If you remember, in my previous sermon I concentrated at some signs of the cool season. Today I address to you a few others not mentioned yet. First, a number of folks who have turned to the work of evangelism increased in our district and even in our church. Reflecting on this reality as positive, we thank the Lord. Second, as it seems for the best, the new evangelists still need additional instruction. In this case, we’ll look for a problem and response on it.
I believe that this problem is a result of spiritual weakness and lack of knowledge. It can be seen in a message addressed to the lost. For example, the new evangelist may surprise the listeners with a statement, “Jesus loves you;” or, the evangelist may say, no matter how deep your sins seem to be/and how often you commit them, you will be forgiven for Christ ‘s sake; just believe and don ‘t doubt. As usual, the new evangelists focus man’s eyes on the benefits of being a Christian and at the same time leave out the requirements of being a Christian. In my opinion, the message we communicate to the lost is not effective if it doesn’t include a call to repent, to give up sins, to take a cross, and follow Jesus, (Mar 1:15). Who neglect to speak all truth, looks pretty much as false prophets, (Jer 23:16-17). Take an example from Paul, in (Act 20:26) the apostle confesses his innocence of the blood of all whom he preached the gospel. In addition to benefits, Paul also preached the challenges of being a Christian… for I never shrank from telling you the whole plan of God, he said, (v.27). If the evangelists are silent on the matter of sins and repentance, says a preacher, they may not be disciples at all.
Now, after taking a good start as new evangelists, we’ve been prepared to meditate on the gospel lesson of the day, (Luke 14:25-33). After reading the passage, we recall Jesus as a Teacher and Traveler. Luke mentioned that a large crowd surrounded Jesus as he was teaching and journeying to Jerusalem. The people stayed close to him when he taught. However, according to John’s gospel the crowd reduced to twelve (Joh 6:67) and even to a couple (Joh 18:15) when certain challenges of being a disciple brought people down to earth.
Once, while Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria, two men wanted to join them. One man exclaimed, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go. “(Luk 9:57) The other one said, “Lord, I will follow You, but first permit me to say farewell to those who are at my house. “(Luk 9:6 1). In response to the men’s request for membership, Jesus set forth the requirements when he said, – no room for the night; no going back to parents. After that, the men turned on their way. Friends, can you see the rocks ahead? The same thing happened with a rich man whom Jesus offered salvation in exchange as he said, Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me, “(Mar 10:21-22). The same things happened with other so-called disciples as a result of their unbelief to accept and practice the request of discipleship, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you, (John 6: 53).
In our text Jesus introduced two kinds of challenges that constantly reduced a number of his followers. Here they are. First, “If anyone comes to me, said Jesus, 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. Secondly, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” (Luk 14:27).
The first requirement of discipleship may shock people if they have no idea that Jesus himself is the embodied love of God. Think over the question, “Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs?” (Jas 3:12). Certainly, they cannot. From this point, Jesus, who is the embodied love of God, certainly cannot teach us to hate our mother and father as a prerequisite of being his disciples. Now, let us look for a real meaning. As far as we know, love and hate interfere with each other as two bipolar feelings on a relative scale. Therefore, love less means hate more and vice versa. In the context of (Mat 10:37), the Semitic expression “… who does not hate his own father… for my sake,” means… whoever loves father or mother more than me… Christ wants Christians to love him more than their biological families; otherwise, the followers may not be Christians at all.
The second requirement of discipleship points toward our crosses. By the way, after tomorrow, on September 14, is the commemoration of the Holy Cross. Isn’t it interesting to see the genuine Holy Cross in this connection? Many of us saw collections of crosses, usually on walls of our churches and in the fields. After all, what do we think or feel having before our eyes the uncounted number of different crosses? We recall the tiny and huge crosses, being made from brass, granite, glass and wood; they are the reality of our lives, and they are part of our death.
Thanks to the evangelists expired by the Holy Spirit that modem ears are still accustomed to hear the story of mankind’s salvation performed by the Son of God on the cross. Bearing this in mind, let us imagine the Holy Cross. See, how special it is, incomparable in all amalgamable dimensions. This unique cross was the requirement for being the Savior of the World! Someone may ask, didn’t Jesus substitute for us on the cross and suffer in our place? Yes, he died for us! Now, it is our turn to be crucified to the world and the world to us (Gal.6:14). Someone may ask, How? The answer is, “By bearing our crosses!” The disciples must break with their flesh and, if it is necessary, to be ready to suffer for Christ’s sake, and even to die. Don’t let anybody foolish you, our crosses have not been removed yet, or taken from us; instead, Jesus requests that we to bear them daily; otherwise, we may not be Christians at all.
Keeping in mind the requirements for being Jesus’ disciples, I call your attention to the words of the Great Commission. According to this Commission, Jesus sends evangelists to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded, (Mat 28:19,20). Therefore, people whom we go with good news need to know all truth including the cost of being a Christian. They need to hear that besides being saved by faith alone, Jesus calls them to lose the world and gain a cross while in the world. Proclaiming all truth, we’ll open a men’s eyes onto reality and will participate in the salvation of the lost. In addition, the new evangelists may not forget to say that the enemy is fierce and there is only one way to win the war – listen to and obey Jesus’ words, (Luk 6:47).
To be assured that the requirements for being Jesus’ disciples are very serious, our text narrates two parables; both of them focus on the problems that arose from two projects – to build a tower and to succeed in a war. The idea of both is the same, namely before starting a huge project, a builder and a king have to count the cost and to decide whether they are able or not to carry out their expenses. It seems in both cases the persons don’t have enough money and power to accomplish their plans. In the present situation, the builder and the king need more funds and more solders; otherwise, they will make a mess.
According to the lesson from two parables, the evangelists may not have enough funds and they may not many in number. According to the lesson from two parables, they cannot meet all requirements of being the evangelists by themselves as well as the builder and the king from the parables. However, unlike the builder and the king, the evangelists have a Helper. They can pray to the Lord for help – to love more, and to be able to bear their crosses daily. And if they will have these, much will be given as well, (Mat 6:33). Because he said, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Mat 28:20). Amen
Finally, let’s say in brief all stories. Please keep in mind two things. First, whenever you preach salvation to the lost, also preach the requirements of being saved. Second, if you do not feel comfortable to preach the requirements of being a Christian, ask the Lord for help. Think of this and make up your mind. (Luk 14:35).