When any of us begin a project, we count the cost and estimate whether or not we can afford to complete it. This just makes sense. In fact, Jesus says that a mark of being His disciple is to count the cost of commitment. In the Gospels, we discover nine marks or qualities of those who follow Christ. These marks are not intended to bring about a guilt-driven self-willed determination to make these marks a reality. Such a path only leads to frustration and a diminished spirit. The path Christ invites us on is one where we join Him realizing that these marks represent the life-result of God showering a believer with His grace. Another way to express this is to understand that the marks give us a picture of what living out and enjoying God’s grace looks like. One such mark of a disciple is to count the cost of commitment.
Jesus speaking to a crowd of people proclaims:
“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.’ 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. So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-33).
Jesus uses two illustrations involving building and going to war. Both warn against making a hasty decision to follow Jesus. Potential disciples must first count the cost to see if following Christ is something they believe is worth the long haul. Jesus proclaims that one cost of being His disciple is renouncing everything to Him.
Although the gift of redemption and eternal life are free to anyone who asks (see: John 3:16), the asking requires a transfer of ownership (see: Luke 9:23 & Gal 5:24). “Counting the cost,” means recognizing and agreeing to these terms. It is inconsistent for a follower of Christ, His disciple, to determine to do life his own way and to follow his own inclinations. Simply stated following Christ means we follow Him.
When Jesus shared about counting the cost, He was speaking to a large crowd. The crowd loved Jesus, the miracle man. They enjoyed the free food. They probably even thought Jesus was cool. He was increasing in popularity. But Jesus knew that many loved the stuff, but not necessarily the life He was calling them into as a disciple. So, He challenges them to consider the cost.
Jesus understood that those who merely follow Him for what they can get wouldn’t stick around for the long haul. We see this when someone says church just didn’t work for me. Often, they mean, I had expectations that were not met. Life didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. In short, God didn’t do what I wanted Him to do. I didn’t get the stuff I wanted. God’s way conflicted with my way. The simple truth is that we need to count the cost. If we don’t count the cost, we will turn away at even the smallest threat of sacrifice. This is why Jesus laid it out so clearly when He ended His description of the cost of being His disciple with a breathtaking statement: “anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Renouncing may mean giving up something physically. It could mean letting go of something that emotionally possesses us so that God can genuinely posses us. When we come to Christ we can’t continue to belong to the world or choose to serve someone or something else as lord of our life (see: 1 John 2:15-17 & Matt 6:24).
I recently saw a dream house sweepstakes. The home was beautiful, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area has a moderate climate. The house and location are idyllic. To add to the attraction, you even receive a sizable cash prize. Imagine if you won. You own this beautiful home, but until you pack up and leave your current home, this new life is not really yours. You cannot live in this new home and your current home at the same time. This is the way many approach following Christ. They love the idea of eternal life and paradise. They like what Christ can do for them. But they are not willing to leave the life they now live to go all in with Jesus. They either don’t consider the cost or they fool themselves into believing they can receive a new life in Christ while holding on to all or part of their old one. They want Jesus while holding on to the ownership of their life. Jesus is speaking to such people when he says: consider the cost.
Let me be clear. We can’t earn salvation through any sacrifice of our own. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only one acceptable as well as sufficiently has paid the price in full for our salvation. But, when we receive Christ, we do so choosing to release control of our lives to Him. In reality, when we receive Christ as Lord and Savior, we relinquish all that we don’t indeed own and receive far more than we could ever ask or imagine. But, renounce all we must. If we are going to be Christ disciple, we must count the cost.
It is a privilege to follow Christ with each of you. It is a fantastic journey. Renouncing all is not a one-and-done deal. I know from time-to-time I still struggle with actually surrendering all to Him. But, I have counted the cost and am growing in my path of surrender. I am so grateful for God’s faithfulness and for His patience and extravagant love. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!