Is there “fine print” when it comes to Christianity?
Like many of you, I grew up hearing sermons about the how God freely gives salvation to all that believe in Jesus. The Apostle Paul famously tells the Ephesians that we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ. He insists that salvation is a gift from God so that we cannot brag about it. (Eph 2:8-10) It’s true—salvation is the free gift that God offers to those who believe in Jesus.
Here’s the tension: Salvation is free, but discipleship is not. In fact, as we read the Gospels, Jesus seems to add some “terms and conditions” for those who choose to follow him.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For 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 14:26-33 ESV
I don’t know about you, but no one shared this passage with me when I responded an altar call!
What are we to make of this passage? Are we to literally hate our parents or build a tower? The point is this: Jesus sets a high bar for discipleship. He demands allegiance and sacrifice. He requires us to make him the first priority in our lives. When we read the “fine print” of the gospel, Jesus tells us to “count the cost” of following him. But what is this cost?
The examples show us some categories that Jesus might have in mind. Family (v. 26), our lives (v. 27), finances (vv. 28-30), and our struggles (vv. 31-33). It’s important to realize that none of these things are inherently bad! This means that Jesus is not only concerned about repentance (though it’s crucial). He says we also need to be willing sacrifice the good things in our life for the sake of the Kingdom. Nothing can be allowed to challenge our commitment to Christ.
The heroes of our faith are men and women who took Jesus’ words to heart. We are reading about some of them as we study Acts together this year. Peter, Paul, and many others gave up all they had—even their lives—because they counted the cost and found that following Jesus was worth it. Let’s follow in their example!