Jesus Expects complete and unwavering Allegiance from his Disciples
Intro: Well morning friends, visitors and those joining on line. My name is Matt Johnson and over the past few weeks Jesus has been teaching about the period of time between his first and second comings. And Jesus says sometimes its going to be really, really hard – but he still expects complete and unwavering loyalty from his disciples.
Well friends – I want to begin today saying I REJOICE in the US Senates decision to overturn Roe vs Wade. Hallelujah. I say Hallelujah because of my loyalty to Jesus. The Bible is clear, human life begins in the womb. Despite what the world says “abortion” and taking another person’s life is NOT a woman’s right. Nopw of course, world leaders – like Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Taylor Swift and Stephen King – all come out condmening the 5 judges. But I rejoice in the courage and conviction of these 5 judges. Even the 6th judge who abstained from voting, agreed that abortion should be illegal after 15 weeks. So it was not 5-4. It was closer to 6-9. And I wish more Christians were willing to count the cost of following Jesus, speak up and nail their colors to the mast.
And yes, I’m willing to accept all the HATE MAIL that comes with saying so. I’ve counted the cost and I say bring it on. I’m more than ready to stand up for innocent babies. Now perhaps I’ll be condemned in the court of public opinion – but that is ok. I know Jesus.
I also rejoice this week in the decision of FINA that banned transgender men from competing in women’s swimming. Hallelujah. Do I have a Halleujah? Anything other than this decision, would have given men who call themselves women an unfair physical advantage over real women. It would have been an INJUSTICE. So again, I rejoice in the courage of the people who made this hard, but right decision. And I wish more Christians had this sort of gumption to stand for what is right, even though it might be costly. Men taking gold medals away from hard working women is just plain wrong.
Now sadly, the media only shows all the people who are opposed to these decisions. They create the picture that everyone hates these decisions. Yet, I guarantee right now there are many people around the world rejoicing in these decisions. I’m one of them. Do I have a hallelujah? (PAUSE) Sadly, I know many people are scared that if they say Hallelujah out loud – it will come at a significant cost. Eventually, speaking like this may lead 1) to a significant fine or 2) even jail time. But I’m seriously reaching the point where I am happy to say – bring it on. I would almost count it an honor now, to suffer for biblical truth. An honor. Martin Luther had the guts to say; “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me,” and it started the reformation.
Today Jesus tells “would be followers” to count the cost and only follow Jesus – if you’re ready to say “Bring it on.” If you’re not ready to say “Bring it on,” Jesus says; “Go home. You’re wasting your time.”
Point 1: Jesus expects his Disciples to Put Him before Everyone Else
Show: Lk.14:25-26 (READ)
Explain: Well in simple terms Jesus is saying that if we follow him as a disciple – he must come first in our lives. Now many people get hung up on the word “HATE”. But this is simply a Jewish idiom that is really talking about LOYALTY to Jesus. Have you ever heard an Aussie say something is a dog’s breakfast? Well, that is an idiom and it’s got nothing to do with dogs or breakfast. A “dogs breakfast” simply means something has become a mess. And in Judaismhating something doesn’t always mean hate. Sometimes hate is talking about loyalty.
Let me show you an example. In the Old Testament it talks about JACOB A) loving his wife Rachel, but B) hating his wife Leah (Slide 4; Gen.29:30-31). Now as you can see Jacob loving Leah less then Rachel is expressed as hate. But this still clearly says – Jacob loved Leah, just less than he loved Rachel. THERE ARE A FEW TIMES in the Bible and Jewish writings – where love-hate contrasts are actually about loyalty to one over another.
We know Jesus does not actually want us to hate our family – because he tells us to love both our neighbors and our enemies. So, whether you count family – neighbors or enemies – Jesus wants you to love them. But if you are to follow Jesus – you must love Jesus more than father, mother, wife, children, brothers or sisters. What Jesus is saying is that if push comes to shove and you have to decide between Jesus or your family, Jesus must be your first loyalty. Jesus may also be saying that if he isn’t your first loyalty – then you probably won’t remain a Christian for long.
In first century – this proved to be entirely true. Some Jewish people accepted Jesus as their Messiah and other Jewish people rejected Jesus as Messiah. So, Jesus started to divide SYNAGOGUES and FAMILIES. And quite often orthodox Jewish families – would totally reject any family member who started to follow Jesus.
You were no longer welcome to Shabbat or Passover. The only way you’d be accepted back into the family was if you stopped being a Christian. The point is – following Jesus came at a cost. And Jesus is saying that unless you weigh that cost and decide in your heart that Jesus is your first loyalty, you won’t remain a Christian for long.
The same is true today in many Muslim families and Hindu families. If a gay person becomes a Christian–- they are often totally rejected by the LGBTIQA community. Sadly, it’s even beginning to happen in some secular families. You become a Christian, you’re no longer treated as family…
Apply: So Jesus is telling would be followers – that if he is NOT their first love and first loyalty – they probably won’t last. The reality is – it will cost you something to follow Jesus. Sadly, I had a Christian (many of you know) tell me this week, they were thinking about giving up on Jesus, because they were sick of everyone hating on them – whenever they said they were a Christian. So why would anyone put Jesus first?
Well I decided to put Jesus first in my life because of his death and resurrection. As Jesus died on the cross he took all the punishment for my sin (and your sin too). Truly, God was righteously angry at many of the things I’ve done. Its fair enough – I have been selfish, rude and greedy. So I face God’s punishment on the last day and denying this truth, doesn’t make it any less true. But as Jesus died on the cross – he took the punishment for all our sins, so that we can be spared God’s wrath on judgment day. Jesus did this because he loves us. The Bible says that if you believe Jesus died for your sins and you ask God for forgiveness – (and you really try to repent) then you get to go to heaven. God forgives you. So Jesus COMES FIRST in my life – because he died for me and because I love him for saving me.
But second, Jesus also comes first in my life because his resurrection from the dead proves that he is God’s Son. Who else could lay down their life and then take it up again? Only God. So I endeavor to put Jesus first in my life, because he made me and then he saved me.
Jesus is saying he needs to be our first loyalty. Now hopefully, it will never come to the point where you have to choose between Jesus and family OR between Jesus and your friends. BUT IF you had to make that choice – would Jesus come first? (PAUSE) It might costyou your relationship with a child or a parent. In some circumstances it might even cost you your life. You’ll notice Jesus says (in verse 26) that our loyalty to him, must even be greater than our loyalty to life itself. None of us want to die. Yet, in many countries – it is Jesus or your life. Choose Jesus – you die. Reject Jesus – you live.
And I believe the Bible says – the closer we get to Jesus’ return – the more this will happen. So is Jesus really your first loyalty? If the answer is “No” – Jesus says don’t waste your time. Now I know this is a tough word. But Jesus is saying that if you are not ready to put him first (at least in principle) – go home. Your wasting Jesus’ time and you’re wasting your own time.
Point 2: Jesus Expects His Disciples to put Him before Comfort
Show: Lk.14:27 (READ)
Explain: Now PLEASE NOTICE Jesus says – unless you take up your cross – you cannot be his disciple. Now just process that sentence for a moment. (PAUSE) I think churches today are full of Christians who are refusing to take up their cross. Christians who don’t want to do anything hard for Jesus. And whenever Jesus asks them to do anything hard, they actually say “No!” And Jesus says, such people who refuse take up their cross (because they love comfort, or ease or popularity) cannot be his disciples…
Remember, God the Father said to God the Son I want you 1) to go to earth, 2) become a human being, 3) accept responsibility for all the sin and then 4) die for that sin, upon the cross. This was Jesus’ cross, But God said to Jesus – if you do this – it will mean the salvation of everyone who believes. Now Jesus, will you take up your cross? (PAUSE).
Imagine if Jesus said to God, “well I don’t know. I’ve just read this great book on self-care and I think I really need to prioritize my own mental and physical and spiuritual health at this time. Father, I’m sure you understand – I just need a little bit more “me time” because if I don’t look after me first, I won’t really be able to look after anyone else.”
The middle-class Christian church is now so full of this stupid, selfish pop-psychology, it is a straight out excuse for taking up our cross. I hear Christians (who should know better) parroting this garbage all the time and I wonder if they even hear it in themselves. Of course, there may be the smallest amount of wisdom in recognizing the limits of our own humanity. But most of this rubbish – straight out contradicts Scripture, lacks faith and is nothing but an excuse for saying no to God. You know the Bible actually says the opposite. Proverbs 11:25says “he that watereth others, is watered by God. He that refreshes others, is refreshed by God.
Yet God asks us to do something hard and we respond “sorry, I can’t. I need to schedule more me time.” And many so-called “Christians” are going to get to the pearly gates and Jesus s going to say, “Sorry, I don’t know you. Sorry, I don’t recognize this selfish pop-psychology.”
Illustrate: Now we all know the story of THE APOSTLE PETER. Like us, Peter didn’t want to take up his cross. So he denied Jesus three times. Of course, it was just self care. Looking after “me”. But it resulted in GREAT HUMILIATION. Jesus asked Peter three times (in front of all the other disciples), Peter, do you really love me? It was humiliating. I think many Christians are facing that sort of humiliation – if we keep choosing self-care. Thankfully, Peter started to understand that if he was going to be a real follower of Jesus he had to accept hard assignments for the sake of others. And in the end, Peter who at first refused to carry his cross, was crucified upside down for Jesus. He took up his cross.
Apply: In our Christian life – God is giving all of us assignments. As we read the Bible, listen to sermons and get convicted by the Holy Spirit – we know God wants us 1) to go into ministry, or 2) become a missionary, or 3) dedicate our lives to childrens ministry, or 4) helping people with drug and alcohol rehab OR 5) perhaps giving up a substantial amount of money for Gods kingdom. We know exactly what God wants us to do. But there are many Christians with their fingers in their ears saying “La, La, La, La I can’t hear you.” Lots of Christians saying, “you know Lord I really want to do what you say. I can see its really important. But you’ve got to understand it’s just not for me. I can’t do it, now. Maybe next year.” At first, Moses did it. At first, Elijah did it.
But in what way is this following Jesus? If this has been you and you know its you – it’s time to repent. It’s time for you to reaffirm your love for Jesus and take up your cross, while there is still time. Please notice, in verse 27 – Jesus clearly says; “take up your cross” AND stop pretending. Stop wasting your time and Jesus’ time. GET SERIOUS OR GO HOME. That’s what Jesus is saying. Get serious or go home.
Point 3: Jesus Expects His Disciples to Put Him before Everything
Show: Lk.14:28-34 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see Jesus tells two parables – where both are about counting the cost. In the first instance – the man BUILDING A WATCHTOWER – has to sit down and work out if he has enough money to finish the work before he starts building. If he starts building and yet can’t finish – he’ll just look like an idiot. Jesus says count the cost before you begin.
Similarly, before A KING goes to war, he has to establish whether he has any chance of winning – especially if the hand is stacked against him. The King going to war only has 10,000 men, whereas his enemy has 20,000 men. So before you back yourself in two to one odds – you really have to sit down and work out what it’s going to cost you? Otherwise, you’re going to end up in the humiliating situation of having 1) an unfinished building or 2) having to negotiate a peace treaty with your enemy – after you started the war. Both are stupid outcomes.
So Jesus now tells us what it is going to cost us in verse 33 (READ). What’s it going to cost to really follow Jesus? (PAUSE). That’s right – EVERYTHING. So if you’re not willing to lay down everything (and I mean really lay down everything) you might as well go home. You can’t really be Jesus’ disciple unless you are willing to surrender all.
Illustrate: Do you remember THE OLD HYMN by Judson Van DeVenter – I surrender all. (SLIDE 10). What many people fail to realise is that this is a song for ordinary Christians. This is what Jesus expects in the ordinary Christian life.
Apply: In this story today – it begins with A GREAT CROWD following Jesus (and he literally turns around and says); “Listen, if I’m not your first loyalty in life – you might as well go home. You’re not going to finish building the watchtower. You’re not going to win the spiritual battle. You’re just going to end up trying to negotiate peace with the enemy.
And I think we are already seeing evidence of this today. Many Christians are trying to negotiate peace with the world, peace with Satan, because the cost of loyalty to Jesus is getting too high. We just want comfort and ease with a serve of Jesus on the side. And as it begins to cost more and more to have a serve of Jesus on the side – many people are beginning to questio whether the serve of Jesus on the side is worth it.
I was fighting (full on this week) for someones soul – who used to come to this church. They were telling me they were going to stop being a Christian because it was too hard and was costing them too much. Now I’m still praying for that person and haven’t given up on that person. But sadly, we have too many people leaving our church in search of other “easier” churches or leaving the church altogether because Christianity is not easy. But what part of “taking up your cross” is easy.
Jesus finishes today in verse 35 with an epilogue – saying that if salt loses its saltiness its good for nothing. This should not be separated from what Jesus has just said. What makes Christians and the church truly salty is our loyalty to Jesus. We are salty – when we put Jesus before our family, friends and life. We are salty when we put Jesus before our own comfort and ease. Indeed, we are salty when the world clearly sees Christians putting Jesus before absolutely everything. That is a salty church. That is a salty Christian. We are salty when Jesus clearly comes first. Now answer me, honestly. When you look at yourself in the mirror and the modern affluent Christian church in the west – do you see salty or do you see something else?
In my more honest moments of looking in the mirror – I’m not sure. “I’m not sure I’m as sold out as I should be or could be. I’m not really sure the wider church, even our Diocese is that salty.” And then I see Jesus’ warning in verse 35 (READ). Friends, if we are not salty – we need to repent. If we’renot sold out to Jesus – we need to repent. He died for us. He loves us.
Apply: Friends, if you think my sermons in Luke recently have been really challenging and almost unattainable – you’re not alone. I feel the same. I think Jesus’ bar for discipleship is actually very high and I don’t think we can reach it – without God’s grace and simple child-like faith in Jesus. We can’t do this in our strength.
Yet right now I feel like I’m fighting for people’s souls – who I love and care about. I see lots of people struggling and stumbling. Not just in our church. But amongst ministers (and even some bishops). People almost despairing. It’s like it’s been so easy to be a Christian in the West – that we’ve reached a point where we don’t know how to handle anything but EASY. Yet, I look at the world (and I don’t see EASY anywhere on the horizon). I just don’t. BUT BY FAITH, I do see Jesus, just over the horizon. And maybe, now, right now is time for the church to get serious again with Jesus’ words – and when we say we trust Jesus, we really mean we trust Jesus. And when we sing “I surrender all” we actually mean it and we are really willing and ready to surrender all.
Friends, this passage today is about counting the cost of following Jesus. And maybe many us – didn’t really do that when we became Christians. It was a little bit too easy. Perhaps we did it without the seriousness and sobre mindedness that is really necessary. So maybe now, some of us need to count the cost again, STEEL OURSELVES for what may be coming, STEEL OURSELVES for what it may soon cost us – and then decide “yes, I still choose Jesus.” Will you do that with me today? Even if you are already a Christian will you accept again today – Jesus as your Saviour and Lord – and be faithful to him – until your dying breath? It might cost you everything, but it wont cost you – your soul and one day soon you will see God face to face.