A Pattern of Thanksgiving
One of Aesop’s fables tells a story about a fox who fell into a well and was unable to get out. A goat comes along and sees the fox in the well. Somehow the fox persuades the goat to jump in the well. The fox then leaps up onto the goat and jumps out of the well. Now the goat is trapped in the well. What is the moral of the story? Look before you leap. Think of the consequences of a decision before you act.
Long before Aesop came along, Jesus was teaching the same principle. He urges us to count the cost and think seriously about it before we make a commitment to becoming his disciple. Look before you leap. Be aware of what you are getting yourself into.
In today’s version of Christianity, many Christians want to make conversion to Christ as easy and painless as possible. They describe the Christian faith only in very positive terms. They advertise all its benefits and ignore any costs involved. They make expectations as low as possible and make the faith as appealing as possible. As a result, people “jump in” to the faith temporarily, and then “jump out” as soon as they discover how difficult it is to follow Jesus. They show some initial enthusiasm for the faith, but then regret their decision and seek to get out of it when they find out some of the costs involved.
Today we’re looking at a passage that absolutely destroys the idea that following Jesus is easy and cost-free. Jesus tells the great crowd following him that many of them cannot be his disciples because they are unwilling to follow him with absolute devotion. You may be somewhat interested in Jesus, but without a fundamental alteration in your commitments, you cannot be a disciple. Jesus makes discipleship difficult, not easy. This passage emphasizes the costs, not the benefits, of salvation.
Discipleship is costly, and most people are unwilling to pay the costs. Following Jesus will fundamentally change how we identify ourselves, what we believe, and how we behave. If you are not ready for that, perhaps you are not ready to become a disciple.
Each of us ought to ponder Jesus’ words here. Perhaps you think of yourself as a disciple/follow of Jesus; I hope you are. But perhaps some of us are not genuine disciples; perhaps we are disqualified from discipleship because we are not willing to pay the price of genuine discipleship. That’s what we need to consider today.
Before we get into the text, we should emphasize that Jesus is not talking about earning salvation or making yourself worthy of salvation. Salvation is a free gift. We receive it by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus. But what does following Jesus mean? What does discipleship require? What should you expect if you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? That’s what he’s talking about here.
Following Jesus will cost you your life. You receive the gift of salvation freely, but once you have it, you’ll find that it requires total commitment and dedication. If you are not willing to pay the costs involved with following Jesus, you are disqualified as a disciple. If your commitment to Christ is superficial and shallow, then you should not think of yourself as a disciple at all.
Jesus is not trying to push anyone away. He wants many disciples. He’s simply trying to show us what it means to be a genuine disciple. He wants people to follow him, but we should be aware of what that means and what it costs.
Jesus presents five things that will disqualify you as a disciple; today we’ll look at two.