Lesson 6 Discipleship: A Great Cost
Key Scriptures: Luke 14:25-35, Matthew 8:18-22, Matthew 16:24-28 and Matthew 19:16-30
As we become disciples, our spiritual eyes are opened to the cost of discipleship. Jesus Christ paid the highest cost of His life through His obedience to His Father. As disciples, we share in this great cost by first dying to our old selves and then being born as new creatures. Jesus challenges us daily to be transformed into His likeness. Our transformation will cost more than our first act of obedience in baptism. For each disciple, the cost may be different according to our individual struggles and our life stories. Yet, the cost of discipleship pales in light of the rewards that Jesus offers each disciple. The goal of this lesson is for each of us to come to a better understanding of the cost of being Jesus’ disciples and to be encouraged to pay that cost daily.
Teachers’ Notes: One change that I believe will help the lesson is to combine questions #1 and #2. I will add another question labeled 2b, while still providing some dialogue for #1 and #2 for those who wish to adhere to the old layout. Our major issue in this lesson will be to emphasize that an active faith in Christ entails a cost. Disciples must consider the impact of this cost to our lives.
1. In Luke 14:25-27, why did Jesus use the word “hate” to emphasize the cost of following him?
At first, this statement from Jesus may seem to be contradictory to his other commands to love your neighbor as yourself and love one another. In context, Jesus is emphasizing that each person must Love him first and foremost above other earthly relationships. While, Jesus strongly supports Love of family, he must be first in our lives. We as his disciples must be ready to suffer any loss, even family relationship in order to follow him. If we follow him, then we must put him first. Anything less is unacceptable! This is a major cost to some people. It requires a change of personal perspective that allows the individual to act independently from those on earth he cares the most for as family or friends.
2. In Luke 14:25-27, how do we interpret Jesus’ cost of discipleship? Why did Jesus use such strong language in these verses?
Jesus understands that being a disciple will come at a cost. He wants the disciples to consider this cost or at least be willing to understand and personalize such a cost. We need to take time to understand what we should expect from the world. Note, Jesus says in John15: 18 that the world will “hate” us as the world “hates” him. The cost can be great. Within this past week, some missionaries were killed in Yemen. It can be a very hostile world were physical death can be a real possibility!
Jesus use of such strong language indicates the very serious nature of being his disciple. We should not take our Calling and our transformation lightly. Jesus says if we are not willing to give up everything, we cannot be his disciples. Such a statement must and should make us feel uncomfortable. Deep reflection and prayer should be the result of these statements, for without the Spirit of God working in our lives, this cost could not be given over to God. We do not have the ability to stay faithful without His Nature in our lives.
2b. “The extra question”! In Luke 14: 27 and Matt. 16: 24, what does Jesus mean when he says that we should carry our cross and follow him?
Each person must be willing to bear the burdens of discipleship and suffer for Jesus’ sake. Just as Jesus bore the cross of the world’s sins, we should be able and willing to follow in his footsteps. Each disciple may have a different cross to bear but it will be a cross. Ask our class to explain the symbol of the cross. Is bearing the cross part of our transformation? I believe the answer is yes! If we are too comfortable with our lives and we do not see a cost for our walk of faith, then we need to reflect on our relationship with Jesus and determine if we are really following him. Now, this is a strong statement that I have made in response to the question, yet, my answer is weak in comparison to Jesus’ answer. We will see more of his response to his disciples in the next questions.
3. In Luke 14:28-33, why did Jesus use the two examples of estimating cost? What examples might he use today to emphasize the cost of following him?
The examples used by Jesus were familiar to his audience then as well as to his audience today. Whether building a house or going to war, everyone can understand these examples because each has a cost and each must be considered before they are attempted. Each is a life altering action. In each example, the person must take time to consider, even calculate the cost and then make a decision whether to attempt the action or not. Jesus is demanding that we do no less for him.
Some examples of modern day life altering possibilities may include our possible war with Iraq. We understand (we hope – a worldly type) that the President and his advisors have counted the cost to the United States if we wage war against Iraq. Ask the class for their examples. Please make sure that each example has definite cost.
4. Using Matthew 8:18-22, Matthew 16:24-28, and Matthew 19:16-
22, describe the examples Jesus used to emphasize the cost of following him. Do these examples seem too harsh or difficult to obey? Why?
I believe this is the central question of the lesson. We have the interaction of Jesus with three disciples. In each case, Jesus demands the highest cost. He pinpointed in his dialogue with these followers the item that vied for position above Jesus. For example, in His dialogue with the teacher of the law, it is inferred by Jesus’ answer to him that the primary concern of the teacher was his position and home. If not, why did Jesus answer him by stating that the Son of Man does not have a home while even the wild animals had places to lay down.
Next, a man wishes to bury his father, yet Jesus insists that his Call takes priority. Although this seems cruel, we must remember that Jesus is asking for our full and undivided attention. All time and effort is afforded to him and rightfully belongs to him. Our earthly concerns are only shadows when compared to following him.
The words are Jesus’ words and not simply opinions. We see in these examples, individuals who think they have attained high spiritual standing and are seeking the approval of Jesus for their actions. Yet, Jesus informs them that more is required to follow him than obeying the law. Our heart, soul, and mind must belong to him first and foremost. If these are in line, all else will follow.
5. Using Matthew 16:26, what value does the world place on the soul?
Most people do not consider the future in terms of eternity but in terms of worldly time. People are willing to expend every resource available to them to gain the “whole world”, and yet these are the things of a temporary nature. This irony is addressed in the expression “you can’t take it with you.” We understand that life is short but the gaining of material things seems to consume us daily.
Just reflect on the advertisements of the day and the messages they convey or the consumerism of the holiday that just passed. We tend to express our philosophy of life in terms of the materials with which we surround ourselves. This can lead to an underlying and most of the time unintentional philosophy of materialism. We must move, with the help of the Holy Spirit beyond this philosophy of materialism to a mature view of our spiritual walk as a disciple that has counted the cost. No matter what the world believes, our soul is worth more than silver, gold, or the whole world. Our soul is worth the death of Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Living God!
6. Using Matthew 19:29-30, what are the rewards of following Jesus?
Why would these rewards outweigh the cost of discipleship?
Our rewards are eternal blessings, one of which is a home in heaven with Jesus. Although we may have earthly blessings, remember these are temporary. Jesus trains our eyes to the final inheritance not to the temporary. The heavenly blessings will far out shine the earthly blessings. In fact, we see an indication that what we give up on earth will be repaid a hundred times more in eternity. I believe this is difficult for us to grasp but we must dwell in the Hope that we discussed last week. Through the gift of Hope that is made alive in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to anticipate the future inheritance that awaits us.
This Week’s Challenge: What has been your greatest struggle to overcome in order to follow Jesus? Share your struggle with another disciple.
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