What it Means to Follow Christ

I had a friend who owned a 9’6″ longboard which had it’s origins somewhere in the early 70’s. The thing was a beast. Dark green and heavy, it caught waves really well but was a feat of strength to turn. It had no leash plug, not even an old fashioned hole in the fin to tie one on – consequently he would surf it without a leash. He was pretty good, so it usually wasn’t a problem.
What was awesome about that board was it’s intimidation factor. If you dropped in on that board, you would not win. It would plow you under. On days when the swell was particularly good and the numbers of boards in the water were increasing by the hour, my friend would smile and pat that huge green beast of a board and say “I’m not worried about how many are out here. I have a CROWD CONTROL board.”

Crowd control. That’s sorta’ what Jesus is about in the section we’ll be reading in Luke this week. (Luke 14:25-35)

Jesus is experiencing what it seems most contemporary pastors in the U.S. are obsessed with achieving – large crowds.   Jesus never seems to be able to appreciate big crowds, because when he has them, he always seems to make “crowd control” statements which thins the herd. John 6 is a great example of that too.  In this instance, Jesus begins spelling out in stark, even harsh, detail what following him really means, what it will really cost.  Why do you suppose he said this in this context?

He talks about hating family members and hating self in order to follow him.  Wow. As modern pastors, we scramble around as quickly as possible to explain it doesn’t really mean that (and it doesn’t in terms of the straight English reading of it)….BUT, Jesus never qualifies what he says.  He just pulls the pin on the grenade and smiles.  I find that both fascinating, admirable – and scary.  How do you read this? What do you think he’s saying?

He also talks about counting the cost of following him, illustrating it with a story of an incomplete construction project and a king considering going to war with insufficient forces. The thrust of both those stories is RE-EVALUATION.  What is Jesus telling us we will need to reevaluate when we count the cost of following him?

If we follow Jesus we are not defined by our families (v25-26), we are not defined by our own self will (v27), and v 33 tells us what ELSE we are not defined by.  What does he say, and how badly does it cut us as good American consumers?

Jesus pulls no punches in this section. This is a crowd control speech if ever there was one. His words are a dividing line between spectators and the team. These aren’t words to apply to everyone else, these words are missiles aimed at our own heart. These are words to wrestle with – they are designed to produce crisis. Crisis which leads to conversion and correction and ultimately, the best life possible on this broken planet. Salt, after all, is GOOD.

Ok…well, this is stuff to ruminate on until Sunday. Hope to see you there!

5 comments

  1. I’ve always seen the “let a man count the cost” section as (almost) an indictment of the way many in the western church fish for men. Much of what could be called “hell, fire and brimstone” teaching really has no other purpose than scaring people into heaven. As a teenager, I had the unfortunate opportunity to see three movies about the end-times; the (in) famous “Thief in the Night” series. These were shown in my church to mostly Christians. Still remember some of the scenes to this day. Some would say, “What’s the harm? If it gets commitments then it’s good right?” Well, I’m not so sure.

    It reminds me of third grade football. I was big for my age and thought playing football would be a cinch. People told me, “Oh, you’ll be great. We’ve got the perfect spot for you. You’ll crush them.” But after about eight minutes of the first practice, the truth became glaringly obvious. This was not a cinch, this was hard. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t block and I couldn’t tackle. I almost gave up, but my dad turned himself into a human tackling dummy and while I didn’t win the Heisman, I did make the team. I learned an important life lesson; before making a big decision, get the facts.

    Before joining the Air Force, I spent two weeks with my grandmother who happened to sew for many of the NCOs that were attending the NCO Academy at Tyndall. I asked them questions and heard their stories. When I finally got to Basic Training, while no one can really prepare you for that, I did sort of know what was going on. It made the transition from civilian to military life easier.

    Following Jesus is simple, but it isn’t easy. Too often, we prey on other’s emotions and don’t allow them time to think about the changes that following Christ entails. Then, when they finally see what Jesus asks, it’s too much for them. They thought they were getting hell insurance and Jesus is asking them to divest themselves of themselves. Yet, Jesus seems to be saying, “Look, take a minute. Think about what I am offering.” We are asking people to make a truly life altering decision, and to make it now. Instead, tell people about Jesus, let them ask questions, let them hear your stories. Let them count the cost, and then let them decide. There are already too many unfinished buildings.

  2. I feel that Jesus wants us to put him first in our lives ahead of our family, our job or anything else. We have to totally commit ourself to him without reservation or exception. After all he is our creator and he gave us everything, all he asks from us is to make him number one in our life. I don’t think that this is too much to ask. Although I sometimes find myself missing the mark, I continue to give him praise.

  3. I agree with both John and Shirley Ann. We have to ask ourselves what Jesus is saying about what is important in our lives because we really can’t have it all in this life. The answer is that Jesus does not want just a place in our lives he wants 1st place. Several months ago I realized that Jesus was one of a couple of competing relationships for the top spot in my life. (I had always thought I put Him 1st, but some things I was doing did not reflect that). After getting over the shock that after failing to put Him 1st, the God that died for me was still asking me to put Him 1st, I made the choice to do exactly that. John is right it is simple, just not easy. All those other relationship, they remain demanding as ever, and the world never leave you alone.

    To simplify things, I look at Jesus as my father (Abba). When I was young I remember those things that my friends wanted to do that I knew would hurt my parents, I could choose not to do them because I loved them and that was more important than satisfying friends or others.

  4. What does it mean to follow Christ? I think Jesus is asking me (and each one of us) personally: “Are you willing to be honest with Me and are you willing to be honest with yourself? Do you REALLY chose to follow Me? Can you give up your will for My will and trust me daily?” This relationship REQUIRES complete honesty, true humility and total dependence. Verse 27: “Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple” really stands out to me. Actions DO speak louder than words and they tell the truth. This is really Tough Stuff, Tough Love. HIS WILL BE DONE.

  5. If we are stubbonrnly defined by something else,
    that so much gets in the way of being re-defined
    by Him…and isn’t that what He really wants ?
    …and isn’t it better ?

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