“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the 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’?” Luke 14:28-30.
Unfortunately, this is the state that many believers are in. They start as disciples without counting the cost, and end up in sin and hypocrisy, bringing shame to the term “Christian” and becoming the object of contempt.
What then, is the cost of becoming a disciple?
“Father and mother, wife and children …”
Jesus tells us clearly in the preceding verses: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26-27. In other words, being a disciple costs us everything.
When Jesus speaks about “hating” family members, and one’s own life, He is not speaking about a hatred for the individuals or being tired of life. It means that disciples are not bound by human advice, reasoning, opinions, and influence. They will only be led in the footsteps of their Master. This can bring reproach and conflict and separation from those who do not have the same mind, and can seem like a heavy price to pay. But without doing this, a disciple cannot truly follow Christ and serve God.
On the other hand, true disciples are liberated from all consideration of themselves and other people, and become one with Christ. Moreover, this very thing also leads to fellowship, encouragement, and edification between each individual disciple and all others who have the same goal! The rewards for discipleship are truly great. Jesus says: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29.
“Your own life also”
The ultimate cost for becoming a disciple is to hate and lay down our “own life also.” Our “own life” in this context is our own will, our opinions, our human reactions. Because of the fall, all our will and our nature have been contaminated by sin and egotism. Becoming offended, discouraged, or impatient, showing partiality, or giving in to impurity or pride – all these are manifestations of our “own life,” the inclination to sin found in our fallen human nature, or flesh. In contrast, all God’s will consist of everything that is good and selfless. To be able to be conformed from what we are into the image of Christ, our “own life” needs to die!
To die to self, we as disciples must pray to God for help and deny our own will until the end. This is the cross that Jesus says disciples must take up daily (Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27), resulting in a death over sin. This happens daily in the life of true disciples. This was what Jesus did, and his disciples learn from Him and follow Him on the same way. (Hebrews 5:7-9) The result is that the life of Christ – his virtues – starts to become manifest in our life!
Without denying our own sin and self-will, our “own life” will remain, and the life of Christ, cannot come forth in us. We will not be transformed. We cannot be formed into our Master’s image. Maybe we can still claim to be disciples, attend church, have discussions about what is sin or not, do charity work and call Jesus “Lord.” But in the long run this form of godliness cannot cover the sin that we are still bound to. Paul describes this dismal state of affairs among Christians who are unwilling to pay the price: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:2-5.
Without fulfilling the conditions, we cannot be Jesus’ disciples. But the great news is that God can enable us to do this! When we are willing to be obedient to God’s will, we will become a new creation. We die with Him, and live with Him. We increase in the virtues of Christ, and become more and more like our Master.
“For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.” 2 Timothy 2:11.