Discipleship on the Scales
Weighing Up The Cost of Following Jesus
One thing that becomes evident when you’re reading about the life of Christ in Scripture is that Jesus never tried to convince, beg or manipulate a man or woman into the Kingdom of God. In fact, quite often it would seem that He was trying to talk people out of following Him. I mean, churches today are offering almost anything to fill the church pews, yet Jesus Himself was completely confident that God’s way was the only way of sorting out the wheat from the chaff (Matthew 3:12). Jesus knew the sheep that were His (2 Timothy 2:19), and His sheep hear the Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27). Because God knows those who are His, Jesus was assured that not one would be snatched from His hand (John 10:28), except the son of perdition, Judas Iscariot (John 17:12).
Sadly we see during the life of Christ, many disciples turned away for various reasons (John 6:6), but mostly due to the cost that comes with being a disciple. Our Messiah didn’t use vices such as trickery or deceit, in addition to other modern-day tactics that lure people in with the very things that Jesus was tempted with in the wilderness but did not yield to (Matthew 4:1-11); the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). He could not be bought by mere fleshly concerns, but rather He would pay a dear price with His own life so that we, His disciples, could be partakers of an eternal Kingdom and bring glory to His Father (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
Jesus advised His disciples to weigh up the cost for themselves, just as He did when He saw the joy set before Him on His day of agony (Hebrews 12:2).
Luke 14:26-33 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
What a remarkable phrase, ‘any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple’. The kind of devotion Jesus is suggesting … no, strike that, commanding His disciples in, is a total laying down of one’s life and all that he has, putting God first before all else and anyone else. Jesus commands us to love God with everything that we have, even obeying Him to the point of death if He requires it (Luke 21:16).
Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
When a woman first finds out that she is with child, she instantly rejoices because she imagines holding her baby in her arms and the joy that would come from this. But as days fall into weeks and weeks into months, she experiences morning sickness, heartburn, aching joints, forgetfulness, moodiness, immobility, and tiredness, all leading up to the crescendo experience—the day when she enters unbearably painful labour where she thinks it would be better to die than continue through the pain. Then once the baby has been born, she forgets all the pain because of the joy that she experiences once the pain is forgotten. Meeting her baby for the first time was worth all of the tribulation she experienced.
John 16:21-22 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
The early days of pregnancy are exciting because of the promise that awaits, but without the suffering. But what happens when the suffering comes? This is where the cost begins and she must endure the trials, seeing the joy set before her.
Perhaps some disciples have not really understood what it is that they have signed up for when deciding to follow Christ. It’s easy to put your hand up in church and say, ‘Yes’ to Jesus, but are we aware of the cost that follows this decision? The disciple of Christ will weigh up the cost, knowing that he will be in for a bumpy ride ahead, but will consider the day of the birth and count it all joy.
Jesus did not call His disciples to merely follow Him as an extension of their life—He required them to hate their life in this world so that they would find life in Him.
John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Jesus required His disciples to leave homes, families and jobs, promising them that they’d be homeless and would have to completely rely on their faith in Him for provision. Oh and if they looked back, they were not fit to be His disciples.
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.”
Christianity is not an ‘add on’ product that you order through drive-thru and enjoy at your leisure. A true disciple of Christ realises that when they said, ‘Yes’ to Jesus, He is going to turn their world upside down. Nothing would remain the same. Any remnant of their old life is completely gone. We’re not talking a minor make-over, we’re talking a complete re-building.
So what does the Bible say about the cost of discipleship and what does this new life look like?
Following Jesus means…
– Saying goodbye to worldly pursuits, not loving your life (1 John 2:15-17, Galatians 5:17, John 12:25)
– Loving Him more than your family/friends (Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26)
– Serving God first and foremost (Matthew 12:48-50, Luke 8:21)
– Suffering persecution for His name’s sake (Matthew 5:11, Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 3:17, 1 Peter 4:14, 2 Timothy 3:12, Luke 6:22)
– The possibility of sacrificing homes, businesses, etc. and not turning back (Mark 10:29-30, Matthew 19:21)
– Being hated by the world (John 15:18-19, Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17)
– Suffering many trials and tribulations (James 1:2-4, James 1:12, 1 Peter 1:6, Romans 5:3-5)
– The possibility of imprisonment or death (Matthew 24:9, Luke 21:16, John 16:2, Revelation 2:10)
– Offering your body as a living sacrifice; the temple of God (Romans 12:1, Romans 6:13, 1 Corinthians 6:20)
– Abstaining from fruitless distractions (Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:60)
– Wives submitting to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Corinthians 11:3)
– Husbands loving their wives like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25, Colossians 3:19, 1 Peter 3:7, Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:33)
– Training your children in the way they should go – godly discipline (Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 29:17, Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 23:12-14)
– Being submissive to your leaders; both the church and the world (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:5, Romans 13:1)
– Submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
– Not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3, Romans 12:16, 2 Corinthians 10:13)
– Putting others before yourself – loving your neighbour as yourself (Galatians 5:14, Philippians 2:3, Romans 12:10)
– Becoming a servant of all (Luke 22:26-27, Galatians 5:13, Galatians 6:2, John 13:16-17, Ephesians 3:7, 1 Peter 4:11)
– Offering your time to God (Isaiah 40:31, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:16, Matthew 6:33, Colossians 3:23)
– Giving to God – to those who support you spiritually (1 Timothy 6:17-19, 2 Corinthians 9:6- 7, 1 Corinthians 9:11, Acts 2:44-46, Proverbs 3:9, 2 Corinthians 8:2-5)
– Living in such a way that you become a living epistle to others (Colossians 3:12-17, 2 Corinthians 3:2-6, Matthew 5:16, Philippians 2:14-16)
– Being holy as He is holy, which includes being set apart from the world in every way; abstaining from every appearance of evil including music, movies, conduct and anything that does not honour Christ (1 Peter 1:15-16, Hebrews 12:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, 1 Peter 2:9, James 3:13, Philippians 4:8)
– Setting your mind on the things above (Colossians 3:2, Philippians 3:20)
– Storing up treasures in Heaven, not on Earth (Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 12:15-21)
– Preaching and living in the truth – the whole counsel of God with all fervency (Acts 20:27, 2 Timothy 4:2, Ephesians 4:15, John 3:21, 1 John 1:6)
– Using your gifts to serve God (1 Peter 4:10, Romans 12:6)
– Believing and acting upon the Word of God in all areas of your life (1 Thessalonians 2:13, James 1:22, Matthew 7:24, Luke 6:47, Romans 2:13, James 2:14)
– Bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2, Romans 15:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:14)
– Confessing your sins to one another (1 John 1:9, Proverbs 28:13)
– Forgiving others (Matthew 6:15, Mark 11:26, Matthew 18:21-22)
– Assisting people with practical needs (1 John 3:17, Luke 3:11, James 2:14-17, James 1:27, Proverbs 14:31)
– Being in the battle against the members of your body and turning from; greed, sexual immorality, drunkenness, gossip, slander, murmuring, godless chatter, coarse jesting, envy, strife, jealousy, idolatry, haughtiness, suspicions and all ungodliness (1 Thessalonians 5:22, Galatians 5:19-21, Proverbs 16:17)
In John 6, Jesus was teaching sayings that were hard to accept and many disciples turned away as a result. With only a few remaining, we don’t see Jesus chasing after those who had departed, nor do we see Him begging those who remained to stay, in fear that His ministry may come to nothing. Rather, Jesus did not see the multitudes turning away as a failure, but as an opportunity to test His true disciples. He looked at them and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67) The disciples had a choice. Just like those other disciples, they too didn’t understand these hard teachings, but one thing separated them from the ones who had departed. They believed that He was the way to eternal life, that He was the Holy One of God.
John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
In the following verses Jesus reminds them that He had chosen the twelve as His disciples—even knowing that one would betray Him. Jesus was not concerned that they would turn away, because they were the chosen. Many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). After a testing of their faith, they were found faithful despite their human failings.
Becoming a Christian is not a hobby, a past-time, a social outlet, or a remedy of relief. Nor is it church activities, great music or a feel-good message. Being a disciple does not happen automatically when you put up your hand and say some prayer in church, nor is your salvation sealed or guaranteed when you buy a ‘Jesus’ t-shirt. It’s not about learning the latest Christian-isms, attending conferences, following traditions, being raised in a Christian home, having been baptised, an emotional experience at the altar, how many books and DVDs you bought over the years or how many charitable deeds you’ve done. For if all these things made you a Christian, then Judas Iscariot; who walked with, worked with, dined with, travelled with and even kissed Jesus on the cheek, would certainly qualify as a disciple of Christ all the more. Although Judas walked with Jesus like the other disciples, he did not love God like the other disciples, with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. He lacked ‘a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart’ (Psalm 51:17) that would lead to true repentance. Judas looked, sounded and acted like a true disciple of Jesus, but he was a son of Hell, unbeknown to his counterparts, however no surprise to Jesus.
Being a Christian is to become a lamb to the slaughter (Romans 8:36), one who dies and rises again to a new life in Christ (Colossians 3:3) where the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). To truly become a disciple of Jesus Christ means nothing will be the same ever again. Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
A disciple must place his life on the scale and weigh up the cost. Only then can you truly make a decision to follow Christ. That being said, when we put God’s only begotten Son on the other side of the scales, there has never been, and never will be, a greater honour than to follow Christ.
‘Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!’ 2 Corinthians 9:15
It costs to be a disciple, but it costs more not to be!
— By Judah Ayling and his bride Jenny Ayling