“Play by the Rules” (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 23 June 2013.

Reference: Luke 14 v 25-35

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If you want to take part in a game you have to play by the rules. There are rules that are agreed in advance and all participants have to agree to abide by them. If not – it just won’t work.

The Christian life is far from being a game, but there are rules. They are set by Jesus and they are non-negotiable.
At the start of our passage, Jesus is accompanied by crowds of people. They have experienced what it is like being around Him, and they want to be his followers. It is at this stage that he turns to them and says, in effect: ”Are you sure that you want to follow me? If you really do, here are the rules.”

In this passage, Jesus gives us:

  • Three pre-conditions; three things that must be in place if we wish to be followers of Jesus
  • Three pictures: three illustrations of what it is like if we don’t understand those pre-conditions
  • Three promises – three things that our response may produce

1.Three Pre-conditions

a. You Put Jesus first

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

What Jesus is saying here is the Hebrew way of saying that Jesus has to come first against all the things in life that we hold dear, family, job possessions – even our own life.

b. You carry the cross

“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus is pointing out that being his follower will involve us in putting to death our own desires and ambitions in favour of Gods – such a thing will be painful and difficult,

c. You give everything over to him

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples”

When we are Jesus disciples everything about us belongs to Him and is at His disposal to do with as he sees fit.

2. Three Pictures

a. The Un-prepared builder

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”

This is the story of someone keen to be a Christian, but unaware of how much it would cost, and when it came to it, unable to pay the price.

b. The Unwise King

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?”

Jesus warns us against being like a king who is foolish enough to think that he can go to war against an army that is bigger than his own. The message is: don’t start unless you are able to finish.

d. The useless salt

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.”

Salt that looks like salt, but doesn’t have any of the properties of salt is absolutely useless. This is a picture of the Christian who will not pay the price of being a disciple.

3. Three Promises

So what are we to make of this passage? A look forward to Revelation will help us. In chapters two and three Jesus, the risen, ascended, glorified Lord speaks to his church. He addresses the church at a place called Laodacea – a church just like the people Jesus has been describing – followers of Jesus who are unwilling to pay the price.

a. A Horrible Consequence

Promises are normally seen as positive things – but this one is anything but. Here Jesus talks about the disgust that he feels towards the lukewarm believer and promises to “spit you out of my mouth” – a thought so disturbing that we would shortly do anything necessary to avoid it.

b. A Glorious Possibility

But it does not have to be like this! Jesus longs to restore the lukewarm and to make us those with whom he has sweet fellowship:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

What a prospect! Jesus is willing to have fellowship with the worst of all backsliders.

c. A Personal Guarantee

In Luke 18 there’s the story of the rich young ruler to whom Jesus laid it on the line – telling him the cost that he would have to pay to follow Jesus. The young man sadly went away. The disciples then said that they had left everything to follow Jesus – they truly knew what it was to be the disciples that Jesus wanted. Jesus made them a cast iron promise:

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Why settle for anything less?

John MacDiarmid
June 2013

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