Business Man with TabletThis may be the most frustrating of The Foundations for me to write. It is frustrating because its truth is so obvious, and yet we are so obvious in our ignorance of its truth. I am not writing these articles to judge anyone, but it is hard – very hard – not to wonder why so many church leaders choose to ignore their responsibility in helping prospective converts count the cost of following Jesus.

We do not lack for instruction on the subject. The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoefffer, has been with us since 1959. Before and since then, many have been encouraged to write and speak on the subject (apparently, I am another one). The truth is, the Bible says it clear enough that other writings are not necessary; if we would only believe, live and share what God has to say on the subject.

Sit Down First

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?  Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.  So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:25-33

Wrapped in a few imperative statements about the cost of being Jesus’ disciple is His encouragement to count the cost first. “First” is not later. In fact, it is the opposite of later.

These and many other cost statements (Matthew 5:39-42; Luke 9:23-24; John 8:31; 13:35; 15:7-8, 12-14; 2Timothy 3:12) make it abundantly clear that the cost is everything; and the cost is for everyone that would be a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are no exceptions to the “everything”. There are no exceptions to the “everyone”.

It Will Cost You Your Soul

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:35

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. Luke 9:24

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17:33

He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25

Make no mistake about it; these verses are referring to our salvation. The understanding of this is so important that the Holy Spirit determined to record these words of Jesus six times in the Gospels. That is more than any other truth He had to share. So, why isn’t it shared more with those considering His invitation to “come and follow Me”?

It is important to recognize that these verses are not talking about our old nature, or our old man. The Greek word translated “life” is psychē. Our psychē is our soul; that part of our being that stays with us throughout eternity. Therefore, the cost mentioned in these passages is an eternal surrender of our feelings, desires, and affections to the One who would be our Savior. Nothing less than total subjection is required.

The trials and tribulations of the coming storm will sorely test us in this matter of our life. It is better that we count the cost on the front end. Otherwise, the risks of deception, surprise and disappointment become very great.

Striving to Enter

And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’  But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ Luke 13:22-27

Entering “through the narrow gate” is clearly a matter of our salvation. Those that do not “strive to enter” will not be able. They will be left outside.

The Greek word translated as “strive” is agōnizomai. It means “to enter a contest; to contend with adversaries, fight; metaph. to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers; to endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive to obtain something”. Clearly, entering the kingdom of God is hard work. Getting people off the broad way is one thing; but, should we leave them at the gate?

This matter of striving may challenge your salvation paradigm. That’s not a bad thing. It may help you to know that the grace that saves us is the same grace that empowers our striving. We will search this out in an upcoming Foundation. For now, consider this in light of Philippians 3:12 and 2Peter 1:5-11.

The Reason We Choose to Pay the Cost

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29

Jesus did not hide, nor soft pedal, the investment required to be His disciple. He knew it would be great. Furthermore, He continually shared the cost, knowing it would significantly reduce the number of those following Him. He did so because it was His Father’s will; and He did it with joy because He knew the return on that investment was far greater than we could imagine.

In same way, we must keep in mind that we are not recruiting converts for ourselves, but for the One who loved us and gave His life for us. Our willingness to make the cost clear is an opportunity to truthfully (i.e., without deception) participate in His love for His Bride; and, as His Bride, to share in that love towards Him. How could we neglect such a salvation? How could we neglect such a responsibility?

Conclusion

Becoming a disciple is not an elective graduate course in Jesus’ school of ministry. A disciple is something He makes of everyone that desires to follow Him. Counting the cost of discipleship is something best done at the beginning. How many have raised their hand, walked the aisle, and said a prayer – only to become frustrated and confused when they later found out there was a cost? How many years were wasted in easy believe-ism? What could have been invested for kingdom return – in this life and the one to come?

It saddens and sobers me to ask these questions. It saddens, because I am one of those who wasted too many years of my life (and God’s investment in me). It sobers, because I know this is true for others; and, as a Christian leader, I am responsible for rescuing them from their condition. I am not alone in this. Every Christian leaders has been given this responsibility.

Does it take more time to count the cost? Absolutely! Might some decide that the cost is too great? It is likely that many will. Are numbers more important than making sure all that are called to follow have counted the cost? Does the threat of lower numbers give us excuse to lead others in disobedience?

Application

For Christian leaders, there may not be a more important activity than counting the cost. God has invested authority and influence into us. These investments are for the sake of His kingdom. Our resistance reveals our self-reign and/or our lack of faith. Counting the cost empowers us to face ourselves and overcome the enemies that seek to distract us from joyful, Spirit-filled ministry. It will also qualify and prepare us to help others do the same.

It is important to recognize that we are responsible to help those we are discipling through this decisive step. It is much easier to teach something that we have experienced ourselves. Sit down with God, and let Him help you count the cost of being a disciple of His Son.

Assignment

  1. Consider the consequences of our failure to lead others in counting the cost, first. If necessary, repent and seek His forgiveness. He will give you the strength and courage for the next step.
  2. Edify and encourage those in your spheres of influence to count the cost of following Jesus.
  3. Explore the meaning of striving to enter the narrow gate. Take the necessary steps; including, sharing this Foundation with others.

Recommended Reading

The following are some of my favorite books on this subject. Most can be found at your local Christian book store, or at one of the many online distributors.

The Cost of Discipleship; Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Normal Christian Life; Watchman Nee

Humbly Yours and Forever His,