Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 8, 2018
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 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. 34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
— Luke 14:25-35, ESV
Every time Jesus drew a big crowd, He quickly ran off most of them. But as we look at the hard words in this passage, let us not forget the softness of Christ's heart. The gospel should always be heard with a fixation upon grace.
Grace is the grounds of salvation. Grace is the unconditional and unmerited favor of our Lord toward the ones He chooses to save. Grace reminds us that our salvation is based not upon what we have done for God, but upon what God has done for us.
Grace is amazing, as we are oft reminded in the unforgettable words of John Newton’s hymn. Grace is free, unaccompanied by any earnings or energy our part, as the inspired words of Paul teach us in Ephesians 2:8-10. Grace is amazing, yes, and grace is free, hallelujah, but grace is never easy.
The virgin Mary was the first person in the gospel story to find “grace” with God (ref. Luke 1:30). From that moment on, her life was anything but easy. The Apostle Paul was the theologian of grace, and his writings span decades of severe suffering. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of grace and faith, and just look at the price He paid.
So, with the help of Dr. Luke, we have a new adjective to accompany grace. It is amazing, and it is free, but it is also demanding. Demanding grace, though strange the sound, is required to save wretches like you and me.
Grace Demands Your Family
Saving grace demands that we give up our family. Jesus prefers to use the word “hate.” Already, demanding grace puts us in controversy mode.
Some claim the text is in error, since God is not supposed to her capable of hate, nor would He advise anyone to feel that way about anybody. However, hate is a word quite common to Holy Scripture, however, found almost a couple of hundred times. It commonly speaks of the way unbelievers feel about God; but, occasionally it speaks for God or God’s people. God hated Esau (ref. Malachi 3:1) and the ensuing context puts the word in an quite literal light. King David, the man after God’s own heart, actually hated people who hated God (ref. Psalm 139:21). As revelation progresses, we are advised to hate sin, not sinners; therefore, Jesus did not use the word in the literal sense in Luke.
Scholars appeal to the fact that Jesus’ spoken language was Aramaic, and that there is an Aramaic word for “hate” that simply means to “love less.” Christ had already commanded that we cannot love Him and money, one must be loved while the other is hated. Indeed a Christian must love Jesus more than money, but that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy money as a means of commerce. We can even have a strong appreciation or even attachment to some of the things that money can buy, as long as we do not love them more than God.
So whether you appeal to the original spoken language of Jesus, or just read this text with an interpretive sense of hyperbole, Jesus is not demanding that we literally hate our parents or siblings. Jesus just demands that we give them up as we crown Him the Lord of life.
I choose my words carefully here. Giving up is vastly different from giving away. Christianity does not require us to leave or shun our earthly family, even if they are unbelievers. It steadfastly requires us to put the Lord above them, then give them up, to the Lord. Anyone or anything you put under the Lordship of Christ is in a better position. Give up your family, for Him and to Him. Otherwise, you cannot be a Christian. This is demanding grace.
Grace Demands Your Life
As if giving up your family is not enough, grace demands that you give up your very own life. Here, the sermon produces pain. There’s no getting around it.
Christ plays the trump card here, the “cross.” Though Luke wrote this after the fact, Jesus spoke this word before His own crucifixion became the substance and symbol of New Testament Christianity.
We know what it means now. The original audience knew what it meant then. It meant death by impending execution, and embracing it in such a way that the whole world would know. A person dragging their own cross around Roman-occupied Palestine in those days was not a mystery. You knew what was happening.
The word picture demands spiritual application. Receiving saving grace requires accepting demanding grace. The demands of grace include death. Yet, in dying, you literally get to start life anew. Paul, our theological of grace, said it best in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Who doesn’t want a brand new, better, abundant, and eternal life? Total commitment is required. People think of commitment as some kind of hell on earth, but commitment to Christ is a heavenly experience, though not without some difficulties. Pilgrim’s troubles began in earnest after he became Christian.
Life for saved people and lost people is exceedingly short in the measure of eternity (ref. James 4:14). It is much better to die and then live than to live and die. The demands of grace are overwhelmingly worth the pain and sacrifice.
Grace Demands Your Thoughtful Deliberation Before Commitment
Since the first and second demands of grace are so radical, Jesus encourages any inquirer to make no rush to jump in. Take your time. Think about it. Look before you leap. Or in His words, count the cost.
Jesus’ words here are not just for the evangelized, but for the evangelist. Those of use who bear the yoke of demanding grace are bound to share it. But we are not to share the gospel like telemarketers or used car salesmen, with a quick pitch and pressured appeal. Sadly, this marketing approach is the mark of most modern evangelism.
The deal of demanding grace is the Holy Spirit’s to close. Anything else promotes human pride, false assurance, and counterfeit conversion. When grace is only amazing, when grace is nearsightedly free, and when grace is not demanding, it is a dangerous grace.
So, instead of simplistic approaches or silly so-called altar calls to try to trap people for Christ, let me offer more thoughtful suggestions. Share your testimony of others noting your life before, during, and after you received Christ. Give someone a Bible and show them how to read it. Earnestly invite them to the Bible studies and biblical worship services of your church. Above all, pray, pray, and pray. People should count the cost and coming to Jesus, to His amazing, free, and demanding grace.
Grace Demands All Your Possessions
Perhaps the sermon could have stopped here, but Jesus went on from preaching to meddling. He not only demands our family, and our own lives, but now He wants all our stuff, too.
“All that he has” is demanded by the Lord in order to become His disciple. This is perhaps easier for communists than capitalists, which perhaps explains why the gospel often spreads faster in closed countries than free. But Jesus could have quoted Jackson Browne here and said, “I ain’t no communist, I ain’t no capitalist, … I am a patriot and I love my country.” Christ’s country is the kingdom of God, and those who enter lay down all their stuff at the border, marked by the cross of Christ.
When conversing with children about the gospel, I always try to ascertain which of their toys is their favorite. I want to know if they would exchange it for the opportunity to become a Christian. Men are boys with bigger toys, so I think the same question could be asked of adults.
Think about all of your possessions and proclivities. Is there anything you value more than a relationship with God through faith in, and faithfulness to, the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ? If money, or sex, or houses, or sports, or anything else comes between you and God, then you have not accepted the demands of grace.
Grace Demands Your Perseverance
Jesus finishes with a flourish with words about salt, dirt, and a pile of manure. The demands of grace are not only perplexing. They are persistent.
Salt throughout the centuries has been used to improve the taste of food and to keep it from spoiling. You’ll understand this if you every try a low salt diet. Or, take a look at the amount of sodium in a can of soup. Jesus used salt as a metaphor for real Christians in the “Sermon on the Mount” (ref. Matthew 5:13ff); and, here, as a warning against counterfeit Christians.
The doctrines of demanding grace include the perseverance of the saints. Justification always results in sanctification (from whence we get our word “saint”). Faith begets faithfulness. People who genuinely receive the gospel will live out the demands the gospel. In doing so, Christians make life better (through worship, good works, and evangelism) and last longer (eternity is a long, long time).
False Christians do not. They profess for a season but soon leave the practice. They are, in the words of Jesus, people to be most pitied. They are worth less than a mound of dirt or a pile of you know what.
Of course, our Arminian friends believe these words of Christ teach that salvation can be forfeited or lost. But the best interpretation of God’s word makes grace a permanent gift. At least when grace is amazing, free, and demanding.
Demanding grace, how strange the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Christ’s demands have set me free.
These were the first words I ever heard from the Bible, effectually. They were preached to me by a Baptist preacher named Bill in January of 1982. Before then, the motto of my life could be summed up by the Jackson Browne song co-written with Glenn Frey, “Take It Easy.”
Everything changed, however, when I heard about the not-so-easy grace of God. I was convicted by it, I graciously accepted it, and since then the sparks have flown upward. But nothing is more precious to me than the love of God given to me through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is all of grace. But, grace demands all.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org