Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sermon September 3-4, 2016

Title: Discipleship is a bear!
Text: Luke 14:25-35

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.

If you were to look at Rembrandt's 1653 etching of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you'd be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his own sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross.

Source Unknown.

We also recognize that by our own sins Christ was nailed to the cross.

Discipleship is a bear!

25 Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], 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.” 

To live for Jesus is to deny life itself. Boy, discipleship is a bear!

And now Jesus tells these followers in the crowd: 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Sounds like a good way to help those who were following Jesus to fall away, doesn’t it?

In our Old Testament lesson today we hear the very familiar call.

... choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

The idea of choosing sounds good to we who, living in a democratic society, get to choose quite a lot of things. We can choose where we live in the country, what career we might wish to go into, and whom we marry. The call of … choose life … is often confused in the life of a Christian and applied to the work of evangelism as though we can choose to believe just as we can choose to be born.

The gift of life is both given in our natural birth as well as the gift of faith is given in our spiritual birth from a God who came to redeem those who were unable to redeem themselves and that is why the text here today is a good one for us to understand and rejoice in.

The call of God in this text is not to the world but to God’s people Israel. Those chosen children of Abraham whom Moses had given God’s Law written on the tablets of stone by the finger of God, were called by Him to choose to stay in the relationship with Him apart from falling away into sin, false gods and idol worship. This keeping of God’s commandments, his statutes and rules would bring God’s blessing to them as they entered into the land that He was giving them to possess.

So too our own lives as we cannot be Christ’s disciple without bearing our own cross. The reality of Jesus’ call … to hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters … figuratively as opposed to literally, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. This, none the less, is a serious matter meaning that we cannot let anything draw us away from the gift of following Christ and being his disciple, the gift of being his child.


Some years ago when witnessing to a friend, he joyfully came to me at work one day to proclaim to me that the night before he had prayed to Jesus - receiving him as his savior. He was quite happy because this had been a long and tedious process with many and various talks about Jew and Gentile, the Old and New Testament, and Sabbath verses Sunday worship. I even met him on a Sunday and went with him to a church in his area so as to help him transition into being a disciple or follower of Jesus.

A few weeks later I asked him if he had been attending the church. ‘No”, he said. Sunday was the day that he and his wife slept in. She wasn’t much interested in religion and he didn’t want to offend her. As we talked, I shared this text with him and suggested that he might … without offending her … rise early and go to the 8:00 am service and be home at 9:00 am to spend the rest of his day with her. There also might be opportunities to share what he had heard and learned by attending worship. 

… “Who knows, I said, Maybe God will soften her heart as well and draw you both closer to him and to each other?”

Well … they never attended church … and their marital situation, which hadn’t been good, became even worse. Ultimately he cheated, and they divorced. The devil does not hope for you to live in wedded bliss, as a Christian, or as a pagan and unbeliever. He desires to destroy everything God has brought together, father and mother, husband and wife, brothers and sisters, even the very fabric of the family unit - the devil hops to destroy and tear apart. 

Isn’t it interesting that what my friend tried to hold together himself … excluding God from his life and marriage … fell apart.

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.’

He came to be a follower of Christ and by faith received Jesus, but he didn’t welcome him into his home. There is a cost to becoming a Christian and with that we must place Christ first. Many put family first and it certainly is a great blessings to have a loving family but the devil uses all things to divide and pull us away from Jesus and the family can be used for that as well.

I did a baptism a few years ago for a little boy. The family doesn’t attend church here anymore though they desired baptism for their child. They had been an active member once but moved out of the area … to Clarkston. As I spoke with them about the importance of regular worship and being fed God’s word the mom said, “Well we’re a sports family and the weekends are tied up with the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings!” Its funny how from Clarkston to Peace is so far that being in worship even occasionally is impossible, but driving to Downtown Detroit for a sporting event is no big deal and becomes a family tradition. It puts a bit of perspective as to what Jesus is talking about. What is it that draws you away or me? Give it some thought. What is it that draws loved ones away or our kids? 

The devil divides and he delights in division.

33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

The great work of Dietrich Bonheoffer the Cost of Discipleship comes to mind.

He writes:

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer Works Vol 4 1937

This is the message of Jesus. Let nothing come between you and him and his saving Gospel. This past Thursday pastor Merrell and I officiated at the funeral of Betty Buchanan. Betty had the ups and downs of life that we all know. She had problems, she lost her husband in 1971; she lost her oldest son 19 years ago and her youngest 11 years ago, she lost her eyesight and largely the ability to care for herself, dementia stole her memory at times and brought sad time of her life into view as if it was happening all over again. But the Holy Spirit was with her pointing out that Jesus died for her, that Jesus carried her cares and burdens and that Jesus was always with her never leaving her nor forsaking her. To be Christ’s is to give away all that you are (sinful and unclean) so that you receive all that he is. (righteous and just)

May that be your joy now and always!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.


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