The Gospel isn’t a feel good message in the traditional sense. It is a reassuring message in that though we are sinners and deserve Hell for our actions, God in His grace and mercy gives us forgiveness, desires a relationship with us, and opens the gates of heaven to us in eternity. That first means, however, coming to grips with the fact that we are sinners, that we are in a condition that we can’t correct or fix, and that there is an eternal punishment we all deserve for our actions. We like to think of ourselves as good people, and this is something I hear folks repeating all the time, “We’re good at heart.” The Bible rejects that and if we really want to challenge that lie, it doesn’t take us very long to come up with numerous examples that show how big a lie it is.
Another lie that we keep perpetuating is that if one comes to Jesus, everything will be better. Our problems will be fixed, our life better, we’ll get the job we want, a bigger house, the new car, etc. We may not say it so brazenly (though some do), but this is what we imply. When we tell people life will be better, how will they take it? If they are still thinking with a worldly perspective (what other perspective could they have), they will naturally assume we mean those things. And truth be told, we sometimes (too often, in fact) fall for this trap ourselves. The thing to remember is that Christ didn’t promise this. If anything, Jesus warned us to expect the opposite.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:57-62, ESV
If Jesus had no place to lay his head, and the servant is not greater than the master, then we must anticipate the possibility that he will ask the same of us. When he tells one not to bury his father, that seems harsh, and taken literally, it is harsh, but possibly necessary. Think of military personnel stationed abroad who have loved ones pass away and they may not be able to make it back. Taken from a cultural perspective, it probably meant the person was waiting on his father to die, but with no set timetable (obviously). Therefore, Jesus calls him at the root of his excuse. Another one wants to say farewell to those he is walking away from and Jesus said no. Again, literally this seems harsh but really, it’s another attempt to beg off a commitment to the Kingdom. These are the responses of those who want what Jesus offers by following Him but aren’t willing to accept the cost to doing so. In other words, they are trying to bargain with God. How often we do that, too.
The bottom line is that following after Jesus has the potential to be costly. It could cost us everything of earthly value in our lives. It could cost us our earthly lives. The Christian faith is filled with stories of martyrs who gave their lives for Christ. Some of these are well known. Most aren’t. And we hear very few stories of folks who have abandoned every earthly possession to follow after Jesus, but for some, this is the requirement. This flies in the face of the idea that if we follow Jesus everything will be better. From an earthly perspective, we must understand that it is more likely to be quite the opposite. That is, if we’re truly being obedient to Christ. We need to “count the cost.” We need to understand what may be asked of us and gird ourselves for it. This will better prepare us to sacrifice what is required for the Kingdom. The silver lining is the promise that whatever we give up in this lifetime will be a pittance compared to what will be prepared for us for eternity.