Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-35
I don't know how many have every really counted the cost of faith, particularly the faith in Jesus Christ. You wouldn't really think of faith having a cost in our world today. People often treat the Christian faith like an ala carte, give me the salvation with a side of prosperity, hold the discipleship and the suffering. In just a cursory reading of the Bible, we find a lot of things that would show this mentality to be false and something which our Lord had to teach against throughout the history of mankind. Unfortunately, with the law and all that was given in order to show God's chosen people the ways in which God wanted them to walk we saw them fail over and over again. Our hearts are twisted and shaped in such a way that we want nothing to do with sacrifice or discipline unless we see the value in the gain. Sometimes we do, but just don't feel that we want to invest. We see that every year as we make resolutions every year. A funny list I saw recently was a comical listing of resolutions that were made and how the person has progressed, the one I remember is, "I resolved to lose 10 pounds and have 15 more to go." How often is that true, I know I can relate. Fitness centers and products sellers love it each and every New Year because they know that sales will rise in the January and after all of this people tend to fall away and that beautiful treadmill becomes a nice (expensive) clothing rack.
I am very earnest in my desire, my want to be rocking that six pack and looking ripped, but my commitment is not there. Though, my lack of exercise can impact my health here on earth, it does not have eternal implications. Personally, I am a Lutheran and agree with the belief that once the Holy Spirit has captured your heart there is no escape. I, also, believe that it is promised to you in the waters of Baptism by our Lord and our God given by him in his Holy Word when he claims you in those waters of Baptism as Paul says in Romans 6. And, yes, I do believe in infant baptism. So, sometimes it leaves for a great conundrum that we face in our world today. What about those that are raised in the Church and fall away? As a pastor, I trust and will speak the promises given at Holy Baptism - the Sacrament of Baptism is a promise given by God not by the parents and not by the one being baptized. My continued reminder of this is in the prayer that the person will claim this promise as his/her own. This promise is vital. What does this have to do with discipleship? As I am given the opportunity to teach and to preach I am given the opportunity to help those whom I have been given charge to understand and claim their faith. To be convicted and turn it all over to Jesus that they may walk in the hope given in those glorious waters of baptism, which were and are costly. Those waters of baptism are burial waters. They are meant to kill you. The water will build up and well inside bursting out and drowning that old, sinful self inside of you. The cost of being given in those waters is nothing less than your life.
I don't know that every parent that brings their little child to those waters truly realize this. I don't really know that every adult knows. That is why, as a pastor, I think it is important to speak this out and do so often. I won't stop. I know that there are other traditions that do not hold to this or would criticize those of us who practice infant baptism. I find it sad, but I let that go. I still hold to the baptism of Jesus in which throughout Acts you find households being baptized and you do not find any account of people having to be of a certain age. It is hard to believe that all in the house believed at the time the master of the house had them baptized, I also find it hard to believe that there would be no children or infants in the household, but what I don't find hard to believe is this, once the household was baptized and Christianized each member of that household was taught what it is that they were to believe. Unfortunately, that is where the failure occurs. How much of the teachings are carried out into the home? Faith is a gift given to us by God and poured out through the hearing of the Word of God and this is best done daily. It is hard, life is always busy. That is a cost. This cost is painful at times, just like it is to get exercising, or eating right, etc. The great difference is this cost can have eternal implications as opposed to temporal. A child raised knowing and trusting in the promises of God, though they will be challenged, has a greater chance of maintaining a full belief and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is true whether you believe in infant baptism or not. Our God is a pursuing God and through the promises of God we receive the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit, salvation. That salvation is not dependent on choices that you make or the good works that you do, but as the Holy Spirit gives faith and reveals the Father and the Son a change inevitably occurs. That change is costly. Once he fully grabs hold of you, the reality of the failures of your spirit come to light.
The Holy Spirit is the revealer of our great shortcomings. This is what Paul realized as he knew his life was coming closer to a close. He knew this so greatly that he was willing to bear the debt of Onesimus with the community of Philemon. He, also, was very certain in the salvation that had been given to him through Jesus Christ. He knew the weight of the sin that he had committed prior to his conversion, that may have been part of the thorn in his flesh. As we see the pain we know we have caused we can do one thing and one thing alone, lay them at the foot of the cross for forgiveness. We can't undo the pain we have done, but we can witness the love of Christ to those we have hurt. We can come with humility. The ones that we hurt the most and often don't believe or understand that transformation are our friends and family, especially if they are not believers themselves. The cost of discipleship may be carrying to pain of those who are not in the faith rejecting us. It may cost us our lives at the hand of one who only desires to destroy those who are believers. These are facts of the faith that many struggle against. The message of the cross is not comfort but suffering. We suffer for those that do not know the hope of Jesus Christ. We suffer for those that are hungry and homeless. We suffer for those caught up in addiction. We suffer for those that have wandered away. Just as the love of our Lord is long-suffering, so is it for us in our lives as disciples. The cross we bear is not for the sake of our salvation, but for the world that is fallen and broken. Jesus didn't suffer on the cross for our comfort, but our salvation. It is this salvation that has bought and paid for us. Not just the portions we want to give, but our entirety.
Sometimes, we can become like Pharisees that feel that our works are what make us holy. That is a trap, it is Christ's work within us. I can't do enough. I can never read the Bible enough. I can't pray enough. I can't serve enough. The more I try I fail. The more I give in to Christ, the more he does through me. The more his Word fills me, his prayers cry out, his service serves those in need, and more and more and more comes out. It is a broken spirit that I give and Christ renews and it is this cross I bear and give to my Lord as I follow the pathway that he has trod for me. For those of us on this journey of faith we are called to trod this path together carrying out this saving Gospel into a world that will often reject us, look down upon us, and push us to the ground. This is the faith that we proclaim. It is not a faith that is meant to bring us wealth and prosperity in the sense that we often think of it, but richness in love and prosperity in doing good for others. The devil speaks prosperity that enriches self, Christ speaks prosperity that enriches the world, the riches of eternity with our Lord and God in his glorious kingdom.
Have you considered the cost? It's not 10%, nor is it 20%, it is 100% and it never ends! Are you ready? The void of what you give up is filled up in Christ, may his love overflow within you. Amen.