Sermon Manuscript . . .
The Test of True Commitment
Test series–Luke 13:10 to Luke 14 selected
I love statements of courage. Like the first American astronaut to go into space, Alan Shepard, who responded to the idea of “traveling to space on a rocket, as if you were riding on a million tons of TNT” by saying, “Sounds dangerous–count me in.” Or Dirty Harry, who faces down a bank robber who is threatening to kill a hostage and says, “Go ahead, make my day!” Or General Puller, who was surrounded by North Koreans, but declared over the radio, “They won’t get away from us this time.” Or the chief of CONTROL telling Maxwell Smart his life will be in constant danger every minute on this assignment and Max replying, “And loving it.”
I love statements of courage and commitment. But when is the last time you heard an inspiring commitment from an everyday Christian or a church? Something terrible has happened to Christianity in our day. Where there once was zeal, now there is complacency. Where there was once single-minded commitment to Christ and His cause, now God’s people keep their options open, just in case something better comes along.
All of the options of Southern California have eroded our passion for what is not optional. We ask, “Should I go to church or should I go to ______?” (Fill in the blank with the beach, skiing, a movie, Sea World, Dismalland and 100 other options.) We are no longer passionate about Christ, because slowly Christ, the Church, and our ministry have become just one of the many options. Don’t get me wrong, our relationship with Christ is not a life of following hard, legalistic traditions, or a series of spiritual hoops to jump through, or hardcore cult-like control, or obnoxious, overbearing, external religion–not at all.
But we have forgotten, the Christian life is not turning over a new leaf, but being transformed with a new heart that wants to follow Christ passionately. The new heart shows itself through a desire to commit. The new heart wants to maintain an absolute, unqualified, sacrificial relationship to Jesus Christ and a single-minded commitment to His cause. There will be a dying of our will and the dedication of our life to our Master’s will. And if you don’t believe me, take a look at Jesus’ terms of being His disciple in Luke l4. Study what Jesus requires from anyone who calls themselves a Christian.
These are some of the tests of a true Christian found in Luke l4:26, 27, and 33. “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. 27Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 33So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
It’s incredible to me that Jesus laid down such tough terms to be His follower. He says being committed to Him is going to be costly, rather than feel good. Instead of being easy and delightful, Jesus emphasizes its difficulties and dangers. Jesus spoke more of foes that would be encountered, than the friends that would be enjoyed. Would you agree with me that these statements by Christ are strong, difficult and demanding? Would you also agree you don’t see these verses lived out very clearly from those who call themselves Christians around you? And do you have the courage to admit that you might not be living these out the way your heart wants you to? Good.
These verses are so strong, to get around them, believers have distorted the Bible in order to not have to obey them. In order to make these verses more palatable, some say they only describe a mature believer and not every Christian. In order to make these verses fit our convenient, skin-deep culture, others will say things like, “These verses are not for the Christian, but only apply to the mature disciple.”
I’m confident most are familiar with the teaching that says a Christian is someone who accepts Jesus as Savior and a disciple is someone who follows Jesus as Lord. Maybe you thought a disciple was a committed Christian. Or a disciple only describes a maturing Christian. Or a Christian only becomes a disciple when he or she gets serious about following Christ or becomes obedient. That is not what the Bible teaches. The first description of a believer was a disciple. And disciple is just the first name of a Christian. A disciple is an ordinary Christian and every true Christian is a disciple.
The gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were written by the same author and it is Dr. Luke who declares in Acts 11:26, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Luke declares another name for a disciple is Christian. Those transformed by Christ were first all called disciples–only later the disciples of Christ were called Christians. To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. And once someone truly enters the door of salvation, they do so as a follower of Christ or they don’t enter at all. No one can take Jesus as Savior but not as Lord, because the Jesus who isn’t Lord can’t save you.
Plus, it isn’t you who accepts a Savior, but it is the Lord who sovereignly initiates your acceptance. It is God who chooses you, not you who chooses Him. And the only God who can choose you is the Lord. Feel the weight of what Luke is saying. He is telling his readers that true Christ-followers, all genuine believers, all disciples of Christ, and every true Christian here is committed–committed in heart at a very high level. A true test of genuine faith is commitment. Luke proves it here.
This is Christ’s last year of public ministry. The opposition of the external religionists has intensified, so our Lord is focusing on His men as He steadily moves closer to the cross. As He does, Christ increasingly clarifies the nature of true salvation. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, since they’ll water their oxen on the Sabbath, but they rebuke Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. The religious leaders hated Jesus, because they thought all the Jews were automatically saved and Jesus said, “No, only a few were truly saved.”
Jesus taught true salvation would require striving–not by doing good works, but the internal striving of heart to be humble enough to know you can’t work your way to Heaven or overcome your internal and natural love of sin and never overcome the deception of the devil. The entire context leading up to Luke 14 teaches you salvation is a narrow door that is difficult to enter. Jesus is making it clear, you can’t save yourself. You can’t get to Heaven on your own. You can’t be good enough for God to accept you. God Himself must change your heart–and when He does, your new heart will be willing to do and want to do anything and everything that Christ calls a disciple to do. He makes you able to strive.
Luke 14 is talking about the heart of a genuine Christian. The God who seeks to save brings you through a narrow door. You become salt that doesn’t lose its flavor. Those that do lose their flavor are not His true children. You count the cost of building a tower or winning a battle before you submit to Christ. Then at the point of salvation, the new heart sees Christ worth sacrificing everything for. This passage is not talking about the super-committed, but those who have an authentic relationship with Christ. All true Christ-followers have this kind of commitment in their heart. Jesus describes here what happens to anyone when God transforms them. Jesus describes what He meant when He said salvation involves a narrow door and striving to enter.
Don’t be confused–Jesus is not talking about working hard for your salvation here, nor living good enough to be acceptable to God or being committed enough to be saved. That is heresy! Jesus is saying when God saves you, when He gives you the faith to respond to Him, when He transforms you, when He gives you a new heart in salvation, then He gives you a heart that wants to be this committed. He gives you a heart that is willing to pay this commitment. A genuine Christian exchanges all that they are for all that Christ is. For a true believer, no sacrifice is too great to make, no price is too much to pay to gain Christ.
You say, “Chris, if this is true, then there are fewer Christians today than most of us think.” All the Jews thought they were automatically saved. And most churchgoers think they are automatically saved. They have a religion, but many have no relationship. That is exactly what Jesus said in this context in Luke 13:23 and in Matthew 7:14, when He said, “Yes, there are few who find it.”
Now, look up here–this makes total sense, doesn’t it? Is Jesus Christ committed to you? Did He give His all for you? Listen to these verses with me. Second Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Romans 5:6, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Second Corinthians 5:15, “And He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
If Christ was this committed, don’t you think that those who truly are His followers, those who are indwelt by Him, those who have been given a new heart will desire to be as committed as He is? All true Christians are committed and are willing to do whatever the Lord wants them to do, because this is the commitment demonstrated by our Savior. And it is the few, the truly born again believers whom God will use to turn this world upside down. That’s the way it was in Acts. That is the way it has been through the centuries. And that is the way it is today.
It’ll not be big conferences or concerts, but God moving in the hearts of a few transformed hearts that will change the Church, this region and this world for Christ. Jesus is speaking to the crowd in Luke 14 in order to help them realize who is the real thing and who is not–who knows Christ and who doesn’t, who is willing to do anything for Christ, and who is still making excuses. Are you a part of that rare group? Let’s find out. Test yourselves. Genuine salvation consists of three qualities.
#1 Unrivaled Love for Christ or a Commitment to a Relationship
Look at 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.” Christian, what Jesus is saying here is you can only be His disciple if you love Him more than anyone else. When Jesus says to “hate“, He means we are to love others less than Him. Your love for Christ is to be so much greater than for other people, that when you compare your love for Christ with your love for others, your spouse, your children, even yourself, that it seems like you’re making a contrast.
When I compare my love for Jean or my boys or my daughter-in-law or my mentor with my love for Christ, my love for Christ is so much greater it looks like I am comparing black with white. It looks like love and hate.
When you go to buy white paint, you’ll see an illustration of this. When you look at any individual white paint, it usually looks white. But compare off-white or cream white or dusty white with pure white and it looks like white and some other color. Our love for Christ is to be such that when we compare it to any other love, our love for the Savior is purer, whiter–it stands out. Our lives are to express love for Jesus first over every relationship. No relationship should ever compete with Christ.
Have you ever been stymied by too many choices? You go to 31 Flavors and the person behind the counter says, “What would you like?” And you freeze up–you can’t decide. You know–too many chocolates with too little time. But if you have a true heart of commitment to Christ, there will be no indecision like that. Christ will always be your favorite–even when you fail to make the right decision. There will be no comparison–no competitors and no rivals.
This verse says when your hearts are faced with a choice between Christ and your spouse, Christ and your children, Christ and your friends or Christ and yourself–a genuine born again heart will choose Christ. And the love we are called to show here is the love of the total person. We’re not merely to love Christ with our minds–theologically (so that we think we love God), our hearts–emotionally (so that we feel we love God), our wills–practically (so that we choose to love God). But we are to love Christ with all of our being–all our thoughts, feelings and choices are to be consumed with Him. Our entire life is focused on Him, even when we are at school, or at work, or at home.
Like the professional athlete who will not take his eyes off the finish line, the committed Christian forgets all except Christ. You may work, raise kids, clean house, fix dinner, go golfing, watch TV–but Christ is first in those activities. In a Chinese house church, some believers were gathered together in a home, secretly studying the Word, when a gang of soldiers burst through the door. The hearts of everyone in the room began to pound as the leader of these men said, “All of you who would be ready to die for your faith, stay seated. The rest of you can leave.” Quietly, about half the group slipped out the door into the night. Then one of the soldiers shut the door behind them and locked it. The leader then said, “You are the ones we need to talk to. We want to know about Christ and what He’s really about.”
The heart of true commitment says, “No relationship competes with my relationship with Christ.” A heart of genuine commitment has a love for Christ that is unrivaled, even if it means you’re single for the rest of your life, even if it means you are poor and never own a house, even if you are unknown and never make it on American Idol. There are no competitors in your love for Christ. Why do many children rebel from the faith of their parents? Because they don’t see this kind of love for Christ in their parents’ life. They see a convenience Christianity, not a faith of no competitors, but a faith of convenience and compromise with other loves.
So how can anyone have this kind of heart? This verse declares that God gives this heart to every true child of His–even when you allow other loves to compete for your affection. Even though we fail more often than not, even though we wimp out–the heart of a real believer always wants Christ to be first in all. How can a Christian grow in this committed love? One basic way–the means of grace, prayer, the study of the Word, service in His church, discipleship relationships. Not a weekly pork fest, but daily feedings as a way of life.
Listen friends, Christianity is not a third person experience. Our faith cannot be lived out through someone else–one can’t carry on a relationship with Christ by proxy. Christianity is not going steady with God–it is an unbreakable marriage union and love relationship with our Creator. To grow your marriage, you pursue relationship. To grow your children, you pursue relationship. To grow in your intimacy with Christ, you pursue relationship. You are lying to yourself if you say you love Christ, yet spend no time with Him. The amount of time you spend with Christ will determine the impact you will have for Christ. The second test of a genuine converted heart is . . .
#2 Uncompromising Conduct in Life or a Commitment to Representation
Read verse 27, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Things have changed in American society. In the 70’s, it was improve yourself. In the 80’s, it was serve yourself. In the 90’s, it was love yourself. In the 2000’s, it’s protect yourself. In 2010, it’s worship yourself. For the Christian, it is totally different–for you, it’s always deny yourself, die to self.
What does Jesus mean by taking up the cross? The cross is not a trial, or trouble, or a burden you bear. The cross is a means of execution–and in this case, it means your own death. The cross means to die to self–to not live your way anymore, but God’s way. To not live for yourself, but for Jesus Christ. To carry your own Cross signifies a willingness to let people make fun of you because you follow Christ. It means to lose yourself in ministry to others for the glory of Christ. To carry your own cross means to put Christ on display in a classroom when most hate Him, or at a Christian school when many are bored with Him. To be different among fellow employees by working harder, smiling more, and caring for people.
It means to be kind to unlovely people, to show acts of compassion to the weak, to do the job no one else wants to do or serve in the place where no one will ever notice, to chose to take the path that best displays Christ. The greater the sacrifice often means the greater the impact. Once a certain society in South Africa wrote to David Livingstone and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you.” Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
Those who follow Christ have a purpose. Why are we here? To do here that which will make the greatest difference in eternity. To do eternal things here. What do we have here that is eternal? Simple–the Word of God and people. You make an eternal impact as you invest God’s Word into people. Simply, sharing Christ and building up Christians to be like Christ. You have two messages, salvation and sanctification. To come to Christ or become like Christ. Your mission is to use your giftedness to help others in the Church become like Christ, and to use the Gospel to help others in the world come to Christ. Those who know Christ know they’re here for a reason.
So daily remind yourself you are on this planet for the sole purpose of influencing people–both saved and unsaved. The commitment of a genuine born again heart is a willingness to deny itself in order to make every day count for eternity by representing Christ to all. The third sign of a genuinely converted heart is . . .
#3 Unselfish Giving of Possessions or a Commitment to Renouncing the World
All true disciples manifest verse 33, “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” It is amazing Jesus uses the word, “all“. What He creates in the heart of a real believer is a willingness for full surrender. When you are born again, you recognize everything belongs to Him and not to you any longer. As a result, you renounce, surrender claim to, give up, and say good-bye to all your possessions, time, money, talents, pleasures, friends, family, gifts, dreams, and turn them over to Christ whenever He wants them. All claims to our own lives are gone once we are His.
He creates a heart, then claims the right to dispose of everything in our possession, as He, in His wise love, seems best. This is not a Communist system or a Capitalist system, but a Christ-like system. Instead of a tightly clenched fist, you hold all you’ve been given in a relaxed, open hand and say, “Lord, help yourself to whatever you wish of mine, in which ever manner you want me to give it, whenever and wherever you want me to give it away.” If there is anything you can’t give away, then you don’t own it–it owns you. Plus, you’ve forgotten Who owns you and everything you have.
“But,” you say, “I don’t have anything anyway.” Not true–even if you didn’t have any possessions, you still have time, affection, service. When you are no longer your own, giving yourself away is not an option. Once an American tourist visited an old, godly teacher. Astonished to see the teacher’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked, “Teacher, where is your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the teacher. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I’m a visitor here. I’m only passing through.” “So am I,” said the teacher.
A converted heart is transformed into a willingness to renounce the things of the world. But that doesn’t mean having less (even though that helps)–but giving more. To evaluate your commitment, ask yourself–how much time, money or effort am I investing weekly for the cause of Christ? When is the last time you made any sacrifice for Christ? Do you have the heart of the truly converted? Do you have a transformed, born again heart which is willing to do anything and everything for Christ? Do you mirror the commitment of the One you say you love more than life? As a part of the crowd listening to Christ, would you be more prone to give an excuse or give an amen? Let me drive this home with some crucial questions.
A What MOTIVATES you to maintain this kind of commitment, once you have a new heart in Christ?
Simple, the motive is found in the example of Christ. Jesus asks nothing of His children He’s not willing to do Himself. Because of His love for us, He “hated” His Father and His heavenly home, and came to Earth as the sinless God-man to live in a world of sin, where He often didn’t know where to lay His head. For our sake Jesus, bearing His own cross, went to Golgotha where they crucified Him (John l9:l7, l8). For our eternal enrichment, Christ renounced all He had (2 Corinthians 8:9), “Though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
Is a servant greater than his Lord? Shall we be reluctant to do for Him what He so willingly did for us? All true Christians want to fulfill these qualities of true commitment, but only as Christ lives through you by His Spirit can you be committed.
B How can anyone be COMMITTED like this?
Get this, everyone is not only designed for this level of commitment, but everyone is committed to this degree, with this intensity. The only difference is, many are committed to other things or to other people besides Christ. Some are sold out, super-committed to their children, their friendships, or their spouse. Others are passionately sold out to an easy lifestyle and doing what they want–though they claim Christ.
Others are devoted to living a life of no conflict–they go through massive effort to avoid a confrontation. Some are committed to getting rich, owning things, remaining beautiful or handsome. A few are dedicated to learning the Bible and appearing super-spiritual. Everyone here is sold out–if it is not to Christ, then it is to something other than Christ. But you are committed. The question is not whether you will be committed, but the question is who or what will you be committed to? Your King called you to commit yourself to Him and His cause.
If you’re genuinely saved, you will be willing to manifest a Luke 14 commitment to Christ. What is stopping you? Do not fool yourself–if you are unwilling, you are unsaved. Giving is a certain sign if your heart is transformed. Serving is an indicator your heart is regenerate. Your passion in praise, your words of thanks, your attitudes of trust in trial, your hopes for God’s glory in circumstances–all serve as a dipstick into your heart to help you determine if you have been truly born again.
C What if you don’t WANT to be this committed?
What if you are not willing to pay His price, if you don’t want to have this kind of commitment–then you are probably not His follower. You’re not saved. The Bible says a disciple is an ordinary Christian. And Jesus says in Luke 14, if you’re not willing to pay this price, then you cannot be His follower–period. Jesus has not called you to be perfect while in this body. But He is calling you to have a willing heart that progressively lives out a true commitment to Him.
If you’re not developing, then you’re deteriorating. Don’t forget, verses 28 to 32 call you to count the cost of true commitment. If you don’t want it, then Christ is not yours, because He didn’t give you a new heart that wants this kind of commitment. Today, as the Bible exposes your heart to you and you discover you are not His child–then cry out to Christ, ask Him to awaken you, save you, change you. Repent and trust.
D What STEPS can I take to live out this commitment?
Regular time alone with the Lord, living each day with purpose, and in your heart giving up ownership of all your possessions–all require courage. One way to jump start your commitment is to get accountable with someone you respect and are a little afraid of. The kind of accountability that says, “I will do what you say,” puts teeth into your commitment for Christ. Jesus calls you to burn the bridges back to nominal and mediocre, American Christianity and start living out a heart of true commitment to Christ.
Today, commit to stop being average, just like everyone else and to be a normal Christian–one who measures themselves against the Word of God and not other Christians. Today get radical. That means, return to the original design. Burn the bridges back to average Christian living.
When Cortez landed at Vera Cruz in 1519 to begin his conquest of Mexico with a small force of 700 men, he purposely set fire to his fleet of eleven ships. His men on the shore watched their only means of retreat sinking to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. With no means of retreat, there was only one direction to move–forward into the Mexican interior to meet whatever might come their way. In paying the price for being Christ’s disciple, we too must purposefully destroy all avenues of retreat. Resolve today to not only want true commitment to Christ, but to start living it by the power of the Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God through you. Let’s pray!