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- READING PLAN
- The Chosen
Parables to Live By
“Having What It Takes”
Watch on YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQpPqJo3Lio
While Jesus was traveling in the area of the Jordan River, he was approached by a rich young ruler who asked, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” And Jesus responded, “Keep the commandments.”
Being taken back at Jesus statement, the young ruler asked which commandments, and Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Feeling pretty good about himself the young ruler said, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” And Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” And it says that the rich young ruler left sorrowful (Matthew 19:16-22 NKJV).
Now, this story is not meant to be a sell all you have and give it to the church sort of teaching. Rather, what Jesus is telling this young man along with us is, “Go Hard, or Go Home.”
This was a tough thing that Jesus told this young man. Jesus was not what you might call seeker sensitive. Jesus gave the entrance requirements right up front. For all those who were seeking after God, Jesus forced them right at the beginning to consider what it took to be a disciple.
To those wishing to follow, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
Such was the case in the stories we will be looking at this morning, and while I’d like to give them different names, it’s all about doing what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus didn’t beat around the bush but said that being His disciple would cost. Look at how He begins.
“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.” (Luke 14:26-27 NKJV)
Jesus wasn’t saying to hate everyone, even the members of our families; rather it was to love God even more than everyone else. And to pick up one’s cross didn’t mean that a Christian will be a little inconvenienced in this life, but it meant to die, and in most cases that meant to die to self. So, to pick up one’s cross was meant to show those wishing to follow Jesus that they must be willing to die to all other desires outside the desire to follow Him.
Jesus never allowed his followers to enjoy a superficial relationship, but rather His words cut to the very heart and core of what it meant to be a disciple.
Bible commentator, Alexander Maclaren said of Jesus, “Christ sought for no recruits under false pretenses, but rather discouraged than stimulated light-hearted adhesion.” (Alexander Maclaren)
This same sort of tough talk came at another time when Jesus said to the people, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54 NKJV)
This was truly shocking to those who heard it without understanding. You see to drink blood or eat meat with blood still oozing from it was against the Law, and it was abhorrent to their way of thinking as it is to our way of thinking today.
But what Jesus meant by this was to shock His listeners and cause the curious and the hanger-on’s to seriously question their motives in following Him. It says that after this statement many stopped following.
What Jesus was declaring was His indispensability. He presented Himself as that indispensable necessity for life, not some luxury or added blessing. In a sense, what Jesus was saying was that the only way to have eternal life was through consuming all that He is and all that He represents.
Jesus loved people and His desire was that all come to eternal life, but He didn’t sugar coat what that would look like. Jesus was neither tame nor predictable when it came to the words He spoke. But everything Jesus said was a call to wholehearted devotion to God.
Theologian James Montgomery Boice said, “Following Jesus must be the most important thing in our lives, even more than our lives. Nothing must be done that subtracts from that commitment.”
My old editor at the Desert Valley Times had a hard time getting a green card to live and work in the United States. He was a Canadian citizen, but he could not be a citizen of the U.S. and Canada at the same time. He couldn’t claim citizenship in one country and carry a passport from another.
In the same way, there is no dual citizenship if our desire is to belong to God. In other words, there can be no divided loyalties on our part as disciples. And Jesus makes that clear when He tells us that we are to love Him more than family or even ourselves, as we are called to take up our cross and follow.
And so, here in our passage, Jesus makes it clear that there can be no cheap or superficial discipleship. Bible commentator, Henry Ironsides said, “We cannot serve our Lord Jesus Christ as we should without tremendous cost to ourselves.”
And so, the message Jesus is bringing across is, “Following Christ Requires Our All.”
And the stories Jesus brings out about building a tower and going into battle looks at two obligations that we have as disciples, which are, Finishing and Sacrificing.
The first parable deals with our need to finish what we start.
“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 and was not able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30 NKJV)
Now, a tower wasn’t a luxury item. It wasn’t like a second home or a new garage to hold more stuff. A tower in those days was a necessity for the life of a community and to keep their fields safe from predators.
Towers were structures used for defense and for protection. It was either a part of a city’s wall or it was out in the fields, and its purpose was to warn the city’s inhabitants or the workers of any danger that may be coming.
And so, Jesus was saying that discipleship is something that everyone must build in their own lives. In the Great Commission Jesus said to go and make disciples. There is and must be intentionality in our actions when we become disciples, which is what this illustration is all about.
It isn’t about doing a cost analysis as to whether or not to build a tower, but rather it was about whether or not we are prepared to pay the price to complete it; whether or not we’re prepared to pay the price of discipleship.
It’s not a look before you leap, but a leap anyway and make sure you do whatever it takes to make it to the other side. It’s all about finishing.
Now, finishing demands several things, the first is that finishing demands being willing to give whatever it takes.
a. Willing to Give Whatever It Takes.
It’s taking the time and estimating the cost involved and then gathering the resources necessary to finish. Are we willing to commit it all to finishing the race, to do whatever it takes to complete the process?
Now, the truth is that none of us have what it takes, but are we willing to give what we have to the process and to accomplish the goal? Therefore, if our goal is to accomplish God’s kingdom purposes, we must link ourselves to Jesus knowing that He will supply what we are unable to supply ourselves. But He wants us to do it by faith, and not out of our flesh.
But this idea of counting the cost is important, because to follow Him we must be willing to give it all, which is more than just money or possessions, but it’s also our time and energy as well.
To accept Jesus, a Jew had to count the cost of that relationship, because they knew that when the family found out, they would most likely be cut off, and would be considered dead to everyone they know and ostracized from the family and community.
This brings a clearer understanding of what Jesus meant about loving Him more than family, because it is only such a love that will carry us through the heartache of family and friends turning their backs on us.
Next, to finish demands that we make progress.
b. We Must Make Progress
Now, I know that none of us will ever be finished in this process of becoming a disciple until after our deaths and we’re with Him in heaven. So, that’s not the part that should concern us, rather what should concern us is if there is no forward progress.
Are we growing in our knowledge of God? Are we growing in the grace which we claim we live in? Are we truly becoming more and more like Jesus? Are we growing from glory to glory?
Now, as far as physical growth, remember when we had those marks on the side of the bedroom door showing how much we had grown? But as we got older and became adults we stopped growing upward, and for most of us, our growth is now outward.
So, we should never stop growing, at least upward.
And finally in our finishing, we need more than a good beginning.
c. More Than A Good Beginning
It’s not important how we start as it is in how we finish. A great beginning means nothing if there is no ending. Too many people start out strong in their relationship with the Lord, but shortly thereafter they begin to turn aside or back to the ways of the world and walk away from the faith they said they believed in.
But Jesus doesn’t want us to be flashes in the pan, but those willing to walk through the flames with Him. He’s looking for disciples like Daniel’s three friends who wouldn’t bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, and who were ready to be tossed into the fiery furnace because of that commitment.
So, in this illustration of counting the cost and building a tower, Jesus is telling us of the necessity of not only becoming a disciple, but of doing whatever it takes to finish what we start. To hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV); rather than “Depart from Me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23 NKJV)
This brings us to the second parable Jesus taught, which speaks to the topic of sacrifice.
“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.” (Luke 14:31-32 NKJV)
Now as we look at this illustration, like the first one, at first glance we get the idea that if we don’t have the resources we shouldn’t build, or that we shouldn’t proceed into battle. That we need to count the cost, and if we don’t have what it takes, then we don’t start, or worse, we compromise.
But that is not the meaning of either one of these. Both talk about making sure we have what it takes. This is summed up for us in Jesus’s concluding remark.
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33 NKJV)
Therefore, to be a disciple of Jesus we must be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary, holding nothing back. Not risking it all for Jesus means that we’re not His.
The king estimated the odds of success and if he didn’t think he could win, he would broker a peace deal.
But I don’t think that this is what Jesus had in mind. Remember we must take this in context to what Jesus has already said and His concluding remarks. Instead, I believe Jesus is saying we need to estimate the sacrifice necessary and be willing to pay the price, be willing to sacrifice what is necessary.
Never are we to give in to the enemy. Rather, as His disciples we must be willing to risk it all. So, to sacrifice means going against the odds.
a. Going Against the Odds
The Bible is filled with one instance after another where God calls His people to go against the odds.
Consider David and Goliath. By the worldly standards, the odds were stacked against David. Here you have a small shepherd boy with a sling shot going against a giant who had been trained in war with all the implements of war. But as they say, and that which has been proven to be true, one with the Lord is a majority.
To the odds maker and Goliath, David said, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand.” (1 Samuel 17:45-46a NKJV)
You see, God delights in using what seems to be inadequate, at what appears to be insufficient to accomplish His purposes. That way the glory goes to Him.
The same could be said about a cowering farmer named Gideon who gathered a rag-tag army of Israelites to face a mightier foe. By human accounting, Gideon should have sued for peace, but instead he gathered a small group of poorly armed men and defeated the whole Midianite army.
And so, going back to our opening story of the rich young ruler, Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:2 NKJV)
And the Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
So, to be a disciple we must be willing to go against the odds and face the opposition no matter what.
The other thing that a sacrifice means is to be willing to give our lives in the service to God.
b. Willing To Serve God
The king in this story wasn’t willing to risk the lives of his army or his own life against the odds he was facing. So, he quit and sued for peace. But to be willing to win he had to be willing to risk it all. To be a disciple is to be willing to say goodbye to everything for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of Christ.
There was a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion The doctor explained that she had a rare blood disease that the boy had recovered from a few years earlier. Her only chance was for the boy to give his blood to her, because he also had the same blood type as his sister, which was rare.
The doctored asked, “Would you give your blood to your sister?” And the boy’s lower lip began to quiver as he said he would. Soon they were being wheeled into the hospital room together. His sister was pale and thin, and the boy was robust and healthy. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm and as he watched the blood flow out, he asked, “Doctor, when do I die?”
As disciples of Jesus, we must be willing to sacrifice it all for Jesus. We must abandon all that we hold dear, even are own lives, and be willing to sacrifice it for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that it is not this world that we look forward to, but for the next.
And so, in these two parables, or illustrations, Jesus was not encouraging us to estimate the cost so that we can back out gracefully. I remember someone who use to do the announcements for our church in Vegas. When calling for volunteers to help she would say, “Count the Costs,” so that they wouldn’t sign up if they weren’t fully committed. But that is not what Jesus meant by these stories.
Jesus was alerting us to the high cost of discipleship so that we will give all we have. One Bible commentator from the 1800’s said, “The tower must be built … (and) the kingdom of heaven must at any price and above all be sought.”
With this being said, now consider how Jesus ends.
“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 dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 14:34-35 NKJV)
If we want to be disciples, we must be willing to give all we have and hold nothing back. We must be like the builder who commits all his resources to finish what he has started, or like a king who is willing to go against the odds and sacrifice everything for the kingdom. If not, then we are nothing more than stale and worthless salt ready for the trash heap.
We must be willing to risk it all as disciples of Jesus, if not, then we’ll never know the joy that can be found in this life, and then in the life to come.
Discipleship has a cost, but the rewards far exceed anything that we could give.
“I have decided to follow Jesus.”
Wednesday Evening Bible Study