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Sonship And Discipleship

Sonship And Discipleship poster

“And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. For whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”—Luke 14:25–33

The Lord Jesus Christ always was, still is, and ever will be God. The only God we ever knew, the only God we know, the only God whose acquaintance we desire to make, is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. His character, therefore, by virtue of its deity, defies comparison, and we must never be guilty of comparing the incomparable Christ with any or all other religious teachers before, contemporary with, or since His time. Only He among them all is God, co-equal and co-eternal in all His attributes with God the Father, and with God the Holy Ghost.

On the other hand, we must not forget that when He walked on this Earth He became just as human as He was divine. He was the Son of Man in the truest sense of the word, and in no sense different from the rest of the human race, except that He was without sin. Speaking of the human Jesus, I believe He was the greatest preacher this world has ever known, and, as a mere novice in the same God-honored profession, I delight to compare the Preacher Christ with all others whom I have been privileged to know. My, what a difference! Christ never was elated when the multitudes flocked to hear Him, nor was He ever depressed when they all forsook Him and fled. We little preachers are thrilled to pieces when the people lend us their ears, but we are sad beyond expression when they show us their backs. If you study the public ministry of our Saviour, you will notice He apparently did His level best to chase the multitudes away. In fact, He was so eminently successful on one occasion that, before He concluded all of His message, His congregation, with the exception of a pitiful handful, had gone from Him. To the remnant He said, “Will ye also go away?”

In the passage of Scripture which we employ as our text, we find Christ discouraging the crowd from following Him. What was the underlying reason for this strategy employed? Ah, Christ knew what many of us have discovered, that multitudes with their lips will cry “Hosanna,” and in their hearts and with their lives say, “Let Him be crucified.” In order to be upon terms of absolute frankness, Christ said to them in substance, “Now, folks, I appreciate your allegiance, but if you would follow Me, you must first of all sit down and count the cost, for in discipleship there is a price involved, and unless you are willing to pay it, you might just as well stay where you are. I shall get along without you.” My, what a price! Notice the tangible commodities He used as descriptive of the price that must be paid by those who would “follow the Lamb of God whithersoever He goeth.”

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

What is more precious than the aforementioned loved ones, and yet Christ declares that unless we are willing if need be to part company with them, we cannot keep company with Him.

“And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Is Christ in this passage talking about salvation? Nay, we need not hate our father or mother or anybody else to get to Heaven. It is not by carrying our cross but by believing in Him that we are saved. Therefore, He is not describing the price of salvation, but the cost of discipleship. He paid for the former, we must pay for the latter; and, although there are thousands of believers who are Christians, how few are real disciples. In order that I might describe for you the difference between salvation for nothing and discipleship at cost, I purpose employing a homely illustration, and shall pray the while that God through it will convey His truth to your hearts.

Let us suppose that King George of England is walking along the road one day. He notices by the hedgerow a tramp, of whom he becomes enamored, and to whom he makes the following proposition: “My dear man, I have compassion upon you, I love you and would like to adopt you into the royal family, and make you one of my sons.”

The tramp, in amazement, looks up and says, “Your Majesty, how much will this cost me?”

The king says, “For the last time, I want you to believe that you are now my son. You are a member of the royal family, a resident of Buckingham Palace, and it is all, so far as you are concerned, on the grounds of grace unmerited, everything for nothing.”

The tramp sits down, stretches his legs, yawns, and says, “Isn’t it marvelous? Yesterday I was a tramp; today I am a prince, and it cost me nothing. King George has paid it all; all to him I owe.”

My friends, is that not a picture of what the grace of God has done for us? In spite of our hereditary background, education and culture acquirements, we are nothing but tramps until Jesus found us. It makes no difference whether your forebears came out on the Mayflower, or came across the Atlantic on a bicycle, you have nothing in which you dare boast apart from the grace of God. All our righteousness is as filthy rags, and, believe me, when God found us we were no more than indigents. But, bless His name, today we are members of His family, heirs of God, yes, heirs of Jesus Christ, and it cost us nothing. It was all of grace.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe,
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

But we must get back to the tramp. While he is sitting, exulting in his new-found home, a valet approaches him and says, “Excuse me, sir, your bath is ready.”

The tramp says, “I beg your pardon.”

“Your bath is ready.”

“Ah,” the tramp says, “I will be thirty-seven come the first day of June, and I have never had a bath in my life.”

“That may be so,” said the valet, “but never until today were you a prince, and it is customary for members of the royal family to take a bath at least once a day.”

As the poor old tramp was sitting in the bath tub, frantically and laboriously endeavoring to remove thirty-seven years of grit, he heaved a sigh and said to himself, “I might have known there was a catch in it. The king told me it was all grace; it would cost me nothing, and I am not here half a day until I have to do what I never did in my life, take a bath.” And thus he realized that although it cost nothing to get in, as long as he stayed in, and took his place as a reputable member of the royal household, there was a price to pay.

My friend, if you are satisfied to use Jesus as a fire escape from hell, but have no desire to follow Him “withersoever He goeth,” then you may do as many have done, get under the blood and trust in the mercy of God to save your soul when life is done. You need not be particular as to your inner life or daily conduct, but if you are going to be a disciple and follow the Lord Jesus, you must learn to take a bath. We cannot live as we please and be disciples, for, although the grace of God gives us our standing, our conduct decides our fellowship.

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

The fountain that has been opened in the house of David for sin and uncleanness is still open, and you and I each day must see that we are washed. The blood atones for all our sin, but daily we are cleansed “by the washing of water by the word.” It is when we realize this truth that we begin to discover the price the discipleship involves.

When the tramp was through with his bath, the valet said to him, “Your suit is ready, sir.”

The tramp said, “My suit!” and as he looked, here was a dinner suit, velvet lapels on the coat, black braid down the side of the trousers, boiled shirt, gates ajar collar, bow tie, patent leather slippers, silk socks. In a moment the tramp cried, “Why, where is the suit I had when I came to the palace?”

The valet said, “We put that in the incinerator.”

The poor old tramp began to cry, and said, “Oh, my mother gave me that suit fifteen years ago, and neither night or day since have I removed it from my back.” As his weeping reached a pathetic height of grief, he said, “I tell you, there was a lot of sentiment attached to that suit.”

The valet said, “Yes, we noticed some of them; that is why we burned it.”

As the tramp struggled with his boiled shirt and with his bow tie, and other units of his new apparel, he groaned within himself, saying, “The king told me that this would cost me nothing; it was all of grace, but I am not here a day until I have had to take a bath, and part company with the suit my dear old mother gave me.” He realized once more that sonship costs nothing, but to keep in step with the reputable members of the royal family involved a price he had to daily pay.

My friend, the curse of many a Christian’s life today is sentiment. We ought to love our fathers and our mothers and our wives and our children where it is possible, and respect their judgment, but when it comes to a testing time between the opinion of our friends and “Thus saith the Lord,” we must trample sentiment beneath our feet and follow God. To do this will demand a price every day of our lives. There are members of every denomination who will be true to their particular church even though they know that it is an apostate outfit and has sold out to the devil. A lady some time ago approached me at the close of a service, and said, “I have a problem and would like your advice. I belong to a church from whose pulpit the Gospel is not preached. The minister does not believe in the Genesis account of creation, and the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the historicity of Jonah, the virgin birth, corporeal resurrection, or the second coming of Christ. Should I continue in that church and help support such a minister?”

I said, “My good woman, are you a born-again believer?”

She said, “Yes, I was saved twenty-five years ago, and well do I remember that blessed event.”

“Well, then, “I said, “you have come to the wrong source for advice. A psychiatrist would be more eminently qualified than I to discuss your problem.”

“What do you mean?” she said indignantly.

“Just what I said. If you are a born-again, blood-washed child of God, and you are in doubt as to whether or not you should support a minister that denies everything that is dear to the Christian’s heart, and true to the Word of God, then the most charitable viewpoint I can take of your case is that you are not all there mentally.”

Then she began to cry. I confess that once, when a woman started to cry, it got me down, but not any more. Crying seems to become women and they do look cute, with glossy or with glassy eyes, especially when they are crying for nothing. This lady was one of that type, and with tears rolling down her cheeks she said to me, “My dear old grandfather helped to build that church, and I sit in the same pew where he always sat.” Then , as she dried her eyes and wiped her nose, she said, “As a matter of fact I don’t think I could worship God in any other pew.”

As I looked at her, I said, “Ah, phew.”

Her weeping soon stopped, and the sorrow of her countenance turned to wrath as she walked away no doubt determined in spite of Christ and His Word to support a dead, God-forsaken, ecclesiastical morgue which her grandpa built, even though it denies everything she professes and believes.

Dear people, the hour is coming and now is when you must decide not whether you are a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Episcopalian, but whether you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Lord. There is just as much sentiment in my make-up as there is in yours but when it comes to a choice between my Saviour and following other folks, nice as they may be, I am going with Jesus. It is then we discover the difference between salvation for nothing and discipleship at a cost.

The tramp is now ready for dinner. Upon his arrival in the dining room he is shown by the butler to his place at the table. As he sits down, to his utter amazement, there are six knives and forks to the left of him, six ahead of him, and half a dozen tumblers, plus a linen napkin. To the butler the tramp said, “What is the meaning of all this paraphernalia?”

The butler replied, “These, sir, are the culinary implements employed within the confines of the palace for the purpose of consuming our daily repast.”

“You mean, in the language of the street,” said the tramp, “that before I can eat around here I have to navigate through all this mass of knives and forks and spoons?”

“Precisely,” said the butler.

And as the poor tramp struggled, he heaved another sigh. He remembered the days when, behind a hedge, with a chunk of bread and perhaps a hamburger, he sat down to  enjoy the meal, and as he thus meditated, he said, “The king told me this was all of grace, but what a price I have to pay in my endeavor to act like a prince.”

You see, that poor tramp became a child of his majesty without money and without price, but, to dignify his position, he had to learn an entirely new set of manners. This, of course, involved a responsibility such as he had never known before.

Now, dear friends, we disagree with the modernist when he says we can be saved by ethics. No matter how ethical a sinner is, his eternal destiny is hell unless he is washed in the blood of the Lamb. But I disagree with my fundamentalist brethren who labor under the delusion that, because we are saved by grace, we can live in disgrace. The ethical standard of God’s children at its lowest ought to be superior to that of the world at its highest. We ought to be the most mannerly people, the most honorable and straight-forward in all of our dealings, so that even the ungodly will be suspicious that “we have been with Jesus,” and have learned of Him. Yet there are folk who believe the Bible from cover to cover, who will fight modernism and every enemy of the truth, but who would steal the milk out of your tea if you didn’t keep stirring it. I have met some who would lie and cheat, and do a thousand other things that not even the modernist would stoop to do. Ah, if we are going to be disciples of the lovely Lord Jesus, we must day by day adapt ourselves, by the grace of God to the standard of living that He has given us. This, you will discover, will take prayer, study of His Word, and a continuous watching lest we slip. Surely we cannot walk far with the Lord without copying some of His God-glorifying habits. And so, in my homely parable of the tramp, I am seeking to evince the truth that that salvation by grace is a gift from God, and discipleship by works is a responsibility we must assume.

In this fourteenth chapter of Luke discipleship is likened unto a war. I wish that some preachers within the confines of my acquaintance would learn this solemn truth. The church of God is not a convalescent camp, nor is it a hospital or a children’s home. It is an arsenal. Instead of preachers running around all week with sucking bottles, comforters, and Red Cross emergency outfits to keep the saints of God in good trim, they ought to be out in the forefront of the battle, leading the army of the living Christ against the hosts of hell. Disciples are soldiers, and to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day they should come to have their armor polished and their swords sharpened. During the week they should be battling against the world, the flesh, and the devil, opening the Word of our Commander, the Captain of the Lord’s host. It costs nothing to join the army, but to stay in the battle until the smoke has cleared away involves a tremendous price. Well do I remember the last few months of the World War, when the British reverses were numerous and bloody. Into our little village among the hills in Scotland came a stalwart-looking recruiting sergeant. He would gather a company of us boys around him, and while he extolled the virtues of life in the army, the roofs of our mouths would become sun-burned while we listened. I can hear him now as he said, “Boys, if you will only join the army, you will have a wonderful time. If you will say the word, you will get a uniform such as I have.” Boy, I would look at him as he stood in all his military splendor, brass buttoned tunic, tartan kilts, spats, plaid socks, and all the accessories that could make a Highlander’s uniform the nicest looking in the world. I would put my hand caressingly upon the safety pins that held me together, and, as I felt the wind blowing through the innumerable ventilators in my suit, I would think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an outfit such as his?”

We would look at each other, and as our mouths began to water, we would say, “Isn’t the government gracious, giving us all this for nothing.”

As he continued his description of everything we would get without money and without price, he assured us that we would get a train trip to the east of Scotland, and another to the south of England, and a boat trip across the English Channel to the continent of Europe. Well, by the time he got through we were ready for anything, but, ah, many of those boys who stood with me in the little village listening to what the government gives you for nothing in time of war, are lying today beneath the sod of Flanders Fields. It cost nothing to get into the army, but to stay there until the battle was ended, the victory won, they had to say goodbye to mother, father, brothers, sisters, to human comforts, to their native land and at last to life itself.

Similarly, my dear people, we became soldiers of King Jesus by saying the word “Yes” at Calvary. If we are going to follow Him into the thick of the fight, and stay there until that glorious morning when the battle is ended, the smoke has cleared away, and Gabriel sounds the reveille, we will have to pay a terrific price. When I get to heaven I care not how many wounds I have on my face, so long as there are none on my back. Let us see to it by the help of God that we go to Heaven “not so as by fire,” but in triumph. The war is not ended. Heaven is still fighting hell, righteousness is still fighting sin, God is still fighting Satan. No armistice has as yet been signed, and when we think of valiant warriors of generations gone by, we ought to determine, come what may, to perpetuate their memory by as faithful a service to Christ as they themselves rendered.