Sermon on Luke 14:25-33
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Count the Cost of Following Christ
1. It costs nothing!
2. It costs everything!
Text: Luke 14:25-33
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” You might live in the biggest house this side of the Mississippi. You might be so rich that you use $20 bills as Kleenex. You might have a cushy job that has lots of benefits and that gives you a great reputation. You might have a big, happy, and healthy family that gets along very nicely. But what good would any of that do if you still ended up in hell? A familiar bumper sticker says it this way, “He who dies with the most toys . . . still dies.” Jesus put it more concretely: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
His point is clear. Nothing in this life can be taken with us after we die. Thus, nothing in this life really has any value. And since nothing in this life really has true value, then that means there is only one question in life that matters: What is my relationship with God like? If we cannot take anything of this life with us when we die, our greatest concern ought to be our status with God and whether or not we will be in heaven.
So what does it take? What does it take to be in a close relationship with Jesus? What does it cost to be in a close relationship with Jesus? Today, Jesus tells us himself. Listen carefully to his words in Luke 14 and
Count the Cost of Following Christ
Almost every club or organization that you can belong to costs something. If you are part of a Home Owners Association, there are monthly fees that are due. Join a fitness club, and you need to pay the monthly membership fee. Want access to a golf club? Than you better pay the yearly membership fee! We are used to the concept of having to pay to be a part of something or to receive the benefits of something.
What about the greatest club of all—God’s family? What about entrance and membership into eternal life in heaven? Someone once asked Jesus that same question. An expert in the law approached Jesus and asked him, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Essentially, “What’s it going to take? How much is it going to cost? Tell me what I need to do.”
Here’s the answer Jesus approved of: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your soul and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.” He did not say to love the Lord with some of your heart, part of your strength, most of your soul, and a little of your mind. He did not say to love your neighbor who returns your lawnmower and who doesn’t have loud parties at 1am. If we want to be a part of God’s family, then we need to perfectly obey and respect and love our heavenly Father. If we want to enter into eternal life, than we need to show perfect love for God and perfect love for all people. That’s the price. That’s the cost of a good standing with God.
You are really in luck today. It might be a very short sermon this morning. You don’t have to listen to any more of what I have to say. The rest of the sermon might not be for you. You already know what is most important in life—a good relationship with God and whether you will be in heaven or not. You already know what the cost of that is—perfect love for God and perfect love for everyone else. So you don’t have to listen any more. This sermon might not be for you.
If you have never had any doubts or questions about God, then this sermon is not for you. If you have never prioritized your family, your job, or your recreation over the Lord, then you don’t have to listen any more. If you have no possessions in your house that are not really needed or that were a waste of money, if you give so much in offerings to the Lord that it strains the rest of your budget, then you don’t have to listen. If you have never ever misused God’s name in conversation or told or laughed at a dirty joke, then again, you are good to go.
If you have never been angry, held a grudge, been slow to forgive, or taken revenge, then this sermon is not for you. If you have always show respect to government leaders and authorities, please don’t listen. If you have never talked about someone behind his or her back (or publicly on Facebook or Twitter or a blog), if you always take others’ words and actions in the kindest possible way, and if you have never put your foot in your mouth, this won’t apply to you.
If you have never done any of those other things, and if you have always trusted, always had sure hope, always been kind, always been compassionate, always been patient, always shown love, then you have my permission to either get up and leave or fall asleep right now. But if you have done any of those things ever before, even once, then I think you had better stay and listen closely. I guessed that no one would leave.
The point is that when we look at the cost of a right relationship with God and eternal life in heaven, we have nothing to offer. We bring nothing to the table. We can’t pay the price. The possibility of us earning our way to heaven and a right status with God is the same possibility of someone in this world paying off the U.S. National Debt of over $13 trillion alone. It’s impossible. It could never happen. So it is with God. We fall far short of his glory and we never have and never will love him or love our neighbor perfectly.
But that’s the wonderful news about following Christ. He paid the price. God demands that we love him with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind. Jesus did that. He always showed perfect love and obedience for his heavenly Father. God also demands that we show perfect love for our neighbor. Jesus did that and so much more as he had compassion on thousands regardless of gender, age, race, or culture. Jesus paid the price of perfect love.
And Jesus also paid the price of punishment for sin. Whereas God demands death and hell as a payment for sin, Jesus did that too. Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Jesus suffered hell on the cross. He paid the price not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death.
The most important question in life is, “What’s my status with God like? Will I be in heaven when I die?” The answer? You’re loved. You’re forgiven. You’re saved. You will be in heaven. What does it cost to be a Christian? What does it cost to be in heaven? It costs nothing! Jesus paid the price with his perfect life and innocent death. Count the Cost of Following Christ and rejoice in the Lord! It costs nothing!
How often have you seen a commercial on TV and thought, “What a great deal, I have to get one of those!” Or perhaps you see an ad for an exclusive offer for a new, free membership and you think, “I better join right away.” But then as soon as get more information, or as soon as you take a look at the contract, you realize there is some fine print. What appeared to be free is not really even close to free. In fact, all the other fees and obligations make it more expensive than everything else!
Our American ears hear that heaven and eternal life are free and that Jesus has paid it all—there is nothing that we need to do. So we think, “What’s the catch? Where’s the fine print?” Well there is no catch! There is no fine print. When God offers forgiveness and salvation for free to all who believe, then that is truly what happens!
However, that does not mean that everything this side of heaven will be perfect. Following Jesus does not mean that all your pain will go away, you will never have any problems, you will be successful, and you will never have any worries ever again. Actually, just the opposite is true.
There were many people who were following Jesus around the time of the gospel this morning in Luke 14. By this time many had heard or even witnessed many miracles—feeding thousands, casting out demons, healing countless, and much more. These crowds of people were all about getting more of these worldly blessings and gifts from Jesus.
So Jesus gave them a dose of reality. Verse 26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciples.” Jesus is not telling his followers to literally hate their family or themselves. Jesus simply means that we are not to love our families or ourselves more than him. Followers of Christ need to understand that God is to be number one in our hearts, and nothing—not even our families or our own wants and needs—are to take precedent over the Lord.
Jesus continued, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Those who follow Jesus need to understand that it will be difficult. It will be challenging. It will be daunting. It will be like we are carrying a cross. What is the Christian cross? Stubbing your toe in the morning on your bed or having to work two jobs to pay the bills are not crosses to bear. The Christian cross is any suffering that you endure because you are a Christian.
There are two kinds of Christian crosses: those from the outside and those from within. Crosses from outside of us include all the persecution and suffering that we face as Christians. Those who mock and ridicule us, those who put pressures on us and tempt us, those who try and kill us—they are all part of carrying our Christian cross. But there is another cross that we carry that comes from within. This is the burden of struggling against our own sinful nature. Fighting off urges to sin, resisting temptations, battling against our greedy and lustful flesh—that is part of carrying the Christian cross.
What does it cost to follow Christ and to go to heaven? It costs nothing! But what does it cost to follow Christ while you are here in this world? It costs everything! Jesus says that it would be foolish not to realize this. It would be like a person who wants to build a tower but doesn’t first make a budget. The person would only complete part of it, and everyone who sees the unfinished tower would ridicule him. Or it would be like a king who is going to war but doesn’t figure out whether he has enough men to fight the battle. Either scenario of not counting the cost would be completely foolish.
Thus, Jesus concludes, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” You don’t have to pay anything to be a follower of Christ. You don’t have to pay anything to enter heaven. That’s not what Jesus is saying. But he is saying that you need to realize that following Christ will cost you everything in this life. Why? Because you can’t serve two Gods. There is only one God. You can’t serve the things of this life and this world and serve the true God. It’s one or the other. Just as Jesus was giving an abrupt wakeup call to all of those people who wanted to follow him just for his miracles, so he is giving an abrupt wakeup call to us who so often love things of this world. Count the Cost of Following Christ! It costs everything!
Maybe this sounds a little scary to you. Maybe this is a little intimidating. Maybe this makes you pause for a moment and think, “Wait, a second! I’m not sure I’m cut out for this!” But then we remember Jesus’ very important question: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his soul?” We can’t take anything of this life with us. Nothing of this life has any real value. Nothing in this life really matters that much. So if we lose things in this life because we follow Christ, fine! So be it! We don’t follow Jesus for blessings in this life—for health, wealth, prosperity, fame, or greatness. We follow Christ for the blessings after this life—the eternity, the perfection, the joy, the eternal life with him. Yes, I walk in danger all the way as I take up my cross and follow Christ. But, my walk is heavenward all the way. Give thanks to God! Following Christ may cost everything in this life, but entering eternity with him costs nothing. And that’s a price I can afford!
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