My friend Adam recently went to the hospital for a biopsy. Doctors had found a growth in his pancreas and needed to determine what it was. Before the procedure, a nurse explained the risk: 1 in 100 pancreas biopsies will agitate the pancreas enough to cause pancreatitis. Adam understood the risk and signed the waiver.
Unfortunately, Adam was the 1 in 100. Ouch.
Medical professionals are required to warn patients before procedures. Similarly, Jesus warned would-be followers about becoming His disciples.
Don’t misunderstand. He did not warn people against following Him, rather He warned them about following Him. There is a huge difference.
Usually we associate warnings with risks:
- The risk of cancer from second hand smoke
- The risk of injury from sports
- The risk of falling from a ladder
Instead of warning about risk, Jesus warned about reality. The reality Jesus warned of was total abandonment to Christ. According to Jesus, salvation is more than a claim, it is a radical commitment. That’s why it was important for Christ to warn those listening by describing the realities of following Him. Consider Luke 14:25-27:
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:25-27).
Christ’s warning was simple: Salvation is free, but it will cost you everything.
How can that be?
Consider marriage vows. In the US, aside from marriage license, marriage is free. Men are not required to pay a dowry to the bride’s parents. Each is free to marry the person whom they choose.
Marriage also comes with a commitment: to love and to cherish, forsaking all others, till death do us part. Marriage, although free, costs your life. You are no longer your own, you are joined together as one. You must be faithful to your spouse. It’s a total commitment with major ramifications.
Christ did not warn His followers so that they would avoid following Him, but so that they would understand the cost of following Him.
That’s why He continued with two examples:
- A man person building a tower without ensuring he has the resources to finish (v. 28-30).
- A king going to war without ensuring enough troops are available to win (v. 31-32).
In both cases, a failure to count the costs could result in a failure to finish. Christ is implying a sobering truth: Only those who endure to the end are saved.
This does not mean that salvation is not guaranteed or that a person may lose their salvation by apostatizing (permanently walking away from Christ). Rather, the person who walks away forever was never saved to begin with. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (I John 2:19).
Therefore, a warning is in order. In fact, neglecting to warn would-be followers is cruel and dangerous. It can lead to false assurance and damnation.
If we really love lost people, we will warn them of two realities: 1) Hell, and 2) the cost of following Christ.
Passion for lost souls is 100% Christ-like. But in our haste to see people come to Christ, we must not lower the bar of commitment. Jesus certainly didn’t:
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).
Sound too harsh? Not when you consider the treasure of Christ. Like the man who found a treasure hidden in a field, the Bible says he took great joy in selling everything he owned to purchase the field.
Commitment to Christ is not torture, it’s a treasure. Warn your friends, lest they miss out!