We live in a world where people dream dreams and many are totally committed to causes, which if achieved make their dreams a reality. They give their allegiance to a person or cause devoting a lifetime of energy to achieve their goals.
Often in Australia on the TV news, extremists in the ‘Green movement’ are seen throwing themselves before bulldozers or climbing trees in an effort to prevent the destruction of forests. Frequently governments bow to their demands and legislate the closure of forests which consequentially destroy the viability of timber mills dependent upon a continual supply of logs and causing much social disruption when people lose jobs. Many of these ‘Greenies’ have sacrificed much to achieve their ends — even showing a willingness to risk their lives for the sake of a tree. These people are totally committed to their cause.
We look at Israel and see a people totally committed to the survival of their nation in the face of much fanatical opposition. Some of the causes supported by men and women have honourable goals, while others have despicable goals, such as was seen in Nazi Germany with their inhuman efforts to keep the race pure.
People have been willing to sacrifice their all, even life itself, to achieve victory. Most people who commit themselves to a cause count the cost before becoming involved.
The Lord Jesus has made similar demands of all who would follow him. He claims the primacy in the lives of all who would follow him, demanding a willingness to sacrifice everything held dear, even life itself.
In Luke 14:25-33 we find Christ plainly demanding absolute allegiance from all who would follow him. He spoke to the multitudes, many of whom probably wanted to commit themselves to such a charismatic, miracle-performing teacher. Christ called them all to count the cost of discipleship saying, ‘So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple’(v. 33). This meant renouncing self-righteousness, love of the world and sin, and showing a willingness to surrender all they possessed in the service of Christ and their Christian brothers and sisters.
Everything we have and everything we will be comes from a gracious God and thus we owe him everything. In Foxe’s Book of Christian Martyrs you will read of saints who were martyred in the most horrific circumstances, because they loved Christ. News reports reveal that today there are many Christian martyrs. Others become the outcasts of society because of their love for Christ.
Christians in the Western world usually find life so easy and the ease of the world has infiltrated the church. Few people are willing to stand firm for God’s truth, because they enjoy the easy life. Many Christians and churches are like the church at Laodicea — lukewarm, dying and almost ready to take their last breath. We find professing Christians running back to the world when faced with the slightest tribulation. Such people are unworthy of Christ.
We must be like Elisha who, when called to follow Elijah as God’s prophet, signified his total break with life on the farm, using the wooden plough and harness as fuel for a fire on which to barbecue his yoke of oxen. His break with the past was total and his commitment to the work of God was unlimited.
When Christ commanded his disciples to depart one asked him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ To this request Christ replied: ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead’ (Matthew 8:21-22). Christ was teaching his disciples that instant and total obedience is a mark of a Christian. After all he said, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’ (John 14:15). Obedience that ‘costs’ is the mark of one born of the Spirit of Christ. Disobedience is sin! Commitment to Christ may cost the love of family and friends, a secure job and income, and a life of godless ease. In some parts of the world it means becoming an outcast from society and in extreme cases following Christ means martyrdom. Commitment to Christ must be total, for the Master has demanded the pre-eminence in the lives of all who would be saved. Half-hearted commitment is unacceptable. Salvation is a serious business. A holy God is offended by our sins and without sincere, godly repentance and full commitment to Christ our eternal destiny is hell. Christ died a horrible death on the cross in the place of his people. Our salvation cost the life of Messiah, the Son of God. All who follow him owe him everything. With total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, the life of each saint is marked by godly living and a holy joy because he or she is eternally secure in the protective care of Christ who said of all the saints, ‘You are My friends if you do whatever I command you … I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand’ (John 15:14; 10:28).
The Lord Jesus gave his life that his people might be saved. This means we are called to be different to the worldling, living lives of holiness, to the glory of God and the praise of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you counted the cost of following Christ? Have you made sacrifices in order that Christ might be glorified? When we show our total commitment to Christ, the church will turn the world upside down as did those apostles of long ago.
Jim Cromarty is a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia and the popular author of the three Books for Family Reading and A Book for Family Worship published by Evangelical Press.