Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Time to Get Real: Count the Cost

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish...’ 

In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Luke 14:27-30, 33 
There is a great story in the Old Testament about three young Jewish men who were taken into captivity by the Babylonians when Babylon defeated Judah in 587/586 BC. These three young men were taken with Daniel into the king's household and raised there because they were the cream of the crop from the Jewish exiles. These three men were named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But those were their Jewish names. You probably know them better by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three were in a nation that did not worship the God of Israel. They worshiped idols that were made of gold and other substances. The people in Babylon wanted Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and all the other exiles from Judah to conform to them and live life like they did. They refused. 
In Daniel chapter 3 we read the story that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are known for. King Nebuchadnezzar made a huge golden idol and decreed that everyone in the kingdom had to bow down and worship it on command. These three young men refused to do so. Since everyone else was bowing down at the command and they were standing, it was pretty obvious that they were not doing what everyone else was. Now the penalty for not worshiping the king's idol was being thrown into a fiery furnace. But the king liked these men so he called them forward and gave them another chance. Instead of bowing down, they made one of the best speeches in all of Scripture:
King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)   
I'll let you read the rest of the story in Daniel 3 to see what God chose to do, but I bring these three men up today because I believe they help give a clear picture of not only the potential cost of being a believer but also how we need to be living that out today. You see, just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you live in a nation that is not Christian. Many of the people in your life at work, or school, or in your neighborhood, or clubs do not worship God. Instead they worship the things that they, pornography, TV, money, and any number of other things. These people want you to be like they are. They want you to follow the crowd...and many of you do. Many Christians live their life just like the world does. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not compromise. They didn't try to serve two masters. They didn't bow down to God and the idol. They chose their God. For that reason they stood out. They made a difference.
Being a Christian means that Jesus is your only Master. It means that you will live differently than the vast majority of the people in our world because you are living your life for Him. Sometimes this upsets non-Christians. They get angry that we won't blend in and they persecute us and even kill us. Over the centuries thousands upon thousands of Christians have chosen death rather than to deny Jesus. Even today Christians all over the world are imprisoned, beaten and even killed for their faith. They endure this; they refuse to serve the world, because Jesus is their Master.
I want to ask you a simple question: "Who is your Master?" Before you say that Christ is I am urging you to count the cost. You can't serve two Masters (Matthew 6:24). You must either choose to serve Christ or some other master. If you choose Christ then you need to be willing to pay the price that Jesus outlines in the above passage. "In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." Choosing Christ as your Master will cost you everything.
It's time to get real about your faith. It's time to get serious. It's time for us to stop playing at being Christians, to stop pretending to be something we are not. It is time to stop living two lives. It's time to choose who you serve. Some of us have been playing at being a Christian for so long and have been surrounded by other people who are playing at it for so long that we have forgotten what it actually looks like to be a Christian. We don't remember what it looks like for a person to live their life for God. Over the next six weeks we are going to look at what it means to be serious about living out our faith.  But today, to start, I want you to count the cost. I want you to choose once and for all who you serve. I want you to commit. It would be better for you to admit you don't really believe than for you to keep living life however you want to while claiming to be a Christian.
For further reading...
  • Daniel 3- Catch the whole story.
  • Luke 14:25-35- read the passage in context.
  • Revelation 3:15-16- See how God feels about people who ride the fence.  
  • Prisoner Alert- There is a ministry called Voice of the Martyrs that ministers to the persecuted Church worldwide. One of their ministries is to put out prisoner alerts about Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. Read one or two of these. It is easy for us to think this doesn't happen anymore, but it does. Through this website you can actually write a send a letter to these imprisoned Christians and encourage them in the Lord.
  • Jesus Freaks- A while back a Christian band named DC Talk teamed up with Voice of the Martyrs to put together a book of martyrs spanning from the ancient world up to today. You can check it out by going to this website and clicking the excerpts option.

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