Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Last Letter

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 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.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Luke 14:25-35

It used to be the case that missionaries who were called to the field would write a last letter to their family and friends before they left. This letter was a manifesto of sorts. It was an attempt to explain to their families why they were leaving to go to the mission field, why they were willing to die for the cause of Christ. This was necessary because at that time a call to the mission field was a call to die. The missionaries would literally pack their belongings in a coffin and load them on a boat to sail to their mission field, because they knew they wouldn't be back. One way or another, either very soon or possibly in the distant future, these missionaries would die in a foreign country. Often they never even made it to the field because of the hazards of sea travel. So these letters were an effort to explain their strange commitment to Jesus to their families and to say anything they wanted or needed to say to them before they died. 

The simple truth is that American culture values security and safety. We buy insurance to protect ourselves and our families from all types of potential disasters: fires, floods, disability, car wrecks, even death. (This last one we call life insurance because death insurance just sounds too morbid.) So it shouldn't surprise us that our culture struggles to understand why believers are willing to follow the call of Jesus to take the gospel to the nations when we know that persecutions and potential death await them. Often their families, even the Christian ones unfortunately, still find it odd when they choose to follow Jesus into risky areas or situations. 

Jesus warned us about this though. He tells us that our families will not always support us in following Him, and we must choose our priorities (Luke 12:49-53). Jesus demands the number one spot in our lives. We must be willing to follow Him above all else, even our families. Jesus makes this explicit because He knows that sometimes even our families will stand between us and faithful service.

Count the cost. Even if Jesus doesn't call you to missionary service, He still expects the same level of surrender out of you. Are you willing to make Him your first priority? Are you willing to follow Him in risky propositions? Maybe you have committed your life to Christ but today you realize that you are like the salt who has begun to lose its saltiness. Repent and return to Christ! Sometimes God takes our all. Sometimes He requires the ultimate sacrifice. We choose to trust Him anyway. We trust that even if He asks for our lives in His service, that He will use it for His glory and our good. Because of this we can say with Paul, "I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). Like Stephen, we gladly lay down our lives when called to do so, in the hopes that somewhere in the crowd of a persecutors, there is a Saul waiting to be called to salvation and service by our God.

For further reading...
  • Check out this website. It has a good video and some other stuff on it. Think about writing your own last letter. What would it say? What are you willing to die for?
  • Acts 6-8:1- Read the story of Stephen.

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