Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “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. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. “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? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ “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? “Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25-35)
I believe this is one of the most convicting passages of scripture out there. It was delivered to “large crowds” who “were going along with Him”, obviously they were interested in Him, there was a ‘buzz’ around Him and they wanted to know what it was all about. Jesus cut to the chase. Nothing and no one can come before Him in our affections if we want to be His disciples. The Greek word for disciple is μαθητής (transliteration: mathétés; phonetic spelling: math-ay-tes’; usage: a learner, disciple, pupil). In Greek math- is the “mental effort needed to think something through”.
Here’s how I interpret this passage personally for myself. Jesus is requiring my loyalty to be 100% for Him, i.e. I can’t have any loyalty for anyone else which exceeds the loyalty which I have for Him. If there’s a decision and He says one thing and anyone else (including myself) says another then for me to continue to be His disciple (i.e. to continue to learn from Him) then I need to obey Him and do what He is saying (against anyone else and against myself). That is the path of Peace and Progress for me in getting to know my Teacher, my Master (I chose Him as this at Salvation whether I fully realized it or not – that’s what I believe – I chose Him to be my Lord at Salvation when I gave myself to Him and He forgave me from all my sin via Jesus’ Blood shed on the cross).
In fact, going further, the only loyalty I can have to anyone else (other than the Father, Jesus & the Holy Spirit) is to their new self (their new heart, new spirit & righteous soul), i.e. to fellow believers in Jesus. I can’t have any loyalty to anyone’s ‘sin which dwells in me’ (even for my fellow believers in Jesus), including my own. So even within myself, I can only have loyalty towards my new self, not towards ‘sin which dwells in me’ (Romans 7:17). So that’s people.
In same way, I can’t have any loyalty towards any other created being, say, for example, hypothetically, a pet talking parrot (were I to ever have one, I have toyed with the idea in my head at times, I think it would be cool, smiling, maybe one day?) higher than my loyalty to the Father, Jesus & the Holy Spirit.
Finally, I can’t have any loyalty towards any possession, whether that be my career, my job, my money, my glasses, my clothes, my accommodation, my food, my drink, my sleep, my comfort, my pleasure, my secrets, my reputation or my air which exceeds that of which the Lord is asking from me, i.e. if the Lord wants me to do something which will ‘upset that apple cart’ then the apple cart needs to be upset for me to remain being His disciple, His learner, His pupil, His follower or devotee (And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ – Matthew 6:13a).
When I consider, personally, that list above, I realize that He, the Lord, Jesus (Yeshua), is asking the ultimate sacrifice from me. If I want to continue to be His learner, then I have to be willing to continue to sacrifice everything ‘when and where’ He tells me to.
Am I up for this? So the Lord isn’t trying to guilt trip me into being up for this. He’s not rushing me for an answer as to whether I’m up for this. He’s saying instead that I should sit down and calculate, in an inner calculation, whether I’m up for this. Basically, playing out various scenarios in my mind to see, ‘If this were to happen, how would I feel about it?’ ‘Would I still want to be Christ’s disciple if this, this and that happened?’ ‘What about this other thing?’ ‘What if I could never do this thing again which I really enjoy doing?’ ‘What if He asked me to lay down this other pursuit or interest?’ And so, I begin to go through those mental ‘chess moves’ with God, so to speak, in conversations with Him (most of which, to be honest, so far, have been initiated by Him). All this is going on, on the inside of me. No one would even know that these computations and permutations are going on inside my mind, inside my heart.
As I have been making these computations there is one very big realization which has, so far, come to my heart. Jesus made these computations Himself and remained Faithful to the Father right through His Life on earth. Even when the Father forsook Him on the cross. He remained Faithful. Through the Power of the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without blemish or spot to God.
So, the realization of one very important fact has been dawning on me. The Holy Spirit within me, as a believer in Jesus, is able to obey the Father and Jesus, every time They tell me to do something which tests my loyalty to Them.
So, if I let the Holy Spirit live through my new spirit, my new heart and my righteous soul, then He will be Loyal through me to Jesus & the Father and I can remain being Jesus’ disciple (happy day).
Basically, there’s no other way I can do it (that I can see). I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’ve seen that I don’t have it. I’m not loyal to Jesus in ‘sin which dwells in me’, I’m just not. My new self can desire things, good things, but it cannot carry them out. As Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
So, as I make my calculations, I begin to realize that the only path of success or happiness for me in this, to feel no guilt and to feel no shame, is to give myself (my new self) to the Holy Spirit and give Him permission, “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow” ‘sin which dwells in me’ and “to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10) His Life in my new heart, new spirit and righteous soul.
As I make these computations, how should I handle or factor in the possibility of failure or temporary setbacks? How should I factor in condemnation? Depression? Exhaustion? Disappointment? Loneliness? Interesting questions.
I am realizing that because I died (my old self), I am no longer under condemnation. My new self doesn’t sin. It can’t. ‘Sin which dwells in me’ sins but it’s not me.
So, anything which the Holy Spirit does in me, is better than the nothing which I could do without Him.
If it so eventuates that it’s actually ‘sin which dwells in me’ in pride (or in some other wrong motive) which is trying to do ‘God’s will’ now, then the Holy Spirit Loves me enough to reveal this to me at the right time so He can ‘take over’.
Yes, this would mean that those around me would see some ‘stinky behaviour’ coming out of me and might ‘write me off’ as a ‘loser’ or a ‘hypocrite’ along the way, but one of the things I’ll need to face along the way is whether I put anyone else’s opinion about me above God’s opinion about me. If I do this then my loyalty is to that person and not to God.
That would be a problem for me in continuing to be Christ’s disciple. Do I want to live under someone else’s opinion about me? Or God’s (who has already told me He’s once and for all forgiven me and accepted me and will never leave me or forsake me).
I need to make that choice. Do I care about what others think about me?
Ultimately that choice reaches to the level of, ‘Do I care if people literally kill me for being unwilling to care about what they think of me or being unwilling to do what they demand of me or being unwilling to bow to their demands over my life which are contrary to the Lord’s?’
I guess the answer to that question comes down to whether I believe God that once I leave this earth, I will be forever with Him, the Father, Jesus & still with the Holy Spirit.
If I believe that I’ll actually be happier to be with the Father, Jesus & the Holy Spirit where He is (wherever that may be, either in heaven or upon His return to earth, from Jerusalem for a thousand years or finally from the New Jerusalem which comes out of heaven from God), then being killed here on earth because I’m unwilling to put my loyalty for anyone or anything else above my loyalty to the Lord, is actually a blessing in disguise (thinking about it logically, not that I’m asking for hardship or persecution or to be led into temptation, because I’m not).
Again, in this calculation, only the Holy Spirit within me is able to actually make that decision from my heart. To enable me to be willing to let Him make that decision when and where and if that moment should ever come.
From my experience to date, that moment comes in little ways every day (or every so often). That’s what I believe Paul meant when he said he “died daily”. That’s what I believe Jesus meant when He said that we needed to “take up our cross daily and follow Him”.
Everyone who believes in Jesus will end up with me in Eternity. So, I’m not losing any of my brothers and sisters forever in dying.
Once I die in this world, ‘sin which dwells in me’ is over. It ceases to exist. It doesn’t get past the fire which tests the quality of my work before I (in holiness) see the Lord. That’s a blessing. No more heart ache over that one.
So I need to do my calculations, think through the ‘what if’s’ of the ones closest to me who may reject me for continuing to be loyal to the Lord and doing what I believe He’s telling me to do rather than what they may want me to do. Think of the misunderstandings and judgements I’ll potentially encounter. Think of the anger I’ll potentially encounter. Think of the ostracism which I’ll potentially encounter.
Then, ultimately decide whether learning more about Jesus through having the Holy Spirit living through me, day by day, and following Jesus as He leads me with His easy yoke, day by day, is worth it all, in this life on earth. Or not.
That’s a conscious choice which ultimately faces me. A decision which I need to make once all my calculations are completed. Once I’ve amassed all the facts and thought through all the possibilities. Not based on a whim. Not based on an emotion. Not based on a guilt trip. But based on a genuine desire, believing that following Jesus is the best thing for me or not. Believing that following Jesus, being obedient to Jesus as He leads me, will make me happy or not. Believing that following Jesus is the right thing to do or not. Believing that following Jesus is the best use of my time on earth or not. Believing that following Jesus is the best quality of life that I can experience on earth (persecutions, hardships & sufferings included) or not. Believing that a close, intimate relationship with Jesus is the best relationship that I can ever experience on earth or not. Believing that a friendship with Jesus, through His Holy Spirit living through me, is the best friendship and the best experience that I could ever have on earth or not. Believing that relating to the people who God chooses for me to relate to on earth is better than relating to any other people who I could ever choose to relate to or not.
These are the ultimate choices before me. Once all this is ‘out there on the table’ and thought through and discussed with the Lord and given to the Lord, then I am ready as empowered by the Lord and led by the Lord and enabled by the Lord, the Holy Spirit living through me, to give myself unreservedly to the Lord.
What this means is that I say to Him, ‘I am Yours.’ He gets to do with me whatever He likes and I don’t get to say a final, ‘No!’ to anything He ever asks me to do (He has my permission to change my mind about any temporary ‘no!’ which I might utter).
He’s in control then. I’m not going to be instantaneously perfect or anything at that point, but it gives Him the reins or the drivers seat, ‘Jesus take the wheel’, for Him to do what He likes in my life from then on out.
Day, by day, by day, by day, by day. He will then protect that choice and every day bring the ability to surrender again (without weariness or trying or exhaustion) to continue the walk together with Him.
It really is a walk along an unknown path where all I know is that He is leading and beckoning me to join Him as He walks ahead of me. To walk alongside Him and enjoy the journey. That is what I am being offered. That is what I believe discipleship means.