Sunday, June 21, 2020

“The Cost of Discipleship”




Today, our gospel message comes to us from the 10th chapter of Matthew, beginning with the 24th verse, “The cost of discipleship.”

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:24-39)

Father, You sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them, we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us worship you, one God in three persons, And reveal yourself in the depths of our being, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

“The Cost of Discipleship”

There is an old, old story about a couple that was walking out of church one Sunday morning when the wife suddenly turned to her husband and said to him, “John, did you see the strange hat Mrs. O’Brien was wearing in Church today?” Without hesitation, John said to her, “No, honey, I did not!” as he continued to walk to the car.

Frustrated at her husband’s lack of response, she said to him, “Well, did you notice that Mr. Smith badly needs a hair cut?” “No, I did not!” John again replied as he opened the car door for her to get inside.

Disturbed now at her husband’s lack of interest, she waited until her husband got behind the wheel of the car before she said to him, “You know dear, sometimes I wonder IF you get anything out of going to Church.”

And the moral of the story is this: “Sometimes people get different things out of going to Church, depending upon what they expect to receive when they get there.”

Well, sometimes people not only get different things out of going to Church but can even be shocked at what they hear being said at Church even when what they hear is a direct quote from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Take our reading from the Gospel, according to Matthew, for example. Listen to these words: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

Now I don’t know about you, but at first glance, these words from Jesus appear to be out of character for Him. After all, we know and love Jesus as the Prince of Peace, and as the one who greets His disciples “Peace Be With You,” and as the one that teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So these words can be shocking and troubling to us.

But upon closer examination, these words are appropriate because Jesus is urging His disciples not to be afraid of passing on the “Good News” of the gospel. For you see, after Jesus had called His disciples together to send them out into the mission field, Jesus warned them of the costs of being associated with Him.

And Jesus knew that “The Cost of Discipleship” would be very high and that we who follow Him would naturally be scared to death at the prospect of facing the many challenges and threats to our lives without the direct physical presence and strength of Jesus.

And so Jesus offered these words of comfort and explained to His disciples that they need not fear those who might react violently to the gospel message because even though they might destroy the body, they could never destroy the soul.

And even though a man might react violently against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, Jesus assures us that we are very valuable to our Father in Heaven.

Listen to these words: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

As we journey together in the ministry the Lord has given to us, it is a comfort to know that we are precious to God and that God knows the number of hairs we have on our heads.

One text that I like to use that explains today’s gospel message well is Matthew 6:25-34. The text states: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

My friends, no matter what happens in our daily lives, we can be confident that today and tomorrow are in God’s gracious hands. And we can stand up and be a participant in God’s redeeming activity without worrying about the little things that get in the way of ministry.

Someone once said: “Worrying is like a rocking chair; it uses up all of your energy without getting you anywhere.” Yes, the cost of discipleship can be high. And we may lose a friend, a family member, a job, or maybe even our life, but the “Good News” assures us that God faithfully watches over us even to the smallest detail… even to the point of numbering the hairs on our head.

And that, my friends, is a love that is genuine and true and promised to all who would pick up their cross and follow Him.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, by Your grace, our salvation is free. We don’t earn it. We don’t have to try. Yet, as we receive that salvation, we recognize that our lives will change, that there will be a cost in our discipleship. It’s not the cost of earning your love, which has already been given to us. But it is the cost of putting aside our old self so that we might be more fully devoted to you.

Help us, gracious Lord, to offer more of ourselves to you. Help us to give up those things to which we are clinging. Help us to renounce our sins and turn from them. Help us to let go of the possessions and securities that keep us from following you with abandon.

O Lord, may we be more and more your disciples each day, by your grace and for Your glory. In your name, we pray, Amen.

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Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Sermon contributed by Paul Zwarich.
No matter what happens in the course of our daily lives, we can be confident that today and tomorrow are in God’s gracious hands.

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