Discipleship 2 — A Considered Decision
Chan Gin Kai
“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.’” (Luke 14:28-30)
We’ve seen in our last article how we can regard Jesus’ expectations as a heavy burden, or as the most beautiful love story ever. Like in a marriage, faithfulness and commitment are to be expected.
But when the choice to get married is spurred more by emotion than decision, it is hard for the marriage to remain sacred. Commitment becomes optional, faithfulness defiled, and the union short-lived. Sadly many do the same in their relationship with God.
Jesus warned against this.
A Considered Decision
Jesus emphasised the costs that one must consider before following him. In our digital age, where social media influencers resort to gimmicks and shocks to boost their following, Jesus’ seeming dissuasion of followers is surprising.
Jesus wants the committed but not the curious, the loyal but not the lukewarm. He doesn’t want numbers to boost his ego or advertising dollars; he wants genuine relationships that will last forever.
So Jesus taught that we should “first sit down and estimate the cost”. This is not a choice to be made through gut feeling or spur-of the-moment instinct. It is to be a considered decision.
Because it is such an important decision, we need people to help us understand the considerations and point out our blindspots. However, many have mistakenly thought that we need someone else to assess if we’re ready and worthy. And we may have done the same to others too. We assume an authority we do not have, to judge if someone has proven himself good enough. The fact is, we can never hurry or deny someone else’s decision to get baptised. The decision is not to be taken lightly and we all need help, but the decision is each individual's to make alone.
There are many different areas we need to consider. But in the above analogy, Jesus highlighted an important question we need to ask ourselves, “Can I finish it?” It has nothing to do with worthiness, but everything to do with faithfulness.
We will never pray enough, repent enough, evangelise enough or be good enough for Jesus. But if we choose to follow him, we’ve got to persevere with it for the rest of our lives.
Our Limited Options
“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. (Luke 14:31-33)
Jesus went easy with the above analogy. The disparity between God and us isn’t just 20,000 soldiers to 10,000. We’re more like one untested private against God’s gazillion Rambos.
The fact is, we do not have many options. We can choose to fight God and lose miserably, or we can surrender fully to Him. Since we know that there’s not even an atom of a chance that we can ever win God, the choice is quite obvious, isn’t it?
But illogical people that we are, we still often choose to fight God. We just hate the idea of surrendering.
Here are the two biggest reasons.
Firstly, we'll refuse to surrender when we don't trust the other party. What if the other party enslaves us and treat us poorly? What if we are made to do what we do not want, and forced to give up what we hold dearly? Wasn’t Jesus already pretty clear in verse 33 that he expects us to “give up everything”? Yes, that’s what Jesus expects, yet we can trust him fully.
Jesus knows better than we do. He knows what’s good for us and what’s not. He wants us to give up everything that hinders our relationship with him, so that he can give us something far better. If he has already given his life so that we can be saved, what else will he not bless us with? We can trust in Jesus.
Secondly, surrendering hurts our ego. Let’s admit it, our pride gets in the way. We want to do things on our own and enjoy all the credit for it. We may be pompous and do this to bask in the glory of our success. Or we may struggle with insecurity and do this to validate our worth.
We love to be in control, but haven’t we learnt from painful experience that we can’t even trust ourselves. Yes, we’ve all got some successes and achievements. But we’ve also seen our sins and mistakes hurt ourselves and people we love. Really, how far has our ego brought us?
We need to surrender ourselves fully to Jesus.
A Disciple’s Nature
“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 14:34-35)
Salt needs to have the nature of salt, a Christian needs to have the nature of Christ. Salt that doesn’t taste salty is of no value; neither is one who calls himself a Christian but doesn’t behave like one.
We can call ourselves whatever we want, but what are we really inside? We may spin a tale that deceives and impresses many. What’s even sadder is that we may be convinced by the story that we’ve made up about ourselves. But Jesus sees everything that we’ve done, and he sees what we are inside too.
Jesus’ words in this passage is pretty blunt and his use of simile quite colourful. We may think ourselves valuable to the world. But if we are not Christ-like, we’re “fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile.” We will be thrown out on the day of Judgment.
There’s a lot about Christ and Church that stirs our emotions. But the choice to follow him has to be a considered decision.
Read more about ‘Discipleship’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.