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Message Supplement for 4 September 2016–“Costly Commitment”

What is the cost of your faith? This is more than a rhetorical question considering the lectionary text of Luke 14:25-33. Jesus provided insight into the cost of devotion to God (hint: An effective spiritual life is neither cheap nor easy). The setting entails Jesus watching a crowd that was following him. Jesus felt that there were superficial persons who didn’t understand what it meant to be a dedicated disciple. Jesus made some powerful statements intended to separate the serious devotees from the idly curious and weak-willed.

Jesus caught peoples’ attention by saying “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). These words smack our sensibilities and stretch everything we thought we knew about Jesus. At stake is the determination to live a legit spiritual life. The words hit again when Jesus says “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Jesus then compares the cost of devotion to God with a construction project and a king preparing for war (more on these later).

How far should we take Jesus’ words? Part of effective, powerful communication involves hyperbole, which means intentional exaggerations designed to get attention. Dare we dismiss Jesus’ strong sentiments as outlandish? It might be more productive to conclude that our love and dedication to God should be so great that, in relative terms, all other of our desires pale. Love doesn’t mean that we are always soft-spoken and gentle. The crowd accumulating around Jesus needed to clarify their intentions and Jesus’ response likely provoked definitive reactions. We, too, are challenged to serve God decisively above all other commitments.

The second example of discipleship comes from Jesus’ story of estimating how much it would cost to build a tower. If we begin a project unprepared we risk a nasty surprise in not having enough money or resources to finish it. Aside from the ridicule of observers, the problem could arise that we also become disheartened due to our poor planning. Failure risks discouragement. The third and final example Jesus gave is that of a king deciding whether or not to go to war when he is outnumbered by his enemy. Here again, the issue seems to be facing a situation realistically and deciding what are the requirements of success. Sometimes it is better to not risk catastrophe unless you have discerned a path to victory.

A lesson in all these examples is that a life of becoming God’s disciple can be costly. We can ask if we are serious when we consider becoming God’s followers. We should determine if we have the resolve necessary to withstand the rigors of dedication to God’s principles. Can we bear it?  Can we make the hard choices of rearranging our priorities? With God’s help, each of us can lead a successful faith journey. The stakes, like the cost, couldn’t be higher. But then again, the potential rewards are inestimably wonderful. As with any worthwhile pursuit, we need clarity and commitment to know what we’re getting into. Once prepared, we’ll face challenges but God will always help us achieve our destiny.

Let’s each ask difficult and even disturbing questions. A great place to begin is to inquire about what we’re supposed to be doing at church. At a minimum, we can commit to the “We can DO it” initiative. The “D” refers to partnering with God to make existing Christians stronger—the discipleship Jesus taught—while the “O” references outreach, which is partnering with God to help make new Christians. Authentic Christianity is a full contact sport, not a parlor game where we sit in the pews satisfied in exchanging niceties. We are all on the field, hitting hard and getting hit as we run the race of life. Are you willing to help your church take a stand and do whatever it takes for discipleship and outreach? Let’s pray that God will prepare us to be committed to spiritual growth as we seek to revitalize our faith. –Reverend Larry Hoxey