first time.

I must qualify one very important point here, and that is when Jesus uses the title disciple in our text, it is synonymous with Christian. A Christian is a disciple and there are no Christians who are not disciples. A disciple isn't a super Christian or something you become after you're saved. A disciple is a Christian.

Acts 11:26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Please hear God's Word,

Lk 14:25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,
Lk 14:26 "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.

Lk 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Lk 14:28 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?
Lk 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
Lk 14:30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'

Lk 14:31 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?
Lk 14:32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Lk 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Lk 14:34 "Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?
Lk 14:35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

1. Does Christ Have Your Supreme Loyalty? (14:25-27)

Lk 14:25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,

Lk 14:26 "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.

Lk 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Our text begins with Luke showing us the context of Jesus' teaching. There were many people following Jesus. He calls them a great crowd other translations use the word multitude.

What's going on is there were literally thousands following Jesus but He knew that their commitment was superficial. They wanted Jesus for what they could gain now by aligning with Him. They wanted earthly wealth and power and Jesus knew their motives were not admirable.

Are you a follower of Christ? If so, why? Why are you a follower? Are you a superficial follower, a spectator or are you a committed follower a real follower?

The crowd wanted what they thought Jesus would give them. However, the exact opposite was true, following Christ would cost them everything. The same is true for us. Following Christ cost us everything.

A. Following Christ Costs Relationships

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.

Believe it or not, this is how Jesus did evangelism. This is an evangelistic text. He doesn't desire to turn away true followers, only those who are superficial. Jesus desires all people to come to Him but in the universal call that goes out, along with it is the call to discipleship. In other words, to be a Christian means that Christ has your allegiance.

We are not called to hate others. We're not called to hate our family. What we are called to do is to love Jesus much more than we love anyone else. This Love/Hate language is very typical of ancient hyperbole.

The point is, there are times when following Christ will in itself bring about feuds within the family. When the son of a lost father comes to Christ and senses a call to missions and the father desires the son to pursue a law degree, there will be feuds. By the way this was true in the life of Luther and Calvin. They followed Christ not the desires of others.

Are you willing, if need be, to forsake family in the pursuit of following Christ?

TT- All Christians must be ready, if need be, to give up everything for the call of Christ.

B. Following Christ Cost Your Own Life

Lk 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate …even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Jesus requires loyalty. As Christians, we must be ready to forsake family if need be in order to follow Jesus. He takes another step, when He commands all Christians to even be ready to give up their own life. Do you love your life so much that you would rather deny Christ than give it?

We've already learned in Luke that we are called to deny ourselves.

Lk 9:23 And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Lk 9:24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

This true discipleship is nothing knew. Jesus has been teaching this all along.

Mt 10:34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Mt 10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Mt 10:36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.

Mt 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Mt 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Mt 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The crowds were increasing in number. Jesus wanted to make sure they knew His requirements.

Many preachers today are out for large crowds. They will do almost anything to increase the size of the congregation. This is because, they think, with more people comes more prestige and more money. Some, who are more moral, will say that every number is a person and I want to see many saved.

On a few occasions, Jesus being in the midst of a large crowd of followers, would turn to them and say something like, I'm not sure if you realize what you're getting into by following Me. He would explain that following Him would require loss in this world. So, very clearly, Jesus isn't out to gather a large crowd of followers but a smaller number of true disciples. Quality over quantity was His desire. Recruits not spectators are His goal.

In the realm of Jesus' evangelism He very clearly tells all would be followers that coming to Christ will cost family and even your own life…Your family and yourself.

Next He tells us it will not only cost your family and yourself but also your stuff…

2. Have You Counted the Cost? (Luke 14:28-33)

Lk 14:28 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?

Lk 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

Lk 14:30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'

Lk 14:31 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?

Lk 14:32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Lk 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Most modern day evangelists will tell us that if you come to Christ, you will begin living the good life; you'll be healthy and wealthy. Is this true? Is this the message Jesus is sharing with us? Is this the Gospel? It's true in the eternal sense. It's true that you will be blessed in many ways.

Mk 10:28 Peter began to say to him, "See, we have left everything and followed you."

The issue isn't what will you get by being a follower of Christ but what it will cost you now in this life. Jesus' point is it will cost you and so you'd better count the cost before you sign up.

Most today claiming to be followers of Christ have never given up anything. They've only desired to get things. When times get difficult they throw in the towel.

Mt 13:21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.

Why have you come to Christ? Is it to get something in this life?

Lk 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Here's an example:

Most folks who are looking for a church to attend ask certain questions…

  • Do you have something for my kids?
  • Do you have a youth group?
  • Do you have a Wednesday Night service?
  • Do you have a center isle?

All these questions are focused on what the church has for them. What can I get out of it?

I'd like more people to come and say, I want to come and serve and work where can I help? But most today are takers and not givers.

Jesus now moves us on and points out something very freighting especially in today's easy Christianity…

3. Do You Follow Christ Completely? (Luke 14:34-35)

Lk 14:34 "Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?

Lk 14:35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

What's Jesus telling us? I've set the terms for discipleship and here they are: Give up everything and follow Me. If need be, turn your back on family, friends, your stuff and even your own life in order to follow Me.

Jesus will not play second fiddle to anyone or anything.

According Jesus (not according to Pastor Brian), anything less is not Christianity at all. Claiming to be a follower and not following wholly is an empty claim. It means nothing. It's like salt that isn't salty. It doesn't even make good fertilizer. Its only purpose is to take its place in the trash heap.

One thing Jesus does here, is, in a round about way, claims deity. If He commands His followers to have no other loyalties except for Him, then He is God. Give up everything, all relationships all your stuff even your life, but don't give up Jesus. Everything else you can afford to loose but don't loose Christ.

Jesus has made the call to discipleship so restrictive that on one occasion everyone left except His disciples and in John 6, He asks them are you leaving also?

Jn 6:65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

Jn 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Jn 6:67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?"

Jn 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,

Jn 6:69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."

I think it's time the bar is raised back to the place of biblical Christianity. I'm afraid in America, we've been living in a fairytale world of make believe. The demand of Christ upon all followers is total allegiance. He will tolerate no rivals to His Lordship. King Jesus will not bow to you or me; we must bow to Him and swear allegiance.

Jesus is telling us straight up, there is no fine print on the back at the bottom of Jesus' brochure of discipleship. When you sign up you are signing over all your allegiance and if need be, even your own life. This is Jesus' demands for His followers.

TT- All Christians must be ready, if need be, to give up everything for the call of Christ.

Application

Let's place ourselves in another make believe situation. Let's imagine right now, this very second Jesus calls you to move overseas and begin working among an unreached people, sharing the love of Christ with them.

Would you do it?

Possible answers:

–No, I couldn't possibly I have (various reasons) why I can't go. I would love to but I just can't.

What are some reasons? Health, Family, House…

–Yes, I can and will. Where do I sign up?

Jesus has called you to follow and He is leading overseas. To not go is to turn away from following Him. Those who turn away, have just shown themselves to be superficial or false followers.

Are you a disciple? Are you a follower? Are you a Christ? The answer must be yes to all of the questions or no to all.

I pray you are willing if need be to forsake everything to follow Christ.

Being Chosen

by Os Hillman

"'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'" At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matt 4:19-20).

Do you recall how good it felt when you were chosen to be on a team? It makes one feel special to be preferred over another.

During the time of Jesus rabbis' were well known in their community. Each rabbi had a following of students. Jesus was developing as a "superstar" rabbi. He was unlike the others. He did things differently. He often confronted the accepted thinking of other rabbis and Pharisees. The younger men had great respect for Jesus, the rabbi. To be selected by Jesus would be a great honor because most rabbis would usually select only the cream of the crop in the community as their disciples. By these standards, Peter and the other disciples would not have qualified. But Jesus had a purpose in mind for Peter and the disciples.

God is the one who calls people into relationship with Himself and to their calling in life. It is for His purposes, not ours. Jesus chose each of his disciples from the workplace instead of the rabbinical schools. They did not choose Jesus, Jesus chose them and it was deemed a great honor in their culture to be chosen by such a rabbi (Jn 15:16).

Jesus called you into relationship with Himself because His desire is for you to be a faithful priest in your work life, family, and city. "I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind." (1 Samuel 2:35). He desires that you be a willing participant in his agenda. He has not called you for your purposes, but His.

Sometimes we think it's all about us. It has to be all about Him in order for us to fulfill what is in His heart and mind for His overall plan for His Kingdom. He doesn't need us, but He has chosen to use us.

God has an agenda for planet earth. He has chosen you and me as the primary instrument for accomplishing His plan. Are you willing to be his faithful priest and king to do what is in His heart and mind? Why not say "yes" to His agenda.

Discipleship and Detachment

by Fr. Tim

Gospel: Lk 14: 25-33

Life experience shows us that one serious choice automatically eliminates another. Choosing a spouse for matrimony eliminates all others. It also comes with particular demands and responsibilities to that sacred covenant that excludes other choices.

Likewise, any serious life choice about one's vocation is far more limiting than choosing what to eat for dinner. But even that most common choice eliminates other foods. Faced with a buffet or pot-luck dinner may appear to offer us a plethora of choices but sooner or later you can't have it all. And so it goes in life.

This same truth applies to our discipleship of the Lord Jesus. The demands and limits that Jesus offers us this Sunday in the Gospel (Lk 14: 25-33) seem at least on face value to be extreme. We are called to "hate" our "father and mother, wife and children . . ." We must carry our cross and renounce all of our possessions. Who would find such choices in any way attractive? If that's what it takes only the most severe would seek to follow Jesus. Or might there be more under the surface of these words? There always is.

The choice to embrace the Gospel is serious business. We are not called to be part time Christians or mere Sunday Christians who give the appearance of discipleship but in truth never let the core message of the Lord truly change our hearts and minds. But is the alternative to hate our family and material possessions?

As always we must remember that the Gospels were not written in modern English so the word "hate" in this context must have another meaning. In essence the word must be better understood as prefer. I must not prefer other people, human relationships, and material possessions with all their advantages more than my relationship with Jesus. To fall in love with the Lord is to say that I prefer him above all other things and that I am willing to even sacrifice all rather than find a less challenging way.

The cost of discipleship is sometimes a "no pain no gain" sort of thing. Nothing worthwhile comes easy but in the same way to follow the Lord is not an endurance test in which only the strong will survive.

If God is at the center of our lives and if we take the Gospel seriously with, then all other people, places, and things fall into their proper order. As St. Augustine reminds us: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee O Lord."

There is no doubt that we need to be connected to others on both an emotional and social level. We are indeed made not to be alone but to take God very seriously. When the cross comes into our experience we will see it as part and parcel of our salvation and not just an annoying and unnecessary form of suffering.

When we look at our "stuff" in light of the treasure we hold in our faith, doesn't all the energy spent on the pursuit of riches take on lesser meaning? While we need a certain amount of things to live with and we even pray for "our daily bread" in the Lord's Prayer yet how much is enough? If our life is all about accumulation then have we pushed God aside? We can live without it if need be for we find ourselves attached to the search of a better spiritual life. Nothing wrong with having things but they should never be ends in themselves.

There's no doubt that Jesus sets the bar very high at times but it is for our ultimate good. If we have a part of our life that is given over to doing good for others, if we are serious about a prayer life, and generous with what we have, then this Gospel becomes a way to be free and find a joy that only Jesus can offer. Our Eucharist becomes a sign of unity and gratitude for the privilege we have of being sons and daughters of a Father who loves us into a life more than we can ever imagine.

O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,
look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,
that those who believe in Christ
may receive true freedom
and an everlasting inheritance.

Jars of Clay

by Dr. Ravi Zacharias

In conversations with people considering the Christian faith, I am often asked why I believe. Sometimes, a litany of offenses associated with Christianity is rehearsed for me as evidence against believing: all the bloodshed and religious wars, the Inquisition, anti-Semitism, etc. I actually don't mind these kinds of critiques or questions about the heritage of Christendom. They are very important, and it would be foolish of me to pretend that the record of Christianity in the world was spotless. Much has been done in the name of God by those who claim to be Christians, for which there should be collective shame.

But sometimes even the acknowledgement of wrongs done isn't enough to satisfy my skeptical friends. Their scrutiny then turns to the Bible. Who wrote it? Can we trust it? How can it be said to be God's word? When it comes to the Bible, I also understand why these kinds of questions are raised. There are some fairly obscure passages, culturally specific events and contexts, and incidents that display the worst of humanity. In combination, these factors can make the work of translation in this contemporary time difficult at best even for the most astute scholars - let alone for those who are completely unfamiliar with it and reading it for the first time. Again, it would be foolish if those who studied the Bible pretended to understand everything within its narrative perfectly or completely.

One thing that is not difficult to see or understand, however, is the humanity on display throughout the biblical narrative. Even the most 'heroic' or 'epic' of biblical characters have significant flaws; and their weaknesses are as much on display as their strengths. For example, Moses, Israel's great deliverer is long past his prime having been exiled from the abundance of royal life in Egypt. He is reduced to tending sheep in the barren wilderness. Not skilled in speech, and perhaps suffering from a speech impediment, he is the least likely candidate to be standing before the Pharaoh of Egypt to argue his case for the release of his people. If this were not enough, he also struggled with his temper - killing an Egyptian in his youth, and striking a rock in anger with such violence that he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land.

King David, the greatest king of Israel is the youngest of his family when he is anointed as king, an honor normally reserved for the first born. He committed murder and adultery, conducted a census against God's specific prohibition - and yet he is the one described as a "man after God's heart." David likely penned most of Israel's psalter - a psalter still used in both Jewish and Christian worship today. In this psalter, the record of human emotions, human experience, and human questioning is on display. These are songs of sacred worship even as they represent the full-spectrum of human experience and the deepest cries of the human heart.

There are also the twelve disciples; humble fishermen without much education who lived and learned from Jesus, himself. Despite their proximity to Jesus for three years, one would betray him, another would deny having even known him, and all of them would flee from him in his greatest hour of need. Despite having access to this great teacher, they often failed to understand what he was saying. Likewise, the apostle Paul, who penned most of the New Testament letters, was formerly a murderer of Christians and a legalist of legalists. Even though he is the first apostle of the church, he couldn't prevent a disagreement over John Mark, between himself and Barnabus, from separating them and ending their ministry together.

Given all this, some want to overlook the humanity in the Bible. Perhaps it causes embarrassment or creates fear that these less than stellar lives are evidence against transformed lives. I don't see it that way at all. In fact, time and again when I have struggled with doubts in my faith, I am reminded of all these human individuals used by God as witnesses to the greatness of God's love and redemption. It is why I am able to proclaim the trustworthiness and faithfulness of the Biblical record, and indeed, the Christian faith. For, unlike any other sacred text, as lofty and as grand as their epics might be, or as poetic and beautiful as their texts read, they do not show the full portrait of humanity on display as the Bible does.

What kind of God, indeed what kind of religion, takes fallen and broken human beings and includes them as key players in the plan of salvation? As the apostle Paul proclaimed as the foundation of his own ministry; "for God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness made the light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2 Cor. 4:6-7).

Skeptics and critics of Christianity might still have well-reasoned arguments and legitimate issues to raise with the faith (and with the faithful), but what cannot be denied is that the God on display in the Bible is not afraid or averse towards humanity, nor does that God shy away from making heroes out of those many would consider undesirable.

And if all of that weren't enough, the biblical writers speak of God loving humanity so much that human flesh became a temple. God became one of us - filling jars of clay with immeasurable treasure. It is the uniqueness of the divine-human allegiance that keeps me believing. Even in the face of hard critique, it is the prevalence of humanity in the narrative of Scripture that keeps me believing in the truth and relevance of the God willing to come near.

Source: A Slice of Infinity;
Copyright © 2013 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

The Servant's Primary Goal

by Oswald Chambers

"We make it our aim . . . to be well pleasing to Him" - 2 Corinthians 5:9

"We make it our aim. . . ." It requires a conscious decision and effort to keep our primary goal constantly in front of us. It means holding ourselves to the highest priority year in and year out; not making our first priority to win souls, or to establish churches, or to have revivals, but seeking only "to be well pleasing to Him." It is not a lack of spiritual experience that leads to failure, but a lack of working to keep our eyes focused and on the right goal. At least once a week examine yourself before God to see if your life is measuring up to the standard He has for you. Paul was like a musician who gives no thought to audience approval, if he can only catch a look of approval from his Conductor.

Any goal we have that diverts us even to the slightest degree from the central goal of being "approved to God" (2 Timothy 2:15) may result in our rejection from further service for Him. When you discern where the goal leads, you will understand why it is so necessary to keep "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2). Paul spoke of the importance of controlling his own body so that it would not take him in the wrong direction. He said, "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest . . . I myself should become disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27).

I must learn to relate everything to the primary goal, maintaining it without interruption.

Source: My Utmost for His Highest - Oswald Chambers

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