July 20-22, 2019
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Luke 9:57-62
“IMPORTANT QUESTIONS FOR FOLLOWING CHRIST”
1. How much does it cost?
2. Is it worth it?
Luke 9:57-62 (EHV) “As they went on the way, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59He said to another man, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another man also said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say good-bye to those at my home.” 62Jesus told him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
It’s basic economics. It’s an important skill for everyone in life. For some it’s a cost/benefit analysis. For others it’s risk/reward. Whatever the viewpoint it’s really the same: How much does it cost? Is it worth it? Wise parents teach this skill to their children. The kids want something. Maybe the latest video game. They make them save and buy it with their own money. Later they ask, “Was it worth it? All the money you had saved up gone for this game you no longer want to play?” Adults practice the same analysis with important things like car buying and house buying. Same thing is true for our church life. How much does this ministry cost? Is it worth it? All kinds of that has gone on and will continue to go on with our building expansion. Architects and builders will tell you that you can do just about anything—for a price. OK, how much does it cost? Is it worth it? Today Jesus brings that process to the forefront with the most important area of our lives: following Him. His words cause us to ask important questions about following Christ. How much does it cost? Is it worth it?
How much does it cost to follow Christ? In one respect we can want to quickly answer that questions this way: Nothing! You know what the Bible says. “It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.” Becoming a follower of Christ costs us nothing. It is by grace. That is unearned and undeserved. It is not by works, not accomplished by us in anyway. God does it all from first to last. As the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” By very nature you can’t pay for a gift of it is not a gift. It costs nothing to become a follower of Christ. But that’s not what Jesus was talking about. He was talking about living as a follower of Christ.
How much does that cost? Let’s learn the answer from Jesus. “As they went on the way, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59He said to another man, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another man also said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say good-bye to those at my home.” 62Jesus told him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” We join Jesus in His last year of public ministry. He goes to Jerusalem to lay down His life for all. A man offers to follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus tells the man that following Him means putting Jesus’ work ahead of comforts like a nice home. Another man Jesus calls to follow. He makes what seems to be a normal and legitimate request. “First, let me bury my father.” While we don’t know exactly what “Let the dead bury the dead,” means, we know what Jesus is saying to Him. If you do that, if you put that task ahead of me, you can’t follow me. Another man wants to follow Jesus but all he wants to do first is say good-bye to his family. Sounds reasonable right? Not to Jesus. Just like you can’t safely drive your bike or car looking backwards, you can’t plow a straight furrow when you are looking backwards either and the point again is clear. You can’t follow Jesus if you are looking back at your former life. So what it costs to follow Christ is everything! Following is more important than a comfortable home. It is the most import item on the schedule. The relationship to Jesus is more important than family and friends. That’s what it takes to follow Jesus.
Have you ever heard the term “Cheap grace?” That term was coined by a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany who spoke out against the atrocities and was executed shortly before the fall of Germany in 1945. This was what he wrote. “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Cheap grace. Sounds funny at first. Grace is free. What do you mean cheap? He meant when you take God’s grace and the sacrifice Christ made without the changes the come from following Christ you treat grace like it’s worthless. He’s talking about saying you follow Christ without a willingness to sacrifice, to give up living like the unbelieving world, without giving up my wants and priorities and replacing them with Christ’s. It’s all a matter of priorities. It’s not enough to say I will put Jesus first. We must truly put Jesus first. I’m so glad in New Testament times that we have the freedom to worship on any day we choose and I’m glad we offer 3 different days and 4 different times each week at St Jacobi because you can’t always control your schedule. I have to tell you that that my pastor’s heart is really hoping that we aren’t unintendedly sending the message, “Worship Christ when it is convenient for you.” And never does following Christ give freedom to not worship. Then we make grace look cheap. Of if we say, “I will follow you Jesus but first let me excel in my career, or the sport of the season.” That makes grace look cheap. I’m glad God trusts us to pick an honorable percentage of our income to give back to Him in thankfulness and to further His work but you can’t follow Christ and not have picked that percentage and be giving it first. “I will honor you Christ but first let me pay off my school loans or the new car I always wanted or pay for my kids to get through school.” That’s no following of Christ. How much does it cost to follow Christ? Everything because it requires putting Jesus before earthly comfort, Jesus before friends and family, Jesus ways before our own.
Is it worth it? Well how much is God’s one and only Son worth? Recently our picnic committee asked if I would be willing to spend some time in the dunk tank with a potential for getting dunked. I remember saying, “Sure. But one thing I ask, don’t sell me cheaply.” They settled on three shots for a dollar. Guess I know how much I’m worth. Some of you may have read a recent story about the Disney heiress who visited Disney to check on the morale of the employees. She was aghast to find out what they were being paid compared to the CEO who makes about 65 million a year. Her next quote caught my attention. She said, “Jesus Christ himself isn’t worth 500 times a median worker’s wages.” I didn’t crunch the numbers. Didn’t need to. She is wrong. What is Jesus worth, the one and only Son of God? What is he worth when His sacrificial death pays for the sins of all people of all time? Priceless. What is it worth to be a follower of him?
Everything! Jesus is no beggar. If we don’t follow He can choose others. If we don’t worship others will. If we don’t do His work He will let others have that honor. It is a privilege to be a follower of Jesus and enjoy all the blessings that comes with it. What is it worth to hear the doctor say, “There’s nothing more we can do,” and be able to say, “That’s OK. I’m going to heaven.” What’s it worth to know mom and dad, brother and sister, baby from the womb is in heaven and you will see them and live with them in the glory of heaven forever? What is it worth when hardship comes to know that a loving, not punishing, God stands behind it and is using it for good? Is it worth it? Are you kidding? It’s the deal of eternity.
But not always easy for us to put into practice, to wholeheartedly, not half heartedly follow Christ. So what does He do? He helps in in our weakness by promising blessings to calm our fears of losing. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well,” is promised to help us prioritize our time and money. “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come, eternal life” is promised for when we make real sacrifices for Christ and his work. And there are many more. It’s basic economics, folks. Following Christ will cost us time, money, maybe an easier earthly life. But it’s worth everything and more. Amen.