THE COST OF FOLLOWING CHRIST
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 14, 2018
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
— Luke 9:57-62, ESV
Becoming a Christian is owed to the extravagant and free grace of God. Being a follower of Christ, however, comes at great cost. Yet contrary to popular opinion, you cannot be one without becoming the other. Free grace leads to full commitment, and the Lord Jesus Christ will have it no other way.
At this juncture of Luke’s Gospel, the twelve (minus the traitor) had already learned the high cost of following Christ. They had left home and hearth, business and finance, and any semblance of popularity or power. These fully devoted followers watched as Jesus’ own fame peaked and waned, then joined Him on this journey to Jerusalem where the Lord promised He would be killed.
“As they were going along the road,” Jesus recruits some additional followers, though we are not told how many He had to audition before He would commission seventy-two of them to join the twelve in ministry. We also know that at the end of the looming three fateful days in Jerusalem, after His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus would have a congregation of about one-hundred and twenty.
Considering the millions Jesus encountered during His public ministry, only a small remnant of souls were willing to accept His paradoxical offer of the free grace of salvation plus the high cost of discipleship. The people wanted either a salvation based on their works, or a salvation that didn’t require any work. Very few received from Christ a salvation that works.
It’s been the same way for two thousand years. The basic reason is shown to us by the three unnamed and seemingly uncommitted people in this passage. They would not pay the cost of following Christ. Will you?
Following Christ could cost you your home.
Jesus is a radical Rabbi who demands rabid discipleship. He went all in for us on His cross, and He expects us to be all in for Him as we carry our own. Perhaps the best place to begin is at home, if you have one.
Jesus left His for us. And I’m not just talking about His home in glory, but the home He grew up in with Joseph, Mary, and His earthly brothers and sisters in Nazareth. It must have been a wonderful place, because He stayed there for thirty years. But Jesus’ ministry cost Him His home. At the time of this text, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
The cost would be roughly the same for the Apostles. I’ve seen the archaeological ruins in Capernaum claiming to be the house of Simon Peter. He wasn’t there. He left it two thousand years ago as part of the cost he paid for following Christ. Ten others did the same, and in the two millenniums to follow, so have thousands of pastors and missionaries.
But what about the majority of Christians who are not called to relocate from home and serve elsewhere? Shouldn’t following Christ cost you your home, too?
If we belong to God by grace through faith in Christ, God owns our homes. He sometimes calls us to leave them, but most often allows us to stay. The cost to be paid for such comfort is holiness and hospitality. God designed the home of a Christian to be a refuge of grace for the family and a means of grace for our neighbors.
If you have left your home, or are using your home to honor Christ, then you are paying the price. But, there is more to give.
Following Christ could cost you your family.
Interpreters are divided over Jesus’ denial of permission for this second person to attend his father’s funeral. Some suggest he flaked out on Jesus because he want to stay with his living and healthy father until his death, which could take many years. Others believe the radical Jesus was being, well, radical, in His immediate expectation of total commitment, which would preclude even a short visit home for the memorial service. Either way, Christ expected to be first in the life of His followers, above father and mother, sister and brother, even spouse and children.
Here again, Jesus can talk the talk because He walked the walk. He walked out on Mary and His siblings to climb the higher path of pursuing the Heavenly Father’s will. The family did not understand and thought, at least for a while, that Jesus had lost His mind (ref. Mark 3:21).
Here again, the Apostles followed suit. Even though their wives traveled with them, the first followers of Jesus paid the cost of losing children, cousins, and other close relatives that made for creature comforts around home and family. Countless missionaries and pastors and their spouses have had this charge added to their bill, too.
Here again, the gospel is not just for Apostles or those in full-time Christian vocation. It is a call to pay the cost for everyone saved by the free grace of God. So what is the score with you, between the kingdom of God and the comfort of family?
If you put Christ ahead of all, including every member of your family, you win and they win. If you reverse the order, everyone loses. Our greatest desire on earth should be for our family members to come to faith in Jesus Christ, and the greatest stumbling block is to let them see you put them over the Lord Jesus Christ. Let Jesus cost you your family, by giving them over to Him, and in most cases He will give them back to you.
Giving Jesus your home and family is expensive, but there’s still another significant cost.
Following Christ could cost you your job.
The third person also seemed interested in following Jesus and putting his hands on, in the words of songwriters Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne, that “gospel plow.” He only wanted to first say goodbye to “those at my home.”
His request seems quite similar to the previous request, but Jesus’ response concerning the “plow” could indicate it was the man’s occupation that he was most concerned about. Most businesses were home businesses in those days. And Jesus said that any business that comes first before Him will make a person’s path crooked.
Plowing a straight and narrow road as a disciple of Christ could cost you your job. Jesus was a carpenter, but He had to give that up. The Apostles were fishermen, tax collectors, and other occupations, all left behind as a cost of the higher calling of preaching the gospel. Most missionaries and pastors had other, more lucrative employment before making a job out of the ministry. And once again we must apply this cost to the tab of the many men and women who comprise the laity of Christ’s church. What is your job? Will you give it, or give it up, to Jesus?
Our jobs, from heart surgeons to homemakers, define us. We generally spend more time in our vocation than we do at home or with family, more hours working than sleeping or otherwise tending to our health, exponentially more minutes at work than at play (unless you are a professional athlete). For fully committed followers of a faithful Savior, our jobs, like everything else, belong to Him.
Giving your job to God means making sure it came from God in the first place. Every vocation is a sacred calling to the saint who has been saved by grace. Work it for the glory of God. Use it to be a witness for Christ. Quit it, if it causes you in any way to sin against God. And, change it, if there is any calling or company that offers a better way to be, and make, a disciple for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Following Christ will cost you everything.
Becoming a Christians is free, but following Christ will cost you everything you have.
Genuine Christianity will cost you your home, your family, and your job. It will cost you unfettered faith, real repentance, and complete commitment. It will cost you, in the famous words of the late, great missionary Jim Elliot, “What you cannot keep in order to gain what you cannot lose.” And in a peek at what’s to come, go ahead and listen to Jesus’ words in Luke 18:29-30, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Luke, and the Lord Jesus Christ, have a lot more to say about true discipleship, its costs and its rewards. But for now, evaluate the expense of free grace in your life and make sure you are paying the cost of following Christ. It is infinitely worth it.
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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