Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's a Calling, Not a Vacation - Matthew 8:18-34

Count the Cost...Few Are Willing to Pay It

Before reading today's first section of Scripture, I want you to keep in mind something very important: We tend to not think of ourselves as "disciples" because we call the famous group "The Twelve Disciples."  But, in actuallity, all believers are - or ought to be - disciples.  Any reference to disciples in Scripture - including those below - apply to all of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives.

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.

19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever you go."

20 Jesus said to Him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

21 Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father."

22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead."

Let's start with verse 18. At first glance, it's just another meaningless geographic reference like we see throughout the Gospels.  But in this case, I think it means more...  Think about it like this: There's a big crowd interested in Jesus, thinking maybe He's a great moral teacher, but Jesus isn't searching for numbers - He's searching for a real relationship with the few who yearn for him so much that they'll follow Him across the sea - and follow Him through life.

He also makes sure we know what we're getting into.  When the scribe pledges loyalty to Jesus, He responds with an honest warning: It's a hard road to follow, a hard life to live.  He's saying: I know that the suffering is worth it...but do you believe that?  Jesus expands on this further in Luke 14:28 and 31:

"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? ... 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?"

I ask you today to step back and count the cost yourself...
Are you willing to follow Christ, even if it means giving up a career aspiration, a romantic relationship, a life's dream?
Are you willing to follow Christ, even if He asks you to move to another country, to serve Him in a way that terrifies you (evangelizing, public speaking, etc.), to give all your material possessions to Him and live in poverty?
Are you willing to follow Christ, even if persecution hits - if your friends abandon you, you are arrested and beaten, you have to watch those closest to you be tortrued and executed for this same faith?
Are you willing to follow Christ, knowing that any of these things - and you don't which - could happen to you tomorrow, and you will be called to follow Him through it?
Are you willing to follow Christ, even if whatever thing most terrifies you, which you have been thinking about and were releived to not see it on this list, happens to you?

If you were able to answer yes to every one of these questions without a moment's hesitation, you are either someone more passionately committed to God than anyone I have ever met, or you're not taking the questions seriously.

Think about it. Count the cost.

Living Like Jesus

Now, what are we to make of the man asking to bury his father?  Is Jesus heartless, denying a man who just wants to attend the funeral of the man who raised him?  NO - the man's father isn't even dead yet.  The man is asking to wait until his father dies to follow Jesus.  Perhaps he simply wants to spend more time with him; perhaps he wants his inheritance so following Jesus will be easier on him financially.  But Jesus says, "I don't call you to follow Me only when it's most convenient for you - I call you to follow Me NOW.  I have to be the Number One in your life, above all else."

Luke 14:26 puts this very succinctly: (Bear in mind that in this case, "hate" doesn't mean what it does in English; it means "count as worthless by comparison," the same way it is used throughout the new testament and in Hebrews 12:2.  That is, it means "hate by comparison of how much you love Me")

"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 hsi own life, he cannot be My disicple."

This theme of "Christ above all else" also appears in Luke 14:33: "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all His possessions."  Does this mean that we all literally have to donate everything we own to charity?  For some, yes (see our study on that spiritual gift here), but you can give something up while it is still in your possession.  Giving it up to Christ means being willing to literally give it up if/when He asks you, and to always keep in perspective that it is worthless in light of the larger, eternal picture.

We are called to live like Jesus.  Can you deny that Jesus lived a tremendously difficult life?  True faith in Jesus is not a get-out-of-hell-free-card, it's not "fire insurance," it is not a vacation.  We live amidst a raging war for the souls of mankind, and need to treat life with appropriate seriousness.  But that also means that we are called to a great adventure in Christ!  Your actions have eternal impact...what could be more thrilling than that?

We've discussed faith versus works extensively before (most recently, this loooooong exploration of it).  I want to briefly re-emphasize that we do not do these things to earn salvation.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it" (NLT).  But at the same time, a true faith in Jesus Christ will naturally include following Him.

Let's glance at a couple more verses on being Christ's disciples:

Luke 9:23
And He was saying to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."

John 8:31-32
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
(Here is an amazing post on Frank Viola's blog directly relating to this verse...I found it tremendously refreshing, and hope you enjoy it, as well.)

Questions for You

What have you been called to give up for God?  What does picking up your cross daily look like for you?

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