Everything in life comes with a price tag. It does not matter what you consider in this world, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Things in your life are either going to cost you time, money, energy, emotion, or any number of things. If you want to stay healthy it is going to cost you time, energy, effort, discipline and, in some cases, money. If you want friendship it is going to cost you plenty of time, effort and emotional involvement. If you want wealth it will be a large investment of time effort, and energy. If you want a solid family it is going to take plenty of work, sacrifice, time, effort, and emotions. These are in no way exhaustive lists because these few things I mention here will cost different people different things.
Some people come to Jesus with the belief that he will make life easier and perhaps in comparison to some of the troubles of this world it is easier. However, easier does not mean easy; easier does not mean there is no cost involved. In fact, Jesus made it as plain as day that there was a great cost to following him, not that many of us actually follow properly.
Jesus was preparing to move camp when a teacher of the law came up to him and stated that he was going to be a disciple of Jesus. Obviously he like what he heard and saw and was willing to submit himself to Jesus' teaching and discipline. I am sure Jesus looked him right in the eye as he told this teacher:
"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)
To follow Jesus is to submit ourselves to his teaching and attitude. Jesus claimed nothing in this world. He had no earthly possessions at all. He had no home, no investments, no bank accounts, no income. He had the clothes on his back and his Father's mission to fulfill. His was not a complicated life. In comparison, a teacher of the law was a community leader who would have been paid well and lived well. He would be use to a certain lifestyle as are most of us. So how does this translate into today?
I would say it has a lot to do with attitude. Most of us own too much "stuff" and we are too attached to this "stuff". I am not going to go on about it because you either know it to be true or you don't. Many of us have cluttered our lives with the insignificant and have neglected the more important spiritual matters of relationship with Jehovah and relationship with others. I would say to own "stuff" is not the real problem but to be owned by it is. We have too many attachments to this place and it is impacting our walk with Jesus. We need to de-clutter in a major clean out of our "stuff" and attitude towards it.
Then another disciple came to Jesus with a simple request: "Before I follow you please allow me to go and bury my father." This sounds reasonable but here is Jesus' reply:
"Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." (Matthew 8:22)
Doesn't that sound harsh to you? The problem was the man's father wasn't dead. He was stating he would submit to Jesus after he fulfilled a traditional obligation. We are talking a cultural thing here similar to the idea that if a son declared his financial obligation to his widowed mom to be an offering to God he could get out of supporting his mom. Jesus said that this was bogus. Culture does not trump the righteousness of Jehovah. Either follow or don't, but do not use cultural excuses for disobedience or rejection.
This is a big one today because we have allowed non-biblical traditions to run our lives and often interfere with the directions of Jesus. The Church is steeped in traditions that have no impact on our relationship with Jesus or the mission we have been given. In fact, some of these traditions get in the way and hinder both relationship and mission. Allow me to challenge some of you. What is more important the baptism of water or the baptism of the Spirit? Where does it say that people are not permitted to dance? Where does it say a person cannot enjoy a beer at a bar? In fact, where do you think Jesus hung out? Where does the Word tell us that our current church structure is a must or that we are stuck in this form of Sunday service? Where does it say that a minister of the Word, a pastor, an evangelist has to go off for training and receive papers to prove it? Where does it say that a pastor has to have an educational degree or a business diploma? Is not the anointing of the Spirit the only criteria? Again not an exhaustive list of a rather lengthy list when you stop and consider traditions over Biblical directives.
Following Jesus comes at the cost of letting go of our earthly ties and our earthly traditions. It means stepping into the unfamiliar and being retrained in the Spirit. It means willing to have our perspectives shifted and turned upside down. It means a change of priorities and values. It means a re-birth in our thinking concerning all matters. As I said, it means letting go. Many of us struggle with that. Many of us struggle with allowing the Spirit to operate as he sees fit. We want him to operate within our narrow parameters. If you want to be a real follower of Jesus Christ you must be willing to allow the shift to be real, to allow the Spirit to be real in your life. Stop saying, "God doesn't work like that", or "God would not ask that of me", or "God would never do that". The only thing God would never do is sin or go against his Word. Everything else is wide open. We have to let go. Are you prepared to pay the cost of letting go?