THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
Before we begin our study of "The Cost of Discipleship" let us pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before You in the Name of Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Holy Father please open our eyes, our ears and our hearts so we can see and hear and receive what You are telling us through Your Word. Help us to accept these truths and please grant us the strength, commitment and desire to do them. It is for Your honor and glory that we ask these things.
Let us begin our study by reading the following discourse that Jesus gave to His disciples with respect to the cost of being a true disciple of His.
"" Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--  a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'  "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.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
To help us better understand what Jesus meant in the above discourse let us also read this teaching as it is recorded in,
" Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  "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."
As one reflects upon the above teaching one might ask: "What is Jesus teaching us? What is He saying?" I believe that Jesus is telling you and I that there is a cost to being a true disciple of His.
To see what this cost is we will examine the following facets of our life:
With the above introduction in mind let us now examine what the Bible teaches us about the cost of discipleship with respect to:
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR FAMILIES
To set the stage for this portion of our study let us reread the following excerpts from Jesus' discourse. The first one is from,
"" 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;"
The second one is,
"" 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."
Does this mean that we are to pick up and leave our families, hate them or go off by ourselves to preach the Gospel in some distant land or area? The answer to this question is no! To see this let us examine what the Bible teaches us about the relationship we are to have with respect to our families. To do this we will first examine what the Bible teaches us about the relationships we should have between: (1) A husband and wife and (2) Children and parents.
We begin with the,
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A HUSBAND AND WIFE
Perhaps the clearest teaching with respect to this relationship is provided in,
" Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--  for we are members of his body.  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."
Let us notice the following verses,
22-24 The wives within a Christian marriage are to submit to their husbands as they would to our Lord Jesus Christ.
25 The husbands are to love their wives just a Jesus Christ loves the church, that is His body of born again believers.
28-29 The husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies.
The above teaching is very clear that within a Christian marriage a husband and wife are to love each other as Christ and His Church are to love each other.
With respect to the issue of leaving one's spouse to go and preach the Gospel, let us remember that the Apostle Peter and the other apostles had their believing wives accompany them on their missionary journeys. To see this let us read what the Apostle Paul wrote concerning the fact that he, as an apostle, had the same rights or privileges as the other apostles. The portion of his defense which is of interest to this study is in,
1 Corinthians 9:5
" Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?"
Let us now examine the
RELATIONSHIP OF CHILDREN AND PARENTS
Perhaps the clearest teaching on this topic is provided in,
" Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  "Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise--  "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
Let us notice the following verses,
1 Since a child of God may belong to non believing parents, the Holy Spirit's instruction is for them to obey their parents in all matters that are consistent with His Word, that is in the Lord.
2-3 It is a commandment of God that children are to honor their father and mother.
4 Christian fathers are to help, encourage and train their children to be good disciples of Jesus Christ.
Even though the above relationships are our Lord's desire for His disciples, it is possible that a non believing member of your family will hate you, discredit you or want to disown you. To see this let us take a look at,
FOUR EXAMPLES OF THE POTENTIAL COST OF BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST
The first example of the cost of being a true follower of God is the one of
Losing acquaintances or friends
For this example let us read about the time when Jeremiah complained about being chosen as a prophet of God. To do this let us read from,
" O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived ; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.  Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.  But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.  I hear many whispering, "Terror on every side! Report him! Let's report him!" All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him."  But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten."
Let us notice the following verses,
7(a) Jeremiah complained to God that He deceived him and over powered him in order to anoint him as a prophet.
7(b)-8 Because of Jeremiah's obedience in speaking God's Word to the Israelites he was the center of the people's insults and mockery.
9 Jeremiah tried to stop preaching and teaching God's Message. However, because of the power of the Holy Spirit working through him, Jeremiah could not refrain from speaking God's Words.
10 Instead of rejoicing that they had a true prophet of God in their midst, the acquaintances and friends of Jeremiah constantly looked for an opportunity to discredit him.
Our second example of the potential cost for being a true believer is the one of
Being betrayed by non believing brothers or sisters
For this example we will read about Joseph and his brothers. Let us recall that because of the visions that God gave Joseph, his brothers became very jealous of him. One day when Joseph's brothers were tending sheep in Shechem, his father, Israel, sent Joseph to see if all was well. With this background let us now read what happened as recorded in,
" and Israel said to Joseph, "As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them." "Very well," he replied.  So he said to him, "Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me." Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. When Joseph arrived at Shechem,  a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, "What are you looking for?"  He replied, "I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?"  "They have moved on from here," the man answered. "I heard them say, 'Let's go to Dothan.'" So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan.  But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.  "Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each other.  "Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams."  When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he said.  "Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him." Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.  So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe--the richly ornamented robe he was wearing--  and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.  As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.  Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed.  So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt."
The third example of the potential cost for being dedicated to God is that of being
Betrayed by a son or daughter
To illustrate this cost let us read about King David and his son Absalom. In 2 Samuel we read that Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. Ammon, another son of King David, was very attracted to her. Ammon was so infatuated with Tamar that he contrived a scheme whereby he would be able to be intimate with her. Upon hearing what happened to his sister, Absalom detested Ammon. Because of his anger, Absalom sought for a chance to avenge his sister's honor by killing Ammon. After murdering Ammon, Absalom fled out of Israel. King David loved Absalom very much and longed to see him. After being persuaded by Joab, the commander of King David's army, David sent for Absalom. Upon hearing King David's plea, Absalom returned to the land of Israel. Unfortunately, it was at this time Absalom initiated a plot to over throw his father, King David, and assume the kingship over Israel. To see what happened let us read from,
2 Samuel 15:7-18
" At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, "Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD.  While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: 'If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron.'"  The king said to him, "Go in peace." So he went to Hebron.  Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, 'Absalom is king in Hebron.'"  Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter.  While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing.  A messenger came and told David, "The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom."  Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, "Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword."  The king's officials answered him, "Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses."  The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace.  So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at a place some distance away.  All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king."
It is noted that later in 2 Samuel we read that Absalom is killed in battle against his father King David. After Absalom's army was defeated King David returned to the throne and once again ruled over the nation of Israel.
The fourth and last example of the potential cost for being a true disciple of God is that of being
Betrayed or hated by one's spouse
An illustration of this cost is Delilah, the wife of Samson. In the book of Judges, chapter 16, we read that Samson married a Philistine woman named Delilah. It is noted that the Philistines did not believe in or worship the God of the Bible. Instead they worshipped and sacrificed to the false god named Dagon. Hence, Delilah was not a true follower of God Almighty.
After their marriage, Delilah was bribed or persuaded by the rulers of the Philistines to betray Samson. This is recorded in,
" The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, "See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.""
After several failed attempts to get Samson to reveal the secret for his strength, Samson became so vexed that he finally revealed the secret to Delilah. This is recorded in,
" With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.  So he told her everything. "No razor has ever been used on my head," he said, "because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man."  When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, "Come back once more; he has told me everything." So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands.  Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.  Then she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him.  Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison."
Let us notice the following verses,
16-17 To stop Delilah's nagging, Samson finally revealed the secret to his strength.
18-19(a) Delilah realized that this time Samson told her the truth. Thus, she called for the rulers of the Philistines and had them shave Samson's head.
19(b) Samson's strength left him.
20-21 Consequently, the Philistines put out Samson's eyes, bound him and took him to prison.
It is noted that later on in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Judges we read that Samson's hair grew back along with his strength. The final feat of Samson was when God allowed him to push down the temple of the false god Dagon. In doing so all those who were worshipping Dagon met their end.
What is the point? What is the issue that Jesus is addressing here? I believe it is found in the answer to the following questions:
First of all: "Whom do we love more, God or others?
Before we hastily answer this question let us carefully consider what Jesus said as recorded in,
"" 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;"
Please recall that in Luke 14:26 this also includes our spouses.
Secondly: "Whom are we looking to? (or) Whom do we follow, God or others?"
Remember, it is only by being a true born again disciple of Jesus Christ that we will be satisfied. To see this let us consider what Jesus said during one of the Feasts of Tabernacles. It is recorded in,
" On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified."
The second area that our Lord talked about with respect to the potential cost of discipleship is,
OUR EARTHLY POSSESSIONS
To refresh our memories let us reread,
" In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."
Does this mean that our Lord Jesus Christ is telling us that as His disciples we must sell all that we have and give it all away? I believe the answer to this question is not necessarily. To see this let us consider what the Bible teaches us with respect to Christian giving or charity.
First and foremost,
WE ARE TO PROVIDE MATERIAL HELP FOR THOSE IN NEED
To see this, let us read from,
1 John 3:17
" If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"
In other words, if we think that we are born again and profess faith in our Lord Jesus Christ but do not have the love and compassion to help our brothers and sisters in need, are we really living our life in faith?
Thus, if we are truly living our lives by faith in Jesus Christ, then He, through the Holy Spirit living within us, will move us to help those in need. On the other hand, if we do not see this fruit of the Holy Spirit within our lives, then we are to question our faith and seek our Lord for forgiveness and for His fruits to become manifest in our lives.
SOME GUIDELINES TO CHRISTIAN GIVING
Since in the new covenant there are no fixed amounts or fixed percentages of income that are imposed upon the born again believer for giving, one might ask, "What does the Lord expect of us?" or perhaps put another way, "Are there any guidelines?"
Actually there are three: (1) we are to be generous, (2) offer what is in our hearts and (3) not go beyond what we can afford.
We Are To Be Generous
To see that we are to be generous in our giving, let us read what the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to say to those who are financially well off in,
1 Timothy 6:17-19
" Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
We Are To Be Cheerful Givers
The second guideline for our giving is to give what is within our hearts. In other words, our giving is not to be dictated to us by the elders or is to be a contest to impress others. To see this let us first read from,
2 Corinthians 9:7
" Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
Let us notice the following:
a The amount that we give is not a set amount or fixed percentage set by the elders. No, it is in effect what the Holy Spirit places in our heart.
b We are not to give grudgingly or out of compulsion but willingly and cheerfully, that is out of love and concern.
To see that we are not to give so as to impress others, let us read what Jesus said about our charitable deeds in His sermon on the mountain,
"" Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Our Giving Should Not Go Beyond What We Can Afford
Finally, we find that our zeal to help the needy and help support the elders must be tempered by what we can actually afford. To see this, let us prayerfully consider the instruction that Paul gave to the church in Corinth about their wanting to help the needy in Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 8:10-15
" And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.  Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,  as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.""
Let us notice the following verses,
11 The believers in Corinth were to provide their gifts for the needy in Jerusalem in accordance with their means, that is by what they could afford.
12 Our charitable gifts are acceptable in accordance with what we have, but not acceptable if we give beyond our means.
13 The reason we do not give beyond our means is twofold: (a) As is written in this verse, we are not to give beyond our means so that in the process of our giving we do not also become needy or hard pressed ourselves and (b) We are not to deprive our families of their needs. To see this, let us read from,
1 Timothy 5:7-8
" Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame.  If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
Let us now return to our passage in 2 Corinthians and notice the following verses.
14-15 To illustrate this principle of Christian giving, the Holy Spirit quotes from Exodus 16:18. In this chapter, Moses records for us how during their exodus from Egypt, every morning the people had to go out in the desert floor and gather manna (the bread that for 40 years God miraculously gave them to eat). After they gathered the manna and returned to camp, each one had an omer of manna for that day's sustenance. In other words, he who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little did not lack food.
In summary we find that as born again believers we are to materially help those in need (1 John 3:17) and those from whom we receive spiritual instruction (Galatians 6:6). These charitable acts are to be motivated by yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirits prompting from within us. Our giving is to be generous and yet within the limits of what we can afford.
However, the Bible also teaches us that in remaining faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ it might very well cost us all of our material possessions. Hence, we should be prepared or have a mind set that will enable us to graciously accept this potential loss. To see this let us read the following encouragement that the Holy Spirit gave to those who have suffered the loss of all material things for the sake of their faith and belief in Jesus Christ. His words of encouragement are written in,
" 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.  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.  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay.  But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved."
Let us notice the following verse,
34 They joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property, that is all their material possessions. The reason they joyfully accepted this persecution was because they knew that they had better and ever lasting possessions waiting for them in Heaven.
39 We are encouraged to fight the good fight of faith. In other words, the Holy Spirit is encouraging us, that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves while here on this earth, we are to remain true and firm in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The third and last area that our Lord taught us with respect to the cost of discipleship is,
OUR VERY OWN LIVES
To refresh our memories with what our Lord said about this topic let us read from,
" Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
As one reflects upon this statement one might ask: "What is our Lord saying? What is He teaching us?" The answer to these questions is at least twofold.
First of all, our Lord is teaching us that to be a true born again disciple of His we are to live our lives in such a way that He, through the Holy Spirit, will live His life through us. To see this let us read how the Apostle Paul described his walk with Christ Jesus. It is recorded for us in,
" I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.""
Secondly, in reading the New Testament we also discover that by remaining faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ might very well cost us our earthly lives. To see this let us consider what happened to Stephen after he bore witness of Jesus Christ to the elders and teachers of the Jewish Law. To do this let read from,
" When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."  At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,  dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.  While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep."
What is the point? What is the issue that the Bible is addressing in this portion of our study? The answer to these questions is found in,
" Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
With all what we have covered in mind, let us now close our study by prayerfully reading the following Psalm.
" Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."
Shall We Pray?