"This man began to build and was not able to finish." Luke, chapter 14, verse 30.
THERE are two focal points in this chapter to be noted. First the feast at which our Lord spoke impressively so much that one exclaimed: "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." The other was the great multitude that greeted Him as He emerged from the feast. He was immensely popular at that moment! It is a good thing to anticipate the glories and privileges of the world to come to which we are hastening and it is exhilarating to be one of the crowd who are delighted with the wonders of Jesus, but these may be illusions. There are stern considerations in being a Christian. It involves a decision to build something that will demand all the time and labour that can be given to it. That is to say it will test out our stamina to the limit. It is the entrance into a warfare in which there are conditions that will challenge the stoutest heart.
There is a wonderful joy that the disciple alone can know and if he builds his tower and fights his foe to victory then there opens before him a prospect fair to a degree and quality that no human enterprise could ever enjoy. But there is a price to be paid, and in order that pious exclamations may be seen to be what they really are, and that the multitude may be sorted out to secure the people who mean business, our Lord laid down the challenging teaching with which the chapter ends. We may be well assured that we, too, need the same teaching. The assumption of the world today is that the explanation and end of human experience is the standard of living and the satisfaction of human desire. It should be apparent to us that if these two considerations are pressed by every individual then it means bankruptcy for all.
One day also it will be clear in the light of eternity that to press these two considerations against the will of God will involve our eternal damnation. This is what our Lord would make us to realise in the simple illustrations that He uses to bring home the truth of discipleship. You will notice that as our Lord sets the issue in the illustrations, discipleship is somewhat of an advance upon being " "saved." The man who is proposing to build the tower has in his mind something rising up from the earth heavenward and indeed lays the foundation, but he is not able to continue, he lacks the initiative, the stamina, the resolve, the courage to finish. The king has recognised his enemy, he realises his peril, he declares war, but while he is opposed to his enemy he lacks the power of victory and so must suffer utter defeat or come to a compromise by desiring conditions of peace. It is for every person present, especially all who are presently coming to the table, to give earnest consideration as to whether we are disciples with stamina who have counted the cost and are going through with the implications of Christian discipleship. Therefore let us turn from pious affirmations as we talk about Christianity and from the giddy multitude who want something for nothing to consider these serious things, for serious they are.
The teaching of our Lord is clear that one can be moved by perfectly sincere desires to associate oneself with His Name and yet discover that while they are ready for the delights of being a Christian, they are not prepared for the disciplines by which alone the tower can be built heavenward and the opposing enemy be decimated on the field of battle. It is for every one of us to ask how far we have been moved to lay something of a Christian foundation and found we lacked stamina to complete the task and how far we ran our colours to the mast. But when we measured the enemy and made a compromise which ever since has held us in spiritual bondage, we know however much we claim to be Christians, we are not disciples. Therefore our Lord impresses upon us each one, as he or she will have to give account that we must be sure we are
There is a price to be paid for discipleship from which so far as I can see no professing Christian is exempt. "The disciple is not above his Lord." First there is the realm of human relationships. When you become a Christian, Christ takes absolutely first place in your heart. All human relationships are secondary. If there is a choice to be made it must be a choice of the heart for Him. One of the great sorrows of the years has been to see with what ease professing Christians marry unbelievers and how seldom their Christian living survives. Of course, it does not mean that we become inhuman. On the contrary it means that we realise that all true love finds its spring in the being of God as all light springs from the sun. Therefore love can only proceed from God with the consequence that he who truly loves God first, foremost and absolutely, will be the best lover in every other relationship of life, but never must there be in the heart of the Christian any other person before the Lord Himself.
Secondly, he is to hate his own life also. The life referred to is the life of the soul. The soul is the seat of the self life, whereas when I become a Christian my spirit dead in sin is brought to life eternal, and this is to be my chief concern. When I love my own life I look at everything from what I think to be my own self interest. If I have a lot of money I plan. I vote with a view of keeping what I have got and getting more. If I have nothing but the skill of my hands, feet or head I plan with a view of getting as much as I can for MY ability with very little concern about how others fare. And when it comes to God whether we be rich or poor it is merely a question of giving in time, strength and money what we think we can legitimately spare from the other interests of life that are our real enthusiasm. , Our Lord simply declares that in such conditions of mind we cannot be His disciples. Every person who proposes to be a disciple must clearly understand that he must place the interests of the Lord Jesus Christ absolutely supreme above every other matter in the world. Otherwise he cannot be a disciple.
Thirdly, every disciple must bear His cross and come after Jesus. In this our Lord clearly implies we are following Him. What then is the cross? The cross for our Lord was the final act wherein He consummated the will and purpose of God in this world. He was obedient unto death even the death of the cross. In like manner every disciple must recognise that the one end and explanation of life is to fulfil the will of God. No matter what the cost even to unjust suffering at the hands of others, or suffering because of the sin of others, so only the will and purpose of God in the life is fulfilled. And again let it be noted without this acceptance of the cross we may be professing Christians, we may be baptised, we may sit at His table but it is impossible for us to be His disciple. All this our Lord impresses upon those who are conscious of an urge to be Christians. It is imperative that we count the cost. Then having counted the cost we are, to
We may have enough faith to convince ourselves and others, that we believe Jesus died for our sins. But the building of this tower heavenwards, the task of entering into battle with an enemy must be considered. We must therefore look at the resources we have in relation to what is required of a disciple. And the first is to know our limitations. We are morally very weak. Given certain circumstances we all of us easily fall into sin. Anybody here knows the moral and spiritual facts that whereas we may keep a fairly decent life so far as others can see, God only knows the emotions that stir within our hearts, the desires and the cravings upon which our souls feed and all the upsurge of evil there is within. We are afraid of one another. There are thousands of Christians who would never dare to speak to another about their soul's eternal welfare, whose whole Christianity is based upon "I cannot." Have you enough stamina to see this matter through? Have you really discovered how utterly weak you are? Do you realise that the Christian life is a superhuman life? Every little bit of selfconfidence you have will contribute to your downfall.
How foolish you will look if after you have joined the Church, and laid the foundations, you have to join the throng of those who live in a religious backwater, who profess a name but who in actual fact beyond a little prayer sometimes, are no different whatsoever from any decent man or woman in the world. Secondly, have you understood the power of the enemy coming against you? While you were the bondslave of Satan, doing his bidding, he was, of course content. However the moment you renounce him declaring that you accept Christ as your Saviour he becomes your inveterate enemy. By the means best suited to your case he will never give up until he has brought you into outrageous sin; bound you up in worldly compromise, or reduced you to a nominal Christianity that satisfies your soul but will at the same time keep you in his power in this world and damn your soul in the next.
Or is it that like so many professing Christians today you have ceased to take the powers of darkness seriously? You do not know and you do not want to know that they control all the governments of the world including that of the United States as well as Britain and even Soviet Russia? You do not know that they stir up all the strife in the industrial world making sure through injustice and greed that in this little island we bring ourselves to ruin and poverty. You do not believe that? That is to say you call yourself a Christian but think that our Lord's temptation in the wilderness was a piece of imagination or else deceit? We really, must make up our minds because if the devil will have the audacity to tackle our Lord then we live in a false world if we think he will not regard you and me as men and women whom he can surely ruin forever. Have you realised this fact? Or are you prepared to plunge into what is called the Christian life with gaiety, laughter and delight not knowing that soon you will have to give up your soul to the devil or flee the field? Therefore in the light of the counsel of our Lord every person who seriously, resolutely and with confident faith desires to be a true disciple of the Lord, with stamina sufficient to carry through this tremendous enterprise to its eternal conclusion .and to face the enemy for victory must
Any person who has seriously counted the cost and realised the inadequacy of their resources will inevitably reach the conviction that for stamina and victory there must be help from God. First we look at the Lord Himself Who for the joy set beforeHim endured the cross despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. That is the only way to reach the throne of victory. Every disciple must endure that which is demanded of him or her in the will of God, however it comes and whatever it involves. Certainly the shame of being a Christian, of acknowledging the name of Jesus must be despised. There must be an end of negative silence, of compromising with our fellows because we lack courage. We must commit ourselves to be disciples. We do not want to reach heaven to be as ashamed on that side as we have been on this side, but to get there victoriously.
We must therefore look to the Lord and acknowledge that His way is also ours. Secondly, because by that way He reached the throne and was baptised with eternal omnipotence so we may be sure that the omnipotence of God conferred upon our Lord in heaven is communicated without fail to every disciple who is prepared to endure the cross and despise the shame. Until we step into discipleship we shall never know experimentally the marvellous power of heaven to transform our human weakness into Divine strength. Thousands of Christians know little or nothing of the almighty power of God because they have never from their hearts committed themselves as disciples.
This man began to build with the thought in his mind that he would carry on as long as he could. Therefore he had no help from God because he was not committed to God. He lacked stamina. The king lacked power because he had no intention of defeating the enemy but only of frightening him so long as the enemy was frightened and fled, but when he stood his ground with twice the soldiers at his command immediately the king sent an embassy of peace. We shall never conquer Satan until we are committed to God, even to death rather than dishonour. Then the power of God will be ours. The issue, therefore, is what is our resolution and decision. Do we desire to go through life unsaved, to be from the cradle to the grave, dead in sin, taken captive by the devil at his will, destined to spend a lost eternity? God forbid! Do we intend to be content with professing to be a Christian, lacking moral and spiritual power, silent as to the grace of God, evidently lacking the stamina to carry through the heavenly purpose in our lives, content to be members of the Church, unconcerned about the souls of others, bereft of power to do the will of God, naming the Name of Christ but held fast in effectiveness by the power of the devil?
Or is it our resolve to be disciples, men and women who have understood the nature of salvation, who have counted the cost, who have no confidence in themselves but count on the omnipotence of the One Whose they are and Whom they serve? If this be so then from the moment that we put our hands to the plough we will never again look back. From that moment we lay the foundations resolved to reach the heavens. For from the moment we challenge the powers of hell, from that moment we shall be clothed with the panoply of heaven and great will be the fulfilment of the will of God in our lives. See to it that you are registered in heaven not as an indecisive professor but as a soldier, valiant, resolved and filled with the Holy Spirit.
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