Counting the Cost of Discipleship

               As I had mentioned at the end of a recent post my plans of sharing some thoughts on the following passage.  Sense then I had the privilege of sharing these thoughts with our local Church so I have taken those and summarized them for our blog.  I hope that in my chopping and reworking my notes that it is readable without to many grammar and spelling errors.  

Luke 9:57-62 (NKJV)
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, 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 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
                This passages has been challenging me personally these past couple weeks.  And where this all stemmed from was we have the privilege of reading a portion of scripture before our afternoon class each day and we have been reading through the book of Luke.  And as we read Luke chapter 9 a couple weeks ago I was struck with some pretty strong conviction as I realized that I have looked back as it talks about in verse 61 and 62

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”


                A physical example of why one must keep their focus in the right spot is a pilot that is landing and taking off from these runways that MAF utilizes to serve remote people around the world.  If those pilots look away from that runway at any time during a critical point during his approach to land, guaranty bad things will happen.  And the take offs from these runways as well demand that once the pilot pours on the coals and the airplane is accelerating down the runway there is no turning back.  It’s all or nothing, somewhere in between that, and these take offs will end in disaster.  Here is an example of what happens when you let your eyes wonder off the marker or enter in half hearted. 



               So what was it about these verses that brought conviction.  Well being missionaries we find ourselves moving and traveling meeting people then moving on to the next place and again only there for a short time.  And through this I start to long for days of old as it were.  Even as I look ahead to our next move it won’t be any easier than our previous moves as we leave behind our new family here in Michigan.  Christ is not saying here that we can’t or shouldn’t have fond memories of the past but we are not to live in the past.  I also believe we are not to live in the future either, but rather live in the present.  As a favorite saying of mine goes, “yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, but today is a present which is why it’s called the present.”  It seems that I can never remind myself of this enough.
               
                 Getting back to this passage in Luke.  In this passage we see three different dialogues here.  This is also the second time in this chapter that the cost of discipleship is brought up.  Back in verse 23 we see Christ lay out the cost as well in slightly different context.  But for sake of length I want to just focus on the dialogue we find here at the end of this chapter.  In each of these dialogues we see a few differences that indicate to me, that being a disciple is not a singular task.  It involves more than just following him.  Lets first look at Verses 57,58
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, 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.”


                This first conversation we see the inquirer initiate the conversation which Jesus replies with a statement that says to me “looks maybe deceiving”.  And what I mean by that is to follow a rabbi during Christ’s time was relatively a simple task in a way.  And so Jesus wants to clear the air that following Him is not like following the common rabbi but rather more like following a prophet that lives an uncertain existence. Christ is placing the reality before His disciples of what it is going to be like.  And by doing so He wants those that are considering following Him, to know what is ahead so that we are not ill-fitted and likely to fail.  As they would surely do if they were to jump head long in ignorance of the hardships ahead.   How can this be applied to us?  Well it seems as this idea really hasn’t changed and can be applied in our day and age as is.  The NA Church seems to all too often to look at, and promote the warm and fuzzy or cushy side of being a Christian but we tend to over look or forget about being a disciple and the hardships one will face as a disciple.  I don’t what to think about hardship and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  We are however promised in a number of different places that we will suffer and we are to count it joy to suffer as a disciple for Christ. This is part of counting the cost of discipleship and that is what I believe Christ is referring to that we need consider when counting the cost as to whether we are willing to suffer before we commit.  Let’s take a look now at the second dialogue.  verse 59,60

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”


                This request seems reasonable for their culture as well for ours.  In fact Jesus’ replay here would have turned heads, as this was totally against the Jewish custom.  Funeral rites had a very high priority in Jewish culture of the day.  Even for us this would seem harsh and I’m sure some would say what Jesus said was harsh and insensitive.  But on the contrary, he again is making a point.  And placing another block in the road to becoming a disciple.  Because what He is saying, is that discipleship needs to have a higher priority than family.  Another place we see a similar idea is in Luke 14:26 this passage is about hating you’re father and mother. Now we are not to laterally hate our parents or our families here but what He is saying in Luke 14:26 and here again in Luke 9 is our love for Him must be so great it makes our love for our family look like hatred in comparison.  Christ is also making a statement that offering life giving Good News to the living is more valuable than taking care of the dead.  It’s also a statement of moving forward and not memorializing the past.  Which ties well into the next two verses.  Let’s take a look at them verses 61,62. 

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

                Here again we see what seems to be a uncalled for response from Christ.  Saying farewell again was an important part of their culture.  While I was looking over different reference source I stumble upon a connection to a similar story in the OT 1 Kings 19:19-21 (NASB).  Before I go on with the discussion on Luke let’s take a quick look at these few verses in 1 Kings.

 19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.
20 He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”
21 So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.


                In this passage it seems okay to return and say goodbye so why is it not okay for this disciple in Luke?  Well let’s first look at Elisha for a moment.  Where was his heart?  One could probably say that he was distracted at first.  But we see an act through his farewell that speaks of a commitment that will last.  Elisha essentially burns his past as he sacrifices his oxen.  Which became the main course of his farewell meal and not only that, he uses his plowing equipment for the fire’s fuel.  There is no turning back for Elisha he has burn his bridge as we would say today.  This is in contrast to Jesus’ response in verse 62 which tends to carry a similar precedence as with Lot’s wife in the Old Testament.  We also get to see what looking back did for the Israelites.  As they looked back to Egypt it seems that they fell into all sorts of sin when they took their eyes off of God’s deliverance.  So again Jesus is illustrating here for us, that a disciple cannot hang onto the old life and expect to be able to handle the challenges of discipleship.  Jesus is making it clear from the start that discipleship is difficult and it takes focus and determination to finish the task.  So how do these two conversations transit the gap of the past 2000 years?  Really as in the first discussion things haven’t changed too much.  Christ is still calling for His disciples, to place our walk with Him first, above all else.  Above our family, yes that means our wife or husband, our children, parents.  Discipleship is not a hobby or even a part-time job.  It’s even more than a fulltime job for that matter.  It is to encompass our lives completely.  Being a disciple means that you are still a disciple when you go off to work in the morning or prepare dinner in the evening  it should be a part of who you are continually. 

                I’ve kind of deviated from my original thoughts here in that as we move forward as disciples we need to keep our eyes a head on the mark.  As I look ahead I see change for the Dole family as we continue to move forward.  It is okay for us to miss our family and friends but let us not long for what has been.  I also mentioned earlier that one must not live in the future as well. This is something that I need to be a bit careful with.  It is good and even necessarily to have an aiming point or goal to point your plow or airplane towards.  As that will keep you moving forward on the path Christ has laid out for you.  But don’t let the future overshadow the present, when I start living for the future I forget to live for today.  I know I have done this particularly during hard times.  Rather than looking to Christ to sustain and strength me I look to the future and just grin and bare it hoping the future will come quickly. 

                So what do we do with this it seems so simple and easy to say that being a disciple of Christ must be of our utmost importance?  What does this look like in reality?  As I look at these questions I think why did I put these here now I need to answer them and what is the answer?  Well I going to answer these questions with more questions sorry?

1. Will I (you) still follow Christ if he takes my health?

2. Will I still follow Christ if I have to sell my prize possession?


3. Will I still love and follow Christ if my neighbor rejects me? or closer to home what about if my family rejects me?


4. Will I still love, adore and follow Christ if I lose a loved one to cancer?


5. Will I still love, adore and follow Christ if I lose my parents when I’m are overseas and can’t return home for the funeral?


6. Will I still count it joy and continue to love Christ if I’m forced to deny Christ or watch my son die?

                I can go on and on with question of this sort.  If we honestly answer these question we can get a glimpse into our heart.  And see where being a disciple of Christ falls in line with our other treasures.  In life discipleship needs to come first.
 
                I’m sorry if I got to heavy on this blog but I really wanted to grab on to the magnitude of what being a disciple of Christ looks like as I see it in this passage.  As well we need to know what we are up against as we choose to become a disciple of Christ first and foremost in our lives.  As many are saying and the signs of the times seem to indicate trying times are ahead for us.  And satan has done a good job at putting Christ’s Church to sleep here in NA making most of us ineffective.  There are a lot of Christians around us but how many are disciples?  As we go forward let me challenge you to go forth as disciples in the business of making more disciples.
 
                I should also mention that keeping our eyes on the marker as we develop into Christ’s disciples is a learning process.  As a pilot I had to learn where the focus my eyes need to be during those critical phases of flight and it didn’t come naturally.  And nor will keeping our focus where it needs to remain as we grow as disciples come naturally.  It will be a learning process as well.  After all discipleship is not a causal affair, it takes focused commitment and is a life time calling with no retirement, just a crown of glory that we get to offer our Redeemer at the end of time.





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