I am convinced that many Christians fail themselves by not counting the true cost of following Jesus. We get to a comfortable place in our walk with Christ and just stop right there because we begin to realize the cost and it gets too hard to press on. It is much easier to become a Christian and learn how to look and sound like one but never understand the fullness of what it means to be His disciple. This is an example of having the form of godliness, but denying the power provided to us through Christ to be totally transformed and different from this world. So my friends, it is time to take a look at your life (as I look at mine) and see if we have stopped in a comfortable spot but there is so much more available to us. We have stopped because we recognize how costly it is to truly follow Christ. Let us pray for His strength to sustain and support us as we dive a little deeper in the cost of discipleship.
Jesus Himself warns us to count the cost before we make the decision to follow Him. In fact He gives us a few examples of how serious this decision is in several statements He made.
Reading from Luke 14:25-35 we read these words
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 – 27 NIV
We have to be willing to break relationships, even the ones that are family, close family. You never know when your walk with Christ might cause those around you to reject your friendship or reject your new lifestyle. It is difficult for friends, many of us have already experienced our friends walking away from us and having nothing to do with us. That eventually became easier to handle. But the hard relationships are those who have supported and loved us for years and been a part of our lives and been with us through trials and struggles. The sad thing is, even those relationships might have to be broken in order for you to follow Christ. This is where a lot of people break their walk with Christ, I know I almost did. When my life changed, several of my friends around me no longer wanted me around them. At this time I see how important and good that was for me to separate from them, but at the time it was very difficult. I even considered trying to live a double life just so I can maintain my friends.
This first cost, is often too expensive and people often stop here while following Christ. They stop at living that double life. They are unwilling to give up their friends or they feel their lifestyle is worth more at keeping than the life Christ has planned for them. So we have to be willing to give up our close friends, even to the point where we do not value our own life over Christ. Willing to give up everything for Him.
The second cost here is picking up our own cross to follow Him. This is another difficult decision to make. Our lives have to be laid down and we must deny ourselves the ability to whine and complain about our lives. Most people equate the “carry your cross” statement to simply mean our burdens, our sin nature or struggles; others like to add that it means disease like cancer, death in the family or a divorce. I think it is more than that. I think that many of these things are burdens and struggles and painful experiences, but God has said that no life is more valuable than any other and bad things happen to both the believer and unbeliever alike, so I really think there is something more here than just a simple “carry your burden (that you might have experienced anyway)” and more than just denying yourself the “pleasures” of this world. I think carrying our cross includes the idea of recognizing our failures and sin that were paid for on our behalf by Christ. As we follow Christ while carrying our cross, we are taking part in understanding the suffering He went through for us. Here is where some Christians stop their walk with Christ and get comfortable. They do not want to look different than those around them and they really do not like being reminded about the price that was paid for them. I honestly think carrying the cross includes that added dimension of carrying the reminder in our minds of the huge debt we owe and yet can never repay.
Continued in Part 2