The Offer Of A Lifetime: Counting Both Costs

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continue our series, The Offer Of A Lifetime.

What do you perceive as valuable—God, your family, your friends? The people around us, including our children, spouse, co-workers, friends, and other loved ones all often have a front row seat to see what we truly prioritize and what we’re willing to do in order to keep the things we value. Are God and His will among what you treasure most?

Next Steps

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.



Today we are continuing a series that’s helping us look closer at the offer that is at the core of Jesus’ message. Last week we looked hard at what Jesus meant when he invited people to live their lives, here and now, in the kingdom of God and to learn from him how to do that as his disciple. But as you consider Jesus’ offer, you are confronted with a question of value — is what Jesus is offering worth what it costs to take hold of it? We said last week that Jesus described living in the kingdom of God as a “treasure” — but unless you perceive value in it, those are just words. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash. Don’t believe me? Go look in someone’s garage!


Jesus was a master at helping people re-evaluate what they valued, and in one of his most famous (and probably most controversial) teachings, he does it an unforgettable way:

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?” Luke 14:25-31

This is one of those passages that Jesus’ PR agents hated! “Jesus did you have to say it THAT way?” So much in this passage that has been prone to misunderstanding, the source of much offense, and in general makes people second guess Jesus. “Hate your family? Hate your life? Carry the cross?” The “cost of discipleship” to Jesus seems way too high to even consider it. What could he possibly mean? Exactly. To understand this statement — and to understand much of what Jesus taught — you have to take into account how Jesus taught. This was 2000 years ago – no voice recorders, no internet, paper wasn’t readily available, and very few people could write and even fewer could write quickly. If you wanted people to remember what you said, you’d better make it stick. Jesus constantly phrased things in a barbed way. They would stick in your ears, in your mind. “Did you hear what he said?” They were auditory learners — and these statements were designed to linger in the mind of anyone who was paying attention. What did Jesus mean? And, like much of what Jesus teaches, the more you think about it, the more it rolls into focus.


Take the phrase: “Hate your father and your mother” He’s talking to a Jewish audience that would have been pretty clear on the Ten Commandments, one of which is “Honor your father and mother”. Is Jesus contradicting the Big 10? Is he really advocating parent hatred? That’s pretty inconsistent with the importance he places on the scriptures elsewhere. So what did he mean? He’s touching on things that are extremely valuable — parents, children, even your own life — and stacking them up next to being his disciple. Jesus is messing with our value system. Might there be something so incredibly valuable that it would make your love for your own children look like hatred?

Or take the phrase: “Carry the cross.” Remember, this is pre-crucifixion for Jesus. While Jesus and the cross go hand in hand in our minds, no one thought of Jesus and thought “cross” back then. His listeners thought “cross” and thought of the numerous Roman crucifixions littering the landscapes. They would crucify someone on the roadside, so you didn’t miss it. A man carrying his cross to the place of his execution was not a rare sight, but it was one to be avoided – nice people didn’t think about such things. So what did Jesus mean? Why use that image? If you are carrying a cross, where’s your life headed? What’s on your mind? “My life is just about over.” You have come to the end.  “Whoever has not come to their end… cannot be my disciple.”

This is not a catchy slogan! Jesus’ marketing department would not have approved! Jesus’ needed Burger King’s old marketing department: “Have it your way” Slogans like that are what we’d prefer to hear from Jesus. “Sure, Jesus, we’d be glad to follow you — what have you got?” “Carry your cross”. “Do you have anything else? I’d love to have some God in my life, but you’re making the price out to be a bit high.” This is what we fear — it’s certainly what I feared.

Did you notice how Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”? I used to hear “cannot” and think Jesus was just being hard-nosed about this; like he was raising the bar so high and demanding you jump it, completely unfeeling about what he was asking. But the more I’ve reflected on Jesus’ barbed words, the more I’ve come to the conclusion: I don’t think he’s being mean. What if it’s not that he won’t let you be his disciple, but you just won’t have the foundational components to proceed any further. What if there are essential prerequisites for becoming a disciple and he doesn’t want to set you up to fail by ignoring them? Think about it — if you want to be a doctor, you’re going to study biology, chemistry, anatomy. Are university professors being mean if they say, “Unless you pass these subjects, you cannot be a doctor?”

Jesus then goes on to make some very famous statements about counting the cost. He uses two illustrations to get at the idea: “Do you have enough to complete what you’re about to start?” Because it’s worse to get halfway in and realize, I didn’t think this through. We get this for doctors, for astronauts and calculus, and for all sorts of more familiar things — workout programs/getting in shape, buying a home, marriage. The more valuable it is, the more you are urged to think it through before you commit.

For those that would be his disciple, Jesus urges you — make the value calculation. Is this worth the cost to you? Are you done “having it your way”?  Ready and willing to follow someone else? Because until that’s valuable to you, you are going to be a miserable disciple. For what it’s worth, I think miserable disciples are everywhere. They are like astronauts who can’t stand calculus. They come to Jesus looking for an improvement on their life. They did not come to their end, but have tried to slap a veneer of Jesus over the top of a “have it your way” life. Easy to spot by how frustrated they get with God; often end up disillusioned and disappointed with Jesus because he didn’t deliver. But they never understood that the Psalm 23 life we discussed last week only comes when you actually live as Jesus’ disciple, not when you dabble.


But when it comes to being a disciple, I think most people analyze the cost that Jesus is hinting at and make the decision: too high, not worth it. Think of it like this — this bag represents the cost of what it means to follow Jesus. In here is the end of your life; basically, all the stuff you’re signing away for the rest of your life. No more “have it your way” — that’s pretty heavy isn’t it?

When you just focus on that cost, it’s hard to see why it would be worth it. But anytime you’re counting the cost — including the cost of following Jesus — you’ve got to count all the costs. Both sides. We often make out that not following Jesus is just free and clear. Feels good doesn’t it? But we’re missing key parts of the equation.

First, there’s the cost you’ve already paid by not following Jesus. What has been the true cost of “having it your way” your entire life? Bad choices, relational damage, addiction, regret, pain. Sometimes I think Satan’s greatest strategy in keeping people from following Jesus to focus them on how bad it will be, conveniently helping them forget how bad it already is! You are already lugging around baggage: was it worth it?

But that’s not all, there’s the future cost of not following Jesus from here forward. What will you miss out on by not accepting Jesus’ offer to be his disciple? How much more baggage will you accumulate? What will the cost be to your heart? Relationships? Purpose? Contentment? Eternal destiny? There’s a cost to follow Jesus for sure, but don’t forget to compute the cost of not following him too.  What’s really heavier – the cost of discipleship or the cost of non-discipleship?


With that picture in your mind, I want to take you to a different passage, but one where Jesus is referring to exactly what we’re talking about — discipleship — but using a different approach:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus is using an agricultural metaphor — a yoke is the wooden device that links to oxen together as they are plowing — as a picture of discipleship. It’s an invitation to stop doing life on your own, and let Jesus pull with you. Beautiful picture of rest. But the yoke is discipleship. What a minute, I thought “carrying the cross” was discipleship? Exactly. They are the same thing. The easy yoke, the light burden, and the cross are all the same. Being yoked with Jesus is another way of describing “the end of your life.” It’s the end of “having it your way” — you gave away that autonomy because you are tied to someone else. It turns out THAT is where the rest comes from! Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Jesus is telling us: you are your own heavy burden! Your grip on your own life is what is weighing you down. Jesus longs to show you the way of true soul rest — he wants to show you how to live in the kingdom of God. But it is not your kingdom. And you will never find that rest while you are running the show. That weight is crushing and that burden is heavy. He wants everyone who would be his disciple to understand that — before you start — because He loves you too much to watch you grow miserable.

Being Jesus’ disciple is both an initial commitment and an everyday decision. Friends, true discipleship to Jesus begins at the end of your life. But then again, so does real rest for your soul. What is it worth to you? This is not about a snap judgment, or an impulsive decision. Count the cost — but make sure you count all of them.  But don’t overlook that Jesus is laying out to you the offer of a lifetime…


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