Eric Gargus, student pastor
Northside Baptist Church, Columbus
Back in my undergrad days at Jacksonville State University, I had the privilege of being appointed as a summer missionary to Colorado twice. During my second summer there, two guys from the mission church I served in invited me to hike two of the “14ers.” These 14,000 plus feet mountains require excellent physical fitness and a soldier’s resolve to climb. Thankfully, Gray’s Peak (the 9th tallest peak in Colorado) and Torrey’s Peak (the 11th tallest) require no climbing gear and are the easiest two 14ers to hike.
The journey began in a valley at an altitude of around 10,000 feet. The air was already thin. Not long after, the hike progressed into a grade so steep that I felt as if my knees were hitting my ears in the middle of every step! I made it to the top of both after pausing for one-minute breaks every 25 steps on the final ascent of each. This helped me and the two men from the church I hiked with avoid altitude sickness.
By the way, these two men told me in a frank and serious way that if I went with them, they would not carry me down the mountain if I succumbed to altitude sickness. And, they told me that if I gave up, they would leave me behind. So, once I started the climb, there was no turning back. There was one singular focus that had to matter beyond anything else. I risked my health and safety to summit two peaks. And, the experience was totally worth it!
Following Jesus wholly makes hiking 14ers seem more like climbing anthills. There is nothing easy about the journey. Many fail because they do not count the cost. Willingness to put every element of one’s life beneath the call to follow Christ is simply beyond what many are willing to do. The first disciples left everything and everyone behind to pursue Jesus. His mandate for us today is no different. Conveying the commitment required to truly follow Jesus is necessary if true disciples are to be developed.
Enter the word “hate.” In a Bible filled with examples and commands to love, being told to “hate” immediate family (Luke 14: 26) is a shocking statement by Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon clarifies the meaning of this verse by saying: “It is only in a comparative sense, and not literally, that the term can possibly be used; and to make this very clear, Christ said that we are to hate our own life.” A disciple’s love for anyone and anything else in life must be miniscule in comparison to his or her commitment to Christ. Jesus is not commanding disciples to literally hate anyone, but rather to love Him above anyone and anything.
Luke 14: 25-27 Being willing to give up everything for Jesus goes beyond giving up sinful habits and old ways. David Guzik says, “The greatest danger of idolatry comes not from what is bad, but from what is good — such as love in family relationships.”
Often someone radically following Jesus must move away geographically from loved ones, and at the least, re-prioritize life. A comfortable life is replaced with “carrying one’s cross daily,” which is clearly an uncomfortable and even frightening proposition.
Luke 14: 28-33 How many times does a person stop to consider what it really means to give his or her life to Jesus? A person can obviously be supernaturally saved by Jesus upon belief in Him. This does not create immediate perfection in that person’s life. It is only the beginning of the journey. Changes are coming in lifestyle, work, finances, and relationships. These changes are only possible through total commitment to Christ. Pausing to count the cost is imperative, as the cost to follow Jesus is still considerably less than the cost of rejecting Him and spending eternity in Hell.
Luke 14: 34-35 As my friend Carll Hooper says, “Be salty and lit.” Being the salt of the earth means being like Jesus daily. When a disciple’s actions and attitude do not reflect the light of Christ, that disciple becomes useless, like salt which has lost its salty taste.
The lifelong commitment of a Christ follower is only possible through the grace of Jesus. Forgiveness will be needed daily in order to stay salty. Consideration will have to be given regularly about whether a life decision keeps Jesus as the disciple’s top commitment — or elevates an idol above Him.
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