November 26, 2022

The Cost of Discipleship 04-09-2022

4th September 2022 (Pentecost 13)
Father’s Day / the Season of Creation / Child Safe Sunday

Sermon Title: The Cost of Discipleship 

(Philemon 1:16 – 20 & Luke 14:25 – 33)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

The more Jesus isolated the Jewish leaders, the larger the crowds who followed. Jesus taught the crowds as well as his disciples. The crowds sought and accompanied Jesus, but they did not follow Him. The main differences between the crowds and disciples are the cost and sacrifice. Following Jesus sometimes isolates and separates us from those closest or things familiar to us. Dedication to Jesus means rejection of self-interest and personal preference.

Discipleship is not a hasty decision or temporary commitment; it is a full-time commitment. Being a father, a mother, a family, and disciples are life-long commitments. Dedication to God has no limits and accompanies cost and sacrifice. Following Jesus is a lifelong commitment and determination and the road that leads to the cross or sacrifice. Cross bearing means total sacrifice of everything. Discipleship is never cheap or easy, but may we prioritize Jesus more than anything.

Have you ever paused and counted the cost of discipleship? In today’s text, becoming a disciple is like starting a building project. We must budget for it and see that we can finish it. No one wants a half-finished building. Christians should not turn back when they are halfway in their discipleship journey. Rather, we need to count the cost, be ready to pay the cost, and take up our cross. May we accomplish the race of discipleship journey together instead of returning to a place where we start or walking into where worldly values lead.

We might meet those who rejected and made fun of us. In verses 31 and 32, Jesus explains discipleship through fighting and battle. Jesus taught us how to prepare, build, and fight as disciples. Christian faith requires an enduring obedience from beginning to end. May we be ready to fight and win against something else that interrupts a disciple’s journey.

In today’s text, Jesus uses strong language to make clear the high cost of discipleship. It must be total dedication that moves from wish to careful deliberation and decision making. It cannot be done on impulse, because Jesus knows that the cross emerges before His followers. 

Being disciples accompanies the cost and determination. This term for “cost” appears only once in the New Testament here. Cost is what we give up to acquire, accomplish, maintain, or produce something. It involves a measure of sacrifice and perhaps loss or penalty in gaining something. Cost requires effort and resources.

As disciples, when accepting and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, we can see the power of Jesus’ call and the commitment as hearers and doers of the word. Discipleship is a process and takes time and involves both failures and successes. May we grow in our faith journeys and live the holiness that resides in each of us. As disciples, may we learn to face life’s challenges and joys with a spirit of love, hope, faith, and peace that leads us to a deeper spirituality. 

Today’s text invites us to engage in that deep process of reflection that discipleship demands of us, to explore whether we are being followers or if we are measuring our lives by human yardsticks. At the heart of discipleship is transformation, and the cost is engaging in a radical shift and faith growth. The cost of discipleship also includes salvation and entering an intimate relationship with God in Christ that teaches us that obedience to God is not blind. The cost will lead to changes in relationships and faith development. 

That change is well illustrated in Philemon. Paul offered something for Philemon to think about. Paul did not intend to minimize Onesimus’s past wrongs and acknowledged the debt Onesimus owed Philemon. Paul expressed his appreciation and love for Onesimus. “Onesimus is no longer as a slave, but as beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Paul told Philemon to welcome him as you would welcome me. 

In today’s text, Paul went on to say, “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.” Paul did not neglect obligations and relationships. Instead, he worked to resolve problems. He was ready to assume the debt and said, “I will pay it back”.

The treachery of Onesimus was refashioned by God’s hand and shaped into a blessing for Onesimus, Philemon, Paul, and the countless numbers who benefited from their ministries. Onesimus may have run away, but God’s grace ran with him. Philemon may have lost a possession, but God’s grace further enriched him and proved that God works for the good of those who love and serve him. God’s sovereign authority converts bad situations into good situations.

Onesimus was changed, and Philemon would find him valuable as a person, as a worker, as a friend, but also as a spiritual brother, a man with whom he found the deeper communion before the Lord. In these changed relationships, nothing would ever be the same. I believe that we will be transformed in Christ as a spiritual family and be reshaped by God as a renewed community.

The lawless acts of Onesimus were used by God to bring about his salvation and the maturity of Philemon. God’s grace works through all human affairs. We all belong to Christ. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these people of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). The Father accepts us as he accepts the Son, because we are followers and co-workers of Christ through faith. 

Here Paul identified with the accused and acted as the Christ-figure. However, like all of us before God, Onesimus cannot pay his debt. So, Paul accepted it as his own just as Christ did for all humankind upon the cross. He wanted Philemon to recall the great debt that Christ paid on his behalf and the new life to which Paul had introduced him when Philemon trusted the Saviour.

Christ has paid our debt in full, freeing us to serve in his kingdom with love, grace, and gratitude. We are called to be Jesus’ disciples. May we be ready to pay the cost in following Jesus and take up our cross in our discipleship journey. The call to discipleship is a gift of grace and that call is inseparable from grace. May we respond to Jesus’ call to costly discipleship and experience a new lease on life.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)