Our message today is entitled “Count the Cost of Following Jesus.” Let’s begin by answering the question, what does it mean to follow Jesus? In Jesus’ day, to follow Jesus was to literally walk with Him down the road. But what does it mean to follow Jesus today, when He is no longer physically with us? To follow Jesus begins by believing in Him.
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
To believe in Jesus means much more than believing Jesus is the son of God. To believe in Jesus is to entrust your life to Him, to acknowledge Him as your Lord. To follow Jesus thus means to believe in Him, to obey His commands and to follow His example. Jesus taught His disciples and us that there are three marks or experiences that Jesus commanded those who wanted to follow Him to embrace.
We’ve talked about the first already, which was to believe in Jesus. To believe in Jesus is to trust Jesus to forgive your sins and save you by faith alone. Let’s move on to the next two marks of a follower of Jesus.
Matthew 28:19 (ESV) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
This verse gives us the second mark of a disciple or follower of Jesus. A disciple is to be water baptized after believing. Not only is water baptism commanded by Jesus, He gave us an example by being baptized by John the Baptist. Water baptism for followers of Jesus is not optional, it is commanded by Jesus.
Luke 24:49 (ESV) And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
The promise of the Father is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which gives the new believer power to follow Jesus. The disciples were commanded, not to go out on their mission in life until they received the necessary power. The first 120 disciples were baptized in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost as they followed Jesus’ instructions to pray for the Holy Spirit. Many others received Spirit baptism as we read through the book of Acts. Again receiving Spirit baptism is following Jesus’ example, as He was Spirit baptized at His water baptism to receive power. This then is the third mark of a follower of Jesus.
These three marks, faith, water baptism and Spirit baptism are God’s initiation of a person being born again and saved. They are God’s way of preparing disciples to carry out His mission in their lives. But there is much more for disciples to learn to obey.
Matthew 28:20 (ESV) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A follower of Jesus is someone who obeys Jesus, in these first three marks and all the rest of Jesus’ instructions. So, let’s learn some more about counting the cost of following Jesus.
Luke 14:16-17 (ESV) But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
The way banquets worked in Jesus day was that the host sent out an invitation to his potential guests. The invitees were then required to either accept or reject the invite, so the host could properly prepare for the banquet. Finally, a messenger would be sent out on the day of the banquet to tell the guests that everything was ready. It would be considered very rude to not attend a banquet that one had accepted the initial invitation to. So, to properly understand this story, we must realize that those to whom the servant went had already accepted the invitation and were expected to attend.
Luke 14:18-20 (ESV) But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
However, surprisingly, everyone the servant went to remind had excuses as to why they could not come to the banquet. All of these excuses were really ridiculous when examined closely. You look at a field before you buy it, not after The same is true of the yoke of oxen. It would be highly unlikely that someone would have gotten married unexpectedly between the time the invitation was accepted and finally announced. These kind of excuses to not go to a free lavish banquet made no sense.
Luke 14:21 (ESV) So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’
Understandably, the master, the host of the banquet became angry at those who had turned down his gracious invitation. As the banquet had been prepared and was ready, he wanted people to be able to enjoy it. So, he directed the servant to go out on the streets of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, bland and lame to come to the banquet.
Luke 14:22-24 (ESV) And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
The banquet was not yet full, so the servant was now sent outside the city. To the highways and hedges where the homeless and the destitute lived. The servant was to compel them to come to the banquet. The Greek word for compel is a very strong word. It means to put pressure on, to force, to urge, to insist. Why? So that the master’s house would be full, the banquet would be complete. None of those who were invited but had excuses would have another chance to eat of the banquet. No excuses to God’s invitation
So, let’s unpack what this parable means for us today. The host of the banquet represents God. The banquet represents the great supper that believers will eat with Jesus in eternity. And we might say that the banquet represents the kingdom of God, which we begin to experience in this life. The first group of people that God invited all said they wanted to come. This would represent people today who want to go to heaven, just about everybody.
It would include many who have made some commitment to Jesus and consider themselves believers. Yet, when the call comes to actually participate in the banquet, to participate in the kingdom of God, they have excuses. The excuses are not bad things, not what we would consider sins. Yet the excuses show that these people’s values do not put the banquet, the kingdom of God first in this life. They value possessions and relationships above following Jesus and His kingdom.
So, the question we must ask ourselves this morning is are we like those in the first group? Do we have excuses whereby we ignore God’s invitation to seek His kingdom first?
The next group is the poor, crippled, blind and lame. These people do not have much in the way of worldly value. So, they gladly give that up in order to receive the treasures of the kingdom. The final group are those who live along the highways and the hedges. The homeless, those cast out of the city, those who have nothing in this world. They too, are happy to accept the invitation to God’s kingdom banquet.
The story makes clear that everyone in the world is invited to God’s banquet. Those who have the least in this world are always the most receptive to the Gospel. We must be careful to not let the things of this world lead us to make excuses to God’s invitation to us.
Those who accept God’s invitation become His servants. What does the servant do? He invites everyone to God’s kingdom banquet of eternal life. God calls each one of us as followers of Jesus to be His servants and invite everyone. If some are reluctant to accept, we must compel them to come in. We must insist, put pressure on, urge, force everyone to come to the banquet. Why? Because their eternal destiny is at stake.
Is someone was at the top of a bridge, looking to jump off to their death, how would you respond. You could compel them to change their minds and save their life. May God help us to have no excuses to God’s invitations and to be God’s servants to invite others.
Luke 14:26-27 (ESV) “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 bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Jesus now continues with His teaching to tell us that following him costs everything. Following Jesus must come before family and keeping your own life. Our devotion to serving and loving Jesus must be so much higher than our devotion to our family, it appears to be hate. Jesus of course is exaggerating by using the word hate to make His point. We know from many other Scriptures that we are to love our families. To bear your own cross is to die to yourself and your plans for your life in order to follow Jesus.
Luke 14:28-30 (ESV) 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.’
Jesus gives an example of a person who wanted to build a tower. Before He begins, he needs to make plans and count the cost so that he can complete it. In the same way, those who choose to follow Jesus must count the cost before making the commitment. The cost of following Jesus is 100% commitment for the rest of your life.
Luke 14:31-32 (ESV) Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
A second example with a king counting the cost of going to battle. If the king doesn’t count the cost, he would experience a tragic loss. Counting the cost enables the king do ask for terms of peace. Each of us is like the king of our own lives before we meet Jesus. Jesus the king of kings is infinitely stronger than anyone of us. So, the only rational decision is to surrender to Jesus under His terms. The alternative is to suffer eternal loss. Jesus concludes in …
Luke 14:33 (ESV) So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
In order to be a disciple of Jesus, one most give up everything he has. When you give up everything, you give it up to Jesus to use however He directs. To hold onto anything for yourself alone is not permitted for a follower of Jesus.
Luke 14:34-35 (ESV) “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
In this final example of Jesus, salt represents the follower of Jesus who adds flavoring and preservative to the world around him. In Jesus’ day, salt was taken from the Dead Sea and was a mixture of salt and insoluble minerals. If the salt was washed away, the remaining deposit was useless representing the world. Of no use at all. A follower of Jesus must remain salty, different from the world, in order to influence the world. A disciple must count the cost and give up everything to Jesus.
What is God calling you to give to Him as a disciple of Jesus? Is it a secret sin that no one knows except you, that He is calling you to give up? Or is it something good that keeps you from spending time with Jesus? Or it may be a relationship or habit that is drawing you away from Jesus. Or maybe Jesus is calling you to do something you don’t want to do and you must give up your own feelings and fears to follow Him.
If you’re honest with yourself, I think each one of us could think of something God is calling us to do that we’ve been resisting doing. For some, it might be repenting of your sin and putting your faith in Jesus. For others, you may never have been water baptized since believing. For yet others, you may never have been Spirit baptized and are not seeking it.
Today, God is calling you to give up everything to Jesus. If there are excuses coming into your head right now, those are not from God. Put them out of your mind and tell the Lord that you are giving Him everything this morning. Then get specific with the areas that you haven’t surrendered to Him. Ask for His forgiveness and give Him thanks for being invited to His banquet.
The kingdom banquet that Jesus is inviting us to is worth giving up everything we have in this life, including our very lives. Those who take up their cross and follow Jesus will find true life worth it all.