Of course it’s worth it – Luke 14:26-33

There is a paradox involved in serving Jesus.  We know we are saved by grace and that the eternal life we receive from God is nothing but a gift from him.  At the same time, Jesus makes it very clear that discipleship is truly costly.  This is a cost we all need to count.

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. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 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? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

First some clarification of that love/hate thing.  Those words, love and hate, were used in that culture at that time as comparative terms, not necessarily opposites. Matthew makes this clearer than Luke, in Matthew 10:37-38.

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

But the point Jesus makes is still stark.  Our love of God and determination to follow Jesus must be our highest affections.  No person or thing, not even our own lives, can stand in the way of our commitment to Christ.  Nothing can be held as superior to him.  

These are serious words and must be taken as seriously as they are meant.  Jesus encourages us to count the cost.  Are we ready to pay this price?  Can we finish building the tower?  Are we ready to go to war?  Remember, we need to renounce all that we have.

Of course the most faithful, fully devoted discipleship worth any price we might pay.  Does  t bring tension into some relationships?  It’s worth it.  Do we even lose one or more of those relationships as result of following Christ?  Will it affect us materially, in the realm of our career goals, wealth or possessions?  Probably so, according to Jesus, to all of the above questions.  Still, it’s worth it.

Paul served Jesus a long time and endured far more than most in exchange.  Let’s remember the conclusions of his thorough assessment in 2 Corinthians 4:17.  No matter what we face as we follow Jesus, it is nearly nothing.  The glory that awaits us is better to an absurd extreme.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

We need to count the cost of discipleship, but of course this will only determine for us that it’s worth it in the end.

Luke 9 – Verse by Verse

Photo for Luke

Up until now, Luke has shown us the ministry of Jesus in and around Galilee. This week will arrive at a turning point. Christ will allow his identity to sink in with his disciples and then turn toward Jerusalem.

Luke 09.pdf

Luke 09.mp3

Mark 9 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

This chapter starts with the event known as the Transfiguration.  After healing a boy with a demon, Jesus proceeds through teaching on discipleship, heaven and hell.

Mark 09.pdf     (Omar Yamout)

Mark 09.mp3   (Omar Yamout)

Mark 6 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

This week we will see two parallel themes. First, rejection of both Christ and of John the Baptist; then expansion – of Christ’s ministry by delegating his authority to his disciples.

Mark 06.pdf

Mark 06.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 6

Heavenly Father,

We understand that you have called us to lives of ministry, lives of service, here in this world.  Though our gifts may differ, our responsibility is much the same. We need to live completely for you.

We also understand that we will continue to learn as we serve. You do not require our training to be complete before you use us, but rather we expect you to train us as we begin to be used.

At the same time we need to count the cost.  

Jesus was rejected repeatedly in his hometown of Nazareth. People knew him, but allowed their familiarity to get in the way of seeing who he really was.

John the Baptist angered selfish rulers who engaged in immoral behavior. It eventually cost him his life. We can expect the same kind of rejection as we seek to serve you.

In Christ,

Amen.

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 4

Heavenly Father,

We confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is worthy of our worship and worthy of our most complete loyalty and commitment.

We pray that you would fill us with the confidence we need to be open about our faith.

We pray also for patience and perseverance in the task of sowing the word.

We pray that over time our lives would bear fruit as you intend. Let us be that good soil in which your word produces fruit, thirty, sixty and one hundredfold what we are given.

We look to you as the one who can make that happen in our lives, and we know full well it is not something that we can accomplish in and of ourselves.

In Christ,

Amen.

The other Parable of the Sower – Mark 4:26-29

The primary Parable of the Sower (as Jesus calls it in Matthew 13:18) is recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke.  This other one, also called the Parable of the Growing Seed, is only in Mark.  I like to think of it as a further elaboration on the sower’s seed sown on good ground, which “yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:8).

26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The job of sowing and harvesting, of spreading the word of God and eventually seeing the fruit of it, is a wiggly business.  We have to “preach the word,” as Paul says (2 Tim 4:2).  But in doing so, we cannot look for immediate results.  In fact, it is hard to see the relationship between our work and its results at all.  We “sleep by night and rise by day” and in the meantime something happens.  We don’t know how, but growth comes naturally.  As Jesus says, “the earth yields crops ‘by itself.'”  

That last expression “by itself” is interesting.  The dictionary form of the original word is automatos, which is kind of like automatic.  It reminds me of an automat, the old vending machine, restaurant-like thingy, where the food just sat there waiting for someone to buy it.  (Yes, I was a fan, but do not know of one anywhere in Indianapolis where I live.  Not sure if they even exist at all in the USA anymore. Alas.)

Christ’s point, however, is important.  Proclaiming the word of God, whether it is evangelism, teaching, a weekly Sunday service, or a private conversation, will yield results.  Somehow, at some point.  This happens without our looking at it constantly and trying to measure the growth.

Let this be an encouragement for all of us “sowers.”  I want to see immediate results as much as the next guy, I suppose.  Normally I don’t see any.  You may not see quick returns on your word-sharing investment either.  But don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  Quick returns are not what we signed up for.  We signed up for continuous, consistent sowing and eventual reaping, when the time is right.  That might not be when or where we we are looking for it, but it comes.