In Luke 14:28 Jesus told of a man considering whether he would build a tower. The prudent thing, according to Jesus, is to figure out whether you have enough money to finish the tower before you begin pouring the foundation. Jesus told this story to illustrate the decision that we have to make when becoming disciples. Have we counted the cost? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what kind of accounting we need to do when deciding to follow Jesus!
Key Thought : In order to be a disciple, we must discipline ourselves. We can’t police each other intensively; we need to keep ourselves under Christ and His law.gless13
[Lesson plan for The Cost of Discipleship March 24, 2014]
1. Have a volunteer read Luke 12:51-53.
a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. What does it mean to put Christ before everyone, including family?
c. Personal Application: In what ways do others know that Christ is a reality in your life? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “I thought Christ was to bring peace to the believer. How can accepting and following Christ bring division in the family when it’s supposed to bring the family closer together?” How would you respond to your relative?
2. Have a volunteer read I Corinthians 9:24-27.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. How are we to keep our bodies under subjection so that we won’t be castaways?
c. Personal Application: How are Adventists known in your community? Are they mostly admired or just tolerated? Why? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “Jesus said His burden is light and easy, so why does Paul seem to say the Christian walk is one of tough self-discipline and training?” How would you respond to your neighbor?
3. Have a volunteer read Hebrews 12:1-4.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What does it mean that we haven’t yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin?
c. Personal Application: How hard is it to be patient in all situations? How do we handle impatience and rashness? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “Have you ever suffered for your faith? What is the likelihood that you will suffer for your faith? What would be the most difficult thing to face?” How would you respond to your friend?
4. Have a volunteer read Matthew 18:8,9.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. This can’t be taken as a literal statement, so how are we to understand this passage?
c. Personal Application: Why is it so hard to let go of the bad habits and sins in our lives? Does it feel like plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.
Owen Brunker on March 24, 2014 at 6:10 pm said:
I spent a number of years studying the martial art tae kwon do. The final test for the coveted black belt is a tough test. At my particular school, the test was as follows. First of all, the participant has to go for 24 hours without sleep and food. Only water is allowed to be had. Once the 24 hour period is over, the participant has to demonstrate fitness which involved doing 100 push ups, 100 star jumps, and 100 sit ups in a period of 6 minutes. having done this, the participant then has to demonstrate everything they have learned over the years perfectly. This includes knowledge of theory and demonstration of the moves and forms. The final part of the test is to break a block of concrete with the fist. With this test, speed and focus are extremely important. If the fist is not traveling fast enough, you end up breaking your fist rather than the block. If the fist is traveling fast enough, the momentum of the hand exerts enough force to break the block and the elasticity of the bones is enough to protect the fist from damage provided the participant has spent the time conditioning the hands.
As I progressed through the ranks towards the final goal, each rank is signified by a belt colour, I was often asked to teach someone from a lower rank. The Tae Kwon Do master gave this advice, "even though someone may be doing many things wrong, only correct one thing at a time lest you discourage your student. When they have perfected that one thing you have asked them to perfect, then move onto the next thing."
I find the Christian life like this. The lesson is correct when it says "Every impulse, every imagination, every ambition, and every desire must be submitted to Christ. Every possession, physical or invisible, every talent and ability, and everything of value must be under Christ’s command". But I thank God that he doesn't make us fix everything wrong straight away, lest we get discouraged.
The work needed doing to enable us to walk the Christian walk is the work of a life time. It will never be completed until either the day we die, or until Jesus comes to take us home, lest we get discouraged and fall away.
Ulanda Alexander on March 24, 2014 at 1:32 am said:
We must be mindful that we ought to know what we believe, why we believe what we believe and be able to know where to find it in God's Word. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to orchestrate our journey as we carry the Cross.
"The Cost of Discipleship"
March 29, 2014
Texts: Luke 12:49-53; Deuteronomy 21:15; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Matthew 18:8-9; John 14:1-3; Hebrews 11:32-12:4
Jesus spent three years teaching the disciples what they needed to know in order to take the Gospel to the world. Part of that teaching was preparing them for the cost of discipleship: "Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). And they were persecuted. According to Fox's Book of Martyrs, here's how some of the apostles died:1
Stephen - stoned to death
James the Great - beheaded
Phillip - scourged, thrown into prison, and later crucified
Matthew - slain with a halberd (combined spear and battle-ax)
James the Less - beaten, stoned, then beaten on the head with a fuller's club
Mark - dragged to pieces
Peter - crucified upside down
Thomas - thrust through with a spear
Luke - hanged on an olive tree
The cost of discipleship doesn't seem that high for those of us who live in North America at this time. But a quick look around the world shows that the cost is high - very high - in other countries. Voice of the Martyrs, an international, interdenominational group whose mission is to seek out and help persecuted Christians around the globe shares these three examples, along with many others, on their website:2
Last December, a pastor in India and his wife were attacked in their home in the middle of the night by a group of radicals. Using swords, knives, and sticks, they repeatedly stabbed the pastor, causing damage to his liver, kidneys, and other internal organs. He was taken to a local hospital in critical condition. The couple had been warned to stop their Christian activities, but had continued to minister to their church of about 100 members that meet in six different house churches.
In January, two churches in Sri Lanka were attacked by an angry mob of 300. They stormed the churches, throwing stones at the buildings. Christian literature, music instruments, and other commodities were either set on fire or destroyed.
And just last week, it was reported that a South Korean missionary and dozens of people that were accused of assisting him in North Korea, had been arrested. The missionaries, as well as their families, were sent to labor camps. Thirty-three have been sentenced to death.
At the end of a quarter on "Discipleship" we finish with this question: What is the cost of discipleship? Sometimes the cost is little; other times, it costs everything.
It's not always easy to be a disciple. Not everyone will want to hear your message. Not everyone will treat you with respect. Sometimes it may cost you time, money, and energy that you feel you don't have. And someday, it may even cost you your very life. But as this week's lesson so beautifully puts it, "In the end, we can be sure that whatever the cost of discipleship is, considering the ultimate reward, that cost is cheap enough."
Additional resource: youtu.be
The Cost of Discipleship
Commentary for the March 29, 2014 Sabbath School Lesson
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:4, NIV
Several popular preachers today proclaim that God wants us to be happy and prosperous and if we only claim that promise, it will come true in our lives. For those who have found this world to be a bleak, dark place that brings them heartache, anguish and loss, a message that promises “beauty for ashes”[i] can be very appealing. While it may be true that God wants only the best for his children, does that really mean prosperity and never-ending material and physical blessings in this life? Perhaps to answer that question we need only look at the life of Jesus.
Our Savior was born a simple carpenter’s Son. Small families of only one or two children were not the norm in His day. While this could mean many hands to share the labor, it also meant many mouths to feed and bodies to clothe. Perhaps Jesus was familiar with the phrase “Too much month left at the end of the money.” In any event, during His itinerant ministry, He did not even have a place to lay his head.[ii] When He died on the cross, He apparently had only the garments on His back which were taken from Him and divided by his executioners.[iii] If God were to overrule the evils of this world on behalf of anyone, we might expect Him to do so for Jesus, but that was not the case.
But what about His followers? Maybe Jesus was the only One who needed to suffer. Did He somewhere promise that their lives would be prosperous and filled with blessings? To the contrary, He called them to experience the pain of the cross as He had done.[iv] Not only suffering but strife was apparently to be their lot. Even family and friends would turn against them.[v] If that were not enough, they were warned that even some in the church would seek to destroy them, believing that they were doing God’s will by doing so.[vi] What would be the cause of all of this?
Perhaps the suffering would arise because they identified with the suffering of the down-trodden. Today, too many Christians consider their only obligation for those who have been oppressed and denied equity and justice is to say “I will pray for you.” But does that get us off the hook for responsibility to our fellow man? The Epistle of James says, “No.” We read there “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16, NIV) It appears that biblically we are to do more than simply pray.
Some may acknowledge this, but dispute how it is to be done. Some will vehemently deny any role to government in redistributing blessings to benefit the disadvantaged. They feel it should be entirely voluntary. However, they overlook that had the “voluntary” redistribution to help those in need been adequate, there would have been no poor for the government to be concerned about.[vii] To simply leave the poor to suffer in the interests of keeping everything voluntary is perhaps a greater sin in the eyes of God than an over-reaching government.
This brings us to an interesting question. How much intervention on behalf of the needy is adequate? Are we required to simply meet their needs through redistribution of resources, or do we have an obligation to make war upon the causes of that need as well? Of course it is not right to piously ignore the needs of others as James has said, but is it also facile to meet the immediate needs of those who are suffering without dealing with the factors that placed them there in the first place?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran martyr of World War II felt that it was not enough to “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.”[viii] He eventually took this to its ultimate expression when he actively opposed Nazism and participated in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, apparently deeming him to be a Verführer, or seducer of the people. For this, he paid with his life. Certainly this would be “resisting to the point of shedding your blood,” but is this what Jesus meant by taking up the cross?
If we look to Jesus’ example, we can find many instances of Him meeting the needs of the suffering around Him. However, we find no instance of His advocating insurrection to correct social injustice. This is not for want of injustice in his day. Herod’s murder of the innocents in Bethlehem[ix] or the Galileans murdered by Pilate while offering sacrifices[x] would probably qualify. But in the first instance the biblical narrative only reports the event and does not call for a response, and in the second, Jesus does not even demonstrate indignity that such a thing should happen. Strangely, while He asserts that these things do not happen because of the degree of sinfulness of the victims, He nonetheless tells the people that if they do not repent, they also will perish.[xi] Noticeably absent is any call for a revolutionary response.
Perhaps then the call to a social gospel is not a call to Liberation Theology. This may be hard to take for those who believe that the only answer to social injustice is political insurrection. An example might be the American Civil War and the issue of slavery. While many helped runaway slaves and exhorted others about its evils, the Underground Railroad that assisted the slaves in fleeing their servitude was more on the level of brother helping brother (or sister as the case may be). Some felt that this was not enough and pushed for a more confrontational approach.
The argument that armed activism was necessary to end the abominable practice of slavery was advanced by John Brown at Harper’s Ferry Arsenal.[xii] Though he paid for his beliefs with his life, his “resisting unto blood” in this instance was perhaps overwrought as God was apparently already marching forward to deal with the issue. In the end, instead of the abolitionists being the insurrectionists, the slave-holders became such with the opening salvos at Fort Sumter. Eventually this produced the suitable circumstances for the Emancipation Proclamation as Abraham Lincoln sought to deprive the rebellious South of yet another resource that might enable them to go on fighting.[xiii]
The proclamation did not end the problems for the Africans who had unwillingly come to our shores or their descendants as economic servitude often replace physical. But over time, a momentum for change built up that eventually brought about the Civil Rights legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson. While there were those who, like John Brown, felt that they should seize justice with guns, it was the pacifism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that won hearts and created an overwhelming flood of support for change.[xiv] In return for his efforts, he was jailed and in the end, assassinated. Perhaps, his martyrdom comes close to demonstrating the meaning of Hebrews 12:4 lived out in someone’s life in modern times. He certainly passively resisted and his blood was shed for that cause.
This may be hard for us to understand half a century later. We live in an era when it is maybe more difficult to overcome the inertia of simply working each day, Monday through Friday, to pay for those things that will allow us to enjoy the evenings and weekends without too much thought for those around us. After all we have our late model cars, spacious homes, and big screen televisions, and internet. We do not even have to go out into the weather if we don’t want to except to go to work. Why should we jeopardize that with concerns about our obligations to make sure that there is social justice for others?
If we give some cast-off clothing we no longer consider stylish to the thrift store and a few cans of beans that we don’t like to the local food drives, isn’t that enough to meet any obligation we might have? After all, Isaiah says that we are to clothe the naked and feed the hungry,[xv] so won’t that check off a few boxes on our good deeds tally? Oh, yes, it also says to provide shelter for the homeless, too, doesn’t it? Well isn’t there the Mission for that? Wait, it says to bring them to MY house? But I use the NIV and it doesn’t say that. God will judge me by that version, won’t He? I have no problem with taking up a cross, but invite the homeless to my house? Come on! Next thing you know, He will want me to befriend out and out criminals.[xvi]
[i] Isaiah 61:3
[ii] Matthew 8:20
[iii] Matthew 27:35
[iv] Luke 9:23
[v] Luke 21:16-17
[vi] John 16:2
[vii] Acts 4:33-35
[viii] Kelley, Geffery B. and F. Burton Nelson, ed. A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1995, page 132.
[ix] Matthew 2:16
[x] Luke 13:1
[xi] Ibid., vs 2-5
[xii] "John Brown (abolitionist)," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown_(abolitionist)
[xiii] "Emancipation Proclamation," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_Proclamation
[xiv] "Martin Luther King, Jr.," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.
[xv] Isaiah 58:6-10
[xvi] Matthew 25:44-45
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