22nd Sunday after Trinity November 8, 1998
270, 390, 423, 388
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. These are the Words.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who has promised that His grace will be sufficient for us, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
What do bricks have in common with bullets? Not much, at first glance. Both are extremely useful, but for very different purposes. Bricks are used to build, bullets to destroy. With bricks, a person can erect a beautiful house, or a magnificent tower. With bullets, an army can defend itself and defeat its enemies. Depending on whether you’re a building contractor or a soldier, you might find either one of these items extremely handy to have around. But who would ever need to have both bricks and bullets at the same time?
—Disciples of Jesus Christ, that’s who! Our text for today reveals that every true disciple of Christ is a builder and a soldier at the same time. Building a Christian life is like erecting a magnificent tower; fending off the attacks of Satan is like fighting a constant war. Both BUILDING and BATTLE are vital for the Christian, but it would be impossible to carry out either one without the proper supplies. Being Jesus’ disciple is very difficult—that’s something we should consider carefully before we embark. But the message of our text for today is that it can be done—if we know where to go for our supplies! Our theme is:
The first words of our text are really rather amazing when you think about them. Jesus said, whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Jesus repeated this statement over and over again to the multitudes who were following Him around the dusty roads of Palestine. We know what Jesus was talking about, but imagine how puzzled they must have been. Remember, the events of Good Friday hadn’t happened yet. The whip, the crown of thorns, the nails and the cross were still in the future. And yet, Jesus kept telling the people that He would have to bear a cross. And if they wanted to be His disciples, they would have to bear a cross as well.
Jesus predicted a cross in His future, and that prediction came true. One Friday in Jerusalem, an exhausted and bloody Jesus was forced to lift the rough wood of a massive cross to His shoulder and drag it through the streets of Jerusalem. When they reached the lonely hill called Golgotha, the soldiers nailed Him to that cross, and there he was slowly tortured until He died. And there on that cross—our sins died, too! There He paid the full price for the sins we committed yesterday—last week—last year. Jesus bore the torment and the hell of the cross because He loved you and me. He bore His cross. He went through with it, because He knew that this was the Father’s marvelous plan for our salvation. This was the only way to deliver us from hell, and guarantee us a mansion in His heavenly home. So the deed was accomplished, and you and I have been freed from the punishment our sins deserve. Not a single thing remains to be done for our salvation.
But much remains to be done because of our salvation! If we follow our Savior in this life, it goes without saying that we will follow in His suffering as well. Jesus’ prediction that His disciples would have their own crosses to bear was fulfilled, and continues to be fulfilled down to this day. A “cross” is anything bad that a Christian suffers SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE he is a Christian. And make no mistake, if you want to build the life of a disciple for yourself you are going suffer for it. Paul warns Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”—2 Tim 3:12. Your Lord Jesus wants you to know what you’re getting into. He wants you to consider carefully just how much it’s going to cost to construct and maintain your life as a Christian. Our text for today isn’t meant to talk you out of becoming Jesus’ disciple. But it is meant to discourage you from trying to do it with your own resources. Only GOD gives you what you need to build a disciple’s life.
In other words, if you’re in the building business, you’d better be mighty sure you’ve got a reliable source for bricks! Jesus said, For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
If you ever traveled to San Francisco, you may have seen the Embarcadero Freeway towering over the downtown area. Not a single car has ever driven on it. The huge project was begun over twenty years ago, but there was never enough money to finish it. Now they are finally tearing it down. Among residents of the Bay area, that construction project is a joke, the epitome of bad financial planning. They almost literally ran out of bricks.
Are you going to run out of bricks? Will your discipleship be a joke? Will your life as a Christian end up being nothing more than a hole in the ground—a project begun, but never completed? It will if you go to the wrong source for building materials. You simply can’t rely on yourself to supply what it takes to build a disciple’s life. Your personal strength, your own gifts, your wisdom, your zeal won’t be enough to make you an effective, fruitful Christian. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Hard as it may be, we must leave behind what we have to offer, and take what God has to offer. He supplies the bricks. He gives us what we need to build a disciple’s life!
Do you feel your faith flicker and grow weak when problems confront you in your life? Paul says, “My brethren, be strong IN THE LORD and in the power of HIS might.”—Eph 6:10. Maybe you’re in the dark about things that are happening to you right now, wondering what the Lord’s will is for your life at this moment. You feel the need for wisdom. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it WILL be given to him.”—James 1:5. God is your source for strength, gifts, wisdom, zeal—all the “bricks” you need to build your Christian life. Every time you come to worship services to hear God’s Word preached, you’ll get a few more bricks for your building. Every time you open up your family Bible and read, the Holy Spirit is strengthening your faith, giving you the materials with which to erect and strengthen your discipleship. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim 3:16-17. That’s what church is there for, so be faithful in your church attendance! That’s what your Bible’s there for, so get it down off the shelf and use it!
God is our reliable source for bricks as we’re building our lives as disciples. But bricks aren’t the only thing you need. You need bullets, too. If you choose to be a disciple, then you’ll find yourself fighting a constant running battle against Satan. And it’s no less important to remember that GOD gives you what you need to fight a disciple’s battle.
You want to go to war, Jesus asks? Then you’d better make good and certain beforehand that you’ve got what it takes to defeat your enemy! What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. Countless millions in our world have already made their peace with Satan. Whether they realize it or not, they’ve surrendered to the devil, simply by rejecting Jesus Christ as their Savior, and choosing to find a different way of salvation. But those of us who are Jesus’ disciples know that there is no other way. We cling to Jesus’ cross alone as our only hope of forgiveness and everlasting life. Because we do, we’ve made Satan our enemy. And that means war!
I really get a laugh out of these people who deny the concept of a “personal devil.” “The devil may be the idea of evil,” they say, “but he’s not a real, personal being.” Tell that to the Apostle Peter, who said that the devil IS a personal being, that he’s as ferocious as a lion, and that he likes nothing better than to devour helpless human beings! The devil doesn’t exist?! Tell that to the Apostle Paul, who said, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”—Eph 6:12.
Martin Luther was one man who didn’t deny the existence of Satan. The devil was a very “personal” being to him. Luther cursed the devil and threw inkwells at him! He never ceased to warn his people about all the cunning tactics the devil uses to try and separate us from our Savior. And yet, Luther wasn’t afraid to go to war against Satan, and he was one soldier who knew where to get his bullets. In his most famous Reformation hymn he wrote,
Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill.
They shall not overpower us!
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him!
What’s that one little word? GRACE. God in His grace supplies our every need. There’s one “need” which you might consider a little unusual: God gives us bullets. That is, He supplies us with everything we need to fight—and win!—the battle against Satan.
Don’t try fight this disciple’s battle on your own. You’re not smart enough, and you’re not half strong enough. Again Jesus says, “FORSAKE everything YOU have.” Take instead the effective ammunition the Lord has to offer you. They didn’t have bullets in the days of the Apostle Paul, so he puts it in terms of his own time: “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”—Eph 6:14-17.
All these weapons are available to you through God’s Word. Make good use of them! “Fight the good fight of faith,” every day, and with all the power God gives you. Yes, our enemy is strong, but He can be beaten. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” the Bible says, “but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.“—2 Cor 10:4. “Resist the devil,” Scripture promises, “and HE WILL FLEE FROM YOU.”
Bricks and bullets—it’s a strange combination, but one that’s familiar to the Lord’s disciples. In 455 BC, the prophet Nehemiah was in charge of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, which had been leveled to the ground when the city was defeated by the Babylonians. As the walls were being built, however, they were constantly being attacked by the army of Samaria. God’s people had to learn to be soldier/workers—they literally had to work with a trowel in one hand and a spear in the other hand! Let’s follow their example. Let’s be builders AND fighters! With the bricks God gives you, you can build a disciple’s life; with the bullets God gives you, you can fight a disciple’s battle the devil. AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.