Matthew 10:34-39 – How Far Are We Willing to Take This Christ Following Thing?

Posted: December 7, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 10:34-39
The Cost of Discipleship

There always seems to be a characteristic of championship teams that is not present among teams that do not win championships. It has something to do with talent level for sure. But there have been teams loaded with talented players that do not win championships, so that can’t be it. The characteristic that seems to be prominent in championship teams is that love of the team. That willingness to put the goals of the team above individual needs. There may be selfish players sprinkled among the team but the majority of the team including the stars of the team that place the needs for the team’s victories above their own needs for attention or for their own stat sheets. This idea of the greater good, the good of the team that is one of the life lessons I personally learned from sports.

One of the best examples I had from my sports experiences growing up was when on a 12 & under basketball team one year and a 14 & under team the next year. That 12 & under team at Trinity United Methodist Church in Anderson, SC was a great team to be part of. We were all friends. We hung out together. We knew each other pretty well. We knew each other’s tendencies. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses on the basketball court. We started out slowly that year (we were 2-3 after 5 games) but by the end of the season we were a well-oiled machine that won 10 straight games (including the three in the church league championship tournament). We always had each other’s back. We didn’t care about our shots, we looked for the open man. On defense, we just worked together like brothers. The next year we moved up to the 14 & Under team and it was just different. We had us 13 year olds who just last year had won the church league championship and a group of 14 year olds that had lost more games than they had won the year before. The team was divided between that group of 14 year olds and us 13 year olds. That team just never came together. And like the 14 & Under team the year before, we lost more games than we won. I don’t even remember the record of that team as it was such an forgettable experience. I remember vivid details of the year before like it was yesterday – these forty years later – from that championship season as a 12 year old but I remember nothing much at all about that team I was on as 13 year old. There was singleness of purpose on that 12 & Under team and there were teams within a team and disharmony on the 14 & Under team.

Why do I bring up these sports analogies and personal sports experiences up when talking about Matthew 10:34-39? Well, first let’s read what it says,

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[a]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Just as in my personal sports experiences, the teams that I have participated on that were champions were those that placed team over personal desires. That is the characteristic to of the cost of discipleship. We must place priority on following Christ above all else in our lives. Nothing can distract us from our singleness of purpose. We cannot have other priorities than God in our lives. When we let other things take precedence over our relationship with God, it destroys everything else – the difference between a champion and a non-champion.
The first thing that I notice from what Jesus says here is that following Christ may get in the way of close relationships in our lives, even amongst family members. Jesus is saying that if you expect an easy road being his disciple, think again. He is saying that being a disciple of Christ may put your very relationships we people you care about at risk. Are you going to value relationships with others more than you value relationship with Him? Are you going to value things of this world more than you value Him? This is where the rub often comes for us growing and developing as Christians. We want the benefits of being Christian but none of the cost. We want to hang out with our party friends during the week and go to church on Sunday. We want Jesus to be an add-on and not a fundamental life changer. We want to keep the parts of the Bible that are easy for us to keep and throw away the parts that are antithetical or in opposition to our lifestyle. If we are to grow in Christ, we are called to obedience to His Word even the parts that are painful for us to walk in alignment with. It may cause friction with the playgrounds and playmates that we have now. It may cause friction with family members. But are these relationships really working for you now? We must place obeying God as a priority over everything that we see, hear, smell, touch, etc. here on earth. We must place the needs of our eternity over the needs of the here and now. Sure, God is a God of reconciliation and he wants us to have good solid relationships with others and especially family members but we are not to place those relationships above our relationship with God. It comes first. Everything else is secondary. It sounds strange to say that we should put our relationship with God above our family relationships. You always hear parents tell their kids, “family first!”. However, it is a fundamental principle of being Christian that if we do not have our relationship with God right none of our other relationships work, including family. Therefore, we are to let nothing get in the way of our relationship with God, not job, not wife, not children, not toys, not college football teams, nothing. Following God’s commands and callings on our lives should be our top priority, because without that level of commitment, we lose in all other areas of life.

The second thing that you notice here is that sometimes following Christ requires us to make decisions that may cause us pain. It may cause us to make decisions that will cause us sacrifice. Sometimes being a Christ follower and a disciple of Christ may cause us to have to decide between comfort and conflict. It may cause us to have to make decisions about real, fundamental changes in our life that are painful. It may cause us to go from a life of homosexuality to God’s chosen plan for sex. It may cause you to go from a life of partying and sleeping around to a lifestyle of wholesome friends with real values and abstinence before marriage. It may make you go from a life of buying every little toy to satisfy your lusts to living humbly and simply and giving generously to the church and to others. It may make you choose between a life with a comfortable house, comfortable salary, and lack of conflict to a life of ministry where it is hand to mouth existence and life full of conflict. It may make you leave a comfortable life in the United States to go to a third world country to teach the gospel to those who need to hear it in countries where it costs you something, sometimes our lives, to be a Christian. Being a follower and disciple of Christ may require us to step outside our comfy little lives and it will be decision time…what’s it going to be, my comfort or my cross. My comfortable life or the life that Christ calls me to. My worldly comforts or my eternal calling.

The final thing we see here is determination. We must pick up our cross and follow him. We think fondly of the cross now but to first century citizens of the Roman Empire it was not all that pleasing. It was a simple of torture. And the carrying of the cross was an image of humiliation. The walk of shame from the Roman prison house to the site of crucifixion. It was the ultimate in humiliation to be publicly beaten and carrying the cross beam upon which you were to be crucified. So to pick up your cross and following Jesus was to indicate that following Him was not going to be some pretty walk in the park. It may involve hardship, pain, suffering and humiliation. How in love with Jesus are you and I? Am I willing to suffer for Jesus? Are you willing to suffer humiliation and rejection for Jesus? Are you willing to be poor for Jesus? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to spread the gospel or is sitting in the pew on Sunday enough? Are you willing to do more than serve as a greeter? Are you willing to do more than hand out turkeys at the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway and think that you have done enough? How many of us pat ourselves on the back for having helped that day but yet walk by homeless people and do nothing? How many of us see Christians being persecuted in Syria and complain that Obama is doing nothing about it but yet we won’t put ourselves in harm’s way to go over there and help them. We must examine our determination to follow Christ. How determined are we? How willing are we to do more than the stuff that is cute and pretty and go do the stuff that really needs doing in our city, in our world? Are we willing to do whatever it takes to spread the gospel? Do we have the determination to do and go? Do we have the determination to follow Christ even when it hurts or costs?

The championship teams are those who sacrifice individual needs for the greater good of the team! Are we willing to make those same types of sacrifices to really be on Jesus’ team? We must put following Christ above all the comfort of this life. We must put following Christ above all relationships we value. We must put following Christ above my needs. When we begin doing that, when we put following Christ above all else, we put ourselves in conflict with our world and worldly values but we don’t see any other way. Following Christ is our priority and we become amazed at how our other relationships become better as a result. When we put God first above all else, everything else begins to fall in line. When we put God first, He gives us a peace that passes all understanding. When we do that, we are on the championship team!

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