In Luke 14, the passage commonly and aptly titled “The Cost of Discipleship”, Jesus says,
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'” (Luke 14:28-30).
Theologian John Stott writes in a sobering footnote,
“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.”1
What Barriers Keep You From Obedience?
At P2C PLUS one of our sessions focused on the barriers that keep us from steady obedience to God.
For Pedro who wanted to gift a juicy orange to his teacher, the conflict between quenching his own thirst or impressing his peers was great.
For Lydia who chose to pursue full-time ministry, her family’s disappointment and the successful career paths of her peers would for a long time, stand in the window of her life declaring what she was missing.
At a conference like P2C PLUS, the repeated call is to go further, to give more, and to lay down your life. For many of us, we will eventually say “Yes”. Maybe we will be motivated by something a speaker said or maybe a verse of scripture will come to life in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. But there will be some of us, tragically, after a period of time, who will look down at our hands and find the rubble of a half-built tower, or the dried up remains of what used to be an orange.
We will have failed to count the cost, and in the face of affliction, suffering, and selfishness we will walk away from obedience.
The Cost Goes Both Ways
I once heard an illustration that made me rethink what it means to live in obedience. Pastor John Piper writes:
For example, if tonight you are feeling totally in the sway of sexual desire—more blazing, more powerful than you have ever felt it in your life—and you believe that you cannot resist the temptation to look at some nudity online, and suddenly a black-hooded ISIS member drags your best friend or your spouse into the room with a knife at his or her throat, and says, “If you look at that website, I will slit their throat,” you will have the self-control you thought you didn’t have. You won’t click.
Or if a man walks into the room and says, “If you do not look at that nudity, I will give you $1 million cash, tax-free, tonight,” you will suddenly have the self-control you thought you did not have.
The problem then is not that we do not have the ability to live in obedience to Jesus, but rather, we see the worth of following Jesus as less than the worth of indulging our own desire.
“The problem then is not that we do not have the ability to live in obedience to Jesus, but rather, we see the worth of following Jesus as less than the worth of indulging our own desire.” – Sam Yeung
The Bible Makes It Clear: A High Cost
Jesus is never vague about the cost of following him.
Look at his own words, “Let the dead bury the dead. But as for you, you come and follow me.” (Luke 9:60, Matthew 8:22). Certainly, there is a cost to following Jesus—for many, this reality is something that we don’t seriously consider nor painstakingly lay down before saying “Yes” to Jesus. We often respond in emotion rather than in conviction through truth, and this immature obedience is what eventually sidelines us.
What Is The Cost Of Not Following?
However, let me for a moment to propose that the cost goes both ways.
There is a cost to following Jesus, but there is also a cost to not living in obedience. We may not sense it now. We may not even sense it at all. The cost is Jesus’ name not being made much of and our enjoyment of him not increasing. If this does not strike us as being a particularly high cost, we must ask ourselves why. Matthew 13 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44).
There are stakes and costs to choosing to follow and not follow Jesus. But whatever we choose will have an eternal impact.
As we wrestle through this, let me encourage us to call things as they are. If we are like sheep, then we succumb to pressures to say the right things. Of course we are willing to follow Jesus. Who wouldn’t say that they are?
But when that ready obedience is not the case, let us have the courage and boldness to be honest about it instead of hiding behind a facade of “I should”s and “I ought”s. We only allow God to work in our hearts when we are honest with ourselves. I know the truest times when I’ve seen my heart change is when I’ve prayed,
“God, I don’t desire to obey you right now. I wish I did, but I don’t. Help me obey you in faith and as I do so, help me experience you in a greater way.”
Lydia shared, “My life was charted out for me before I was born.” This rings true for many of us, but for those of us in Jesus, how much more true is it that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). Let’s walk in them in obedience and in faith.
As I listened to Eric, Lydia and Donna share, one thing convicted me; the thing that keeps us from living in obedience to Jesus is rarely qualification or ability, but rather the desire to live according to our own desires.
Thank God that when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, there is a gift of a new choice for us. Where we formerly only knew self-trust and self-indulgence, we now have met the King who selflessly gave himself up. As we listen to the Holy Spirit pointing us to what Jesus has done for us, may we respond in a way that shows we truly believe what we say we believe.
- Basic Christianity, John Stott