Count The Cost, But Don’t Count It Too Long

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In Matthew 8:18, before Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gadarenes, Matthew writes:

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to go over to the other side.

After hearing Jesus’ command, two men approach him.

First, a Scribe promises to follow Jesus wherever He goes.

The Scribe’s promise is noble, but Jesus’ response reveals something more. Jesus says to the man:

Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.

Essentially, Jesus tells him He is homeless.

Why did Jesus say that?

Here is a man who says He will follow Him wherever He goes. Seems like Jesus’ remark might dissuade him from following Him. So why say it?

Jesus says it to expose this man’s heart and his lack of thoughtfulness. The Scribe hadn’t considered what it meant to follow Jesus. He hadn’t considered following Jesus meant he had no home to go to at night, no promise of a comfortable bed, or a hot meal. In other words, he hadn’t counted the cost of what it meant to follow Jesus. He heard Jesus say go to the other side, and he came up and said I will follow you wherever you go.

Often times we see that in churches. The preacher tells us that we need to make Jesus our Savior. So people do. They do it, however, without ever considering what it actually means. What it will cost them.

Second, a disciple says he will follow Jesus, but he must first bury his father.

Again, this sounds good. He wants to take care of his family, but Jesus doesn’t see it that way. He tells him:

Let the dead, bury their own dead.

Why did Jesus respond in this way?

It wasn’t to say we can’t ever go to funerals, if we want to be a Christian. He says it to reveal something is hindering him from answering His call. That something is his father. He wants to wait to follow Jesus until after his father is gone.

There could be several reasons. Maybe there is an obligation he must keep, but once his father is gone he is no longer bound to it. Maybe his father doesn’t approve of Jesus and would disown him if he followed him. While we don’t often experience this in the Bible Belt because Christianity is culturally acceptable. It is a reality for some that when they come to Christ they will lose their family or friends.

No matter what this man’s, or our reason for not following Jesus, we learn Jesus expects us to be willing to put Him before all things – our family, our life, our business, or our career. Jesus wants to be supreme in our lives. To truly be His disciple, we must allow Him that supreme position. We should not allow the concerns or rejection of others, including our family to keep us from Jesus. Jesus is not going to say on Judgment Day.

“Oh, following me would have cost your relationship with your family, or your business, or your life. That is ok. I understand. Come on into the kingdom.”

No way, that would never happen. You see, we must be willing to give up everything for Him. To sacrifice it all.

What do we learn?

Our narrative presents both a person who is too quick to promise to follow Jesus without first counting the cost, and a person who waits too long because he has put something else before Him. With that in mind, the idea Matthew is driving home is:

Count the cost, but don’t count it too long.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Have you counted the cost?
  2. Are you counting the cost too long?

Resources

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This series is adapted from my recent sermon: Why Should We Follow Jesus?

What is Your Purpose in Life?

Got Purpose

Why did God created you? In other words, what is your purpose in life? I know I think about the reason God created me. I am sure you do as well. How do we answer the question?

For What Purpose Did God Create Us?

Glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is how I answer the question.

What does it mean to glorify God?

It means: We worship Him; we praise Him; we lift Him up; we honor Him; we adore Him; we revere Him. These are all synonyms that help us understand what it means to glorify God.

If our purpose is to glorify God, that means our purpose is not:

  • To get a great job.
  • To have a great family.
  • To live in a great house.
  • To make a lot of money.
  • To live a comfortable life.
  • To be secure.
  • To have everything go just our way.
  • To have others praise us.
  • To have others lift us up.
  • To have others worship us.

Some of these are good – Job, family, house – and if God so blesses us with them, we should be thankful. These things, however, are not our main purpose in life. Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Now that is a massive claim, so where do I get this from?

The Biblical Evidence

The Biblical Evidence for Glorifying God

Let’s start with Psalms 86:8-13. There we learn:

  • There are no other gods like Him, nor can they do works like His (8).
  • He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (9).
  • His ways are truth (11).
  • He is the one who loves us and saves us (13).

Since the Christian God is unique, our Creator and Sustainer, His ways are always true, and He loves and saves us, we are to glorify and worship Him.

Another Scripture that helps us understand our purpose in life is Isaiah 43:7. It reads,

“everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.””

Isaiah teaches us that everyone is created by God and they are created for His glory.

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 6:20 tells us that we are not our own. We were bought with a price. The price we were bought with was not silver or gold but the blood of Jesus. For that reason, we should follow God’s commands, glorifying Him with our actions.

Finally, 1 Corinthians 10:31 exhorts us to do everything we do to the glory of God. Whether we are eating, drinking, having fun, working, or whatever else we do, we are to do it for God’s glory.

The Biblical Evidence for Enjoying God Forever

Our purpose in life is also to enjoy God forever. I get this from:

Psalms 16:9 & 11 which tells us the Lord is the One who gives us life. As well as He is the one who provides us with joy, with pleasures forevermore.

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure…You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Revelation 21:3-4 is another Scripture that tells us we are to enjoy God forever. There we learn the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more, along with no more mourning, crying, or pain. Instead, we will live in a New Heaven and New Earth, enjoying God and His creation forever.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Rev. 21:3-4)

What the Evidence is Telling Us

From these Scriptures, we see that our purpose in this life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, which means it is not all about us, but it is all about Him. Finding out this life is all about God can be a tough pill to swallow, especially since our natural desire is to glorify and promote ourselves, in order to seek self-worship.

Even though God’s Word goes against our natural desires, it is God’s Word. It never lies. It is always true. If His Word is inerrant, we must trust it, believe it, and submit to it.

How Can We Glorify Him?

With our newly discovered purpose, we need to know how we can glorify God. Let me offer a few ways:

  • By praising Him.
  • By worshipping Him.
  • By living according to His commandments.
  • By calling others to Christ.
  • By enjoying Him and Him alone, being completely content with Him.

Diagnostic Questions & Challenge

Before we end, let me provide a few diagnostic questions for you to consider.

  1. Do you seek to glorify God in all that you do?
  2. Do you ask whether your actions are glorifying God before you do them?
  3. Do you search Scripture to see whether or not you are living in accordance with God’s Word?
  4. Do you enjoy God and the things of God?
  5. Do you enjoy reading His Word?
  6. Do you enjoy fellowshipping with His people?
  7. Do you enjoy hearing God’s Word preached?
  8. Do you enjoy singing praises to God?
  9. Do you enjoy telling other about God?

If you enjoy and seek to glorify God, you should be able to answer these questions in the positive.

I am afraid, however, there are many who call themselves Christians who can’t answer these questions positively. In other words, they don’t seek to glorify God, nor do they enjoy Him or His people. I believe this is especially true in the Bible Belt where people are quick to call Jesus their Savior, but fellowshipping with His people, reading His Word, and submitting to His commands are absent.

If we are truly Christians, we will live to glorify God and we will enjoy God and the things of God. With that in mind, let’s glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Resource

Westminister Shorter Catechism Question 1

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God Doesn’t Need Our Worship

In the Bible Belt, it’s easy to say you are a Christian. There is relatively no persecution or monetary cost for claiming to be a follower of Jesus. In most places it is even expected by our friends and family that we be a Christian. As humans, we often do outwardly what our family and friends expect of us without changing inwardly, but this is not the type of change the Lord desires.

Israel was the First

Bible Belt Christians are not the first ones to perform religious acts without an inward change. There were many in Israel who did the same. They offered sacrifices to God because it was expected of them, not because they were truly broken and thankful for God’s salvation.

In Psalm 50, the Lord rebukes those who offered sacrifices to Him out of duty rather than thanksgiving. He says in verses 16-21:

16  But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
17  For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18  If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.

19  “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20  You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21  These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

22  “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23  The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”

What Does the Lord Desire Then?

Instead of offering sacrifices for sacrifices sake, the Lord desired that they be offered in thanksgiving for their salvation, as well as those offering them be living in a way that honors Him (Ps. 50:23).

For the Lord desires sacrifices from a broken spirit and a contrite heart.

In other words, He does not want the sacrifices of those who are proud, believing they can bring about their own salvation. Rather, He desires sacrifices from those who know they are guilty and need atonement for that guilt. He wants sacrifices from those who realize they are sinners, and as such, cannot, on their own, repair their relationship with God, because they cannot cover their own sins (Ps. 51:17).

We are No Exception

The Lord desires the same from us today. Even though we do not go to a temple to offer sacrifices, the same principle applies. The Lord does not desire those who have no thought of Him to pile into churches each Sunday because their family and friends expect them to be there. Rather, He desires those who know they can’t provide their own salvation to worship Him.

It is Not Enough Just to Show Up to Church

It is not enough to just show up to church. We are not doing God any favors. He does not respect us for attending, if we have not first given our heart to Him, knowing He is the One, who alone provides us with salvation. As He told the Israelites, He does not need their sacrifices, He is the ruler of the universe, every beast of the field is His (Ps. 50:7-11).

Likewise, He does not need us in church to make Him feel better about Himself. He does not really need us at all. We are the ones who need Him, and when we realize that, then and only then is He glorified by our worship. 

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you attend church because it is expected of you? Or do you go because you really desire to worship God?
  2. Do you believe God needs your worship? If so, why?