The Cost of Discipleship
By Lance Mosher
In 1897, John Stuart McCaig began to build a tower in Oban, Scotland. With a 650-foot circumference, this tower was going to be quite impressive. Unfortunately, McCaig was unable to finish building his tower. Similarly, in Edinburgh, there stands an unfinished war memorial. Without sufficiently counting the costs, the government began to build. It has been unfinished for almost two centuries. Today, the monument is known by locals as “Scotland’s Disgrace.” Those considering discipleship today can learn from such follies.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 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.”
Jesus says that those who want to come after Him should consider how much it will cost first. What will discipleship cost you? Though people will pay different costs, there are some universal costs to discipleship.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Notice James does not use the word if. He says we should consider it joy when we are tried. Discipleship of Jesus Christ will cost you trials. There will be times in each disciple’s life that require patience and endurance. You will question God, His timing, and His planning. Unbelievers do not have this in their lives, since they have not invested their trust in their Creator. The promise is that if we endure these trials, God will have His work in us, and we will lack nothing, including the crown of life!
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Again, in verse 13, we see the word when. Discipleship of Jesus Christ will cost you temptation. Those in the world face temptation, too, but since they’re not trying to follow Christ, they have no reason to resist Satan. Disciples, however, have made a covenant with God to crucify the flesh and its desires and allow Christ to live in them (Gal. 2:20; 5:24). Temptation is a part of life, and it is not bad by itself. In fact, Scripture teaches that even Jesus “has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Using the power of Christ (Phil. 4:13), don’t let temptation result in sin, which results in death and separation from God (Rom. 6:23; Isa. 59:1-2). In Matthew 4:1-11, every time that Jesus was tempted, He responded by quoting Scripture. Follow the advice of the psalmist. Treasure God’s word in your heart like Christ. That will keep you from all sin.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Scripture also teaches that discipleship will cost you persecution. You will be mistreated for who you are and Who you live for.
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
When the apostle Paul wrote the above words, he was awaiting the gallows (2 Tim. 4:6). He was about to be killed (literally) for preaching Christ. Though we might not have our lives threatened as those Christians in the first century (we might!), we will all be mistreated for the sake of Christ. Make sure that when all is said and done, you will be able to repeat Paul’s dying words.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
All of the above costs are outside forces (trials, temptation, and persecution). What will discipleship cost you from your own life? It will cost you just that: your own life.
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus lists family, possessions, and self as the cost of discipleship. What else is left of a person after giving up those things? Nothing at all. Are you willing to give it all to Christ? He will allow you to still use it all; however, from now on, you must use it knowing that it belongs to Christ and not you. Your car will belong to Christ. Don’t go anywhere in your car that you wouldn’t be willing to take Christ with you. Don’t spend any money on things that Christ would not buy. Treat your family with the love of Christ, because it is now His family. Treat your life as belonging to Christ. Every bit of it.
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Except where noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation