Sliding Into Home Plate
25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 "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. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."
Luke 14:25-33 NASB
A Talk With the Crowds
How sad is it to be at a funeral and hear one of the mourners say "she probably made it in to heaven by the skin of her teeth" or "he slid into heaven like a runner stealing home plate". And the older I get, the more I am troubled by these sayings. In those moments, I consider the person targeted in the statement, and I think, "if they had only known of the deep, abiding relationship that Christ wanted with them; how could they have settled for such a shallow existence with the Savior?" I can't help but feel sorry for the soul who has not yet fully surrendered everything they are, but instead has decided to stake their entire "Christian walk" on a sinner's prayer that never accounted to anything more than "fire insurance".
In Luke 14:25-33, I find Jesus speaking to "large crowds" about what it means to truly be His disciple. In those crowds, there were undoubtedly those who were only interested in a free meal, or to see an amazing miracle. I can imagine there were some who were looking for a great "networking opportunity" to grow their business and surely some were there to witness Jesus take over as an earthly king and conquer the Romans. Whatever was their true motivation for being in the crowd, Jesus knew that many who were present had no intention of surrendering their lives to Him.
Likewise, Matthew 19:16-26 tells me about a wealthy man who came to Christ and asked, "Teacher what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" The answer that Jesus gave him is the same as what He told the crowds in our passage in Luke: "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." Yet when the man heard His words, "he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property." (v.18) What a sad story; he was standing before the One who could give him abundant, eternal life but he could not see it...
A Lesser Salvation?
Jesus' answer to ALL those seeking Him is simple; die to yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me. He told it to the crowds, he told it to the rich young ruler, and He is telling it to us today. Yet, how often do we hear someone say "I think I'm saved but I'm just too busy to really dig into the Bible" or "well, I said a prayer when I was a kid and so I think I'm fine." How many excuses have we used when we are confronted about our lukewarm lives or our lack of convictions? We tend to rationalize and categorize different "types" of Christians as though there are different "levels" to salvation.
Truth be told, much of the blame for this perception should be laid at the feet of the institutional church. We have taken the "Great Commission" (Matthew 28:19-20) and instead of telling people how Jesus defines a disciple (Luke 14:25-33), we dress them up in our religious traditions and the doctrines of men and tell them "as long as they follow these rules, they'll be good little disciples."
One example of this is how our Christian "religion" has led so many to believe the lie that there is such a thing as "fire insurance salvation". It seems that this is a "baseline" Christianity that is quite minimalist and only requires minor effort on the part of the individual to simply make some kind of acknowledgment about Christ. A daily walk is not required, much less a relationship, and any thought of "spiritual growth" is met with disdain as though full surrender is reserved for the "professional Christians". This life is the quintessential shallow believer; a great example of one who is still drinking milk though they ought to be on solid food (I Corinthians 3:1-3) and can be likened unto ground where the seed begins to take root only to die out because of the shallowness of the soil (Matthew 13:20-21). It is a sad existence with no evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in that individual's life. It is a life that only looks for the bare necessity requirements as he sees it; perhaps the attendance of a Sunday morning church service and an occasional few dollars tossed into the plate...when someone's watching.
But oh Christian, this is a lie! The Spirit of God did not bring you low in your sin only to provide you a modicum level of "Jesus consciousness"! The Savior of the world did not reveal to you the glory of His mercy only so you could manage to find the strength to make it to an occasional, obligatory Sunday morning service! There is more, so much more!
A Greater Salvation!
Jesus made no bones about it; there is only ONE call! And that is the call to die! In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "when Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die." That is the call, that is salvation; there is no other! And WHAT a salvation it is! The cross, although a symbol of death to our self, is the reality of new life in Christ and it is the only life worth living.
Jesus says in John 10:10b "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." When will we see that the surrendered life to Christ is an abundant life? When will we see that the sooner we give up everything we have, everything we are, at that point we will find who we are in Him and who He designed us to be all along?
28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 NASB
For those whose lives are full of tumult and anxiety and to those of you who wonder, "where is the peace that Christ claims He brings to His sheep?" To those who ask "where is my peace, where is my joy? Where is my sustenance for today and my hope for tomorrow?"
The answer to these questions is simple: the peace of Christ is reserved only for those who have surrendered to Christ. Not until we take up our cross and die to our self can we then begin to live the abundant life He gives.
But do not be deceived; the Christian life is not one without troubles and challenges for these things He allows for our growth (Romans 5:1-5). But in these trials and tribulations He promises a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). It is why Paul and Silas were able to sing praises while being thrown into prison, it is why Daniel could look to God while in the lion's den, and it is what will get you and I through the frightful days that lay ahead.
So, I will end with this question: what is the call we decided to answer? Was it a call to come and die, or was it a call to make our best life now? Won't you take the time to count the costs and see that the treasure in the field is worth selling all you have to obtain it (Matthew 14:33)?