Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 18)
September 8, 2013
Text: Luke 14:25-35

            Do you have what it takes?  Can you do it?  What will it cost?  Do you have the resources?  What obstacles will you face?  When you undertake a project or accept a challenge, these questions must first be answered.  Not to address them would be foolish.  It would be to invite the criticism and mockery of your neighbors.  It would probably lead to failure.  It may even lead to death.  And what is true of your earthly endeavors in this sense is also true of your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Do you have what it takes to be Jesus’ disciple?  Can you persevere in the Christian faith and life?  What will it cost you to follow Him?  Do you have the resources that it takes to be faithful?  And what obstacles will seek to prevent you from being a Christian?  Well, to begin with the last question, the obstacles are tremendous.  The whole world is an obstacle.  The unbelieving world will mock you for your faith.  “You believe what, now?  You can’t be serious.  If you really believe in that, you must be stupid.  Oh, and you must be a hater, because you don’t tolerate all the beliefs and behaviors of everybody else.”  Not only that, the world will try to entice you with worldly allurements: money, sex, power, fame, anything to take you away from God, to take your eyes off of Christ.  Then there is the devil.  Oh, he is a powerful adversary.  Do you really think you can win in the battle against him?  He’s a sly one, deceiving you with his lies that you can be like God, that you can determine for yourself what is good and what is evil, that you can be faithful to God AND other gods, that you can be a Christian AND worship yourself.  And you believe it, because your biggest obstacle is your own sinful nature, your flesh, your old Adam, who is by nature an unbeliever.  He’s dead in his trespasses and sins.  That’s who you are outside of Christ, a walking dead man who only has the freedom to choose sin and death, who hangs on every word of the devil and the world, stumbling along in spiritual blindness and hating God.  You don’t believe me?  Believe St. Paul: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14; ESV)… “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
            So that being the case, do you have what it takes?  You most certainly do not.  Can you do it?  No, you can’t.  What will it cost?  Too much.  You’re not willing to give up your idols and die to yourself.  Do you have the resources?  Remember, you have nothing to bring to the table but your sin and death and condemnation.  And here we are faced with the Scriptural truth that our will is bound in spiritual matters.  We can only choose sin.  We can only choose death.  We cannot choose Jesus.  “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him” (Luther’s Small Catechism).  If you are to be saved, Jesus must choose you.  And He does.  His Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith of Jesus Christ, the Savior.  You don’t have what it takes, but Jesus does.  You are unable to be Jesus’ disciple, but He makes you one anyway, in your Baptism, by His Word, in His Supper.  By grace.  This is what it means to be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, apart from works.  If you were able to become Jesus’ disciples on your own, that would be salvation by works, at least the work of coming to faith.  But if Jesus must give you faith, you who cannot otherwise believe in Him, and if He gives you that faith as a gift, then it is by grace, apart from works.  And that is what the Bible teaches us about our salvation. 
            It makes sense.  I mean, look at the cost of following Jesus.  Counting the cost, none of us in our right minds would choose to be Jesus’ disciple.  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” (Luke 14:26)?  That’s crazy talk!  Well, we should note that this is a Hebraism, a Jewish way of speaking, and in this context “hate” is not an emotion or a feeling of animosity, but a matter of preference.  We would probably say it this way: “If you put your family members above and before Jesus, you cannot be His disciple.”  But even this is not something we would choose.  Just think of the times you failed to confess Jesus and His Word to family members or other people because you wanted them to like you, or you wanted to keep the peace.  Just think of the times you failed to speak when you should because you were afraid of hurting your relationship with a loved one.  You chose those family members, those people, over Jesus.  That’s not what a disciple does.  So you see, you can’t do it.  But here’s the good news.  Jesus calls you His disciple anyway.  Because He forgives you.  He forgives all your sins.  He forgives your failure to speak.  He forgives your fear.  He forgives your idolatry including the worship of self and your ears that are attuned to the words of the devil and the world rather than to the Word of God.  He forgives it because He took it all into Himself, took it all the way to the cross, where He died for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins. 
            And now He is risen and lives and reigns and wants you to be His own possession, a citizen of His Kingdom, a member of His family.  Again, you can’t make yourself be those things.  But He can, and He does.  So now He gives you a vocation, a calling, as a Christian, as one Baptized into Christ.  You are to take up your cross and follow Him (v. 27).  Which is to say, you are to die.  What does it cost to follow Jesus?  Everything.  You are to renounce all you have.  You are to renounce all you are.  You are to give yourself up.  You are to die.  And that’s what happened in Christ when you were baptized.  You died with Him, that you might live with Him.  He paid the price for you.  His death counts for you.  You are buried with Him by Baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you, too, might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  The cost is impossible for you to pay.  But He paid it.  And the return is worth every penny, or I should say, every drop of blood.  For what do you receive as a disciple of Jesus Christ?  Rebirth.  Eternal life.  Heaven.  The resurrection of your body on the Last Day.  You are made God’s own child, and so the very Kingdom of God is yours.  You are a fellow heir with Christ.  St. Paul simply says: “all things are yours” in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 3:21)… “all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (v. 23).  That’s amazing!  What is not included in the words, “all things”?  Nothing!  All things are yours in Christ.
            So you can die with joy.  You can give yourself up, give away everything joyfully and freely.  You can suffer the reproach of the world, and even of your family and friends, because all things are yours in Christ, to whom you belong.  Does Christ have what it takes?  Absolutely!  He’s God!  Can He do it?  Yes!  He has already done it in His life, death, and resurrection.  What will it cost?  The cost of our salvation was great.  It cost the blood and death of God in human flesh.  But He did it for you and for all people, because He loves you and wants you for His own.  Does Jesus have the resources?  Again, yes!  His perfect fulfillment of the Father’s will on your behalf, His holy, precious, sin-atoning blood, His victorious resurrection and ascension, all of which He gives to you in these precious resources we call the means of grace: Baptism, the holy Word, and the Lord’s Supper. 
            And all the obstacles have been put to shame in the death of Christ.  The world mocked and jeered as our Lord was suspended upon the wood.  But now the tomb is empty, and Jesus lives.  The devil rejoiced as our Lord labored for every breath.  But then the Savior gave up His spirit, and in death conquered death and hell its prince, the devil.  The proof is that He is risen.  And your sinful flesh?  Crucified.  That’s why He took on our flesh.  Your old Adam is dead, crucified with Christ in Baptism, drowned there at the font.  Now, all of these things still appear to be alive.  But don’t let appearances deceive you.  When Jesus comes again, what you cannot now see will be manifest to all.  And you will rejoice.    
            Can you do it?  No, you can’t.  But Jesus can.  And He did.  For you.  You belong to Him.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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