The Gospel of Luke - Part 66: The Costs of True Discipleship — Luke 14:28-35
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Last week, we looked at two parallel sayings to examine the conditions for discipleship

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” —Luke 14:25-27
Eugene Peterson states it more simply as: “Discipleship is anything that causes what is believed in the heart to have demonstrable consequences in our daily life”

This Week: The Costs of True Discipleship

Anne Dillard in her essay “An Expedition to the Pole” describes the ill-fated Franklin Expedition (1845-1859) that perished because its preparations were adapted to the posh conditions of the Royal Navy officer’s clubs in England rather than the harsh realities of the Arctic.

There are two parallel parables that the Lord used to emphasize the necessity of counting the cost. In these short parables He likens the Christian walk first to a building project and then to warfare.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? or if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying,  "This fellow began to build and was not able to finish. " Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. —Luke 14:28-35
Both parables emphasize the necessity of careful calculation, the need to sit down, take some time, and compute it all out. The Franklin Expedition went awry because they failed to do the calculations. On the positive side, their failure caused those that followed to do better calculations and they were eventually successful in mapping the artic and developing the technology to conquer it.

In the first parable the disciples must count the cost of giving their whole lives to Jesus. Otherwise they may start off in a blaze of glory and then fizzle out. If so, onlookers will mock them. The world has nothing but contempt for those who fall, note the treatment of fallen television evangelists. Personally, I believe that Satan loves the fallen as it gives him a better hold on the uncommitted.

In the second parable the king must make a decision. He knows full well it is either absolute commitment or abject surrender. Likewise the disciples, no half-hearted tries.

Jesus doesn't "gloss over" the cost of being His disciple. In fact, He, unlike Franklin of failed expedition fame tells us the cost. He emphasizes that each person needs to understand what it really means to be His disciple and make sure that are really committed to pay the price. In verse 33 He spells it out and very simply states:

So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
(NCV says: "In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be My follower.")
To be Jesus' disciple means that I surrender every area of my life to Him. "He is not Lord at all unless He is Lord of all!" It means I seek to be unconditionally committed to doing His will. It is just not willing to, but doing it. But he who does it, has the best bargain. He carries his cross for a few years but in the world to come has everlasting life. He carries his riches across the grave. He is rich in grace here and rich in glory in the hereafter

One test of discipleship is what we are doing with your money. Regardless of our income, if we are not giving regularly and generously, we are not living as Christ’s disciples. We cannot follow the Lord if he does not have our hearts. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). Does he have your treasure?

Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” —Luke 14:34-35
Jesus sums up what He is saying by comparing His disciples to salt. If salt is not "salty", if it is tasteless, then it is useless. Technically salt, Sodium Chloride {NaCl] can not lose it saltiness. But if it is mixed with impurities, then it becomes unnoticeable, worthless and man throws it away.

So how do these verses fit into what Jesus has been saying in v.26-33? Our usefulness to the Lord is dependent on our commitment to being His disciples. Without these commitments, then we are "tasteless" (v.34); we've lost our distinctiveness as followers of Jesus. If the commitment has deteriorated, the disciple is useless and fit for nothing but to be tossed out. Like the builder of the tower who couldn’t finished was mocked by his friends, so to will a disciple who loses his “saltiness” be mocked. He has too much light or knowledge to fall into the vanities of the world and he has no enjoyment of the grace and truth that kept him on the path for Christ.

He maintains his salvation, but bears no fruit.

One reason more people don't come to Christ today is because they see so many "tasteless" Christians with nothing distinctively Christ-like about their lives. But the disciple who is committed to Christ with respect to his family, his cross, and his money is a powerful agent for the kingdom. His presence is felt. He seasons the life of his family, friends, church, and society. We need more committed Christians.

As I was reading this last part of verse 35 I felt that I must have heard these words a hundred times, but I was wrong. They appear (in this general form) only 16 times, eight in the gospels and eight in Revelation. Seven of the eight in Revelation relate to the seven churches that are singled out at the beginning. Most consider the seven problems to relate to all churches thru all time:

1)  They are losing their first love (falling away)   like the church at Ephesis
2)  They fear of suffering for Himlike the church at Smyrna
3)  Doctrinal defectionlike the church at Pergamum
4)  Moral departurelike the church at Thyatira
5)  Spiritual deadnesslike the church at Sardis
6)  Not holding fastlike the church at Philadelphia
7)  Lukewarmnesslike the church at Laodicea

All are aspects of commitment.

The eighth occurs in Revelation 16 and simply amplifies that those who are not committed will worship the beast in the end times. The eight in the gospels are:

1-3) Matthew, Mark, and Luke all use the phrase after the parable of the sower, where the seeds of faith fall on hard ground, thin soil, among weeds, or on fertile ground (levels of commitment).
4) Matthew also uses it after Christ describes John the Baptist as the one fulfilling the prophecy concerning Elijah.
5) Matthew also uses it when Jesus uses the prophecy of the tares [weeds] to say that at the end the false will be separated from the true, again commitment. Mark uses it after Jesus states, "Do you bring a lamp into a house and put it under a basket?   No you let it shine." (perhaps like the church at Smyrna in Revelation that was afraid of showing their faith because of the suffering they would endure). Mark also uses it after Jesus states that you are not defiled by what you eat but by what comes out of your heart (apparently this location for the verse does not occur in many early copies). Finally Luke uses it in this chapter to emphasize the cost of discipleship and what it looks like,

commitment - commitment - commitment.

I always enjoy the subtle consistency of the Bible.

To Wrap up:

Today, there tends to be more of an emphasis on what Jesus will do for us than what Jesus requires of us. But Jesus' expectations for His disciples are clearly stated in these verses. What is your response? How committed are you to being Jesus' disciple?  Maybe it's time for you to stop "dabbling" at discipleship and make the commitments Jesus expects of every person who follows Him. You have to choose. Why not pray right now and, as best you know how, surrender every area of your life to the Lord?