Facing the Facts of Reality
Good evening. I’d like to start this evening with a story. It’s a bit out of date, in the 1950’s but it is about little Johnny. First grade actually. The teacher told the class they would start each day with the pledge of allegiance and instructed them to put their right hands over their hearts and repeat after her.
She looked around the room as she started the recitation, "I pledge allegiance to the flag”, when her eyes fell upon Little Johnny and she saw Johnny’s hand over his backside.
"Johnny” he said, “I will not continue until you put your hand over your heart."
Little Johnny replied, "It is over my heart." After several attempts to get little Johnny to put his hand over his heart, the teacher asked, "Why do you think that is your heart?"
"Because every time my Grandma comes to visit, she picks me up, pats me here, and says, 'bless your little heart,' and my Grandma wouldn't lie!"
I guess the point of the story is that when it comes to our hearts many people pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ but their actions don’t back up their allegiance.
I believe one of the marks of a great leader is to state very clearly the conditions that must be met by those who follow him. You can’t join the army and just expect to do your own thing. You must do what the commanding officer asks of you.
You wouldn’t accept a job until you’ve had a job interview to find out exactly what the terms and conditions of your employment are. If you didn’t agree with them then you wouldn’t take the job.
Jesus is a great leader. He very clearly lays out the conditions that must be met by anyone who wants to follow Him. I suppose this sermon will not be very uplifting but I hope it will be challenging. Something we need to hear from time to time. I will be using the NKJ for most of the verses I quote tonight but a few will be paraphrased.
I. Turn your Bibles with me to Luke 14 and while you’re doing that let me set the scene. Great multitudes of people had been following Jesus and many people were excited about Him. Some of them thought that as the Messiah He would drive out the Roman oppressors. Others in the crowd were fascinated with His strange teachings and His mighty works and many others were just curious.
A. To this motley crowd of people Jesus says in verse 26-27, Luke 14:26-27 – “26. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27. "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
1. Jesus tells the crowd that if you want to follow Me, then here is condition number one: “Hate your father, mother, wife and kids and even your own life.”
2. Before we get into the parable we need to look at what Jesus means when He tells the crowd to hate their families and their lives. We need to understand just what Jesus is looking for from His followers. Did Jesus literally mean that we should hate our families and our own lives? If we believe that He meant these words to be taken literally then we have some problems with other scriptures. We know that Jesus doesn’t contradict Himself.
3. That problem usually lies in our understanding of what we are reading. Jesus didn’t seek to crush the tender relationships of human friendships and love.
i. He taught His followers in Matthew 5:43-48 to “Love even their enemies.”
ii. In Mark 7:9-13 He taught His followers to “Honor their parents”.
iii. On the cross He committed the care of His mother to a trusted friend in John 19:26-27.
iv. In Matthew 5:21-26 He spoke against anger and hatred of one’s brother and said that it was a kind of murder.
v. He gathered little children in His arms and blessed them in Mark 10:13-16.
4. His whole life and His teachings made it quite clear that people were to be loved. Jesus isn’t contradicting Himself. The problem is how we understand what He means by the word we translate as “Hate”.
5. The Biblical use of this word becomes clearer when it is recalled that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30), and that the next verse says that "The Lord saw that Leah was hated."
6. The concept we translate as “hate” here is void of the sentiments usually associated with that word today and means to “love less”.
7. It doesn’t mean that we are to love our relatives with a diminished love, because this would be opposed to the heart and soul of Christianity.
i. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.”[para]
ii. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”[para]
8. It is true that we may love the Lord too little, but we cannot love any human being too much. We will never love the Lord more by loving our human friends less.
B. Yet there is a sense in which “hate” is appropriate. What does Jesus mean when He says that “We are to hate our own life?” In what sense are we to hate ourselves? In what sense are we to hate our relatives and friends?
1. You may have heard this story before. There was a man who prayed to God one morning and said: "Father, I haven't sinned today, and so far, I haven't shouted at my children and so far I haven't upset my wife, and I thank you for that Father, but Father I'm going to need all of the forgiveness you can give me now, because it's time for me to get out of bed."
2. I suggest that’s what Jesus is talking about. It is being aware of sin in our own lives and in the lives of those around us... of our friends and family. A Christian must hate whatever is in himself that is low and base, he must hate everything which is greedy and selfish. Anything, which drags him away from Christ and robs him of his real self and true values.
3. A Christian ought to love their relatives and friends as they love themselves and hate them like they hates themselves. In other words whatever is in friends and family, which is pure and right we are to love. Whatever is in them, which is unclean and self-indulgent, we are to hate. That’s why Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Notice that is the second commandment.
C. Remember when Jesus was telling the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer? He says He must be rejected, and be killed, then after three days He will be resurrected? The Bible says in Mark 8:32-33 – “32. He spoke this word openly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” What’s the point? The point is this. Even a person’s friend can stand between that person and their Lord. If that is the case a choice needs to be made. A choice between the natural affection of friends or family and devotion to their Savior Jesus Christ. There needs to be a choice made.
1. Sadly that’s where many a Christian falls, the point where friends and family put us in the position of a choice. Sometimes it happens daily. Come out to the tavern with us tonight. We will have a good laugh along with a few drinks!
2. Don’t bother about church this week. Sunday morning is the only day I can come and visit you!
3. Wednesday night is just a study night. You don’t really need to go to that!
4. We are faced with choices every day and the way to deal with those choices is to ask our self a simple question. Which choice considers the things of God? Which choice considers the things of men? Too many Christians choose wrongly.
5. Unfortunately this often is the first step in loving God less and eventually becomes why they abandon the faith. Then you never see them anymore, but the true followers of Christ will always be and must be ready to treat their dearest friends and even family... as the wrong choice.
II. That’s what Jesus means when He asks His followers to hate their families and friends. It is in loving them less by rejecting the demands they put upon us to love God less. In Luke 14 Jesus goes on to share some other conditions, which first must be met before a person can become a follower of Christ. These parables should be very familiar with all of us because I know that most of us use these Scriptures a lot when we are studying with people who are thinking about becoming Christians. People need to be aware that there is a cost involved for becoming a disciple of Christ.
A. Jesus is uncompromisingly honest with this. We have trouble with open honesty if we think it may be hurtful and I think this is where we mess up sometimes. We try to say only the nice things. Jesus doesn’t muck around with it. He’s straight to the point.
1. He is going to spell out what’s required of everyone who wants to become a Christian. If there was someone here who is not a Christian today then I would beg of them to listen closely to Jesus words.
2. To those who are a Christian today and think you’re being obedient, I would suggest that you also listen closely and reflect on the commitment that you made when you declared allegiance to Jesus Christ.
B. Luke 14:28-33 – “28. "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it 29. "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, 30. "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31. "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32. "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33. "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
1. When a person goes to join the military they will find most recruiting officers don’t tell them everything at first. They usually keep back the difficult and dangerous things in order to enlist people into their service branch. The army recruiter told me I would be great as a helicopter pilot. He did not tell me the life expectancy of a helicopter pilot in Nam.
2. But with Jesus He wanted no one to come to Him under any false illusions. He didn’t want to mislead anyone. People are going to face up to the task or not follow Him at all.
C. The first illustration Jesus uses is that of a man who wanted to build a tower.
1. Probably this is a vineyard tower, though we are not told. It was the more common type of tower at the time. We know the tower was the main guard against anyone who might come in and strip the vineyard in harvest time.
2. Jesus asks in Luke 14:28, “Before a man goes ahead and builds a tower will he not first sit down and work out how much it is going to cost him?”[para] He says, “Think about it!” If he began work on it but couldn’t finish it then he would be the laughingstock of the whole town.
3. Jesus was a carpenter and He probably would have seen this type of thing many times in Nazareth.
D. The other illustration, which Jesus gives, is that of a king who is contemplating going to war. Before he engages in any form of warfare calculates the odds and the risks involved.
1. Is he able to stand against twenty thousand men with his ten thousand? Are his soldiers well trained for battle? Will he have an advantage with an element of surprise?
2. He has to calculate these things in his head. If he is unprepared for battle then he will send out a delegation and ask for peace.
3. Jesus says listen, “If you desire to be My follower you must see beforehand the hard and painful struggle that awaits you.” “You need to be prepared to make the sacrifices required of you no matter the cost.” Those who undertake to follow the savior should do so in full view of the enormous cost of it. They must bid farewell to the dearest earthly ties as they stand, mortify the lusts of the flesh, set their affections on heavenly things, and subordinate all earthly prospects to the will of the Master.
4. All of the details of this parable and the one following are inert factors. They simply enforce the one idea that it is folly to undertake the serious business of becoming a disciple of Christ, without counting the cost in this life and recognizing... that there is an even greater cost in not following Christ.
III. Before anyone becomes a Christian they need to ask themselves several questions.
A. Am I willing to deny myself? When a person becomes a Christian and starts to walk the Christian life, it is the end of self. Self-denial is the first condition of discipleship. Matthew 16:24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
1. In some religious groups, there is a time just before Easter and Good Friday, which they call “Lent”.
2. The churches years ago once provided for a 40-day fast (excluding Sundays), which was an imitation of Jesus' fasting in the wilderness. One meal a day was allowed in the evening, but meat, fish, eggs, and butter were forbidden, and then as the years went by these rules became gradually relaxed.
3. Let me make it clear, Jesus doesn’t mean a temporary denial of self. He’s not talking about a time where everyone gives up things they don’t usually like anyway.
4. He’s not talking about a sacrifice of certain pleasures for a week or two in order that some good cause might be supported. He’s talking about a denial, which involves the rest of your Christian life.
5. To deny oneself means to no longer live to please self. Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”[NKJV]
6. In Colossians 3:5-10 we see and I paraphrase – “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
B. That is what every person needs to do who sincerely seeks Him. Let me tell you folks this is not easy. There are some difficult things for us to stick to. When it comes to death and putting anything to death, it is never easy.
1. We need to ask - are we willing to do that? Are we willing to put to death all the impurities, all the ungodliness, which lives in us and then follow Christ? Remember Paul is writing to Christians. Many Christians today still struggle with sins.
2. C. S. Lewis once said, “The Christian way is different.”
3. Christ says, “Give me all. I don’t want a portion of your time and a portion of your money and a portion of your work, I want you.” I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. Half measures aren’t any good. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think are innocent as well as the ones you think are wicked, I want the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself, my will then become yours.”
4. That is what Christ requires of us all. To deny self is; in every moment and in every way to say “No” to self and “Yes” to Jesus.
C. The second question that we need to ask our self is; Am I willing to abide by His teachings? Along with this question should come another question; Do I believe in my mind that Jesus is who He claimed to be?
1. Matthew 2:2 tells us He was born to be a king and in John 18:36 He told Pilate that He is a king. He professed to be the Christ, the messiah foretold in the Old Testament in Mark 14:61-62 and John 4:25-26.
2. He said He was the world’s light in John 8:25-26. He said that He could supply living water in John 4:10. He also said that He is the bread of life in John 6:35, the way, the truth and the life in John 14:6.
3. In short Jesus Christ claimed to be the Savior of the world. In a world, which is so full of doubt let me tell you these claims are true.
D. Folks, a commitment to Jesus means a commitment to living by His teachings. John 8:31 “Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples”.[para] It means continuing in the words of Jesus because this is a vital part of the cost that needs to be counted.
1. Jesus asks us today, “You say you want to follow me, but are you willing to do what I say?” “Are you willing to be guided solely by my teachings?” Forget about other religious teachings.
2. “Instead of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, are you prepared to turn the other cheek or go the second mile?” “Will you love those who hate you?” “When men persecute you, will you pray for them?”
3. “Are you ready to exchange earthly treasures for heavenly treasures?” “Without any reservations or any strings attached, are you really willing to put My kingdom first?”
4. These are some of the awesome questions that separate the multitudes. These are the questions that Jesus asks to try the souls of men and women.
IV. The third question we need to ask our self is this. Am I willing to follow Him to the end? There are many people who want to follow Jesus provided the way is easy and pleasant, but when the going gets hard and the road stretches long, they give it all up.
A. The first parable we read presents a distinct possibility for every Christian. A Christian may start out with a spurt but never finish the race. Jesus knew that could happen, didn’t He?
1. Matthew 7:13-14 - "13. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14. "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” [NKJV]
2. Jesus never said that the Christian race was going to be a sprint. He said it is going to be difficult. The Christian journey lasts until this life ends.
B. We don’t become a Christian and then a couple of months or years later decide to count the cost again and give up. Why? Why would that be a bad choice?
1. 2 Peter 2:21 - “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”[para]
2. Peter is talking about people who were Christians but after a few miles down the road they gave up. They didn’t just give up Christ. They turned their backs on Christ.
3. That’s why we need to understand these words of Jesus before we become a Christian. If you ever wondered why Jesus’ words seem so serious, it is because following Him is a serious business. In every department of life it is always better to be honest with yourself and face the facts.
C. Every worthwhile endeavor in this life is going to mean work; it is going to be tough. There are those that say life is not fair, this person started with advantages another person did not have, we need to pass a law. Folks, this is one race where we all have the same starting place, this old sinful world. No law of man is going to make it any different. Again, with anything worthwhile there are times it is going to be tough. There are times where long hours are necessary. There are times when we need to say, “No” to friends who want to go out for a meal. There are times we will need to say “No” to family. We know and understand that there are going to be sacrifices.
1. A young man may have his heart set on becoming a great athlete.
2. He may envision himself wearing an Olympic gold medal around his neck, but unless he is willing to pay the price for excellence, no honors or gold medals will ever be his.
3. Everyone who wants to achieve anything in life must be aware of the sacrifices that need to be made.
D. God wants us to be aware of those sacrifices even before we commit our lives to Christ. He will ask of us many things but there are some things that God won’t ask of us.
1. God won't ask what kind of car you drove. -- He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.
2. God won't ask the size of your house. -- He will ask how many people you welcomed into your house.
3. God won't ask how many clothes you have in your closet and what the brand names are. -- He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.
4. God won't ask what your highest salary was. -- He'll ask if you compromise your character to obtain it.
5. God won't ask you what your job title was. -- He'll ask you if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
6. God won't ask how many friends you had. -- He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
7. God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived. -- He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.
8. God won't ask the color of your skin. -- He'll ask about the content of your character.
E. Don’t get Jesus wrong here, in these parables, He’s not trying to dampen people’s enthusiasm. He’s saying that the hard facts of the Christian life must be faced. You need to be aware of these things.
1. In John 16:33 He told His disciples that, “In this world you will have trouble.” But Jesus goes on to say in that verse, “But take heart! I have overcome the world."
2. Jesus isn’t saying that it’s better not to begin, He’s not saying that. He’s saying it is better to begin with a clear view of the path ahead.
There is no greater challenge for any of mankind that compares to the challenge of living the life of a Christian. There’s no challenge that exceeds the thrill of the Christian way of living.
To the one who is not a Christian yet I would ask, will you say, “No” to self and “Yes” to Jesus? Are you willing to deny yourself and live for Jesus? Are you willing to live by His teachings and follow His words and reject the words of men? Are you willing to follow Jesus to the very end of your life?
These are serious questions and you are surrounded by Christians who have already made that decision. If you want to know more about what it means to follow Christ and counting the cost then please just ask any Christian here about that. They will be happy to share with you some of the sacrifices they had to make—and continue to make to follow Him.
Then there is the other side of the ledger. Have you counted the cost if you do not become a disciple of Christ? Are you willing to be one of the lost for eternity just to satisfy yourself in the pleasures of this world? Pleasures that are so fleeting; satisfying a friends request when you should be with God’s people? Bowing to pressures of the family instead of serving God? Facing the facts of reality is never easy but following Jesus will be the best choice you’ll ever make.
The invitation is there, if you need help in any way let us know while we stand and sing the invitation song.
Invitation: # 480 – Have You Counted the Cost
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