The Cost of Following Jesus

The Cost of Following Jesus

Oswald Chambers said, “To follow Jesus Christ to-day is to follow a madman according to the ideals of present-day civilization. We have the idea that our civilization is God-ordained, whereas it has been built up by ourselves. We have made a thousand and one necessities, things we must have or things we must do, and then we apologize to the Lord for not following Him. We think, “God can never mean that I have to follow Him at the cost of all I have?” But He does mean it. The clash is between our desires, our civilization, and the call of Jesus Christ. Read the Sermon on the Mount and apply it to modern life and we must decide if His statements are either those of a madman or of God Incarnate.”

What Brother Chambers said is true; however, we don’t intentionally decide Jesus is a madman. No, what we do is ignore Him—we don’t read and apply His Word, or we do read it and then do what we want. By ignoring His Word, we have decided Jesus is not God Incarnate, for we wouldn’t intentionally ignore God; no, but we do ignore madmen.

Therefore, he who has ears, let him hear what Jesus says about the cost of following Him.

Luke 9:57-62 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 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.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Two of these men declared that they wished to follow Jesus; to become His disciples. The other was one whom Jesus summoned to follow Him. What immediately strikes me is the way in which Jesus handles these inquirers. Most preachers are busy trying to get as many members for their church as they possibly can. But Jesus is doesn’t seek members. He seeks followers, who will commit everything to Him, regardless of the cost.

Our Lord’s attitude to these men is one of discouragement because He knows what is in man. Jesus Christ has no tenderness whatever toward anything that is ultimately going to ruin a man or woman in the service of God. Our Lord’s answers to these men, and to us, are not based on a whim, but on the knowledge that we are not prepared to follow Him.

Therefore, if the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that offends or hurts you, you may be sure that it is something He wants to hurt to death—something in us that needs to die, because it is harming us, obstructing His blessing, and preventing an intimate relationship with Himself.

Brothers and Sisters, our desire is to see as many as possible come to Christ. However, we don’t just want to get a crowd and then have to work to keep them by tickling their ears and compromising with their fleshly desires and ideas. That is not God’s interest at all! Neither is it the way to obey the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We want to see men and women, boys and girls turning to Christ with whole hearts; becoming TRUE sold out disciples of Jesus. We do not want to make false conversions that give false security to people, making it harder for them to come to true repentance and salvation in Christ Jesus.

So, it is interesting to read of Jesus’ way of dealing with those who expressed a desire to follow Him. He seems to discourage them, but that is not what He is doing. Actually, Jesus’ desire is that people WILL follow Him, but He wants them to first to count the cost involved, so that once they DO follow Him, they’ll never fall away. Even as He spells out what is required in such clear shocking terms, inside He is longing for them to accept it. He’s rooting for them, but the cost is the cost. It’s non-negotiable. So was His cross! He asked for another way, but there was none. And we MUST be prepared for a cross, too!

Let us look at these three men, who Jesus confronted with His demands, and determine not to ignore the cost of following Jesus. Rather, let’s determine to accept it and give it.

We read of the first man in verses 57-58, and we learn that: 1. The follower of Jesus has no earthly security.

This man made a bold statement, “I will follow you WHEREVER you go!” Can you say that without any idea of where Jesus may be headed—what may be involved?

Jesus replies that following Him will not be an easy road. He’s not one of these preachers who jets from city to city, staying in the best hotels, and collecting nice offerings from the crowds that come to hear Him.

When Jesus left His throne in glory to come to the earth and live and die for us, He left behind all that He had. He exchanged wealth for poverty – Heaven for a crude cattle shed. He exchanged rulership for servanthood.

He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” What an irony! The King of glory, the Creator of the Universe, doesn’t even have a place to call “home”. He has no earthly security. He was given food and shelter by those who loved Him. He borrowed a coin to tell a story. He borrowed a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. Why, He was even buried in a borrowed tomb! (It was just as well since He didn’t need it very long!) HE had no earthly security. He gave up everything He had when He came to save you and me!

And those who follow Him must be prepared for the same—no earthly security.

Now note, I haven’t said “NO SECURITY”. Oh, there is security in following Jesus all right, but not any earthly security. It’s not the security of possessions, or money, or homes, or such things. It is the security of God’s faithfulness, and a life beyond this one that nothing can take away! Jesus is all we need and He is enough! Though we have nothing in this life, yet we are more secure than the richest, most powerful of men.

If we are going to follow Jesus and walk His road, it may well cost us everything! So Jesus says, “Count the cost!” The follower of Jesus has no earthly security, but he has life.

Remember Jesus said in Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

Then we read of a second man in verses 59-60, and we learn that: 2. The follower of Jesus has no earthly ties.

Here we have a conversation that shocks us when we first read it! Jesus CALLS this man to be His disciple, but he asks to bury his father first. Doesn’t this seem like a reasonable request? We feel sympathy for the man, don’t we, as we read it?

But Jesus essentially replies: “Let the dead bury their own dead. I’ve called you to follow me and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” That sounds harsh, doesn’t it?

This man did not want to disappoint Jesus, nor disrespect his father. This is OUR problem. We put sensitive loyalty to relatives before loyalty to Jesus Christ and Jesus has to take second, or third, or even last place in our priorities.

Brothers and Sisters, the point Jesus makes here is that if we are going to follow Him, then He must come before ANYTHING and ANYONE else.

Jesus said Matthew 10:37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;”

Can you see the kind of devotion that He is calling for? He is not calling for us to dishonor parents, or shirk our responsibility to family, but if we are pressed into a choice between the two, He comes first! And indeed, some believers have had to lose family to follow Christ (i.e. converts from other religions and those with unbelieving parents). If that is too hard for us, then the Spirit is showing us that we don’t love God with all our heart. Consequently, we cannot be a follower of Jesus, for we will end up following a god of our own creation, who is less demanding.

When a sense of loyalty to father or mother perplexes us (what should I do), picture Jesus showing to you His pierced hands and feet, His wounded side, His whipped and torn flesh, His thorn-crowned head, and hear Him say, “Think, what this must have meant to My mother, and what the consequences would have been for YOU if I had considered her feelings instead of My Father’s will.”

If Jesus had been loyal to His earthly mother, He would have been a traitor to His Father’s purpose. No one could have had a more sensitive love in human relationships than Jesus; and yet, He says there are times when love for our father and mother must be hatred in comparison to our love for Him.

Jesus calls us to give up the very closest relationship we have, if it enters into competition with our love for Him and obeying His will. Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey Him. We can have no earthly ties.

In a conflict of loyalties, obey Jesus at all costs, and you will find that He will remember your mother, as He remembered His own mother on the Cross and provided for her. He will provide our relatives what they need if we follow Him.

Then finally, we come to the third man in verses 61-62, and we learn that: 3. The follower of Jesus has no earthly distractions.

This man asked to say “farewell” to his friends and family. Again, doesn’t this seem like a reasonable request? Would we deny a soldier going to war one last chance to bid his loved ones farewell? But again, Jesus clearly spells out the cost of following Him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying, “If you want to follow me, you must not LOOK BACK!”

If you look back while plowing, you will veer to the left or right and create a mess. If you get concerned about the feelings of your family, you will veer away and end up no longer following Jesus. To follow Jesus, we must stay focused on Jesus and keep our eyes on Him.

When Peter, James and John followed Jesus, they literally “dropped” their fishing nets to follow Him. And right when it looked like business was picking up too! (Jesus had just given them a bumper catch!) Nevertheless, they left it and went back for nothing. They realized Jesus was Someone more valuable than fish.

Many hear Jesus say “Follow Me” and enthusiastically leave all to follow, but when the way becomes narrow and difficult, they begin to waver. As long as it means peace and joy, they will gladly follow Jesus. But when it costs them dearly, they look back at their former life and are tempted to return and walk no more with Him.

If we’re going to follow Jesus, there must be no going back. That is why Jesus, out of His love for us, wants us to count the cost of following Him before we commit! He doesn’t want us to be deceived when we decide to follow Him. In spite of the cost, He is hoping we will choose to pay it, but He knows only a few will choose to follow Him.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

The great scandal of Christendom today, is that large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion with no cross. No wonder unbelievers speak of hypocrites in the church and ignore its worldly preachers.

Luke 9:23 And he (Jesus) said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Jesus’ words are strong, aren’t they? Well, is He God or is He a madman? You decide.

If you decide to follow after Jesus, it will cost you EVERYTHING. He calls for us to deny ourselves and take up a cross daily. So, will you commit or will you ignore Him?

You might well say, “If this is the cost, then who would ever consider following Him?”

Perhaps to answer that, we should briefly consider the cost of NOT following Him: NO salvation from Hell, NO eternal life in Heaven, NO peace, NO joy, NO unselfish love, NO fellowship, NO comfort from His Spirit, and NO defense against Satan.

Jesus said to the first man: “COUNT THE COST”. He said to the second man: “LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND”. And He said to the third man: “DON’T LOOK BACK”. What’s He saying to you today?

My experience has been that Jesus always gives me something better than whatever I give up for Him. The “more” He is asking for today is just part of the “all” you said you would give Him when you were baptized. Besides, as Oswald Chambers also said, “To talk about cost when you are in love with anyone is an insult.” Is Jesus God? Do you love Him? If you answer “Yes” to both questions, the cost is worth it to you and His words do not offend you. You will gladly obey His words and leave all to follow Jesus.

Whether we follow Him or not, we will leave everything and everybody someday. Where will you be then—on the road to Heaven following Jesus, or on the road to Hell following your own way? Your choice about whom to follow has eternal consequences. Choose Jesus.