Your Loss Is Your Gain
December 08, 2019 | Randy Smith
Your Loss Is Your Gain
Sunday, December 8, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
I really enjoy being out West. I admire the beautiful geography. But when you can combine the incredible scenery with its unique history (after all they call it the “Wild West” for a reason), it is becomes especially fascinating. And one of those fascinating legacies is the four great trails that were used during the westward expansion—The Oregon Train, the Mormon Trail, the California Trail and the Pony Express.
The Pony Express was our first extended mail route connecting Missouri to California. It operated from 1860-1861 and was eventually ended when the transcontinental telegraph was established. The Pony Express disappeared as quickly as it came, but in no time it was romanticized and became part of the lore of the American West. Young tough riders with fast horses became a symbol of the rugged frontier life.
It is such a captivating story. These guys were amazing. Tremendous opposition along the way. The physical endurance necessary to cover dozens of miles each day. Everything done for the sake of speed. There were the rock stars of the American frontier.
Because of this there could have been a real emotional desire to join. But because of the significant risk, it was made clear what was expected if you wished to enlist. There was no fine print. The headline of the ad requesting riders read, “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Now, do you still want to ride the Pony Express?
When it comes to “riding” with God, there are many advantages as well to being a Christian. Joy. Satisfaction. Peace. Hope. Purpose. Heaven. Who wouldn’t want these?
So, as Christians we share the truth of where they can be found. We are like the riders on the Pony Express. We risk persecution. We make every effort to get the Good News to others in a timely manner. We tell people, as we are commanded in Scripture, that all this can be found in Jesus Christ.
We mean well with our intentions, but where we fall short is that we don’t reveal the true expectations. We don’t tell people what giving their life to Christ really entails. We just want them to sign up. As a matter of fact, we don’t do it in the fine print. We don’t even include the fine print!
The extent of many Gospel presentations: “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” “Invite Jesus into your life.” “Open your heart to God.”
Unfortunately, these good intentions, reveal a total ignorance of the Bible and cause significant damage. They can produce people who believe they are saved, when in reality they are not. They can produce the very people Jesus described a chapter earlier who said to Him, “‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’ [to which He said], ‘I tell you, I do not know … you … depart from Me’” (Lk. 13:26-27).
As we have been learning, Jesus did not make it easy to be saved. He made it hard. There is a problem when many professing Christians today believe a message about following Him that is far removed from the very message Jesus proclaimed to people who wanted to follow Him during His time on the earth. Ironically, most churches would never let Jesus teach a class on evangelism.
These are some tough verses, but it is essential that we understand what Jesus expects from those who wish to be His disciples. It a nutshell it is total commitment. As we will see with the three sermon points, following Jesus must place Him over our love for society, love for self and love for stuff.
We need to get moving!
Jesus Over Society (verse 26)
So, the first point, “Jesus over Society.” In other words, we must love Jesus, be more devoted to Jesus than we are to other people, even the people we cherish the most in our lives.
Look at verse 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.”
Now you might not like me for sharing these things, but you can clearly see for yourself what Jesus said Himself about the expectation of following Him. You say, “But wait, hate our parents and spouse and siblings? Aren’t we call to love them? Aren’t we called to love all people, even our enemies?” Yes, we are! So how do we reconcile this?
I believe the best explanation is to understand the word, “hate.” In the Hebrew culture of the day, this word was used as a way to convey indifference to one and preference toward another. Remember – Jacob I loved, Esau I hated? Of course, we are to love the most those closest to us, but in comparison to our love for Jesus it is to be much less. With this expression, Jesus is using hyperbole.
When we come to Christ, we don’t love our family less. What a horrible testimony that would be! On the contrary we love people, especially our family more, but because of our deeper love, affection, devotion to Jesus they are “loved less” than Christ. To “hate” others is just a radical way, a shocking way of saying nothing should surpass our love for Christ.
You see, commonly we portray the Christian life as loving Jesus and hating Satan. Loving the light and hating darkness. Loving the Bible and hating sin. And all of this is true. But the problem with just thinking in this manner is that it eliminates the “good stuff” in our lives that can quickly become “bad stuff” when it is not viewed in its proper perspective. Sure, we should love our spouses, but when we place our spouse in the position of God, we have turned the person into an idol in our lives. That person then becomes our functional god (which is unfair to them) and the true God takes a back seat (which is unfair to Him). This is about prioritizing Jesus, Colossians 1:18, “so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”
Jesus Over Self (verses 26–27)
Second, our love for Jesus must come before our love for ourselves. Look first at verse 26. “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, [now listen!] and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
So, it is one thing to put Jesus above other people, now perhaps the greatest test, especially in a culture where are told to cherish our self-esteem, is to put Jesus over ourselves. What we are talking about here is a death to self so God can live His life through us. It is the denying ourselves that we learned about in 9:23. It’s fine to have dreams and plans and goals for your life. But the point here is that all you do is under your desire to submit yourself entirely to Him. Clearly this includes behavior that is contrary to God’s holiness, but it also includes everything for your life in general. What profession is God calling you to pursue? Where does God want you to live? How does God want you to spend that money? Where does God want you in your relationship to this church? It is about giving Jesus control over everything. It is about doing everything through Him and for Him.
One of my favorite lines from Chariots of Fire was when Olympic Champion Eric Liddle said, “God made me fast and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Our call is not to join a monastery. Our call is to live in this world, but never pursue anything in our lives that is not through and not for Christ. Everything is a God-decision whereby He lives His life through us. And when we live our lives is our conscious clear and heart at peace because we feel His pleasure, because we feel that we are in the center of His will?
If there is any doubt in the tone of this requirement for discipleship, look at the following verse. 14:27, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Let’s not sugar-coat this! Jesus was talking about crucifixion. Crucifixion, the death penalty imposed by the Romans that was reserved for the vilest of criminals and resulted not only in death, but awful, prolonged agony.
Need an example of how to “hate” (verse 26) your life? Are you willing to die for Jesus? This is high-risk adventure folks, Pony Express stuff! And while martyrdom is true for many Christians as I speak all over the world, the general application of suffering for Jesus to some degree will be true for all of us. No fine print here – all large and boldfaced. How do you know you love Jesus more than yourself? Are you willing to suffer shame for Jesus? Are you dying to self? If not, you love yourself more than you love Him.
Now, let me be clear. This does not mean we go out and look for trouble. Nor does this mean that persecution comes when we do nothing. What was the context? Verse 25, Jesus was moving toward Jerusalem. Jesus was actively following the will of God for His life. And as a result, there was a literal crucifixion waiting for Him when He arrived. Why? It is because He did not compromise with the world. It is because He taught God’s Word. It is because He loved the Father more and Himself less that the persecution naturally followed.
What do we hear today? Come to Jesus and He will take away your pain. Come to Jesus and He will fulfill all your dreams. Come to Jesus and He will make you prosperous. Come to Jesus and He will improve all your relationships. Quite the opposite. “Hate” your family “hate” your own life (in the way I just explained it). For if you do not, verse 26, “[You] cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus Over Stuff (verse 33)
So, Jesus over society, Jesus over self and last, Jesus over stuff. Wow, could Jesus have picked anything greater that we cherish in our lives? Look with me at verse 33. “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
So, the verse is very clear, up to one phrase. We know it pertains to discipleship, following Jesus: “None of you can be My disciple.” It’s exhaustive to everyone who wishes to follow Jesus: “None of you.”
Its object is plainly identified: Our “possessions.” But like “hate” earlier, is the command as it appears to be stated, a demand to literally “give up all [our] own possessions.” In other words, if we wish to come to Jesus must we give everything we own away and live as a beggar. Big church here and I am not aware of anyone who has done that!
The ESV translation is helpful. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Renouncing all. Not giving all, but renouncing all. Perhaps the literal translation from the Greek is the best. “Say goodbye” to all your possessions. What we are getting at here is understanding that our life does not consist of what we own. Moreover, it is understanding God owns all you have. You are technically an owner of nothing and are His steward over everything.
So, you do not literally “hate” your family. And you don’t literally lose your life by ending it. And here, you don’t literally give away everything you own. The message in all of these is the same. From the greatest things and people in your life, to your very life itself, is all subordinate to Jesus Christ? He is your loyalty. He is your ultimate love. He is what brings you the ultimate joy. He is your treasure. And He is your Master whereby obeying Him is gaining Him and thus might mean a loss in what we used to consider our most-treasured gods.
So, after this sermon you may be thinking four thoughts:
First, “I do not want to take Jesus at His demands.”
Jesus understands that. He does not make it easy or lower the standard of the faith that is required. Right in the context of stating what He requires, He tells people to consider the cost.
Beginning in verse 28. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace” (Lk. 14:28–32).
Second, “The demands are too high.”
Yes, they are very lofty. But realize this, they represent the exact path that Jesus Himself walked for us. He chose the will of the Father, rejection from family and friends, no love for possessions, persecution, suffering and death; by way of “carrying His own cross.” He is calling us to His life.
Third, “I do not see why this is so important.”
Coming to Jesus in genuine faith means following Him as Lord of your life. It is giving Him the reigns. It is giving Him full ownership of your life. It is allowing Him to make you more like Himself. This is the point of salvation. And this is impossible when you still have higher affections and loyalties and loves for things other than Him.
And fourth: “After considering the cost I chose to reject Jesus.”
You are entitled to that decision. But realize this: Coming to Jesus is costly, but it is far more costly to run from Jesus. As Jesus said, is it wise to gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul? In our Lord’s economy, losing actually means gaining. Do people really bring ultimate satisfaction? Does self-love really make us better people? Do possessions really provide deep abiding joy?
It is a step of faith that really believes I will be happier if I do it His way. As Jesus said in the parallel passage in Matthew, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Mt. 10:39).