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HOW TO BE A DISCIPLE OF JESUS

Luke 14:25-14:34
Key Verse: 14:26

We thank God for his invitation to the great banquet in the kingdom of God. May we cherish it and live our life in this world fit to this invitation. We pray that we may taste his kingdom daily by coming to him without excuse. May we learn God’s compelling heart to make people come in God’s house. Today’s passage is about how to follow Jesus as his disciples. We all want to be true disciples of Jesus, don’t we? Being a true disciple of Jesus is the greatest blessing one can have in this world. Let’s listen to Jesus for this.

First, requirements of his discipleship (25-27). Look at verse 25. “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:” Though large crowds were following and traveling with him on his way toward Jerusalem through Perea, Jesus was not just satisfied by their following. He wanted them to be true followers of him. So 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.” What a shocking demand! How extreme this demand is! We really need to understand these words. In our human life, father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters are the most precious ones and they cannot be the objects of our hatred. No way. The word “hate” can go with enemies, but not with them. Why did Jesus say, “hate them”? Jesus had even said, “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk 6:27). If we are to love our enemies, how much more should we love our family members? Then what does Jesus mean by saying, “…hate your father and mother, your wife and children, your brothers and sisters…”

This is written in Matthew’s gospel in a more understandable way: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37). In our lives there should be order in love. If someone says, “I love all the women of the world as I love my wife”, something is wrong with him. And one servant of God said, “If you love your children more than your wife, you will have big trouble in your life.” I think what he said is true. If there should be order in our love for fellow human beings, then how much more should there be order between our love for Jesus and our love for all others, although we are to love our family members so dearly? It is a spiritual secret that when we love Jesus more than anyone else, we can truly love others, our spouses, parents, children, siblings and friends. When we love someone or something more than Jesus, the person or thing becomes an idol, which brings heart corruption, and that’s a serious life problem.

Whom we love more is related to whom we listen to. When Adam loved his wife Eve more than God, at the crucial moment he listened to his wife, and thus fell. When the Israelites loved material blessings and prosperity in the world more than God, they did not listen to the prophets, became degraded, and eventually forsook the LORD their God. They brought God’s punishment upon themselves and became exiles in Babylon. When Simon Peter loved his dream more than Jesus, the dream of Jesus’ earthly messianic kingdom in which he thought he would sit right next to Jesus, he could not accept Jesus’ teaching about his suffering and death. He was severely rebuked by Jesus, who said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mt 16:23; Mk 8:33).

While Jesus spoke comparatively in Matthew’s gospel, in Luke even the comparative expression was not enough. Here, using the word “hate”, Jesus seems to be more serious and so demands such an exclusive love from his followers. Why? It is because of who Jesus is. He cannot be compared to anyone in the world, even the one we treasure and love most in the world. In chapter 13, when people attempted to get Jesus to leave, apparently for the sake of his own safety, he said, “…I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal” (13:32). Jesus did what no one else could do, his unlimited healing and mighty work of driving out demons. He came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. And finally, he would die for man’s sins, and rise again from the dead to give us eternal life in the kingdom of God. No one loved us as he loved us. He loved us to the point of giving his own life as a ransom sacrifice for our sins.

On June 15, Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) died at her home in Gloucester, Massachusetts at the age of 88. She was a missionary who inspired generations of evangelical Christians by returning to Ecuador with her toddler daughter to preach the gospel to the very Indian tribe that had killed her husband. Through her life of mission there, those who had been involved in the killing of Jim Elliot and his colleagues became true believers who testified to the grace of Jesus. Her life was the reflection of Christ’s love for sinners. You and I were enemies of God and thus the object of God’s wrath. There was an invisible and inconvincible wall between God and us. But he broke the wall through his broken body crushed on the cross, and thus reconciled us to God and brought us peace, peace with God. He brought us victory over sin and death and the power of Satan through his resurrection. Now we have fellowship with God the Father and the living hope in the kingdom of God through the Son Jesus. Just before her death Elisabeth Elliot wrote a poem: “Perhaps some future day, Lord, Thy strong hand will lead me to the place. Where I must stand utterly alone; Alone, Oh gracious Lover, but for Thee.”

On June 14, 2015, Anne Gaylor also died (1926-2015). She was a very prominent nonbeliever in America, known as a Battler for freedom from religion. She advocated abortion rights, raising money for poor women unable to afford to terminate their pregnancies. She branded the Bible “a grim fairy tale” and loved abortion so much she called it a blessing. But at the end of her life after having ordered her own cremation, she said to her family, “take care of each other.” This is a horrifyingly sad story.

In the obituaries of these two women, we see the difference between one who has a living hope of the kingdom of God and one who does not. It is a truly amazing blessing that we have a living hope of the kingdom of God through his Son Jesus Christ. He is our Saviour and Lord. He is the dearest and the best. He is the perfect object of our love. So our love for Jesus is to be so distinguished that our love for all others is like hating them compared to our love for him.

Love is a matter of heart, and is invisible. Yet love can be shown through one’s obedience. So Jesus said in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” His disciples are those who love him and so obey his commands and learn of him, growing in his image.

Look at verse 26 again. “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.” Here Jesus said, “…hate even his own life…” Hating one’s own life, self-hatred, is a sharp contrast to the self-love so prevalent in our time. Self-love is deception. Our self is sinful in nature and selfish and proud. Self-denial, self-hatred and self-death are the truth of God. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself…” Here Jesus said, “…hate even his own life…” Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live…” Self-love and love for Christ cannot go together in the life of a disciple of Jesus. The more we hate our sinful self, the more we can love Jesus. Also, the more we love Jesus, the more we hate our own life. We need to hate our sinful self and die to it, the desire for the pleasure of the world and for people’s recognition. We need to hate and die to our pride, self-defence, self-pity, and the cowardly-self and shy-self that come from self-love. About hating our own life Jesus expressed it this way in Luke 9:24, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

Look at verse 27. “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Why is personal cross-taking necessary in the life of a disciple? As you know, at that time the cross was the symbol of shame and guilt. But, in Christ Jesus who would carry the cross for the sins of mankind as a mission from God, the cross became the symbol of God’s mission to serve his salvation work. When one has no clear mission from God, he or she cannot help living a selfish life, seeking ease and cosiness in this world. As you studied, in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam the mission to work and take care of it, which was God’s blessing for him (Ge 2:15). God commanded Noah to build an ark of salvation for himself and for his family members and for many others (Ge 6:14). In our time there are many believers who think they have no part with mission. Yet, a disciple of Jesus is the one who has a clear mission from God to do his will and takes the cross in following Jesus. A cross is a cross, and carrying the cross has pain. However, cross-carrying is a blessed life with true joy and meaning.

Second, the cost of his discipleship (28-33). Look at verses 28-30. “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? For 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.” The life of a disciple can be likened to building a tower. Here Jesus does not want his disciples to stop their spiritual construction after laying the foundation. In other words Jesus does not want his disciples to start well, but become drop outs. They should estimate the cost. Of course, the cost of being a disciple is not monetary. If so, only rich people can be disciples of Jesus. The cost was well expressed in Luke 9:57-62. As Jesus and his disciples were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go”, Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus did not guarantee his followers human security. So those who want to follow Jesus in the hope of having worldly success and so establishing security in this world become dropouts in but a matter of time. Yet, disciples of Jesus have true security in him with his promise, “Seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.” (Lk 12:31). When Jesus said to a wavering man, “Follow me,” the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” The disciples are to know what kind of calling they have. The calling is to let the dead be alive through the proclamation of the gospel. So they are to have priority on that. When another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Disciples of Jesus should not be caught by human sentimentalism, but should move on, going forward, entrusting all things including family members to him. So the cost of being a disciple is to give up human security, human-centred relationship and the attachment to human affection.

Look at verses 31-32. “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.” What kind of consideration is this related to following Jesus? It is not easy to grasp the full meaning of these words of Jesus. Yet, one thing is clear: Our life is a battle; the life of a disciple is much more so. A disciple should know what kind of battle he is engaged in. He should learn how to fight. He needs strength and wisdom from God. He should never fight a human battle relying on his own passion and wisdom. He should give up such things.

Look at verse 33. “In the same way any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” So far we thought of giving up human security, human relationship, human affection, human strength and wisdom. Here Jesus demands giving up everything of a disciple. No one can demand as this, but Jesus. Again, it is because of who Jesus is. As for Apostle Paul, knowing Christ Jesus was of surpassing greatness and worth. So he said in Philippians 3:7-8, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…I want to know Christ.” Those who know the preciousness of Jesus can give up anything and everything. The life of a disciple is like entering the narrow door, yet it will lead to life that is true and eternal. So if we can hear from Jesus, “You can be my disciple,” what a blessing and privilege it is! May we pursue and keep such a blessing!

Third, the saltiness of his discipleship (34-35). Look at verses 34-35. “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.” Salt is unseen, but every effective. Saltiness has preservative and flavouring values.

It is, of course, impossible for salt (sodium chloride) to lose its taste, but the salt used in first-century Palestine was far from pure. It was quite possible for the sodium chloride to be leached out of the impure salt in common use so that what was left lacked the taste of salt. It was literally useless. It could not fertilize the land or even decompose usefully on the manure heap. Men threw it away. Then what is the saltiness of his disciples? It is to love Jesus with incomparable love and carry one’s own cross.

The world is corrupt, and without salt it will be more and more corrupted by default. Any human gathering is corrupt and without salt is to be degenerated by default. Salt is absolutely necessary. Jesus said in Matthew 5:12, “You are the salt of the earth.” The disciple with saltiness can be a preservative against the corruption of the world, a flavour to the tasteless and dry world, and an influence in the world. The disciple or church without saltiness is thrown out and trampled by people (Mt 5:13). Finally Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Thank God for calling us as Jesus’ disciples. May we know better and better who Jesus is and who we are so that we can give him undivided love and devotion and become salty disciples of Jesus in this generation.

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