Change for the sake of Jesus is never easy because it requires that we live by faith.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 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. – Luke 14:27-28
Jesus knew the meaning of sacrifice in a way that we can’t fully understand. Being innocent, he willingly absorbed the indescribable judgment that was ours. He endured the cross because he found joy in our happiness and joy in bringing God glory (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus knew the cross was in his future and he moved toward it with focus. His sacrifice didn’t catch him by surprise, and he was remarkably clear about how his disciples would also need to face difficulty. He wanted those who would follow Him to understand what was in front of them.
The cost for us
So what does it cost to follow Jesus? In one sense, nothing. It’s all gain. Any difficulty we face as we following Jesus just serves to build our faith, and because God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28) suffering will ultimately serve us. In another sense, following Jesus will cost everything because we must change move our life’s purpose.
When we were dead in our sins, we were aligned with the priorities and enticements of this world. But now, because we have a changed heart that’s aligned with God, there will be cost in making the shift from the temporal pleasures that bring death, to the everlasting joys that come with the pursuit of eternal life.
But what exactly does it cost?
Jesus spoke of this cost in different ways. In Luke 14:26-33 we read this:
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. – Luke 14:26-33
Jesus is saying that for those who would follow him:
• He must be your first love (v 26).
• His followers will publicly display/confess their hope (v 27). Just as carrying a Roman cross was seen as a public display of Rome’s rule over a condemned person’s life, a disciple lives in a way that show’s Jesus’ rule over their life.
• This new path will claim everything (vs. 28-32)
• Following Jesus includes committing everything to his purposes (v 33)
Pretty daunting, right? For the Christian, however, this shouldn’t sound like a something to dread. It should be something we long for. For the one who knows the salvation of Christ and is a new person in that salvation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:10), we should long to pursue the One who gives us eternal joy. This daunting but beautiful aspiration is ours because we have found a treasure that’s worth more than anything else (Matt 13:44).
While following Jesus is not easy, two things are essential here. First, we should have a desire to worship with everything we are and have. Second, putting the enticements of this world behind us is a process – the process of sanctification. It’s the process whereby the indwelling Holy Spirit moves us closer and closer to the image of Jesus and further and further away from lesser gods.
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25
Applying this to our finances
Changing the way we think about and handle money can be a painful thing. It’s easy to develop an addiction to the temporal and often worldly benefits of money. We go to money to find comfort, power, entertainment, influence, security, approval, and a host of other things. It can be tough finding our satisfaction and purpose in God. And because it can be difficult to break this addiction, it’s important to keep our eyes on Jesus and all that He is for us. Money must become something we use to bring glory to the One who is our supreme treasure.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. – Matthew 6:24
The way to think about self-denial is to deny yourself only a lesser good for a greater good… In other words, Jesus wants us to think about sacrifice in a way that rules out all self-pity. – John Piper