Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we bask in the warmth of Your grace and mercy with lives that are blest beyond all measure, it is hard for us to understand a life without You. And yet, many of our friends and relatives have just such a life. Today empower and inspire us to reach out to them and to enrich them by conveying to them true Godly peace. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING SAVIOR!
TEXT: Luke 14: 25-33
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
When buying a car, a house, or facing any other major decision in life it is vital to put together a tally sheet of pros and cons. Under the “pro” side of the ledger you would list what you can comfortably afford, any license or fee costs, maintenance savings, and even intangibles such as peace of mind. In the “con” side you would list whatever you might be giving up in order make your wishes come true. And then you have to decide: do the pros outweigh the cons?
Well, the same is true when it comes to the Christian faith. What are the negatives and the positives when it comes to embracing Jesus as your Savior? You’ve probably never thought about it too much. After all, most of us have grown up with Jesus in our lives and find it hard to think of what it must be like to not know His grace and mercy. But, so you can better understand what others are going through, today I want to discuss:
THE CASE FOR CHRISTIANITY
So, just what does Christianity cost a person? It costs them their pride, their selfishness, and their self-love. In the opening verses of our lesson, Jesus employs some tough language directed at those folks who were intrigued by Him, but hadn’t yet embraced Him in faith. He says: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Then He goes on to supply two parables which illustrate the “pro/con” ledger approach to life.
First off, let us be clear. Jesus does use tough language here. The Greek word translated “hate” literally means: “to hate, despise, disregard or be indifferent to.” Is Jesus here telling you to reject your parents, children and friends? No! That would be a violation of the 4th commandment and the whole 2nd half of His holy Law. No, the point of comparison is that nothing must ever come before your personal relationship with Him. You being right with God is the primary principle of Christianity. In fact, without it all your other relationships will be off-center.
Christianity is based on the concept of self-sacrificing love. It is based on the truth that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Our ties to family and friends are a gift from God. Without closeness in families our lives would be very empty. But, all such ties are transitory. That is, they are all dependent on time. Once a person dies, such ties are ended—not emotionally, but physically. God wants something better for you. He has something better for you! He wants you to have eternal bonds with those you love. And to possess such eternal love means you and those around you must know and embrace His gift of eternal love in Jesus Christ. So, the 1st commandment is all-important when it states: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind” and then based on that reality, “you can and should love your neighbor as yourself.”
The cost of this truth can be high. High to your pride and the understanding of others. Kids can disappoint. Spouses can let you down. Friends can pull you away from your Godly values. Your own sinful flesh can also cause you to question God’s goodness and grace. Let’s face it, it’s hard to confront sin in anyone including ourselves. It’s hard to be different from the crowd and face their ridicule for your faith. You still love them in spite of their failings, don’t you? Nonetheless, you cannot help them unless and until you place God # 1 in your heart. You cannot help anyone unless and until you embrace the sacrificial love that only Christ has and shows and gives to us.
What does Christianity Cost Us? It costs us our pride and our “what’s in it for me when it comes to this or that relationship.” But, What does Christianity Cost God? Well, you know the answer, it cost Him His Son.
All other religions teach that humans must sacrifice something to God in order to make themselves right with Him. But, Christianity teaches that since we cannot do that, God stepped in and did it for us! He sent Jesus to suffer and die for our sins. He sent Jesus to heal the open sore of sin in our lives. He sent Jesus to freely give Himself as a ransom for all! It sounds O so familiar to our ears! Yet, these truths are astounding! God practiced complete and total love for us. God Almighty engaged in self-sacrifice toward you and me even though we could give Him nothing in return but our hurting hearts. When it came to His relationship with us it wasn’t “tit-for-tat” or “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” No, it was complete, sacrificial love. Since He surrendered His life to save us on the cross, the cross He now wants and expects us to carry is to sacrifice our pride, every aspect of it, in gratitude. Carrying His cross simply means thanking Him for His blessings and seeking to show it in all we do and say. Carrying the cross is simply the joy of living in gratitude!
If we’re honest, we must admit that our attempts at such cross-bearing are pitiful at best. And yet, even though we often fail to carry our crosses, He never does! He still forgives and forgets our sins. He still showers us with hope and joy. He still provides us with a clean conscience. He still hands out countless big and little blessings every single day. He gives us a better appreciation of our family and friends. He provides certainty of an eternal future in the face of physical death. When the center of our lives is based and grounded on His boundless love for us, everything else will reflect that love.
When I tally up the pros and cons of being a believer and following my Savior, there is no comparison. For in Him, “I live and move and have my very being.” His truth and love define my life. And that’s why both you and I as Christians are blest! Amen