Allow me to preface my ramblings with this statement: I know many people have studied this topic more than me; books probably exist about this topic. Also, I understand that these concepts did not originate with me.
I was reviewing some notes I found on my laptop from a LIFE group with the Journey youth about two years ago. We were contemplating the meaning of “counting the cost of following Jesus.” The discussion stemmed from a short study we did on the parable of the farmer scattering seed (Matthew 13:4-9,18-23). While reading scripture and digging for its meaning, I asked the youth how we can prevent ourselves from being the seed that does not get planted properly and what can we do to assure that we become the seed that produces a harvest of “thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted?” As we thought of examples in scripture that directly dealt with this issue, we determined that the best way to be properly planted and to produce a harvest would be found in the teachings of Jesus. We came up with Matthew 8:34-35.
“If any of you wants to be my follower,” he [Jesus] told them, “you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.”
We felt like we were on to something with this passage because it told us how to “find true life,” but we needed a starting place.We began looking at contexts of scripture similar to the one above in Matthew. We found Luke 14:27-28,
“And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me.”
Verse 27 sounds similar to Matt 8:34, but it was the next verse that got our attention.
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills.”
We all felt like this was a clue to the parable in Matthew 13. Even this group of young people had seen certain individuals who attended church, read their bibles, and even called themselves Christians fall away from the Christian faith. Why?Here is one possible solution: We live in a culture where we invite people to become Christians because Jesus loves them and all they have to do is believe and walk an aisle. But Jesus did not make it this easy. He told people to count the cost. He held nothing back when telling people about the sacrifices they would have to make in order to be his followers. Jesus warned his followers while he was on earth that they would have no place to lay their heads (Matt. 8:20) Some disciples will have to surrender their jobs (Matt. 4:19, 9:9), their money (Matt. 19:21), their dreams (Matt. 16:24), and some even their lives (John 21:19).
Yes, Jesus died for us, and yes, salvation is free for us, but when we join into a relationship with Christ we need to understand what we are doing. We give up our rights to act on our behalf. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If we decide to warn people about the cost of becoming a Christian then less people will probably join our churches, but the people who do join will hopefully produce a harvest of “thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”