Everyone here knows that we are looking for a new place to meet. We’ve been growing quite steadily over the last two years, and we are starting to get rather cozy here. However, I think that it has been good that the Lord has not opened that door yet.
There is no one who is more eager to find a new place to meet than I, but I think I understand why the Lord has not provided a new space for us yet.
You notice from the first verse that there were great crowds gathering around Jesus. They were swarming like bees. And you will notice how Jesus reacts to this. What was his response? He seeks to trim the herd.
In this passage Jesus seeks to lays forth the terms of discipleship. He says, “If you really want to be my disciple, then you better understand what you are getting into.”
When you are downloading something on your computer one of the things that you always have to do is click the button that says that you agree to the terms and conditions. That’s essentially what Jesus is doing here. He’s laying out the terms and conditions, and he says, “If you want to be one of my disciples this is what is required of you.”
As Jesus speaks he tells two parables to illustrate the forethought that is necessary. The first parable is about a guy who builds a tower. Now, is he just going to jump into the project and start building? Of course not. He’s got to plan it out first and see if he has enough money to get the job done. Otherwise he’s going to look like a fool.
The second parable is essentially the same. A king doesn’t just jump into a war. He’s got to consider whether or not he can win and then take the necessary actions.
All of that is to say, “Hey, you need to think about what you are getting yourself into here.” You can’t just start following me without understanding what you are getting into.
And all of you should know that we are not interested in just filling the pews. While we are glad you are hear, you need to understand that our main concern is not how many seats are taken each Sunday or how much money is being dropped in the offering box each week.
Our focus is on getting people to fear God and keep his commandments. We want people to follow Christ and be lifelong disciples. And like Jesus, we want you to know what you are getting into. Before you get too far into this, we want you to understand how determined you must be if you choose to follow Christ. What’s more, we want you to know just how detrimental it can be if you choose to turn away from Christ.
In other words, you have to count the cost. You have to count what it might cost you if you choose to follow after Christ and you have to count what it might cost you if you end up falling away from Christ.
You will notice that Jesus begins by talking about how determined you must be if you want to follow Christ and be one of his disciples.
I. How determined you must be if you choose to follow Christ [25-33]
He expresses the zeal and fortitude you must possess it in 3 different ways. The first way he gets at it is by means of an exaggerated statement. In verse 26 Jesus says, “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.”
These words were intended to have some shock value. It was intended to give people a jolt and get them really thinking about what they were opting to do here.
Some people look at this and say, “Did Jesus really want us to hate our parents? That seems to contradict all of the rest of Scripture.”
Of course it does! It wasn’t meant to be taken literally. He was exaggerating. He was trying to get people to recognize that their love for Christ has to supersede the love one might have for his family. If they loved their family so much that it would hinder them from following Christ, then they were not fit to be his disciple.
I like what Matthew Henry says here. He says, “[A disciple] must be willing to quit that which is very dear, and therefore must come to Christ thoroughly weaned from all their creature-comforts, and dead to them, so as to cheerfully part with them rather than quit his interest in Christ.”
In other words, you cannot just float along and enjoy being a disciple so long as everyone else goes along with it. You must be willing to turn your backs on them if they would not approve of your new religious affiliation.
That’s pretty extreme, wouldn’t you say? But that’s not all.
In the next verse he gets at the level of your zeal by means of an allusion. He says, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” The reference to “bearing a cross” is a reference to crucifixion. It was the most hideous means of death that existed at that time. And what he is saying is that, if you chose to follow him, you might be deemed an enemy of the state. You might be liable to death; and not just any death! It could mean being tortured and subjected to some of the most terrible pains you could ever imagine.
So again, you see here some of the shock value of Christ’s words. You can’t just be a tepid follower or a fair weather friend of Jesus. You can’t just commit to him so long as you experience wealth and prosperity and good times. You must be in to the point where you are willing to give up your life.
So he’s used an exaggerated statement, an allusion to capital punishment, and we already talked about the two parables. But just in case you missed it, he states it in plain English in verse 34, “If you do not renounce all that you have, you cannot be my disciple.”
Here of course, he’s referring to your possessions. He’s not saying that you have to give them up and take a vow of poverty. He’s using some exaggeration again. What he means to say is that nothing can come between you and your service to Christ. If you can’t live without your make-up kit or your friends’ approval, then you can’t be a disciple of Christ.
My friends, If you are going to be a disciple of Christ then your devotion to him has to surpass every other attachment in your life. You cannot be half-hearted in your devotion and still be considered a follower Christ.
And I want you young people to understand this. A lot of the older folks here have already signed on. They’ve already made the commitment to Christ. And I know there are a lot of you young people who have yet to make a personal profession of faith and commitment to serving Christ.
It is my sincere hope that you do so. I pray for it every day. I want all of you to take Jesus to be your personal Savior and make him the Lord of your life. I want nothing more than to see all of you stand before the congregation and make a formal affirmation of faith. And I want to encourage you, that if you are ready to do that, you talk to your parents.
But one thing you need to do before you have that conversation is think about what Jesus says right here. Are you able to make this kind of sacrifice? Are you ready to put him above everything else?
In the Old Testament before they went to war, the officers were to have the men assemble in their ranks. And the officers were to say to the warriors who were lined up there that if any of them were afraid, they were to go home.
Now there is something very practical about that. You don’t want a bunch of cowards going into battle. Fear can be contagious and you don’t that spreading through the ranks. But there was something more to it. Those who were going out to battle were saying something much more important. As they marched forth were making a profession of faith. They were saying, “I believe in the God of Israel and I am willing to give my life for him.”
That is what Jesus demands of you.
Before you make a commitment to Christ you need to understand how determined you must be.
But not only should you understand how determined you must be, you need to understand how detrimental it can be if you end up turning away from Christ.
Now, Jesus knows that there are people like me. I’m the kind of guy who just likes to jump in and get going. I don’t like spending a lot of time planning out a project and fiddling with all the details.
in order to re-enforce the necessity of counting the cost of becoming a disciple, Jesus adds these last few lines about salt losing its saltiness.
II. How detrimental it will be if you turn away from Christ [34-35]
In verse 34 Jesus says, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how will it be made salty again?”
Now experience tells us that there are many people who make a profession of faith and they follow Christ for a time. They align themselves with the church and they make a pledge to be one of Christ’s disciples. And for a time they are very zealous. They fervently pursue personal piety and are very much salt, as Jesus describes them here in verse 34.
But after a while, they end up turning away from the faith. In all reality, they were a false convert. Grace never really filled their heart and their profession was simply one of the lips and not of the soul. The salt loses its saltiness.
Now Jesus addresses that person here. And he says that that kind of person needs to be aware he puts his eternal destiny in jeopardy. At the very least, he runs the risk of ever being able to come to a true state of salvation.
Look at what Jesus says in verse 34. Think about what this means. He says, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”
What is that saying? It is saying that once salt loses its saltiness, it is extremely hard, if not altogether impossible, to have that flavor brought back. And what then is the comparison? This is a metaphor that Jesus is using to describe a backslider. Jesus is saying that once a person turns away from Christ, it is very difficult, if not altogether impossible, for him to be saved.
Listen to what JC Ryle says, “The general teaching of the New Testament appears to be that nothing is so displeasing to God as the misuse of knowledge, and the wilful turning away from the truth once seen and acknowledged, to the service of sin and the world. The Bible teaches, in fact, that no sinner is so unlikely to be saved as the man who after making a high spiritual profession, falls away and returns to the world.”
Ryle goes on then and gives personal testimony to this from his own experience. He says that during the years of his own ministry he had witnessed the hardness of men who had fallen away.
Now, you all can probably think of exceptions. You might be able to name someone who had once been an ardent believer, then dropped it, only to come back to it later in life. I do not doubt that can occur and that the Lord can display grace in that way.
The exception to the rule does not nullify the rule. The truth of the matter is that those who cozy up to Christ and pursue him for a time only to end up denying him later, do a serious injustice to themselves. They can build up something of an immunity to the gospel. The fire that you once had can calcify and you can become hardened to the gospel that it has no affect upon you.
And you must understand that if you make void your profession of faith you are putting yourself in a precarious position.
But not only do you run the risk of never being able to recover and be saved, you must face the greater reality that you will be eternally lost.
In verse 35 Jesus says that salt that has lost its saltiness is no good. It’s not even good for the manure pile! So what do you do with it? You throw it out on the street and let people trample on it.
You know when it is snowing out and ice forms on the steps, we throw salt out on it too. But everyone comes and tramples it down. Jesus uses that as a way of describing one’s eternal condemnation and experience of hell.
You need to understand that if you turn away from Christ, there will be eternal consequences. On that day when you die and come before the Lord you cannot say to him, “Well, there was a time when I followed you. As a matter of fact, I was quite zealous for the faith. You know Jesus, just how meticulous I was in my personal piety and how ardently I sought to be. I was so fervent in my devotion made the Puritans seem like riotous drunkards.”
That will mean nothing to Christ at all. It doesn’t matter how hot a fire once was. If it peters out before dinner is done cooking, it is of no use.
You must understand that turning from Christ can be a most detrimental thing.
When you visit the Grand Canyon there are certain precautions that you must take, especially if you want to go hiking in the Canyon. One of the things that they warn against is trying to hike from the rim to the river. They do not recommend that you attempt to go down to the bottom and back in one day. They say that there are over 250 people who are rescued each year in the canyon because they have acted foolishly and not heeded the warnings. That, of course, is not counting the dozen or so people who die each year from their lack of caution.
But it is a dangerous thing to try and hike from the rim to the river. Think about it, going down is not that big of a deal. It’s a pretty good hike, for sure. It is over a mile all the way down to the base. And it can be somewhat perilous. After all it is a canyon and you are going down a steep trail. There’s always the danger of slipping and plunging to your death.
But where most people get caught is the trip back up! It is a lot harder going up than going down. Not only do you have to exert the extra effort, but you have the sun with which to contend! It can really get blazing hot. And a lot of people are not prepared for that kind of thing. They might get there in the morning (while it is still cool) and think that it would be a jolly fun thing to walk it. They’ll be thinking, “Hey, this will be no problem.”
But by the afternoon, as they are trudging up, that sun really starts bearing down on them. And in the canyon it can really bake you like an oven; there is not much of a breeze and the sun’s heat is intensified as it bounces off the canyon walls. And many people don’t think to bring enough water.
What their problem is is that they don’t give it enough thought prior to setting out. They just jump in and start down the canyon without taking into consideration all the necessary facts or hazards.
When I was in seminary Elizabeth and I had friends who went to the Grand Canyon for their honeymoon. And they decided to hike the Canyon—rim to river! They were smart though. They started out at 3am, long before the sun came up. And they were in very good condition, so they were hearty enough that they could do it. And they did. It wasn’t without its rigors. It was tough. They said they didn’t do much of anything else the rest of their honeymoon. But they did make it down and back in a day.
My point is, becoming a disciple of Christ is a lot like hiking the canyon. You need to realize what you are getting yourself into. Being a disciple is a demanding thing. It might not be all that it was initially cracked up to be. The Christian life is not all kicks and giggles. Christ has to mean more to you than anything else.
What’s more, you have to understand how detrimental it can be if you are not completely devoted. If you end up turning away from Christ, you run the risk of being eternally lost.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.