INTRODUCTION TO THE JESUS SERIES:
The Jesus Series is a 12 lesson curriculum project based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. For the next few months, I’ll be posting notes on my blog for each lesson. These notes are a compilation of insights and ideas from a handful of Campus Ministers across the country who are partnering in this project. They have committed to join me in sharing personal experiences, struggles, observations, questions, and recommended resources and experiments for life application.
The 12 passages that I’ve selected will cover a broad range of topics, including faith, grace, legalism, salvation, discipleship, money and possessions, temptation, doubt, heaven and hell, compassion, and unity.
READ: Luke 14:25-35
What are the most valuable truths you believe a person needs to learn from this passage?
- Luke 14 records one of the key passages on discipleship in the Bible. Here, Jesus tells us what it looks like to be his disciple; that is, one who follows him and learns from him.
- Jesus emphasizes a number of things:
- Disciples of Jesus must have a supreme love for him.
- Disciples of Jesus must deliberately choose to carry the cross.
- Disciples of Jesus must count the cost.
- Disciples of Jesus must forsake their possessions.
- Disciples of Jesus must be like salt.
- In v.26, Jesus starts by saying that we can’t be his disciples unless we “hate” our family and ourselves. The parallel passage in Matthew 10:37 says, “Anyone who loves father or mother more than me…is not worthy of me.”
- This doesn’t mean we should have animosity or ill will in our hearts toward our relatives. It means we can never choose people over Jesus. If Jesus is in fact the King of the world, then we should not allow our commitment to him to be held back by anyone. Our love for him must be supreme.
- In v.27, Jesus went on to say that disciples are those who take up their cross.
- In the time of Jesus, a cross wasn’t a symbol people used for decorations or jewelry. The cross was a fearsome mode of execution. If you saw someone carrying a cross, you knew they were about to die. It was the noose, the electric chair, the lethal injection of Jesus’ day.
- The cross symbolizes humiliation, persecution and abuse which the world heaped on Jesus and continues to heap on those who follow him.
- Taking up your cross is also connected to the idea of “denying yourself” as the parallel passage says in Luke 9:23. It’s putting to death our selfish will that is opposed to God. And this is something we must do “daily”.
- In vv.28-30, Jesus shared an illustration comparing discipleship to building a tower. It’s important that we consider what it’s going to take to see it through to the end.
- A man would build a tower to protect his fields, crops, and vineyards. To count the cost is to first determine how valuable the crops are. It will cost him if he builds a tower, and it will cost him if he doesn’t build a tower. To the extent that he values his field and vineyard is the extent that he is willing to invest to preserve it. But if he doesn’t determine its value and its cost, he won’t have what it takes to complete what he starts.
- Like getting married or enlisting in the army, it’s important to know what you’re committing to beforehand. Otherwise, the likelihood of being disloyal greatly increases.
- In v.31-33, Jesus shared another illustration, comparing discipleship to a battle between two kings. The king with half as many men in his army is wise to avoid imminent defeat by sending a delegation ahead to ask for terms of peace.
- The weaker king with 10,000 men has two options:
- Fight the greater king with 20,000 men – and be defeated; or
- Surrender to the greater king’s terms of peace – and live as his slave.
- The two kings seem to represent God and us.
- God is The King, infinitely greater than we are. He possesses all power and authority, who alone has the right to rule.
- We are weaker kings who have started this war with our Creator in the first place by trying to rule our own kingdom apart from Him.
- We have two options.
- To live the rest of our lives in rebellion, answering only to ourselves – and face the consequences of physical, spiritual and eternal destruction; or
- Surrender to God, repenting of our sins – and meeting God on His terms of peace. That is, turning to Christ as our leader and forgiver.
- On the heels of this illustration, Jesus says, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
- To “give up everything” means to forsake, abandon, renounce all we have and all we are.
- In Bible times, the conquering king takes control (slaves, property, spoils, animals, etc.), but it was not uncommon for him to allow a surrendered king to live in the land that was surrendered and use the resources that were surrendered, only serving as a slave.
- For all of whom have done that, we have turned over everything to God (our money, possessions, even our bodies). And now, as slaves to a King to whom everything belongs, we are entrusted with His resources as stewards to advance His kingdom.
- In His mercy, God, our King, allows us the use of his resources. All that we have is granted to us as a stewardship for furthering the King’s kingdom. Everything belongs to God: our body, time, possessions, family, etc. To be Jesus’ disciple, will must be willing to give up control of our lives.
- Finally, in vv.v.34-35, Jesus uses one last illustration, comparing discipleship to salt. Saltiness is what enables salt to serve its purpose. Without saltiness, it’s thrown out.
- The purpose of being a disciple is to learn from Jesus and follow his teachings and example. May we never stop learning from and following Jesus.
- Being a disciple is not about: superficial prayers, insincere worship, checking watches, skipping Bible studies, not reading the Bible, not fellowshipping with other believers, not sharing our faith, not giving, and other such forms of apathy.
- True discipleship has a price. The question, ‘are we willing to pay it’? And if we are willing, the results are mind boggling.
- Jesus says [in another passage] that those who are truly in his family are those who do His will and follow Him with their whole life.
- Following Jesus is not something to be taken lightly and one must be aware of the lifelong commitment they are making.
- The cost of following Christ is high. The cost of salvation is free. We must wrestle with how these two truths coexist.
- That following Jesus will be hard.
- Discipleship is costly…it will cost you everything! In comparison to following Jesus, our affection for anything else in the world needs to look like hate. Jesus is not instructing us to hate, he is simply telling us how much greater our passion must be for the Kingdom if we want to be called a disciple.
What does this passage reveal about God the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit?
- Jesus is the King. He has the power to destroy us, but in his mercy he extends his terms of peace.
- This reminds me of an illustration I once heard. Imagine being in debt to a powerful ruler who rightfully has total control of your life. This ruler graciously decides to draw up a contract with you, giving you the choice to either live according to his terms or suffer the consequences of rebellion, with a life of imprisonment. The day comes for you to sign the contract, but when it’s presented to you, the contract is blank. Your ruler then says to you, “Sign on the dotted line and then I’ll fill in the terms.” To sign such a contract would call for the complete surrender of your will, to do whatever your sovereign ruler requires of you from that point on.
- This illustration captures the essence of what it means to confess Christ as Lord of your life. It is to acknowledge his right to rule, to surrender your will to his, and to submit to the terms he requires, allowing him to dictate what you are to do for the rest of your life.
- We see God the Father here, being willing to give all. But we especially see The Holy Spirit with his convicting power, revealing to us just exactly what it is that’s holding us back from pure sacrifice for Christ.
- Once again, it shows how Jesus was breaking the common day standards of “family” and calling those who were listening to Him to something greater.
- The word “if” carries with it the understanding that answering this invitation to follow is optional. The invitation is offered to the entire crowd and then Jesus lays the option in their hands…the option to respond…accepting or rejecting. What this teaches me about the trinity is that they will not force me to do something…the high cost is communicated and the decision to respond is now in my hands.
- God deserves (and expects) full devotion.
- Jesus is not a people pleaser and doesn’t hold back in terms of spiritual challenge. God wants us to begin this journey of discipleship with the end in mind and be intentional about coming to Him through Christ.
What does this passage reveal about you?
- I struggle to see the big picture and to think long-term. I’m prone to forfeit what matters most in exchange for what matters least. What comes natural is to love things that are not worth more than God.
- This makes me rethink my ‘walk’. Am I really seeking to follow Him every day? Am I willing to daily pay the price?
- It definitely challenges my perspective of what I’ve “signed up” for. Do I realize the critical nature of being a disciple of Jesus? Sometimes in my life I have definitely not taken my commitment to being a disciple very seriously. Therefore, I had very little impact on people and the world.
- It also challenges me to remain salty and having a tangible presence in the world, specifically my current context with students on campus. Am I permeating culture with the beauty of the Gospel or just going through the motions?
- I love my own life more than I love Jesus. That’s hard to say but it’s so true. My life reflects that.
- Verse 33 is the kicker. My inability to give up “everything else” betrays the weakness in my commitment to follow Christ completely.
What does this passage reveal about others?
- As Kyle Idleman puts it, many people are just fans of Jesus, not followers. They are cultural “Christians”, who’ve never really stepped down from the thrown to surrender to Christ.
- We need love to drive our relationship with God. Only when we see our weakness can we appreciate God’s greatness. Only when we see our desperation can we appreciate God’s mercy. It is then that we’re in the position to love God. For only love can compel the disciple’s commitment.
- I remember reading this illustration somewhere years ago. A foreigner moved to the U.S. for work. He met a woman and they began dating. Unexpectedly the man was forced to return to his home country. He asked her to marry him. This was the test of her love. If she loved him, she would be willing to leave everything without resentment. If she didn’t love him, the proposal would be a burden, and the relationship would not last.
- So it is with us and Jesus. He gave everything because he loves us and he asks us to give him everything because we love him.
- Surrendering takes humility.
- I think it unmasks the church. This is the passage of Scripture that reveals ‘who is’ and ‘who isn’t’.
- Immediately it reveals that some, if not most, have no idea how intense the “cost” is and should be. It reveals that many think that following Jesus is something that you do when it’s convenient or easy but Jesus makes it clear in his example about who his family is, that following him takes everything.
- Most have never wrestled with the tension between salvation being free and the high cost of being a disciple. As I wrestle with this passage I realize that I would rather avoid that tension then wrestle with it. I would rather ignore difficult teachings like Luke 14 than enter into them. The words CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE are heavy and we all would rather avoid them than contemplate their meaning.
- Jesus cared enough for this crowd of folks who were following him to challenge them. Many people follow Christ for reasons other than Lordship and He wants us to understand the social implications of our desire to be disciples.
As you hold Jesus’ teaching up to your own life, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in living it out?
- I forget how blessed I am. I take Jesus for granted. I act as though the resources I possess are really mine, and then I struggle to use them in ways that are not selfish.
- Human nature tells us that we’re a selfish people. What we have to do is to break that tradition. We need to be a more ‘giving’ people instead of a ‘taking’ people.
- I think the biggest challenge for me has been not losing my saltiness. I always knew and recognized how big a deal it was to call myself a Christ follower but I didn’t have the tools or mentors to show me how to remain in the world but not of it. Most of my life was lived in the “losing my saltiness” mode. I carried the name tag but made no difference in the relationships I had. So again, it comes back to how am I permeating the culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel? How does my life live to display the Gospel?
- Dying to myself. Taking up my cross has become a marketing campaign slogan…something cute and fluffy. But it’s not at all. It’s the call to die. To die as Jesus died. To be a dead man walking. To experience loneliness, thirst, denial, abuse from the world, rejection…to lay down my life so that Christ might be exalted. That is not popular or marketable.
- Personal sacrifice becomes the insurmountable obstacle for many who would come after Christ and presume to be disciples. There have been occasional crises of faith which demand a decision from me. Will I give up a personal, perhaps even sinful desire in order to be a completely devoted follower of Jesus?
What lies have our Adversary sown into our culture that hinder people from experiencing what Jesus intended?
Our Adversary wants us to believe the lie that…
- It’s okay to compromise our convictions so as not to offend our family.
- Everything we own belongs to us.
- God is a bully.
- Since God’s grace covers us, we can live however want.
- I think the biggest lie here, is “Come on, have some fun…you’ve done your good deed, you’ve got ‘saved’…now it won’t hurt for you to live a little!”
- For starters, there is the lie that being a Christina isn’t a big deal and it doesn’t make any difference in the world or in life, so don’t worry about being active in your faith.
- I also think there is the lie that Jesus isn’t worth it and that he is asking too much from us and them it comes off as oppressive faith.
- It’s all about you. And discipleship is not all about you. It’s you shaping your life around the life of Jesus. Dying to yourself and living for Jesus. That is not a message that our culture is willing to sell or communicate.
- We have lost sense of the notion that following Jesus is costly. We are surprised when we suffer for the Lord’s sake.
- The enemy works us over daily numbing us to the awareness that discipleship demands devotion. Satan is probably quite content to have our butts in a pew on Sundays as long as we don’t take the radical step of engaging in God’s mission on a daily basis. And many Christians are convinced that discipleship is an advanced class or Christian technique which God doesn’t require of the average adherent of the Bible.
OPEN-ENDED DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
What three “ice-breaker questions” would be good for discussion? (These should be fun and light-hearted questions that invite people to express likes and dislikes, past experiences, and opinions; offering a natural segue to the lesson).
- Tell about a project you started and never finished.
If your house was burning down and you could only save one possession, what would it be?
- What’s one thing that you have that you ‘would never depart with’? Why?
- Have you ever given away something that was valuable to you?
- Who do you love the most in your life?
- Have you ever started a project and left it undone because it was harder than you expected? Tell us about it.
- What are some things that you hate?
- Have you ever taken on a major project and then quit? Or run out of motivation for it?
- What do you know about salt?
What three “observation questions” would be good for discussion? (These are the who, what, when, where, why and how questions that draw out facts and principles from the passage in a thought-provoking way).
- What illustrations does Jesus use to communicate the cost of being a disciple?
- Who is Jesus’ family according to this teaching?
- How does a follower of Christ remain “salty”?
- What implications is Jesus talking about when He calls us to “carry our cross”?
- Have you ever started something and didn’t finish it?
- Who was Jesus speaking to?
- Three times Jesus describes conditions that prevent people from being His disciples: collapse them into one sentence for us.
- Which of the three barriers to discipleship do you think the stories about the builder and king were meant to illustrate?
- Why do you think these crowds of people were following Jesus?
- What do you think Jesus actually meant when he used the phrase “carry your cross?”
- Is Jesus really asking us to hate people?
What three “reflection questions” (besides the ones listed above) would be good for discussion? (These questions focus on both the intellectual and the emotional side of things).
- What’s the difference between being a fan of Jesus and a follower of Jesus?
- What scenarios can you think of when people’s love for family hinders them from being a disciple of Jesus?
- How does building a tower relate to being a disciple?
- How are we like the king with 10,000 men, and Jesus is like the king with 20,000 men?
- How is giving up everything connected to loving the Lord?
- What lies have our Adversary sown into our culture that hinder people from experiencing what Jesus intended?
- What do you make of Jesus’ comment about salt and saltiness? How does it relate to the topic of discipleship?
- What have your parents sacrificed for you?
- What would it look like for you to give up everything? What specifically?
- What would it look like to lose your saltiness and be no good for soil nor manure?
- What does this passage suggest about those who would be considered “lukewarm”?
- How does it make you feel to hear Jesus say the words, “YOU CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE.”?
- Do you think Jesus really wants you to wish harm to your family?
- What would be the actual equivalent to carrying around your own cross in our society?
- How do you relate Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemy with his teaching about hating your family?
- How do you feel about Jesus’ challenge to give up “everything” to follow Him?
- What does it look like to begin with the end in mind, spiritually?
- What seems to be the connection between salt and discipleship?
What three “application questions” would be good for discussion? (These questions help people contemplate possible courses of action in order to apply what they have learned to their lives).
- What has God made you a steward of? How can you use those things to advance His kingdom?
- If you have not surrendered to Jesus as your leader and trusted him as your forgiver, what’s holding you back? What might be a good next step in getting past this obstacle?
- If you were to pray a prayer of confession in light of this passage, what would you confess and how can the rest of us pray for you?
- Name two or three people you know who need to hear the message of this passage. How can you reach out to them this week?
- [I suggest participants walk away with a handout, listing ideas for going deeper. These could include cross references; projects; or the books, videos, and music listed below]. As you look over the handout that lists ideas for going deeper, what experiment stands out as something you might try?
- What have you ‘given up’ in order to follow Christ?
- What are you willing to ‘give up’ in order to follow Christ?
- How can we “carry our cross” within the context of community and culture?
- How does the saltiness analogy suggest we interact with the world?
- What does it look like to hate our own life in terms of following Jesus?
- What in your life is more important than you following Jesus? What would it mean for you to give it up right now?
- Is there something Jesus commands you to do that you are reluctant to do because of your parents’ reaction?
- What costs have you counted thus far? Are there any that have arisen in our discussion today that are new to you?
- Consider that God may be calling you to give up something right now. What do you think it might be?
- What would it look like to add some intentional discipleship to your current schedule?
- Or perhaps without adding anything to your schedule, how could you adapt what you’re already doing to turn it into discipleship?
EXPERIMENTS FOR GOING DEEPER
What three experiments would you recommend that might help people dig deeper?
- A topic to research:
- The rules of war in ancient times.
- The history and use of salt.
- Do a word study on “King” in the Bible.
- A place to go or a project to do:
- Play the game Risk.
- An incomplete structure.
- A historic battlefield.
- A person to interview:
- An Architect or Construction Worker
- Someone whose family ostracized them for their faith.
- A topic to research:
- Topic of research:
- The cross (research the emotional, physical and spiritual suffering of Christ…and others who experienced this type of death)
- A topic to research:
- The use/significance of salt in the ancient world
- A person to interview:
- Have a cup of coffee (or whatever) with a spiritual elder/mentor
RESOURCES FOR GOING DEEPER
What three cross references in Scripture would you recommend that relate to this lesson?
- Psalm 73:25
- Job 1
- Matthew 7:21-23; 13:45-46; 25:14-30
- Luke 9:23-26; 18:18-30
- John 13:34-35Acts 20:24
- Romans 12:1-2
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
- Philippians 2:9-11; 3:7-8
- Titus 1:16
- Hebrews 12:1-2
- Genesis 22:1-19
- Matthew 8:18-22; 9:9-13
- Mark 8:34-35
- John 3:30; 12:24; John 15
- Romans 6
- Matthew 7:21
- Luke 6:40; 9:23
What three books would you recommend that relate to this lesson?
- Not A Fan (Kyle Idleman)
- The Christian Atheist (Craig Groeschel)
- Soul Detox (Craig Groeschel)
- Radical (David Platt)
- Slave (John MacArthur)
- The Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren)
- A Handbook for Christian Maturity (Bill Bright)
- Following Christ: Experiencing Life The Way It Was Meant To Be (Joseph M. Stowell)
- Crazy Love (Francis Chan)
- The God Chaser (Tommy Tenney)
- Holiness (Henry Blackaby)
- Choosing To Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide? (Andy Stanley)
- The Live Dead Journal (various missionaries)
- Experiencing God (Henry Blackaby)
- The Tangible Kingdom (Hugh Halter)
- The Cost of Discipleship (Dietrich Bonheoffer)
- Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (N.T. Wright)
- One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow (Scot McKnight)
What three movies would you recommend that relate to this lesson?
- To Save A Life
- Not A Fan: Small Group Discipleship Study for Adults (Kyle Idleman)
- Not A Fan: A Follower’s Story (Kyle Idleman)
- Dust (Nooma)
- Follow Jesus: BASIC Series (Francis Chan)
What three songs would you recommend that relate to this lesson?
- You Are My King (Newsboys)
- Kingdom And A King (Robbie Seay Band)
- We Will Follow (Jars of Clay)
- I Surrender To You (Jeremy Camp)
- King Jesus (Jeremy Camp)
- Surrender (Jeremy Camp)
- Take My Life (Jeremy Camp)
- Surrender (BarlowGirl)
- I Surrender All (Caedmon’s Call)
- Surrender (Seventh Day Slumber)
- White Flag (Passion, Chris Tomlin)
- Take My Life (Chris Tomlin)
- I Will Follow (Chris Tomlin)
- Song of Surrender (Shane & Shane)
- Giving It All (Gungor)
- Abandon (Jason Morant)
- Bless The Lord (Jason Morant)
- Offering (Jason Morant)
- I Love You Lord (Jason Morant)
- Offering (Third Day)
- Nothing Compares (Third Day)
- Carry My Cross (Third Day)
- Count The Cost (Anthem)
- Count The Cost (Bryon Bos)
- Above All (Michael W. Smith)
- The Motions (Matthew West)
- Surrender (Lincoln Brewster)
- Take All of Me (Hillsong)
- Take Up Your Cross (The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir; originally Ray Boltz)
What visual aids could be used to help connect with the passage?
- A cross
- A bag of cement
- A crown and scepter
- A cross
- In their book, Becoming A Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg have a great few pages on “salt” (pages 41-43). It’s worth looking into.
Lesson 6 Contributors:
- Tyler Ellis: Campus Minister of Blue Hens for Christ at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE – www.BTylerEllis.com
- Justin Wallace: Teaching Pastor of Impact Charlotte at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina – jstnwallace.com & heartofcampusministry.com
- Jim Whaley, Jr: Spiritual Life Coordinator of Pastor of the Dragon Nation at Tiffin University in Tiffin, OH – www.ReachingTheNextGeneration.wordpress.com
- Glen Davis: Campus Pastor of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA – www.glenandpaula.com/wordpress/
- Chris Bean: Campus Minister for the CCO at the University of Cincinnati in partnership with the Church of the Nazarene in Cincinnati, OH – www.ucjourney.org
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