The Gospel Demands Radical Sacrifice
The Gospel Demands Radical Sacrifice
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to Luke 14. I want to start by saying a couple of things based on last week. One of the questions I’ve heard is what is David thinking? Or, what is David going to say? And I wanted to remind you from the beginning of our time together that it really doesn’t matter what David is thinking or what David is going to say. My responsibility before you on a week-by-week basis is not to expose what I am thinking or what I want to say.
My responsibility is to expose before you what God is thinking and what God is saying to us. And to the extent to which I do that clearly and accurately then we’ve got something to listen to. If at any point I divert off of this Word then I have no authority to stand in front of you. So the picture is not about what David is thinking or what David has to say, the question is what is God thinking and what is God saying to us. And no matter what He says, if He is saying it we obey because we are His people.
I’ve also heard some folks, especially in light of the passages we looked at last week, “hate your father and mother and your brother and sister and your wife and your children and go sell all you have and go give it to the poor,” and people are asking questions like, really? I’m really supposed to sell everything I have and give it to the poor? And that’s a good question to ask. It’s a question we need to ask. It’s a question that obviously Scripture warrants that we ask. So we need to wrestle with these questions.
But here’s where I want to be really careful. As your pastor, I want to shepherd you, walk with you through those sorts of questions, but I want to be very careful in the way I walk with you through those sorts of questions, for a couple of different reasons. Number one, because I’m asking the questions myself. Heather and I and our family, diving in to the implications of what this Word says about the lost and what this Word says about the poor for our lives. Wrestling with that, and I will not in any way claim to have those answers for my family, and much less anyone else’s family. So I am on a journey that is parallel with you.
At the same time, I know Hebrews 13:7, I know that God has put leaders in His church to show us what the Word looks like in action, and so I want to show you my life and in my family’s life what this Word looks like in action. At the same time, I’m not perfect in that. So I invite you to pray for me as I pray for you. And that leads us to really the main picture, when we ask questions, like, “Well what does this look like in our lives? Am I supposed to sell everything I have? Am I supposed to do this or that?” And what I want to avoid doing is getting too specific in answers that I might help you with. And here is why I want to avoid getting too specific. We have created a system of Christianity that consists in a bunch of boxes to check off. The danger is, we hear the Word, and “Tell me what to do, what am I supposed to do.” And we crave boxes that, “If I could just check these things off and it’ll be okay.” And that’s not the point. It misses the point altogether.
That’s a Christianity that consists of external regulations that bypasses the heart. I believe the point is for God to take this Word to show us what His Word says and then to drive us to the Spirit of God. To drive you and me to hours, and I mean hours; hours wrestling before God in prayer about how this Word applies to our lives. If all we do is talk with each other about these things and come up check-off boxes that, “Hey, this is how it looks,” then we will miss God’s design for us in His Word. He desires to bring us along with Him, with His Word, with His Spirit and to transform our hearts and to change our hearts, to radically change us in a way that will have external ramifications, yes, but that is rooted in internal change.
We will do everything we can in our Christian culture today to bypass spending the time necessary before God to experience internal change and I don’t want to rob anyone of that. And so I want to challenge you not just to hear the Word, not just to hear the Word and talk to each other, not just to hear the Word, talk to each other and look for the practicals. I want to challenge you to take this Word and dive into the prayer closet and be with God. Be alone with God and ask God, wrestle with God over how this Word applies to your life. Toward that end, let me pray for us.
Father, we are about to read tough words, difficult words, hard words from Jesus, words that are extremely foreign to our ears and even our understanding of Christianity and so we pray, God, that you would expose lies and falsehoods in the way we have approached Christianity. That you would bring truth to bear on our lives and on your church. And we pray the result would be radical transformation of our lives for the glory of your name, here in Birmingham and in all nations. We need your Spirit to do this work in us. I need your Spirit to even begin to proclaim it. All of us need your Spirit to begin to hear it and we certainly all need your Spirit to obey it, and so we pray that you would pour out your Spirit on us as we study and as we live and that you would transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
The Sacrifice of the Christian...
One primary question I want to ask you, are you willing to come to Jesus on His terms? Are you willing to come to Jesus on His terms? I ask this question that way because the brand of Christianity we have adopted operates on coming to Jesus on our own terms. You look at how we describe Christianity, how we encourage people to come to Christ, and you will find terms that are foreign to the New Testament. We’ve talked about some of these things. You follow the Roman road to Jesus. You believe these four spiritual laws. You answer these questions right. You pray this prayer. You sign this card. You raise your hand and declare your love for Jesus.
Jesus told His followers to do none of these things, none of them. I want you to hear what Jesus said. Luke 14:26, it’s what He said to the crowds who were traveling with Him. This is what Jesus says are His terms.
“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. 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.’ 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. 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 14:26-35).
Can you imagine standing in that crowd? Who does this guy think He is? I mean really, put yourself in their shoes. So I’m supposed to hate my mom and dad and brother and sister and my wife and my children? I’m supposed to pick up an instrument of torture and give up everything I have to follow you. For most of us, Jesus lost us at hello in this passage. It’s almost scary for me to think of how I would have responded in the first century to these words.
And some might think that such words are too hard for us to look into today. Some might say, “We don’t need to look at passages like this. Are we really ready to hear words like these? Are we mature enough to hear words like these?” And this is just it; this is how Jesus introduced people to Himself. This wasn’t Jesus speaking to a mature crowd that was needing to go deeper. This was Jesus speaking to people who were initially interested in following Him and this was His initial invitation to them. Hate your father and mother, pick up a cross and give up everything you’ve got. This is what He said.
It is a stinging indictment on our brand of Christianity today to think that these words would sound so radical to us because they seem so foreign to us. This was how Jesus said...This is elementary, basic truths, Jesus said, of what it means to follow Him. And they’re so foreign today. What does that say to us about how far we’ve strayed from what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? That we would even ask the question today, “Well, can you be a believer and not a disciple?” As if there are levels of Christianity. One, a thin level where it really doesn’t cost you that much. And those who are really interested can go deeper into a higher, deeper, greater level of Christianity. The New Testament knows nothing of this.
I’m not saying that all of us are in the same place in our spiritual maturity or that when we initially come to Christ we know everything that we know 20 years later. But the picture is clear. Jesus says three times if you don’t do these things you can’t even be my disciple. These are requirements, basic requirements for discipleship here. And I wonder as we look at a passage where Jesus is speaking to a crowd that has been flirting with Him on their terms...I can’t help to think that I stand before a crowd of people today in our culture who has been flirting with Jesus on our terms, and for some, maybe many, if not most of us, need to ask the question, “Have we ever really come to Jesus on His terms?” That’s an important question to ask. Have you ever come to Jesus on His terms?
This is an evangelistic text. This is Jesus inviting people to follow Him for the first time, really. So I want us to look at the terms and you see three different times, He just uses this phrase, “If anyone does not do this, he cannot be my disciple. If anyone does not do this, he cannot be my disciple.” These are requirements, so to speak, sacrifice of the Christian. And I want to invite you to hear the terms of Jesus and to consider, “Have you ever responded to Jesus on these terms?” Even if you’ve been in church for 70 years, have you ever responded to Jesus on these terms?
Jesus requires superior love.
Term number one, Jesus requires superior love, Jesus requires superior love. Luke 14:26 is the first, “If, then he cannot be my disciple.” “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.” Talk about strong. That’s an attention grabber. What does that mean? What is Jesus saying when He says hate your father and mother, brother and sister, wife and children? When we read this passage last week some of you were thinking I don’t get it, I thought we were supposed to love people and we’ve talked about honoring your father and mother. How do you hate them and honor them at the same time? That’s a good question isn’t it?
Am I really supposed to hate my wife and my kids? What does this mean? Jesus is saying something here. Now, I want to be very careful, not only here but in every passage we study in this series, because there is a dangerous temptation for us to try to soften Jesus’ words. And what it turns out is we try to soften Jesus’ words to justify the way we live. This is a very dangerous way to approach Christianity. Oh, He didn’t really mean that, He meant this over here. We’ve got to take honest looks at the Scripture to see exactly what Jesus meant to His original hearers.
So, let’s hold our place here. Go back to the left with me to Matthew 22. I want to show you two passages in Matthew that shed light on what Jesus is saying here in Luke 14. Superior love; Matthew 22 is a conversation between Jesus and an expert teacher in the law. It’s a passage that some of you, many of you maybe, are familiar with. Matthew 22:36, this teacher in the law asks Jesus this question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Okay, greatest primary, first, foremost commandment in the law. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40).
First primary commandment in our lives is to love God with some of our hearts? No, all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. This debunks the idea that there are priorities in our affections. That God’s first and then family’s second and then this person third or fourth. No, God is everything, all, primary, supreme, superior love. Everything, all your affections belong to God, and the testimony of Scripture flows right from here. Second’s like it, love your neighbor as yourself. We know this in all the New Testament. When love for God is supreme in your life, the result is love for who? Not for each other. They go together. Love for each other springs from love for who? For God. Loving Him is supreme, it’s superior love.
Now, keep turning back to the left and you’ll come to Matthew 10. Clearly there is a love that supersedes all other loves. Loving God, loving Christ. And you get Matthew 10 and you see a passage that’s very familiar to what we’re looking at in Luke 14. Listen to what Jesus says there, verse 37, see if this doesn’t sound familiar. “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; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38). See the picture there. Here in Matthew 10 what you’ve got is a strong comparison here, your love for me is far greater than your love for mother or father, son or daughter.
We bring that context into Luke 14, and we see Jesus use this word, hate, obviously a strong word, even an offensive word, and we don’t need to try to soften this picture. I believe what Jesus is communicating is clear. Love for Him is so supreme, is intended to be so supreme among His disciples that every other love in this world is so far less that it looks like hate compared to this kind of love. In comparison to Christ, in comparison to love for Christ, we hate the people we love. Now, get the wording there. It’s not that we don’t love them; the reality is this whole thing comes full circle.
This changes our perspective, because—don’t miss it—when love for God is supreme and love for God captivates our hearts then what kind of love are we showing to mother and father? The love of who? Of God, of Christ in us. Same picture for marriage, wife or children. Men, how do you play out Ephesians 5:25? Love your wife just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. How do you do that if love for Christ is not supreme in your life? You can’t, it’s impossible. It’s not that these are mutually exclusive. They flow, one flows from the other but it starts with a reservoir of love for the supremacy of Christ and God.
Our hearts conquered by, captivated by, a superior affection in God. We know so little of this kind of love. You hear the way we talk, supposed Christians talk. We say I know I need to be in church. I know I need to take my kids to church. I know I need to pray. I know I need to study the Bible. This is not Christianity. It’s not Christianity at all. Christianity does not consist of begrudging obedience to Christ. We know this on a human level. If I come home from work and I greet Heather at the door and when I get there I give her a big kiss on the lips. She steps back and she says, “Well, what’s that for?” Not that I don’t normally do that, but let’s just assume she steps back and says that. Let me tell you what my response does not need to be at that point, “Well, it says here on page 54 of the marriage manual that this is what I should do when I come home.” At this point, she is taking the marriage manual and stuffing it down my throat, that’s what’s happening.
That’s no way to love. Where did we get the idea that Christianity is begrudging obedience? That Christianity...And this is the way we think about it. Well, we let go of all the things in this world we love and we do the things that we really don’t want to do but we need to do them to save our own skin. Not Christianity, not biblical Christianity. Biblical Christianity sees the supremacy of Christ and is so infatuated by Him, so drawn toward Him, that our love for Him drives everything we do. It is a superior love that changes our perspective on everything in this world.
And so the question before you in light of this verse, verse 26, Luke 14, is do you love Christ? Do you want Christ? Do you love Him with all your heart and your soul and your mind? I’m not asking if you go to church. I’m not asking if you read your Bible or if you pray or if you teach or if you do this or that, or if you’re raising your kids good. Rubbish. Get through the rubbish. Do you want Christ? Do you love Christ? Is He the reason why you live, the one for whom your heart beats and your affections are driven? This is the picture, superior love. It makes any other love look like hate.
I want to be careful here. But I’m convinced that in our culture today we idolize our children and our marriages and sex and relationships, parents, families and friends to the point where Jesus Christ gets the leftovers from our affections and it’s unchristian. You can’t even be a disciple of Jesus if that’s the case. You forsake all relationships and favor an intimate relationship with Him. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
You want to know how this looks practically? I would point you to John Bunyan. John Bunyan lived in a time when it was not easy to be a follower of Christ, especially not easy to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ. And he preached, and he was told that if you don’t stop preaching, Bunyan, then you will be imprisoned. He and his family were not well off as it was, his wife and his children, one of whom was blind. Barely had enough to eat and live on while he was free. He knew that if he was imprisoned it would bring great harm upon his family. So what does he do? What do you do when faced with that decision? Do you keep preaching? John Bunyan said absolutely you keep preaching and he was imprisoned.
And he wrote from his jail cell, “The parting with my wife and poor children has often been to me in this place as the pulling of flesh from my bones. And that not only because I am fond of these great mercies,” talking about his family, his children, “but also because I have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor family is likely to be meeting with, especially my poor blind child who lay nearer to my heart than all I have besides; oh the thought of the hardship I have thought my blind one might go under would break my heart to pieces. But yet,” Bunyan said, “Yet,” from a prison cell, he writes, “I must venture all with God. Oh, I have seen in this condition, I am like a man pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children, yet, thought I, I must do it, I must do it.” Jesus requires superior love. Does He have it from you? If not you cannot be His disciple, Jesus says.
Jesus requires exclusive loyalty.
The second term Jesus outlines, verse 27, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” The second term Jesus requires superior love and exclusive loyalty, exclusive loyalty. Carry his cross. This term, this phrase may be one of the most misunderstood and misapplied phrases or terms in the New Testament.
People talk today about carrying crosses, and oftentimes they’ll be sharing just kind of their faith journey and people will say, “Well, I’m going through this illness or this disease or this struggle. I’m in this bad relationship or in this bad marriage or in these bad circumstances and this is just the cross I bear.” That’s not what Jesus is talking about here. That misses the whole point about what Jesus is talking about here. It’s not what the hearers in the first century heard when Jesus said this and it’s not what we need to hear today.
We need to put ourselves in their shoes and realize that Jesus just said, “Anyone who does not carry his cross.” Now, a cross, the only time you would carry a cross is if you were a convicted criminal, punished to die, a crossbeam was hoisted on to your back to carry through the town in public humiliation on the way to your death. This is repugnant to Jesus hearers. We’ve got to feel the weight of this. We wear crosses everywhere, we see crosses everywhere.
This is the equivalent of...Try to bring it in to present day. This is the equivalent of saying, my saying to you, “If you do not pick up your electric chair you cannot follow Jesus.” Doesn’t that sound repugnant, brash? Even that, though, would be insufficient because the cross involves so much more cruelty and torture than even an electric chair would. The reality is if you’re carrying a cross, you’re like a dead man walking. You have no more dreams, no more plans for your life, no more ideas for what you’re going to do in your life. Everything is over for you. You have no more pride, no more honor, nothing. You’re walking through public humiliation on the way to a place where that cross you will be hoisted on to and you will die there. You are a dead man walking and this is the picture that Jesus gives to describe what it means to follow Him. Any takers?
This is strong. And what Jesus is saying is that through the cross of Christ, we die to the life we live. We die to the life we live. If you are a Christian, according to Scripture, not according to contemporary definitions of Christian, watered down, but if you are a Christian according to Scripture, you are dead, you’re dead. You’re dead to yourself, you’re dead to your dreams, you’re dead to your hopes, you’re dead to your plans, to your ideas for what is going to happen in your life, you’re dead. You died to all of those things. That’s why right before this at the end of verse 26, He said, hate not only these people, yes, hate even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
You do not live based on what you desire, what you dream, what you plan, what you hope for, what you want, those things are gone, they’re gone, you are dead to them, dead to them. And, this is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” You say, David, we’re not dead, we’re breathing in here, so how do we live? We live in Christ. I was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet, not I but Christ lives in me. This is the picture. We’re dead to ourselves and we’re alive to Christ. We are dead to self-esteem thinking. We are dead to self-saturated desiring. We are dead to self-centered planning for our lives. We are dead to self-comforting life, dead to it all.
We are alive to Christ-esteem thinking and Christ-honoring and Christ-desire and planning and Christ-centered living. Dead to ourselves and alive to Christ, and our entire identity is wrapped up in who He is. We are dead to all of these things and alive to Him. Now, this changes, not just our perspective, this changes our priorities because now the life of Christ determines everything about us. You do not determine where you live; Christ determines where you live. You do not determine what kind of house you have, that is Christ’s call. You do not determine the kind of car you drive, that is Christ’s decision. You do not determine the clothes you wear, you do not determine the things you buy, you do not determine the plans you make, you do not determine anything. Christ now determines everything. You’ve died to the life you live and you don’t determine anything about your life anymore. Christ determines it all.
This is a huge claim to authority over your life, my life. And he uses two illustrations, starting in verse 28 down to verse 30. Illustration number one in 28, and 31 illustration number two. He says first...He says, “We are workers constructing a building.” Don’t miss this. Jesus says, “Estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it.” Jesus is warning here against making hasty emotional decisions to follow Him. He said you better realize the cost. This is so radically different. We talked about this a little bit last week. You take an evangelist today who has a sinner, somebody who’s lost. Evangelist says, “Well, do you know you’re a sinner? Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross? You answered yes to those questions, well then welcome to the kingdom.” Only problem is the devil can answer yes to both of those questions.
And Jesus meanwhile is pleading, count the cost, count the cost, count the cost before you do anything, count the cost. There is a cost here that needs to be considered before you take one step forward. So what does it cost you? Does it cost you everything? John Stott, one of my favorite authors/preachers wrote. He said,
“The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict half-built towers; the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called nominal Christianity. In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent but thin veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.”
This is contemporary Christianity, isn’t it? Half-built towers. I didn’t realize it meant everything. Consider the cost, Jesus says. We’re workers constructing a building and then He uses a second illustration, we are warriors fighting a battle. He talks about going to war as a king. There’s this picture that we see all throughout the New Testament, fighting a good fight, spiritual battle going on. Now, I want to be careful here. I want to be very careful. This is not, nor is anywhere in the New Testament talking about a holy war, like we often hear on the news associated with radical Islam. This is not in any way talking about a war on terror. This is not a war that is fought with guns and bombs. It’s a war that’s fought with a gospel, with prayer, with sacrificial love.
And in the New Testament it’s clear that there is a spiritual battle that encompasses the Christian life. There’s a spiritual battle for holiness in our lives and there is a spiritual battle waging for the souls of men, women and children all across this planet, who will go to either an eternal heaven or an eternal hell. The stakes are much higher in this war than in any earthly war has ever had. Jesus says you can sit here before you go into battle. What’s at stake and what’s involved.
You know, I was looking over this imagery as I was studying this passage this week, and I couldn’t help but to think, our version of Christianity today really doesn’t look at the Christian life as a wartime faith. We have more of a peacetime faith, don’t we? And there is a stark difference between the two. In wartime, you’re always asking the question, “How can I sacrifice to advance the cause? How can I spend every resource I have? How can I best contribute to accomplishing the mission?” ...of making sacrifices, because we’re not indulging in pleasantries, we’re trying to figure out how best to accomplish the mission and sacrifice everything toward that. In peacetime, pleasantries are the name of the game. We ask questions like, “How can we be more comfortable? And how can we have more fun? And how can we try new pleasures that we never have experienced before?”
There is a wartime and a peacetime way to approach life and Christianity. You see the difference between the two in a ship. It’s now docked in the harbor of Long Beach, California, called the Queen Mary. It was built earlier in the 20th Century as a luxury liner with a whole array of indulgences designed to entice wealthy patrons. It could fit up to 3,000 wealthy patrons on it at one time, larger, more massive than even the Titanic. What’s interesting is, though, for six years during World War II, when the country was in a state of national emergency, they took this same ship and they called upon the ship to help with transporting troops.
And all of a sudden, this ship was transformed from a luxury liner into a source of transport for troops. Whereas 3,000 people could get on it before, now it could transport 15,000 soldiers at one time. The whole ship was completely turned upside down to accommodate for accomplishing a mission instead of accommodating pleasures for wealthy patrons. You go today to this ship, it’s now a museum, basically, to its history, and what you can see is in some places they have it designed for troop transport and they see eight bunks high where people would sleep, every thing, every detail was used to accomplish mission. And then you can look in another room and you can see it designed as a luxury liner for people to enjoy the pleasures of the ship.
I would ask you, which image better describes Christianity in our context today in our lives, in our families, in our homes and in this church? And I would put before us, let’s consider the cost. What would happen if we looked square in the face of 4.5 billion plus people on this planet who are headed to a Christless eternity, and we looked square in the face of 30,000 children today who are dying from either hunger or preventable diseases and we said, “We’re not going to use this ship anymore, our lives, our families, this church, we’re not going to use it to indulge our pleasures and sit by the pool and ask for more hors d’oeuvres to be delivered to us. Instead, we’re going to transform everything to say how can we give our lives for the sake of accomplishing this mission.
It’s a radically different way to look at Christianity and Jesus says consider the cost. You are warriors going into a battle. Are you wanting to get in the battle or do you want to sit back? This is the question He puts before us. Jesus says you have radically different priorities when you’re my disciple.
Jesus requires total loss.
Third requirement, He requires superior love, exclusive loyalty, and Jesus requires total loss. Verse 33, total loss. Jesus says after that illustration, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” There’s really not a good way to soften this one so we’re just going to say it like it is, okay. For the cause of Christ, Jesus says, we give up everything we have. That’s the word, give up. It literally means to say goodbye to, to relinquish, to abandon, to renounce. We give up everything we have. If we want to follow Christ then we give up everything we have. Not some things. Not some things.
You know, I think at the core, we like to think that we have this kind of Christianity. This is part of what’s been so convicting for me because the reality is Christ has full reign over the things in my life that I’ve been most comfortable with giving Him, as opposed to having full reign over everything. And we’ve seen this, our lives, our passions, our dreams, our families, our wife, our children, mother, father, brother, sister, all of these things we’d give up. What about our houses? What about our cars? Do we give up everything? What about all our clothes? What about our TVs? What about our iPhones? All this stuff we inundate our lives with. Do we give up everything? Do we say everything is yours to use for the sake of the lost? Yours to use, my investments, my checking accounts; yours to use for the sake of the poor. All of it yours to use for the sake of your glory in whatever way you deem best. It’s all yours. Do we say that? This changes our possessions, radically changes our possessions when we give up everything.
I want you to turn with me over to Hebrews 10. We’ve got to see this, Hebrews 10. Look with me at verse 32. I want us to ask Hebrews to help us understand Luke 14. Ask the people of God in the New Testament, how does this look? What does this look like in our lives? Listen to these folks in Hebrews 10 and 11. Hebrews 10:32, remember Hebrews written to a group of people, Christians in a time when it was not popular to be a Christian, persecution was definitely a reality and the author says in verse 32, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated” (Heb. 10:32-33).
Listen to verse 34, “You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” “You joyfully accepted all your stuff being gone,” how do you do that? Because you knew you had better and lasting possessions, very different outlook on possessions in Hebrews 10. You even get over to Hebrews 11, look at verse 13. It’s talking about men of faith, listen to what it says,
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:13-16).
What an incredible picture. God, not ashamed to be called their God because He has prepared a city for them. This is a people who were looking for another city, looking for another country, aliens and strangers here. They knew there was something better out there. And so they joyfully accepted all their stuff being gone here because they knew there was something better coming. We are inundated with stuff. We know this. And we live in a city that says the more stuff the better. But Jesus did not call us to live Birmingham-style Christianity, a city of haves and have-nots where church buildings scatter the landscape of the haves. Jesus, I’m convinced, is most clearly in Luke 14 and in His Word in Hebrews 11, is most clearly calling us to renounce Birmingham Christianity and to embrace biblical Christianity.
Now, some would think that doesn’t sound like you love Birmingham. Isn’t this what Birmingham needs to see, a people of God who think He’s greater than our stuff. Isn’t this what people need to see, their lives are at stake for eternity. Isn’t this what they need to see that stuff doesn’t satisfy? If we have all the stuff and we tack God on, on Sundays, what does it matter to people in Birmingham? You got stuff, I got stuff. You get stuff through Jesus, I get stuff through this way, and we’re both the same in the end. No, that’s not Christianity! Christianity says we don’t want stuff; we want Christ!
Now, I know that some people have said, even this week, David do you just want us all to suffer? No. I want us to be satisfied. I’m speaking to a group of people of which I’m a part that has actually grown to believe that stuff satisfies and it doesn’t and I want to call us based on the authority of the Word of God to repent and to turn from stuff to satisfaction that comes in Christ. This is Hebrews. Look at Chapter 11, look at chapter 11:24. Listen to this, “By faith,” don’t miss this, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Verse 26, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Did you catch that? Moses said I don’t want the pleasures of Egypt. Why? Because I want who? I want Christ! And He’s much greater than all the pleasures of Egypt. This was a no-brainer for Moses. It makes sense.
This is where I hesitated to even put the word sacrifice here. Sacrifice of a Christian, because the reality is when we realize the reward it doesn’t seem like sacrifice at all, does it?! Not when you get Christ! Not in light of His greatness! That’s not sacrifice, that’s just plain smart. This is common sense. Do we want the greater reward or the lesser reward? Reward now or reward to come? Jesus did not die on a cross...He did not die on a cross so that we could live for the pleasures of Birmingham, Alabama. That’s not why He died on the cross. He died on the cross so that we could be aliens and strangers here in Birmingham or anywhere else on this planet until the day when we experience Him as our reward. And He is the reward, not heaven, because when we think of heaven, we think more stuff, and that’s why we like heaven, no, no, not biblical. Heaven is Christ, fullness of Christ, the glory of Christ, enjoyment of Christ, and we want that, and we’re willing to forsake all things for Him.
The Supremacy of Christ…
Jesus is supremely loving.
This is a radically different type of Christianity, but don’t miss it. It is a call to supreme reward. The sacrifice of a Christian is not really sacrifice when you consider the supremacy of Christ. Jesus requires superior love, but the reality is, Jesus is supremely loving, isn’t He? That’s the beauty of it. Why would I hate father, mother, brother, sister, wife, children in comparison to love for Christ, because this is superior love. Love toward Him, His love toward me. Radical effect on the way I love them, and I enjoy Him and He is worthy. He is the only one worthy of superior love.
Our husbands and our wives are not worthy of superior love, and our children are not worthy of superior love, and our moms and our dads and our brothers and our sisters and our friends are not worthy of superior love. Christ—and Christ alone—is worthy of superior love. He is supremely loving. This is what we were created for. It’s the beauty, the supremacy of Christ. This makes sense.
Jesus is supremely loyal.
And not just love—one who requires exclusive loyalty. Jesus is supremely loyal. He will never leave us or forsake us. Our lives are grounded in His promises. Here’s the beauty, we don’t have to worry about giving Jesus...Dying to our plans and our dreams and our desires and our hopes, because we live to His plans and His dreams and His desires and our hopes and they’re good. Our Creator knows what He is doing. Do we believe that? Because if we do then we will forsake our plans and our desires and our dreams and our hopes and say, I’ll embrace whatever you say because I trust you, I trust you and He will be faithful, He will be faithful. He’s always faithful to His people. You trade your ideas for your life in exchange for your Creator’s ideas for your life. That’s a good trade, really good trade.
Jesus sacrificed the supreme loss.
Not sacrifice, smart. And the one who requires total loss is the one who sacrifices supreme loss. Jesus says in Luke 14, on His way to Jerusalem...In the context of the Book of Luke, He is headed to the cross where He will lose everything on our behalf. And the goal of His losing everything on our behalf is that He might be our reward. He is our reward. This is the gospel. I know that when we talk about these things, I know there are some who are even thinking, “David, don’t you know what people are going through? Don’t you know people are going through struggles? Don’t you know people are going through tough family times and tough circumstances in their lives? Why would you preach on hating your father and mother and brother and sister?” Here’s why, because I would want every single person to know that even when that relationship gets better or those circumstances change only Christ will be able to satisfy you, only Christ, only Christ, only Christ. And I would call every single man, woman, boy and girl based on the authority of God’s Word to the supreme satisfaction that is in Christ.
And lest we think, well, this is just too radical. I don’t know if I can do this, the question is why would we not want to do this? C. S. Lewis, he said, “We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. Like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” And he says these words that pierced my heart and I hope pierce yours. He says, C. S. Lewis says, “We are far too easily pleased.” Yes, yes, that’s it.
We think our houses and our cars and our stuff and our plans and our desires and our sense of security and our sense of safety are good. We are playing with mud pies in a slum and there is the offer of a holiday at the sea. Let’s leave it behind and let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s do what Hebrews 12 says and fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and let’s pursue Him and say we want Him. Yes, we will be your disciples. These are Jesus’ terms, and I ask you have you ever come to Jesus on these terms? Superior love, exclusive loyalty and total loss, have you come to Jesus on these terms at all in your life? That is a fundamental eternally important question. Not on your terms, not on the terms we’ve created, on His terms.
I was thinking as I was praying yesterday through this text, this just doesn’t make sense to the world, and it doesn’t make sense to the culture in which we live. For me to stand in front of a group of people and say hate your father and your mother and your brother and sister and your wife and children and follow Jesus. That doesn’t seem to be the most effective public relations pull toward Jesus. And here is the reality. It’s precisely the point because the only way anyone would forsake these things in favor of Christ and give up everything in favor of Christ is if the Spirit of God was so wrenching your heart and opening your eyes to the supremacy of Christ. And that’s what I’ve been pleading for Him to do, and I believe He’s doing it. I have been praying that He would be doing it all across our time here, praying that today among men and women and students that He is now opening eyes to see the supremacy of Christ and to see Him as worth it. And if He is, then I want to call you to abandon everything and embrace Him, for the first time for some of you. And some of you embraced Him on His terms in the past but somewhere along the way we’ve got sucked in where we’ve missed out on the terms of Christ. And I want to call you to abandon everything, afresh and new to Christ.
We’re going to pray. I want to invite you to abandon everything. And we could only do this by the Spirit of Christ. You can’t manufacture this kind of loyalty and this kind of love and this kind of loss. And I’m not even saying that any one of us knows what all this means. What does he mean? Does this mean I’m saying I’m going to do this or that on my possessions or this or that on my family or this and that on my job or this and that in my life? It doesn’t matter, the point is, is Christ supreme? Are you His disciple? If you are then this is superior love and exclusive loyalty and total loss, and He will lead, He will guide, He is good. He wants His work to be accomplished in our lives more than we do. He is good for that.
So let’s fall on our faces before Him, let’s ask Him, take our lives and use them however He wants for His glory. Let’s let go of ourselves. We are dead men walking and let’s fall on our faces before Christ and let’s say we want you, we love you, we pursue you, and you are everything, everything. This is not a game, this is not Sunday morning routine for us. This is life and everything in my life is dependent on you, and so I run to you.
Father, I pray that the words that we have seen here, the gospel that we have seen...God, we pray that you would help us to understand the demands of the gospel in light of the rewards of the gospel. In light of your grace that supersedes it all. God, we know that not one of us can let go of our lives, our stuff, our hopes and our plans and our dreams; let go of ourselves. We cannot do this without your Spirit awakening us, drawing us to yourself. God, we are prone to self-justification, we are prone to soften your words, so we pray for grace to obey them. I pray that for the first time you would draw many people to Christ on your terms. I pray that peoples lives will be changed for all eternity today as they picture themselves in Luke 14, saying for the first time, “Yes, I want to be your disciple.” I pray that you would draw your people, who are your disciples God, to draw us to abandonment and sacrifice for the reward in Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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