Robert Jeffress - Becoming Salty Saints
When Jesus asked men like Thomas and Peter to become his disciples, he didn't give them a lot of time to deliberate. It was either follow me or get left behind. And in the next half hour, we'll see how this same level of urgency applies to you and me today. Our study comes from Luke 14, and my message is titled Becoming Salty Saints, on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
As Alexander the Great was moving toward the east in his conquest of the world, he came upon a city that had been strongly fortified. The king came out to greet Alexander, and Alexander demanded that the king and the citizens surrender immediately. The king laughed and said, "Why in the world should I surrender to you? Look at the wall that encompasses this city". So Alexander decided to give the king a demonstration. Nearby the city walls was a sheer cliff. Alexander ordered his men to line up in a single column and to start marching toward that precipice. The citizens of the city and the king watched with horrified fascination as they saw that column of men marching closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. After several men, several soldiers, had gone over the edge, plunging to their deaths, Alexander halted the column and he turned back to the king.
The citizens suddenly realized they did not have walls thick enough to protect themselves against that kind of radical commitment. The citizens of the city ran through the city gates, and threw themselves at Alexander's feet, surrendering immediately. That same kind of radical loyalty those soldiers demonstrated toward Alexander the Great is the same kind of commitment, radical commitment, that Jesus Christ demands from those of us who truly want to be his disciples. And it's that kind of commitment that Jesus talks about in the passage we're going to look today.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Luke 14, beginning with verse 25, as we look at the cost of following Christ, Luke 14, beginning with verse 25. It seems like, especially in the passage we're going to look at today, that Jesus isn't trying to attract followers, it almost seems like he's trying to discourage followers. And there's a reason for that. Look at verse 25 of Luke 14, it says, "Now great multitudes were going along with him". There were two phases to the ministry of Jesus Christ. There was the public ministry, in which he did all of these miracles in order to garner a crowd. But then there was the private ministry in which Jesus talked about the cost of following him. And we see the pivot between those two phases of Jesus's ministry beginning in verse 25. Jesus looked at the great crowds that had been following him, and he said to himself, "It's time to thin out the ranks. It's time to pare down these people who say they want to be my disciples".
And so Jesus, beginning in verse 26, lays out the cost of being a true disciple of Christ. Now, before we talk about what the demands of being a disciple are, I think it would, first of all, be helpful to discover what the definition of a disciple is. What is a disciple? The technical definition of a disciple is this, if you want to jot it down. One who professes to have learned certain principles from another and maintains those principles in his life. One who professes to have learned certain principles from another and maintains those principles in his life. Let me give you four characteristics of a disciple, I have there on your outline. This is important to understand.
First of all, if we're going to be a disciple, if we're going to go out and make disciples, we better know what one looks like. First of all, a disciple is a Christian. A disciple is a Christian. You need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that comes into your life, who comes into your life once you're saved in order to follow Christ. So first of all, a disciple is someone who's made that foundational decision to receive Christ as Savior. But that's not all.
Secondly, a disciple has a growing relationship with Christ. He has a growing relationship with Christ. That is he knows God better today than he did a year ago. It means he knows more about God's word today than he did a year ago. It means he is more obedient in his life to God today than he's a year ago. His relationship with God is not static, it's dynamic. If we are a true disciple of Christ, we are growing in that relationship with Christ.
Number three, a disciple obeys Christ in every area of his life. And that's in the passage here, Jesus said, "We are to teach them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you". A disciple doesn't pick and choose those parts of Jesus command that he's going to obey. I think I'll do that, but no, that's too hard. Doesn't work that way. He is intent on applying all of Christ's commands to his life. Jesus said in John 14:23, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my words. If anyone does not love me, he will not keep my word". It's pretty bottom line, isn't it.
Number four, a disciple makes new disciples. If you're truly a follower of Jesus Christ, you're going to take seriously these final orders from Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples. Whatever your secular vocation is, whatever your responsibilities are, you're going to understand the one reason God left you here was to attract people to Jesus Christ and help them follow him.
Now that we know what a disciple is, let's look at the requirements for being a disciple, that's really what the passage is about. Look at Luke 14, beginning with verse 26. Two requirements for being a disciple, Jesus says. If you're going to follow me, first of all, that demands an unconditional allegiance, an unconditional allegiance. Look at verse 27, verse 26. "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". Those are pretty strong words. This doesn't seem right. I mean, Jesus, weren't you the one who said we need to honor our father and mother? Doesn't your word says we're supposed to love our children? Why is it you would call on us to hate our family?
Again, we need a understand this word hate in the biblical context. The word here, hate, doesn't carry the idea of emotional ill will. Perhaps the best understanding comes from Romans 9:13 where Paul is quoting the Old Testament, and he talks about God's choosing Jacob over Esau. And God said, "Jacob I have loved, Esau I have," what? I've hated. Now did God feel badly about Esau? Did he have emotional ill will toward Esau? Not really. East hall was really more lovable than Jacob was, as far as personalities go. But in God's sovereign plan, he chose to bless Jacob over Esau. So the word hate here carries the idea of a choice. And that's what Jesus is saying here. He said if it ever comes down to serving your family or serving God, a true disciple will always choose God over family. Not only that, but second, to be a disciple demands a willingness to die. Look at verse 27. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple". A willingness to die.
You know today Christians have a funny idea about the cross. There's some people who want to romanticize the cross. They wear the cross as a decoration. Other people trivialize the cross. They use the term carrying your cross to mean going through some unpleasant times, or doing something inconvenient, or having some problem in your life. Oh, that's my cross to bear. They use it to refer to everything from allergies to an obnoxious mother-in-law. Oh that's my cross to bear in life. That's not how Jesus uses the term here. In Jesus day, the cross meant one thing. If you saw someone going through the streets of Jerusalem carrying the cross, you knew that person was on his way to his own death. The cross meant execution. And that's how Jesus is using the term here. To be a disciple means a willingness to die.
"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple". What kind of death is Jesus talking about? Is he talking about physical death? Are you saying Jesus, is Jesus saying to be a disciple you have to be willing to give up your life? Would God ever require that of me? Maybe. But I think he's talking about more than that. Those of you who know the original language knows that this term carry his own cross carries with it a continuous action, whoever does not keep on carrying his own cross. You can only give up your physical life once. But Jesus means whoever is not willing to keep on dying. What does it mean to keep on dying? I think he was talking about a willingness to die to your own desires every day, willing to give up your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations. To become a disciple, you have to be willing to kill those things, to give them up for the cause of Christ.
Paul said in Galatians 2:20, "For I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself up for me". Before you sign on to this thing called Christianity, Paul says, or Jesus says, you better calculate the cost. See if you're really willing to pay the cost. To sign on and not follow through on that commitment is to embarrass yourself but also the Kingdom of God. And to illustrate that truth, beginning in verse 28, Jesus gives us two parables, two parables that illustrate the cost of discipleship. Notice in verse 28, first of all, there is this parable about the builder. Now up to this point in our study on the parables, parables have been used to teach an important truth, here Jesus uses them to illustrate a truth. The truth he's illustrating is about calculating the cost of following Christ.
Look at verse 28, "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it will begin to ridicule him saying, 'this man began to build and was not able to finish'". now the tower Jesus is talking about is a tower a farmer might build in his vineyard. And the purpose of the tower would be to protect the crops against any animals or other human beings that might try to destroy it. And the idea here is here's a farmer who begins to build a tower. He lays the foundation, but he hasn't properly calculated the cost. He runs out of the money, so all that is left there is a foundation and no tower. The result is embarrassment for the farmer. People ridicule him. You didn't plan very well, did you? But not only that, the job is left undone. The vineyard is not protected.
Jesus uses a second illustration in verse 31 of not calculating the cost of discipleship. This one is an illustration of a warrior, look at verse 31. "Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he's strong enough with 10.000 men to encounter one coming against him with 20.000? Or else while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace". If you're going to battle with somebody who has twice as many forces as you do, Jesus said, you better determine whether or not you have the ability and the willingness to win the war, otherwise is it's better to go ahead and negotiate for peace at the beginning. And what Jesus is alluding to here is the great conflict you're going to experience if you become a follower of Christ. It's not going to be all health, and wealth, and peace, and prosperity that the TV charlatans promise you today on religious television. It's not going to be that way.
If you're going to live as a disciple of Christ, it's going to cost you something. You better be prepared for it. You better be prepared for the spiritual attack you're going to come under and know that you're going to stay with it until the very end or it's better not even to enter into the battle to begin with. Then Jesus, beginning in verse 33, talks about the demonstration of discipleship. "So therefore no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all of his own possessions". By possessions, he's not just talking about money, he's talking about anything important to us. If you're going to be a follower of Christ, it means giving up everything important to you. By the way, notice Jesus doesn't say to be my disciple, you have to give away your husband, your wife, your bank account, your job, or even your dreams. You don't necessarily have to give them away, but you do have to give them up. That means to say, God, you're in control, these things belong to you and you're free to do with them whatever you choose.
Jesus concludes his teaching with these words in verse 34, "Therefore salt is good, but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless". You read this and think now wait a minute Jesus, you've been talking about discipleship, why now are we talking about salt? We have to understand what salt was to Jesus audience. Today we use salt to flavor our steak and to harden our arteries. That's what we think about the purpose of salt is. In Jesus day, it had a much deeper and much more basic reason for existing. Salt was used as a preservative. In the days before refrigeration, the only way to preserve food was with salt. It was an invaluable commodity.
Now remember what Jesus said about those of us who are disciples? Matthew 5:13, he said, "You are the salt of the earth". We're the salt, we are the preservative in this world. The reason God has left us here is to prevent the premature decay of our world, to make people thirst after God. We are the salt of the world. Now here's something important to understand about salt in Jesus day, it was very, very expensive. It was so expensive that most people couldn't afford to buy pure salt. In fact Roman soldiers would actually receive their wages in salt. We use our word salary, we talk about somebody's salary. First three letters, s-a-l, the word for salt. It was a valuable commodity. People would receive their wages in salary. Most people couldn't afford to buy pure salt, so they would buy a mixture of salt, usually of salt and sand.
Now salt, sodium chloride, is a stable compound. It's impossible, technically, for salt to lose its saltiness. But what happened was whenever people would water down the salt, so to speak, they would mix it with salt and sand, there would be a point at which there was so much sand in the mixture that the salt lost its effectiveness. It was worthless. It couldn't do its job. Now listen to what Jesus is saying here. If you become a Christian, you're not going to lose your salvation, you can't lose that. But if you are a Christian who says, I'm going to follow God, but then you dilute that commitment to God with a commitment to other things in life, you temper, you balance your commitment with God with a desire for money, success, pleasure, all of these other things, there comes a point in which you so dilute your commitment to Christ, that you are useless to God and God casts you aside.
Look at the last phrase of verse 35. He says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear". This is Jesus way of saying listen to this very, very carefully. If you're going to be my disciple, before you sign on, you better calculate the cost of doing so. To be my disciple means an unconditional allegiance to me, above anyone and anything else. It means a willingness to give up everything important to you, giving it up to God, to do whatever he chooses to do. Now only when you are willing to make that kind of commitment to God will you be of any use to God.