The cost of discipleship – Luke 14:25-35

I remember being a teenager thinking about what it would mean to become a Christian, and about the cost of discipleship.

  • I’d be going to church every Sunday for the rest of my life.
  • I had a sense of things I’d like to do in life, but what if God called me to be a missionary in some weird part of the world?

As it turns out, those are good questions to ask. It’s just the kind of thinking God calls us all to. Because life is hard; and the Christian life can be hard too.

Jesus invites you to an eternal feast with him in glory – but you must understand what that means for you: You become his.

  • That sounds simple. But in truth, it’s hugely demanding.
  • Are you ready for the cost of discipleship?

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube given at Bromborough Evangelical Church Wirral in June 2023. You can find more in the series in our sermon index.

Prepare for discipleship (28-32)

We’re at the end of Luke 14. Through chapters 13 and 14 Jesus has been teaching us about the kingdom of God, and how not many will enter it.

  • God is king over his kingdom, which means your sin will keep you out.
    • In grace, Jesus is the narrow way into the kingdom.
    • When you come to Jesus, you gain entrance.
    • You can only enter God’s kingdom through Christ.
  • God is a lavish, generous host, inviting you to a great feast of bliss with him.
    • But your attachment to the world’s values and your belongings will slow you down, or even keep you out altogether.
    • That’s the stuff I was thinking through as a teenager.
  • The context of Chapters 13 and 14 also remind us that even religious observance can actually keep you out of God’s kingdom!
    • You think ticking a few boxes will impress God with your obedience; but your heart is far from him.

Around all this teaching Jesus has been exposing your heart too: 

  • You are sinful (as God defines it, which is all that matters);
  • you’re tied to your worldly possessions
  • and you have a tendency to try to downplay your sin and build up your good works.

Jesus calls you to repent of your sin and turn to him. He came into the world to die. That means, he came into the world to take the punishment your sins deserve before God.

  • Your sin will keep you out of God’s kingdom.
  • Your good works won’t get you in.
  • But God is a gracious, willing host, waiting for you to repent of your sin and ask for forgiveness.
  • He calls you to do that now. Then you enter his kingdom, his feast, his promised eternal life.

But: Will you follow Jesus?

Jesus is preparing you for discipleship

Jesus is working in these verses to help you be prepared:

  • Read Luke 14:28-30.
  • Will you only start the Christian life, but not be able to complete it. Will you be found out, and give up?
  • Read Luke 14:31-32.
  • Will you be able to face what comes at you in life, or be swept away by big things set against you?

What Jesus isn’t trying to do is make the narrow way more narrow!

He wants you to be prepared for the cost of discipleship.

  • Many people start and then turn back.
  • In the parable of the soils (back in Luke 8:4-15), Jesus makes it clear that some people will hear the good news about him and get off to a good start
    • But then they get choked up with life, and fall away.
  • Jesus wants you as a life-long disciple.
  • He sends us into the world to make disciples, not converts.
  • So you need to be real about your experience of Christ: Because “feeling” isn’t “faith”. You need faith in him for real

He promises you peace, hope, security, forgiveness, life, family, and more.

But life is hard and there are knocks and setbacks. We all know. Weak, shallow faith will give way, like leaning on a spider’s web. You’ll go back to looking for peace, hope, etc in the old ways. So get real. Get wholly in the kingdom, prepared for lifelong discipleship. Which means leaving much at the door:

Count the cost of discipleship (25-27, 33)

Jesus is calling you – urging you – to discipleship. But he gives three ways that you “cannot be my disciple” – and they’re deeply uncomfortable for us.


Read Luke 25-26.

Hate is a strong word. Does he really mean it?

  • God is love! (1 John 4:8)
  • God so loved the world (John 3:16)
  • Jesus commanded us to “love one another” (John 15:12)
  • Husbands are to love their wives (5:28)
  • You’re to love the Lord, love your neighbour, love even your enemy.
  • If anything, as Christians we love more than anyone
    • We love one another profoundly as God’s children
    • We love the lost in ways they don’t think about
    • We love the weak, as God’s love flows through us
  • So what’s all this about hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even your own life?

Let me illustrate with a trivial example: I hate cheese. I love chocolate.

  • If you placed a piece of each in front of me to choose one it’s easy: I take the one I love and reject the one I hate.
  • It takes no thought; the preference is obvious and immediate.

Jesus calls you to love and follow him like that.

Given a choice of Jesus or your family, you choose Jesus with immediacy and love.

  • You choose Jesus over your family as if it were a simple, easy, obvious choice.
  • Jesus comes first.
  • If you’re invited to a family BBQ, or lunch, or birthday party that clashes with church, put Jesus first.
  • Putting Jesus first might well lead to family tensions.
  • But it actually is love to show your family Christ’s worth.
  • “I can’t come then as I’ll be at church, but I’ll join you later.”

Of course you love your family. The highest love you can show them is to show them Jesus. If you don’t see that, you have to ask if you “cannot be my disciple.”

Bear your cross

Read Luke 14:27.

What does it mean to “bear your own cross”? For Jesus, it means submitting to his Father’s will in obedience and love – even to the point of his own death. You’re called to take up your cross – to die to your old self, your own will, and to submit to God’s will in every way. And that’s not a one-off thing: You take up your cross and you follow Jesus with it.

What might that look like?

  • Deny your self; submit that self to Jesus’ will.
    • Big life and career decisions are not entirely yours because your life isn’t yours: You belong to Jesus.
  • You might have an aggressive plan for your career: There’s nothing wrong with ambition and success, but not at the expense of abuse and damage along the way.
    • Deny that self.
  • We live in a world that normalises sex outside marriage, adultery, pornography, and same-sex relationships.
    • If you are tempted towards any of those things, you are called to deny that self and submit to God.
  • Or you might just have unpleasant characteristics or mannerisms: A sharp tongue, a one-upmanship, a tendency to dominate conversation with ever listening
    • Those are not the fruit of the Spirit; deny that self.

If you are not prepared to deny your self, to take up your cross and follow Jesus every day, you “cannot be my disciple.”

Because being a disciple of Jesus means becoming more like Jesus.

That’s two challenges to being a disciple: Putting Jesus even before family, and taking up your cross to follow him. Next:

Renounce possessions

Read Luke 14:33.

  • That is obviously not an instruction to give all your possession away.
  • But you are called to say, “Everything I ‘own’ is not really mine. It belongs to Jesus to be used as he pleases.”
  • Your money, your house, your car. Your savings, your garden, your books, your shed.
  • How can they be used for him? That’s the question.
  • Use your house for hospitality.
  • Use your car for lifts (to church, to hospital, shopping).

If you give something away, you haven’t lost anything because it wasn’t yours anyway: It belongs to Jesus.

  • In Acts we read of how people would sell land and bring the money to the apostles so that they could distribute it to those in need.
  • That is Jesus moving his money from one account to where it is needed. It expresses his love in action.

If you can’t see your possessions in that way, Jesus says you “cannot be my disciple.”

We all struggle

Now, some people will start well on some of these things but then fade away in life. Other people might actually start badly, but grow over time. But let’s be clear on this: We will all struggle with these things. Our culture and society cuts right across what Jesus is saying. We think: Family means everything. You’re told: Put yourself first. Advertising and values are all about “stuff.”

It will never stop being hard to live this kind of discipleship.

If you find it hard, so do I and everyone else here.

But remember this:

  • Jesus calls you to repent of your sin and turn to him.
  • He came into the world to take the punishment your sins deserve before God.
  • Your sin will keep you out of God’s kingdom.
  • Your good works won’t get you in.
  • But God is a gracious, willing host, waiting for you to repent of your sin and ask for forgiveness.
  • He calls you to do that now. Then you enter his kingdom, his feast, his promised eternal life.

There are some who loosely follow Jesus, and some who truly follow him. Which are you?

Stay the course (34-35)

Now, read Luke 14:34-35.

How can salt lose its taste? What does that mean?

Imagine two buckets of salt.

  • One bucket has been filled from the edge of the Dead Sea and is a mixture of salt, grit, and sand.
  • The other bucket contains pure white salt and nothing else.

We can put some meat in each bucket to season it and preserve it. Over time, we can reuse the buckets many times.

  • After a while, the first bucket of salt will lose its salt and end up mostly grit and sand. Useless. The salt has lost its saltiness and will be thrown away.
  • Meanwhile the other bucket will still have salt, still as effective as the very first day it was used.

When you come to follow Jesus, which are you?

  • When life, grief, worry, pain, illness etc come along and take something out of you, what’s left?
  • Is your discipleship – your saltiness – so weak that after all this time you’re really just grit and sand?
    • Were you never really a disciple of Jesus, but rather just a lookalike?

You might say, “I’m weak. I’m slipping!”

  • Remember David, Peter, Paul. Men in the Bible who did terrible things against God and his people, but all forgiven and restored. 
  • Never lose sight of how forgiving the Lord is: Repent and turn to him again and again.

You might say, “Jesus asks too much. I’m giving up.”

  • Will your life bring you what Jesus does?
  • Will whatever you can find last, unchanging, forever?
  • Aren’t you exhausted chasing smoke?

Or you might say, “But how can I know it’s all true?”

  • There is one objective truth that makes everything Jesus said true: He rose from the dead.
  • Hundreds of people saw him.
  • And he lives in heaven now, ready to return, active among his people.

And so, “How can I keep going?”

  • Jesus has painted the kingdom of God for you as a tremendous banquet of joy and bliss with him.
  • Many, many will miss out.
  • As you come to him, making him your prize, your goal, he will forgive you and he will keep you.
  • He doesn’t save you from sin and leave you to muddle on the rest of your life.
  • You’re his disciple; you follow him. He is your shepherd, your living help.
  • And he has given you us, his church, to love you and care for you. We’re not perfect, because we’re all only disciples.

So prepare for discipleship: Be ready for lifelong devotion.

Count the cost of discipleship: Putting Jesus first even when it causes friction with others; putting Jesus first over your own desires and plans; and putting your whole life at his disposal.

And be pure salt. Leave the grit and sand of a sinful life behind; live a life of Christlike discipleship.

He will complete the work he has begun in you, he will help you every day, and he will take you to be with him in his banquet, his feast of bliss.