Counting the Cost

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:25–33 (ESV)

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 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? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus addressed proper priorities in the passages we have been reading the past few days. In today’s reading, he does so again with words that may seem a bit harsh. As Jesus spoke to the crowds that were following him, he said that if anyone came to him and did not hate his closest family members, he could not be a disciple. Wow! Why would Jesus say such a thing? Dis Jesus really teach that we should hate our parents, siblings, spouses, and even ourselves?

Jesus, as he often did, was using hyperbole in his teaching. His words were extreme to set up a strong contrast to the opposing action. Here, he pointed out that if there is anything we love more than him, our priorities are out of line. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, deserves our highest affection and the center of our world. Anything less would be idolatry.

To love Jesus with such a love will cost us something. It may cost us a great deal. Jesus told the crowds if they were to follow him they should count the cost and be prepared for the sacrifice it will require. Following Jesus may cost a disciple family, friends, social status, and financially. Some followers may even lose their lives. However, when Jesus is our first love, all sacrifice is worth it. Are you prepared to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus?

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Living Without Fear

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:4–7 (ESV)

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fear can be paralyzing. I have experienced it myself. When I was young and had the chance to ride a roller coaster for the first time it took me several times waiting in line and backing out before I finally was able to work up the courage. Thankfully, my older sister was patient enough to keep going through the line with me each time. I have also seen it in my children in different circumstances. When they are afraid, it is almost impossible to get them to continue the task at hand.

Jesus knew that fear would be a factor in his disciples’ lives. They would be afraid because of the external pressures and consequences of living for him in a world hostile to Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus tells his disciples that the only proper fear is fear of the Lord. God is the final judge and will decide the eternal fate of every person. The world may pressure, persecute, and even kill us, but that is all it can do. Only God has the authority over eternity. And as we live our lives in fear of the Lord, we need not fear the future. God cares for the sparrows and we are of much more value than the sparrows.

What is keeping you from living all out for the Lord? What keeps you from sharing the gospel with others? Is it fear? We only need to fear the Lord and live in obedience to him. When we do that, there is nothing to be afraid of.

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Following Jesus

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Reading the Word

Luke 9:57–62 (ESV)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 8:18-22

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage emphasizes the cost of following Jesus. The word “follow” is repeated three times (vv. 57, 59, and 61) and considers three different scenarios. The first man wanted to follow Jesus and Jesus told him that it was going to cost him daily comforts. Jesus had no place to lay his head, so the man could expect the same for himself. Jesus called the second man to follow him, but the man desired to first go and bury his father. Jesus’ response seems cold, but his point was that the proclamation of the kingdom must take priority over everything else. The third is another man who went to Jesus and desired to follow him, but first wanted to say goodbye to his family. Again, Jesus emphasized that following him means putting Jesus and the work of the kingdom before all else, including family.

Most of us are happy to “follow” Jesus if it does not really interfere too much with our lives. We simply want to add him to everything else we are doing and give him our spare time, money, resources, and effort. That is not what Jesus desires from us. He wants all of us and he wants to be the top priority in our lives. This does not mean that we neglect every other area of responsibility we have been given, but it does mean that every area of life is changed and comes under our relationship to Christ. In all that we do and with all that we have, we seek to honor our Lord and proclaim his kingdom to the world. This commitment is costly and will turn your life upside down. Are you ready to follow him?

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Take Up Your Cross

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Thanks for reading Shaped by the Word. This is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day as we read God’s word together. We are currently reading through the life of Jesus.

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:24–28 (ESV)

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 8:34-9:1; Luke 9:23-27

Who Is My Family?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 12:46–50 (ESV)

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21

Understanding and Applying the Word

While Jesus was drawing crowds and rumors about him being the Messiah were spreading, his family came to see him. Mark tells us in 3:20-21 that they thought Jesus was “out of his mind.” John tells us in 7:1-5 that at least some of his brothers did not believe in him. When word was brought to Jesus that his mother and brothers wanted to speak to him, he replied, “Who are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

With these words, Jesus tells us who is true family is. They are the disciples who live in obedience to the will of God. Jesus’ true followers enter into a relationship with him that is more significant and longer lasting than that of a biological family. The family of God is open to all who believe and follow Christ. The Church is the representation of this family in the world. We belong to the family of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. And we ought to think of our spiritual family in the same way that Jesus did. It is of great and eternal significance!

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