“The Cost of Discipleship”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

17TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

SEPTEMBER 16, 2018

 

Title: “The Cost of Discipleship”

 

Text: 18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.  19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nest, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22. But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

 

Scripture Reading: Matthew 8:18-22.

 

The story is told in Ministry 127 about how a hog and a hen sharing the same barnyard heard about a church’s program to feed the hungry. The hog and the hen discussed how they could help. The hen said, “I’ve got it! We’ll provide bacon and eggs for the church to feed the hungry.” The hog thought about the suggestion and said, “There’s one problem with your bacon and eggs solution. For you, it only requires a contribution, but for me, it will mean total commitment!” You will contribute what you produce which is less painful.  I will have to go through pain giving myself up. This story illustrates what the the cost of true discipleship actually is. It involves complete commitment to Jesus and His mission. To understand the cost of true discipleship, one must first answer some salient questions: Who is a disciple? Who disciples are we? What is discipleship? By this time in our Christian life, we must have answers to these questions. In addition, we were blessed to partake in ten weeks of discipleship class here at church. Join me as we look at the cost of discipleship together.

Jesus Christ commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20 “to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them “to observe all that I have commanded you.” This raises a fundamental question if we will undertake the cost of discipleship.  What does it actually means to be a disciple of Jesus? If we are going to take up discipleship, we ought to know what this is.

The standard meaning of a disciple is someone who adheres to the teachings of another.  A disciple is a follower or a learner. Jesus Christ said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” A disciple is then someone who take up the ways of someone.  Applied to Jesus, a disciple is someone who learns from Him and live like Him. A disciple is someone who because of God’s amazing grace, conforms his or her words and deeds to the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. Or we may put it this way that the disciples of Jesus are themselves little Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:21).  To sum this up, if you are a disciple of Jesus, you are a worshipper of Jesus, a servant, and a witness of Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus means worshipping Him exclusively.  This is at the core of Jesus’ ministry on earth. In John 4:23-24, Jesus pointed out that God is looking for those who worship in spirit and in truth.  He told the woman at the well that the Father was seeking true worshippers. To follow Jesus and be His disciple means to worship, with joy at the heart.  Jesus demonstrated how we ought to be His disciple. In John 13:5 Jesus is kneeling before His disciples and about to wash their feet. In verse 8 Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Mark tells us that Jesus is a servant.  He came to earth not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for sinners (Mark 10:45). To be a disciple of Jesus is to serve like Jesus. It means to serve primarily, by looking at other Christians and going low in acts of love, even if it is an inconvenience to you.  If you are not a servant, you cannot be a disciple of Jesus, because making disciples of Jesus means making servants who love one another. When Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve he said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:24).  The truth of the matter is, it is this love that disciples have for one another that identifies them as disciples to a watching world.

John gives another picture of who a disciple should be. In a commission to His disciples, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you (John 20:21).  This means a disciple is one who is on a mission to tell the good news of Jesus Christ. So a disciple is a witness of the good news. Jesus had a purpose on earth: to reveal God and redeem sinners (John 1:14). We too, as His disciples, filled by the Holy Spirit, is sent for a purpose.  It is to witness (Romans 10:14-17). So it is obvious that to be a disciples is to point people to Him. It means to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love so that people may know Him and worship Him. This means that we gladly seek more worshippers, servants and missionaries. This means a disciple of Jesus makes disciples of Jesus as Jesus told us to do.  But there is a cost in being a disciple of Jesus. There is a cost to make others a disciples of Jesus.

Our text this morning tells of a time when Jesus reminded His disciples that discipleship is costly. In Matthew 8:19, a teacher of the law approached Jesus and promised to follow Him wherever Jesus went.  He is committing to being Jesus’ disciple or His follower. This is a drive worth accepting immediately. But our wise Lord tells the man about the cost of following Him. Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”  Jesus Christ is saying here that following him is not an easy venture. It is costly to follow Him or be His disciple. A person must leave everything to follow Him.

In our time and age, we have approached the teaching of discipleship in a way as not to offend anyone. There is a difference between church membership and Christian discipleship. Some folks will think that to become a disciple of Jesus is to join the church, attend worship once in a while and perhaps give an offering. This is not the case.  It is my prayers that we will take our calling as Jesus’ disciples more seriously, commit ourselves to Christ more fully, and feel a greater share in Christ kingdom on earth.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Book, “The Cost of Discipleship” makes the assertion that grace is free, but grace is not cheap.  Grace was paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Because of the price paid, His disciples is led by grace to surrender their lives to God in faithfulness and gratitude to God.  Jesus makes this clear when He says in verse 22 of Matthew 8, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” He further makes it clear in Mark 8:34, “Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” So what is the cost of discipleship?

One cost of discipleship is the loss of one’s identity.  Paul in his second letter to the church at Corinth tells the Corinthians, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new” (2Cor. 5:17).  Once we were part of the world and its sinful nature. As disciples of Christ, our old nature or identity is in the past. The emphasis now is not upon us but upon Christ; what’s important is not who we are, but the one to whom we belong.

Paul went on to say that, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me.  That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me, and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).  

The cost of discipleship is the sacrifice of personal freedom.  When we become disciples of Christ, God gave us the freedom to choose.  We called it free will. In the process, God choose us as His own. We have the choice to say no.  God shows us the way but gave us the freedom to rebel and make our own mistakes. In Paul’s classic statement in Galatians, he writes, “Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ made us free, and don’t be entangled again in the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).  What we need to remember is that freedom in Christ is not freedom to do your own thing, but freedom to choose Christ over the ways of the world.

John Wesley in a prayer he offered every night on New Year’s Eve asked God: “I am no longer my own but thine, put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt, put me to doing, put me to suffering, let be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalt for thee or be made low for thee….”  As disciples of Jesus Christ, we will do well to pray with Wesley and be reminded that we are not free to follow the dictates of our own sinful nature. We have the choice to surrender our wills to the will of God and to submit to the authority of Christ. The cost of discipleship is the sacrifice of personal freedom.  We are called to give up prejudice, gossips, lies, slander, envy, and all kinds of vices and commit ourselves totally to Christ and His works.

 

The cost of discipleship is countless.  We can go from letting go of personal wealth, giving up of ultimate allegiance to family, friends, and country, to even laying down our lives.  According to the World Watch List From Open Door, around 215 million Christians face significant level of persecution in the world today. It reports that 1 in 12 Christians live where their faith was illegal, forbidden, or punished.  In their 2018 report, 3,066 Christians were killed, 1252 were abducted, and 793 churches were attacked.

I agreed with Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he says, “Cheap grace is grace we bestow on ourselves… the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.”

Discipleship is costly because it cost a man His life.  That man is Jesus. It is costly because it offers a man the only true gift, the gift of everlasting life.  To follow Jesus is the greatest thing we can ever undertake, but not without a cost. God bless you.