After graduating from law school, I worked with the Environmental Review Division of a major city to identify any potentially adverse effects of proposed construction projects, assess their significance, and recommend measures to eliminate or minimize harm. This process provided some of the information officials and the public needed to decide whether to proceed with a project.
The projects I reviewed included high-rise office buildings, transportation systems, historic preservation overlays, housing developments, and even an expansion of a fortune cookie factory. It was important to consider the immediate, long-range, and cumulative effects of a project on its physical environment and neighboring community. In other words, it was important to consider the consequences and costs of saying yes or no.
It’s no different when counting the cost to follow Jesus. He tells his followers two compelling, connected parables about a building and a battle. The point of the stories was not the successful completion of the tower or the outcome of the war but the willingness and deliberation to count the cost. We know the Holy Spirit will enable us to choose correctly, but it still won't be easy. Truehearted Christian discipleship is costly.
But the cost of not following Jesus is even higher. Such a forfeiture would lead to the loss of the abundant life Jesus offers us. The gospel is much more than an ethical message about a way of life. It is about Jesus, the kingdom he came to proclaim, and loving God before all else. It’s our choice. The cost, whatever it may be, is worth paying.
What keeps you from fully following Jesus?
Jeremiah brings another warning of impending judgment. If the people will not turn to the Lord, God will break the nation and reshape it, just as a potter breaks down and reshapes clay on a wheel. The psalmist praises God for God’s intimate knowledge of each one of us. Even from the moment of conception, God knows us and has a plan for our lives. Philemon is often overlooked, but it packs a punch. A text that some used in the past to justify slavery teaches a very different message. Paul warns Philemon not to enslave Onesimus again but to receive him back as a brother. Secular power structures have no place in God’s kingdom. In Luke, Jesus uses striking examples to teach us that the life of faith cannot be lived well with half-hearted commitment.
Read Jeremiah 18:1-11. As clay, how can you better respond to the Potter’s guiding hand?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. God knows you better than you know yourself, yet God has given you the ability to make your own decisions. How do you respond to God?
Read Philemon 1-21. How do you honor the full humanity of those who serve you through their work?
Read Luke 14:25-33. What does it mean for you to take up the cross in your life?
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