The Cost

The Cost

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’ Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000? If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions.” –Luke 14:26-33

So how can salvation be a gift and yet come with a price? As American consumers we are too accustomed to “having it all,” and so each Christmas we just add new toys to our storage bins, only discarding those things that have lost their appeal. We believe we can both eat the proverbial cake and yet simultaneously save it for later. But God’s gift requires an exchange. It would be like winning a brand new car, but being required to trade in our old vehicle—which happens to be a broken scooter. Or being given a mansion to live in, but having to turn in the keys to our current home—which happens to be a cardboard box. It is hardly a shrewd transaction on God’s part, which is what makes it such a gracious and great exchange. It is a gift so valuable that to not require a sacrifice would demean its value.

But we are tempted to refuse the exchange when we realize that we have to also abandon our cherished, shabby blanket and grocery cart of fond memories, forgetting that these too are shadows of God’s gracious gifts (Jam 1:17).

But we can hardly cling to Christ alone and serve Him with all our hearts (1Sa 12:24) if our fists are full of other things (Luke 16:13). To walk towards the promised land, we must leave behind Egypt (Exo 20:6)—especially in our hearts (Acts 7:39). And to enter that land, we must willingly and faithfully follow our deliverer through the wilderness (Num 32:11-12). We cannot just long to be free of suffering and slavery. We must forsake the plentiful gifts of this world (Exo 16:3) in order to free up hands of faith to lay hold of treasures above (1Ti 6:17-19).

And so every idol must be torn down and destroyed (Deu 7:5-6; 2Ch 14:2-5) in order for worship of the Lord to commence (Jdg 6:25-26). All our ambitious dreams and expectations of establishing permanent settlement here on earth must be forsaken (Luke 12:16-21; Phi 2:3; Jam 4:14-15) (ex: Mat 4:20; 9:9). We are but travelers (1Pe 1:17), emissaries (2Co 5:20), foreign soldiers (2Ti 2:3) and citizens of a kingdom not of this world (Phi 3:20; John 18:36). We must renounce all our possessions (Mat 19:21), and learn to be content even if all we have is food and clothing (1Ti 6:8).

“As Jesus looked at [the young man], he felt love for him and said, ‘You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.” – Mark 10:21-22

Do not be foolish and cling to your cardboard box. Leave behind the basket of meager trinkets you have gathered. Pick up your cross and follow Him wherever He leads. A mansion awaits.

Billy Neal

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The Withered Fig Tree

withered tree

And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” — Matthew 21:20-22

Men, the disciples have watched as Jesus judges a fig tree and it withers away. Mark and Luke tell us, the following day the 12 noted that it was dead. Modern herbicides couldn’t do what Jesus has done. While the 12 marvel, Jesus answers, “Assuredly, if you have faith and do not doubt”… they too can do as Jesus has done. Again, faith and believing are 2 different concepts used together. Faith is “seeing” as Jesus would see, and then believing God will do it through us.

Jesus saw the tree as fruitless and dead. The next day, it was. He goes on and says mountains can be removed and cast into the sea. With the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus, we recognize that there is a very real and literal component to this statement. More often, Jesus is speaking of the Spiritual. Mountains are often used to describe kingdoms in the prophetic. The sea often represents Gentiles. This is before Gentiles came to Jesus en masse. Kingdoms are often ideologies opposed to Godliness.

In short, Jesus may be saying that by seeing as He does, and praying without doubt, the oppression which comes against them will be turned back upon their oppressors. Jesus closes this lesson saying “whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Let’s be real a moment. We seldom pray. We petition. Prayer is a conversation. We mostly toss a request list at the sky and hope for the best. If we are praying, which is hearing and asking in agreement, and believe what we are hearing back from Him, God will engage with us.

I often cringe at writing this knowing too few can discern the voice of the Lord from any other spirit or from their own desire. Even so, the passage speaks and we need to know what is available to true believers. It’s not a magic show, it’s asking for what He is showing us. It is not by any power within us, but His power on display as we agree with what He wants to do.

Move forward men, asking to see, ask Him to remove the doubt and show you again.

Vance Durrance

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Unlocking Favor

antique-lock-with-key-unlocked-padlock-with-key

“Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, ‘Come on, let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will intervene for us. Nothing can prevent the Lord from delivering, whether by many or by a few.’” –1 Samuel 14:6

Read 1 Samuel 13-15 and contrast these two men: Saul and Jonathan. It is startling to witness the way God demonstrates distinctions. And so it should not surprise us when later Jonathan humbly steps aside to let his rule pass to another (1Sa 23:17), while Saul becomes filled with bitter hatred (1Sa 19:1).

So see here where Saul continues to sit in disobedience (14:2), worrying about dwindling numbers (13:8), Jonathan is focused only on the victory (14:10)—boldly seeking to advance the kingdom without permission from men (14:1), and unconcerned with the fact it was just him and his armor bearer with only a single sword between them (13:22). Saul is so preoccupied with the need for a religious sacrifice to unlock favor (13:12), that he neglects obedience (10:8; 15:22). Yet Jonathan trusted in the greatness of the Lord and His promise of deliverance (9:16) and putting thousands to flight when He was the object of trust (Lev 26:7-8; Deu 28:7). Jonathan understood that it is God who fights for His people (Jos 23:10), and so he sought not the favor of his father (14:29), but only the true king of Israel—the LORD (14:12; Psa 24:8).

And so how often is our advance halted when we, like Saul, look to earthly evidence of strength (13:5-6), seeking greater numbers to give us confidence? How often do we cause ourselves and others to blunder (14:32) and lose sight of love (14:39) by exalting our own will above God’s (14:24,32). How often do we limit our own victory (14:30), by making the battle about us (14:24), seeking to honor ourselves (15:12).

Oh, Lord, help us to live as Jonathan, not depending on any religious practices to garner favor with You, but help us to activate the favor promised us by moving forward in obedience through faith. You have promised us the victory!

Billy Neal

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