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“And there went great multitudes with Him: and He turned, and said unto them, If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear”—Luke 14:25-35.
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The last verses of this chapter constitute a challenge to everyone of us. They were intended to be such to our Lord’s listeners when He was here on earth, and they have continued to speak powerfully through all the centuries He has been in the glory. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!” In this entire passage the Lord Jesus is dealing with the responsibility of discipleship. He is not telling how poor, lost sinners may be saved, nor is He speaking of the cost of that salvation. God’s salvation is without money, but we pay bitterly if we do not accept it. Have you counted the cost if your soul should be lost? After having heard the gospel, after listening to the message of Christ, if you turn away from it, expecting some day to accept Him, and you live and die having neglected this great salvation, you will find you have done so at a terrible price. I remember hearing that great man of God, Dr. Walter B. Hinson, a number of years ago, preach on the text: “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Before he discussed the text itself he turned it roundabout and said, “Think first of this: what shall it profit a man though he lose the whole world and lose his own soul in the bargain?” It is at awful cost that men go out into a lost eternity. Some people seem to think that they are doing God a favor by trusting His Son and following Him; but it is quite the other way. God is offering to you eternal favor in saving you from an endless judgment, and if you refuse His mercy you do so at your own great loss.
In the verses we have read, there is no question raised of salvation but rather of discipleship. Our Lord’s words here are addressed to those who have already trusted Him, to those who believe Him to be the S*on of ‘God, the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of sinners. Those who have put their faith in Him are now called upon to be His disciples. And discipleship costs! We cannot serve our Lord Jesus Christ as we should without tremendous cost to ourselves. So when great multitudes were gathering about Him, “He turned and said unto them, If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” This is a hard saying, but we need to remember that sometimes the Lord uses very strong expressions in a different way from that in which we use them. For instance, in the Old Testament, in the book of Malachi, we find the words, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.” Now God did not really hate anyone in the sense we use the word sometimes. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” So we may be sure that God loved the children of Esau just as He loved the children of Jacob; but when He said, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated,” He was referring to special privileges here on earth. God had given certain privileges to the children of Jacob which had been denied the children of Esau. He had given the people of Israel a holy Law and a special care that were not given to any other nation, and He gave them teachers such as no other people had ever had; He gave them a land flowing with milk and honey, and made them the people of His own peculiar concern. The children of Esau dwelt in the wilderness, a dry, barren and thirsty land. They had very few privileges such as the people of Israel enjoyed. But this does not mean that God was not interested in the children of Esau. We may be sure His grace went out to every individual Edomite who repented of his sin and idolatry. So here our Lord says, “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” This does not mean that we are to have ill will toward our loved ones; it does not mean that we are to bear malice toward them. But our consideration for Christ, our love for Him who died for us is to be so great that, in comparison to our interest in our dearest on earth, if they oppose what is right, our attitude will seem almost as hatred. I have seen very definite examples of this. I remember a dear, young Jewish girl who came to the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved. When she was to be baptized her Jewish mother, who loved her tenderly, said in a paroxysm of anger, “Oh, my daughter, do you hate your mother so much that you would go down to that church and be baptized?” The daughter insisted that she loved her mother, but that she loved Christ more. Her mother said, “You do not love me, or you would never be baptized. You hate me; that is why you are being baptized.” The daughter knew that faithfulness demanded that she turn away from her dear mother as though she hated her, although it was almost more than she could endure. This illustrates what our Lord meant. Nothing must come between you and faithfulness to Christ; you must be true to Him whatever it means. So discipleship does cost. Many people have had to leave their homes for Christ’s sake, and their names have been cast down as evil, because they loved Him supremely. Many of us belong to Christian families and have been brought up in homes where loved ones were interested in our salvation; nevertheless, the challenge comes to us just the same. If anyone, no matter how dear, would come between Christ and us we are to hate that person in comparison with our love for Him.
“Yea, and his own life also.” Elsewhere we read, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life.” There are many people who have to give up splendid prospects on earth in order to put Christ’s interests first. He who refuses to do this will lose his life, while the one who counts all things as dross for Christ’s sake will keep it unto life eternal. Many young men and women are facing this question. Is Christ to have the preeminent place in your heart? Are you so yielded to Him that you are prepared to let Him have His way in your life? You know Christ and you have the message the world needs. Will you give up worldly interests and go forth at His call to proclaim the gospel to those who are sitting in darkness? Do you think of your pleasant prospects and how well you are getting on in the world, and are you so intent on making money that you have turned away from the call of God? I know everyone is not called to relinquish all secular employment in order to give-full time to Christian service, but it means much to be yielded to God for whatever plan He has for you. How terrible it is in the end for one, for instance, who has been called to be a missionary, but who remains at home, and as the years go on he perhaps makes a good home and accumulates a comfortable fortune, but misses entirely the path the Lord had for him. How blessed the reward in that day for one who renounces all this and goes out in faith, trusting the Lord, to a distant land, among people who are often very disagreeable, but who need someone to tell them of Jesus. Those who, for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s sake, have hated their own lives, what a reward will be theirs at the judgment-seat of Christ!
There is something here for everyone of us to consider thoughtfully. The Lord adds, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” Just what does “whosoever” mean? The Scottish laddie’s answer is a true one: “You, me, or any ither body.” It is not a question of bearing Christ’s cross. You and I cannot bear His cross, though we may glory in it. The apostle Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” My substitute died in my stead. His death is my death, and I am dead to all to which He died as a Man. I am one with Him whom the world has rejected. That is what it means to enter into the truth of His cross. Here the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the disciple carrying his own cross. If you had been in Palestine and seen a man going along a road carrying a cross, you would have known that he was going out to die. Our blessed Lord went forth bearing His cross to Calvary. During the centuries of Roman dominion those who died upon the cross were under the ban of the Government, and everyone was expected to carry his own cross to the place of execution. So what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, “Whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple,” was that, unless one is willing to go even to death for Christ’s sake, he is not a true disciple. I repeat: it is not a question of salvation; it is a question of devotion to Christ in discipleship. The path of dis-cipleship may lead to death, and of course this is not something to enter into thoughtlessly and carelessly. Many people fail to realize the seriousness of this matter of discipleship. It is not for one emotionally aroused to say, “I am ready to be a missionary or a preacher.” One needs to weigh the question thoughtfully and seriously to realize the truth of the oft-repeated verse:
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
What shall I do with this life? Shall I live for myself, or shall I live for Christ? Count the cost! The Lord Jesus used the illustration of the builder and the tower, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” We have heard of men attempting to build a great mansion or tower without counting the cost. They have started the building and have found themselves financially embarrassed, and so they could not continue. Such buildings have been pointed out to me—unfinished structures—because) someone started to build and could not finish. So when you are called to devote your lives to God it is well to count the cost, and ask yourselves the question, “am I ready to face all that is involved in discipleship and loyalty to my Lord Jesus Christ?”
The second illustration is somewhat similar: “Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.” Those who began the Second World War, those who were responsible for it, felt that the democratic nations were decayed, that they would never be able to rise up against the Fascist powers, and that before these nations could even begin a defence the Fascist powers would have dominion of the world. So they started a conflict which they were not able to bring to a successful conclusion. In the great spiritual warfare with the evil hosts in heavenly places, how you and I need to consider whether we are ready to yield ourselves wholly to the control of our blessed Lord through the Holy Spirit, that we may be able to fight the good fight of faith. The apostle Paul was one who counted the cost. He faced everything; and having looked all the gains and losses in the face, he said, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” God grant that we may be motivated by the same spirit ,of devotion! “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.” Do not misunderstand that. It does not mean that if you have a home you are to give it away; it does not mean that if God has intrusted you with wealth you have to toss it to the wind; it does not mean that if you have friends you must spurn them: but it does mean that you must hold everything you have as -subject to God Himself. David Livingstone expressed it, I think, when he wrote in his diary, “I am determined not to look upon anything that I possess except as in relation to the kingdom of God.” That is what it means to hold everything for Him.
There is a solemn warning in the last two verses. They suggest the possibility of a disciple, who was at one time a bright witness for the Lord, becoming useless and worthless to God and to man in so far as being a testimony to the world is concerned. “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Salt is good. It preserves from corruption, and the people of God in this world are the preserving salt. Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” But if salt has lost its savour it is no good. Salt, when exposed to certain chemical influences, loses its saltiness, and it is worthless. It does not fulfil the purpose for which it was intended. It is possible for the Christian to become so careless and so contaminated by the principles of the world that he fails to fulfil the purpose for which God made him.
If God’s only thought were to save our souls for heaven He could have taken us away five minutes after our conversion. I can never be any more fit for heaven than I was five minutes after I was saved. The dying robber on the cross was railing against our Lord, until suddenly he discerned the Person of the Son of God in that One on the central cross, and his heart went out to Him in repentance, and he confessed Him as the sinless One. He prayed, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” Jesus said, “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” We might have gone home the moment He saved us if that were His only purpose; but He has saved us that we may serve Him here, that we may witness for Him, and be His disciples. Oh, God grant that we may never become salt that has lost its savour!
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!” Have you counted the cost? Jesus did, and He endured the cross of shame. Shall we shrink from the privileges extended to us? Are we more concerned about our prospects here below than we are about hearing the “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” from His lips when we stand at the judgment-seat of Christ?