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Construction Zone

Luke 14:25 -- 35

Lesson audio

It is one of the oddities of the church today: a major concern is how to squeeze in time for Christ in a busy life. Our forebears would have found this ridiculously funny. Being a Bible quoting bunch, this (and similar passages) would have come to their minds quite readily. Let us see if the sense of Scripture lies with them or us.

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, "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. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? "Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? "It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

(Luk 14:25-35 NASB)

It is important to note that this passage is addressed to the crowds, not just to the disciples. It is a discourse which is meant for those considering the call of Christ. In the end, though, it applies to all of us who are disciples, for it points out the terrible consequence of starting the Christian life and not finishing it.

Hate your mother and father

Christ often uses what is technically called “phenomenal” language – language which describes the appearance but also reveals what is behind it. The duty to love our parents is written into Scripture from the earliest times. It is a part of the Ten Commandments. So Jesus’ language here probably startled his hearers. But the thought is not really a new one. Even in the time of Moses, it was clear that if your parents started to worship other gods, you were to show no mercy but stone them to death.[1] The love and worship of God supersedes the love of family.

But nothing else supersedes it. It is clear: Jesus is claiming the allegiance which is due to God, and God alone. It is another saying of Jesus that can only be reconciled with reality by knowing that Jesus is God in the flesh.

Indeed, another such point is that he claims to be the one who can rightfully say that you should give up your life on his behalf. Even if you place “you” above “your parents” – “you” still must yield to Christ.

It is almost the definition of becoming a Christian: you renounce your right to you, turn around (repent) and claim the privilege of being a child of God. You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore renounce your right to be you – and start being His.

Carry his cross

It is a common phrase in the older literature of the church: “take up your cross.” May I give you just a few points on the subject?

  • It says to take up your cross. Pick up the burden which God has been pleased to lay upon you. Do not select one of your own but accept the one God has given you.
  • Remember, it is your cross. You are to bear it throughout this life, even to the point of death. You are following in your Lord’s footsteps; you are imitating him. Remember, no matter how heavy is your cross, his cross came with the sins of the world. You cannot have a burden so heavy that he will not give you strength to bear it.
  • Carry it – don’t drag it. The verb in the original has the connotation of lifting it up. You should lift it up willingly; indeed, give thanks for it. Do not drag it about moaning and complaining. Rather, praise God that he has seen fit to give you such a burden.
  • Follow Him. You do not choose your own burden; neither do you choose your place of service. Not even the Apostles were accorded that privilege. Listen for his call, then follow Him.

Building the tower

The tower here is the picture of the Christian life. It does not spring fully assembled; it must be built piece by piece. Christian character is a work in process all through your life. You are, in a sense, a construction zone:

  • Like any other solid construction, you will need plans – which have been approved as being acceptable. These plans are in the Bible; you need only look for them. If you build without them, the structure of your life will one day collapse. You then must start over.
  • Construction zones are a mess. You are constantly generating scrap wood, for example. To the outside world it appears that things are inconsistent – not the same each time they look. That’s how you should appear to others.
  • Worse yet, sometimes the Contractor has to tear down existing structure – and expose how it was built. You don’t cover up termite damage; you replace it.
  • You might not understand what the Contractor is doing. Often during construction you will look at something and see no sense in it. It is only afterwards that you see the need for things which later are not visible.
  • One thing is consistent: diligent work is required. No construction worthwhile ever assembled itself.

In summary, be serious about the path of your Christian life. Don’t just assume that you will become more like Christ; make the effort. Recognize that this effort will last through your lifetime, costing you everything you have and are.

See also the shame of not completing it – shame for you (everyone thought you were a real Christian) and shame you bring on the church (is this how Christians act?) Count the costs.

Fighting against God

(Side note: this is an interpretation of the passage which assumes that God is victorious, therefore he is the king with twenty thousand. Some interpreters see that king as representative of Satan.)

May I point out one of the great commonplaces of our time? It is the partial Christian lifestyle. It is the idea that I can “do a corner in Christ,” as the decorators might say. The great fallacy of that approach is shown here: the king is coming. Christ at his return will demand of those who followed him their complete submission. Anything less than that submission is rebellion against God. That’s the symbolism here: in a feudal society, the smaller king must submit to the greater – even though he has power, it is not enough. So it is that the partial Christian lifestyle must be rejected; the King of Kings is approaching, and we should consciously choose to submit – completely – to him.

Sadly, this point has been lost along with the hymn book. “I surrender all” was a common altar call; there is no equivalent in the simple praise songs of our day. Without that complete surrender you cannot be his disciple.

The great German martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, expressed it this way:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his son: “ye were bought with a price,” and what cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.


Our Lord now takes a common example and uses it to stick in our memory the truth he has just taught.

Consider salt:

  • Then, as now, it was used for cleansing, as an antiseptic. It is therefore the symbol of repentance.
  • It is also used as a preservative – and thus it is the symbol of perseverance.
  • When in contact with an open wound, how it stings!  We may consider it thus to be a pain in penalty of sin.
  • It is also very common and used as a flavoring in many dishes. It is thus the symbol of the commonplace Christian.

We are called the “salt of the earth” – thus we are to be a cleansing influence on the world. We are to persevere and show others the result of the life eternal. This is something so ordinary, so common to the Christian that it hardly seems worth analyzing.

But if you cease to be these things – cleansing, preservative/perseverance and the common flavor of true life – what good are you? You are indeed ruined; and like salt that has become polluted and useless, into the garbage you go. Remember that he will return and sort out the sheep from the goats. He is looking not for those who believe for a while, but those who are faithful even to death.

[1] Deuteronomy 13:6-18

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