Salvation is a free gift… Discipleship is demanding and costly!
That’s a tough one for many to process and accept (they want to stop with the free gift part). Here’s how Jesus put it…
“Now when great crowds accompanied him, 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. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’” (from Luke 14:25-34 ESV)
Now think about it… right at the time great crowds were flocking to hear Jesus he pulls this one off! Not really the way to increase the size of the crowds is it? Jesus must have more interested in devoted followers – those who understood the demands of discipleship – don’t you think?
So I’ve struggled with an analogy to deal with the seeming paradox between the “free gift of salvation” and the “demands of discipleship.” Here’s the best I can do… A good marriage. Think about it, in any marriage worth its salt you cannot buy or earn true love! You wouldn’t want the kind of “love” you had to buy! Real love – authentic love – must be freely given. And salvation is a “free gift” of love from God through Christ to those who will receive it. On the other hand however, a good marriage is VERY demanding… You can throw around the word love easily enough, but in a good marriage it reveals itself in “giving one’s self for another.” It’s costly! And so it discipleship… Jesus said it, “if you love me keep my commandments!” (John 14:15)
So we don’t literally “hate” parents, siblings, or family members (there are other places in the Bible that forbid that!). But compared with our love for the Lord and commitment to follow Him, everything else is secondary! Discipleship demands self-renunciation – to our will, our desires, and our personal preferences! Our commitment to Christ and following Him comes first! Nothing else compares! That’s right, NOTHING else compares!