Luke 14:25-33 (NIV)
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
St Paul, the missionary, was urged on by the love of Christ to labour and struggle for others, to bring the glorious and saving Gospel to pagans and unbelievers. Such love for the neighbour, who is without Christ, serves and honours Jesus Christ, and demonstrates true discipleship – following Jesus and continuing His work.
There are many examples of discipleship in our own New Zealand church history. People from Europe, who were led by the love of Christ to help in the spreading of the Gospel in a world half-way around the globe from their homeland.
Most New Zealanders know about Samuel Marsden who first preached the Gospel in the Bay of Islands 205 years ago.
Not so many know that this year marks the 175th anniversary of Lutheran missionaries coming to mainland Aotearoa – the South Island. One went to a remote Maori community on Ruapuke Island – between the South Island and Stewart Island.
The Reverend Johann Wohlers, spent almost 40 years discipling a small community of Maori on Ruapuke Island.
Men like Johann Wohlers and women like his wife, Elise, renounced the comforts of European town and city lifestyle to take up a particular kind of discipleship. Many of these faithful disciples of Christ, like Wohlers, endured hardship, poverty and ill health in order to bring the comfort of Christ through their words and deeds.
Johann and Elise had given up close family ties, financial reward in their trade or business, good health, the comforts of their own culture and belonging. Many missionaries today still make sacrifices of things we take for granted to testify to the truth of the Gospel.
Some years ago it was estimated that in S.E. Asia only 5% of people were baptised. God had called people like Pr Simon Mackenzie who served as a missionary in Northern Thailand and Pr Greg Schiller who was based at the Lutheran Seminary, in Ogelbeng, Papua New Guinea.
Pr Greg was supported financially by the Lutheran Church of New Zealand to help bring Christ into the hearts and lives of a Melanesian nation.
So, what’s the relevance to us in the Waikato? We too are Jesus disciples because of His promises to us and He calls us to support the ministry of other disciples who have had to leave their homeland, family and possessions to live their discipleship.
We at St Matthew have in recent years supported Tim and Rowena in Central Asia.
The need for Jesus’ disciples to be missionaries is great, so many people throughout the world have not heard of Jesus love. We cannot be indifferent to them just as we cannot be indifferent to our neighbours here in the Waikato who have never heard, understood and believed the Gospel.
Mission at home is just as important as mission overseas is important and will be needed until our Lord returns. Your discipleship makes you missionaries here at home. Are you “to be, or not to be” active disciples?
Mission in all its various forms is needed where people are religious, some even very spiritual, but who are not in a living relationship with and worshipping Jesus.
How do we as Christ's disciples support all this much needed mission? What sacrifices are we prepared to make so that everyone has the opportunity to hear how Jesus loves them? For example, what sacrifices have you made so that your children and grandchildren can hear about Jesus love for them?
You gently pray for and encourage, practice and model your faith to those who are close to you – and this is good!
Your families and neighbours are the people you have access to whom Jesus calls you to share the Gospel with – because not all of us can go to the villages of Thailand or Papua New Guinea.
Whose disciple are you? Who do you follow? If you claim to be a Christian then as a Disciple you follow only Jesus Christ. This means that you obey the first commandment.
"You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3, NIV) which means you, “…fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” And you model your faith in God by calling upon God in every trouble, praying, praising and giving thanks and that you hold time with God and His Word as sacred, gladly hearing and learning it.
To be a true disciple means following Jesus at the expense of everything and everyone else. Your relationships with others are all secondary and of no saving consequence. You are saved by faith alone, this faith given to you at baptism fulfils the first commandment perfectly for you.
But what about all those good things you do? Don't they count for anything? Yes! But not for salvation! God accepts and is pleased with the good works of His forgiven children when His children follow the signposts given in today’s Gospel text.
But, what are the signposts? Hating relatives, one's own life, even carrying the cross, giving up everything which interferes with faith in Christ and God alone.
What interferes with our faith? What keeps you from hearing Jesus speak to you, and then speaking of Jesus to those who are close to you, let alone to those who are merely acquaintances? Is it your parents, partner and children, or your chosen lifestyle?
Discipleship does not only mean making a few hard decisions at the beginning. There is a life-long struggle. There are tests and temptations which may result us pushing Jesus Christ and His marvellous Gospel into the background or to the edge of the daily life.
(How might Jesus be pushed aside in our lives?)
God may call for you to reject and deny certain family ties, human loyalties and obligations, so that you can be missionaries where you feel least comfortable – perhaps with family and friends.
I often struggle with this even as pastor of this congregation. What is God calling me to reject and deny so that I may more effectively be a missionary in Whitiora and St Matthew?
Hebrews 12 shows that those whom the Father loves He will discipline in many ways. "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when He rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those He loves,
and He punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. ... 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! ...but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV)
There is no doubt Satan attacks believers more than unbelievers. Clinging to Christ alone for your salvation and all that is good, and the strengthening of this faith should be your highest responsibility as His disciples. This so you can better reflect the love of Christ to those God has called you to share your faith with.
Jesus Christ helps you constantly, and the Holy Spirit intercedes for you, His disciples. So you can pray and call on Him to help you. You can support the work through your gifts: regular offerings, attendance at worship, working bees, fellowship evenings, Bible Studies, living and speaking your faith each day.
You participate in discipleship when you say to our visiting friends and neighbours, “we worship God on Sunday morning – you can come with us – otherwise we will be with you following the service…”
It is Christ's will that His disciples carry out the mission He began amongst us here in Whitiora, Hamilton and the greater Waikato. God's will is that the Gospel must be preached to all the nations (Mk 13:10, Matt. 24:14.). As His disciples you all have a role to play in ensuring the mission continues both locally and in neighbouring nations.
God does not want you to be half hearted in our discipleship. He's with you to help you along the way. That’s why God gave you His Holy Spirit when you were baptised.