I want you to turn with me, please, in your Bibles to Luke's Gospel chapter 14. Now, I am following the theme each night: 'Encountering God' - and tonight I want to preach on 'The Cost Of Discipleship', which is 'The Call To Encounter God'. The call to encounter God is the cost of discipleship - so, if you're here and perhaps the title of these meetings has intrigued you somewhat (and there's a lot of 'spiritual junkies' about, it has to be said, who will go from meeting to meeting trying to get some supernatural experience). I do believe in the supernatural, as you'll find out this week, but there is a cost and a price to be paid to encounter God personally - and it is, initially, the cost of discipleship.
We will consider that as we look at the words of our Lord, from verse 25 of Luke 14, and we'll be reading down to verse 33: "Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 'If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it; lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see 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, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple'".
Let us pray. I want you to do something as we bow our heads, I'm going to ask you to do this every night: I want you to pray for yourself, I want you to pray for yourself now, that God will speak to your heart. Would you do that please? I believe God answers that prayer when it's prayed in sincerity and truth. If you really want to encounter God just now, I want you to pray: 'Lord, speak to me'.
Abba Father, we do come to You in the name that is above every name, Lord Jesus Christ. We in this holy place, in this sanctified moment that has been set aside to focus on You - and in order to, as it were, Lord, draw near to God that He might draw near to us - Lord, by faith we would invoke the very presence of Almighty God. We long now, and ask in Jesus' name, that we will know that we are in the Divine Presence, Lord, that You would descend to us as the dew upon the tender herb, as the summer rain upon the freshly mown grass. Lord, come down, come into our midst, penetrate the atmosphere of this place. Come Holy Spirit, bring the presence of the Father and the Son with You to us, to make their abode now. Lord, we want to encounter God. Lord, we want to meet You. We want to be delivered from a meeting, from going through formalities. Lord, we want to know that God is here. Lord, none of us can work up Your presence, it must come down - and so, come Lord Jesus, come Holy Spirit. We proclaim and declare the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in this place. We proclaim that He has overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb. We declare now what the blood of the Lamb means and what it does: and we take the victory and take our standing tonight against the enemy in Jesus' name. Lord, we now pray that You will release the power of Your Word tonight, that lives will be changed, disciples will be made in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ's sake we pray, Amen.
I'm sure you're aware that we live in a celebrity culture. It seems to be the dream of many people - especially young people, it has to be said - to be famous, to have an entourage of fans and groupies fawning and fainting at your feet. But such fickle, superficial allegiance never would satisfy the Lord Jesus Christ. Here in verse 25 of our reading, we see that multitudes, great multitudes, went after Jesus - but it appears from the subsequent verses, that we read together and will meditate on tonight, that the Lord wanted to sift out from this crowd those who were really serious about Him, as opposed to those who were just curious or caught up in the mass excitement of the miracles. The Lord Jesus still has the same objective. The Lord Jesus is not interested in quantity as much as quality.
When preaching the Gospel I think we need to beware of two errors, two extremes. The first is: we can give the impression that people need to clean up their lives before they come to Jesus - and that, effectively, is a gospel of works, a gospel of the flesh. Sometimes, if we over-emphasize repentance at the expense of faith, we can fall into this trap - we make people feel that they have to have everything cracked and solved, every sin gone before they come to the Lord Jesus. But the fact of the matter is, our Gospel is a Gospel of grace, and without the unmerited free favour of God, which is a gift, we cannot do anything about our sin without the power of God. It is to those who receive Him, that He gives power to become sons and daughters. So, yes we've got to be repentant and we've got to be willing, but it is God who empowers us to overcome sin. As we say here: we ought not to put the cart before the horse.
In fact, in the previous parable that Jesus told in this very chapter He talks about a great supper, and this man who invited friends to the feast. In verse 17, he says: 'Come, for all things are now ready' - and that's the Gospel invitation. It's an invitation to all people, because Christ has finished the work, and all you've got to do is come. In fact, this man wants his house full of guests, just the way God wants heaven full of repentant sinners. So let's not make the mistake of implying to people that they have to get their lives right before they come to Christ - and I hope that you haven't made that mistake tonight. As Charlotte Elliott said:
'Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me'.
Yet a second error, a second extreme that we can very easily fall into is to give the impression that Jesus wants us to stay the same. We can come to Jesus just as we are, but Jesus calls people not just to follow Him to Heaven, but to follow Him on Earth. You see we are instructed by Jesus not to go into all the world and make converts, we're told by Him in the Great Commission to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You see, Jesus Christ wants to transform the whole person, and therefore the whole person has to embrace Christ and His message.
Let me try and simplify it by saying that it costs you nothing to become a Christian, but it ought to cost you everything to be a Christian. Can I repeat that? It costs you nothing to become a Christian - by grace are you saved through faith - but it ought to cost you everything to be one, because to be a Christian ought to mean to be a disciple.
A disciple is a follower. I mentioned the shipyard, and some of you may have been apprentices at the shipyard, or maybe you were an apprentice at joinery or plumbing or some other trade - and an 'apprentice' is the same word, effectively, as a 'disciple', it has the same meaning. What an apprentice does is, as a young lad, maybe 14 or 15, he comes alongside a more experienced tradesman - and initially all that he does is, he watches. He looks and he learns from how the old man does it. Then eventually he has a go himself, and in a controlled environment the old man supervises him as he has a go. Maybe he makes a couple of blunders, and maybe he hits his thumb and all the rest - you know about it - but that's the only way that that apprentice can learn. That is what a disciple does - it says in Mark chapter 1 that Jesus called His disciples to be with Him, and then He sent them out to do His work.
He calls us to be with Him, to observe, and to learn - and that requires commitment. It requires commitment to be Christ's disciple. You see, Jesus wants to clean up your life, Jesus wants to cooperate with you - and you've got to be willing, you've got to be repentant, you've got to be involved in this process! It's not enough to come to Jesus as you are, get your sins forgiven, and think: 'Well, that's it!'. If you think of your life like a house, when you give your life to Jesus, Jesus doesn't expect you to renovate it before you give it to Him to clean it from the inside out - He just wants you to give it to Him the way it is. But when you give the house that is your life to Christ, you've got to be prepared for Him to make some changes. He wants to tear down walls, He wants to rebuild, He wants to fix broken things - because being a disciple means we cooperate with Jesus in the work the He wants to do in us. Maybe you're here tonight, and you've been a believer for many years, and you, in fact, have been resisting the work of Jesus. You've been reverting back, perhaps, to your old ways. You may walk on the clean side of the road, you may be moralistic and fine upstanding in your community - but, as far as going on with God is concerned, you're static, you're stuck!
Jesus is so candid, isn't He? He tells it like it is. He wants us under no illusions of what it will mean to encounter God. The call to encounter God is to be a disciple of Jesus. There was once a recruitment Sergeant Major in the United States Army, just around the Vietnam war, and there was a crowd of young lads who were at a street corner hanging about doing nothing. He came up to them, he was in uniform with all his regalia, he had his ribbons and his medals on his breast. He came up to those young lads, and he said: 'Do you want to serve your country?'. They said: 'Of course!'. He told them the great glory stories of war and honour and heroism, and of course they all signed up. A number of months later they were lying in the paddy fields, bombs going off around them, their comrades being blown to smithereens - and one turned to the other and said: 'The recruitment Sergeant Major didn't tell us about this!'. Jesus is not like that. When He gives His call to us to be forgiven, to be born again, it is free of charge - but He wants us to understand what we are being called to. At times the Lord Jesus wooed crowds to Himself, but then He began to winnow them. He uses this strong language to thin out the ranks, and He wants us under no illusion that it costs to be a committed follower of Christ, it costs to encounter God - and you need to count the costs!
Let me herald that call tonight right at the beginning of this week: don't you think you're on a supernatural rollercoaster to eternity this week, of being touched by the supernatural and the miraculous without any cost. So Jesus, in three ways, tells us the cost of discipleship - and I want to bring it to you tonight under three headings. First of all: there is a crisis of love. Then: we are to carry our cross. Thirdly and finally: we are to count the cost of following Christ. The first is found in verse 26, the crisis of love, look at it, verse 26: 'If anyone comes to Me', Jesus says, 'and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot' - that's an emphatic term - 'he cannot be My disciple'.
Now I hope you ask questions of the Scripture, I don't mean in a cynical, doubtful way - but we learn by asking questions, and right away something ought to flag up in your consciousness. There seems to be an apparent contradiction here: Jesus, it appears, is instructing us to hate. 'Hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and yourself' - yet the Ten Commandments, given to Moses by God, says what? The hardest one of them all probably: 'Honour your father and your mother'. Is Jesus contradicting the commandments? He says, 'If you don't hate father and mother you can't be My disciples'. Is Jesus contradicting Himself? He's the one who came and said: 'I haven't come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it', and He said 'Love one another', He said 'Love your neighbour', and He even went as far as saying 'Love your enemy' - and even if your Mum and Dad are your enemies here tonight, you still have to love them! Is Jesus contradicting Himself? Well, let me say, if you 'hate' your mother and father the way Jesus 'hated' His mother, Mary, you'll be doing well. You remember when He was hanging on the cross, He said to the apostle John: 'Behold, your mother', He said to His mother, Mary, 'Behold, your son' - and from that day, John took Mary, the mother of Jesus, into his own home and looked after her as his own mother. So the Lord Jesus obviously loved His mother, Mary. So what is He saying? He's using exaggeration to emphasise a truth. He is really saying that all other loves in our lives must be like hate in comparison to our love for Jesus. Do you understand? He's exaggerating to make us realise that Jesus must be the pre-eminent love if we are going to be His disciples.
In another place, in Matthew 10:37, He put it like this: 'He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me' - so He's inferring that we will love father and mother, son and daughter, but the point He's making is that our love for them must be like hatred in comparison to our all-consuming love for Christ. It's very simple, and yet so deep, so profound, that most of us miss it: to be a disciple of Jesus you have to love Jesus supremely. Or alternatively, we must not love others or ourselves at the expense of loving Him. Have you had this crisis of love tonight? Is Jesus Christ not only Lord of all, but is He your love of all? I know that's probably an impossibility, perfectly and completely for all of us, but let me ask another question: are you at least aware of that as the cost of discipleship? Are you aware of that crisis in your life where you're wanting your love for Jesus to be right at the apex of your life, top above all?
C.T. Studd, the great pioneer missionary, was afraid that his fiancee might love him more than she loved to Jesus, so he wrote a poem that she ought to repeat herself every day. It went like this:
'Jesus, I love Thee,
Thou art to me
Dearer than Charlie
Ever could be!'.
The point bears emphasis - like Ruskin the poet, who proposed to a Christian lady, and she asked him: 'Do you love me more than you love Jesus Christ?'. He had to admit that he did, and she said: 'Well, in that case, I couldn't marry you'. Ruskin tried again even after she contracted a serious illness, and her answer was still the same. She died not long afterward, but Jesus was still first in her life. Now you might say: 'Boy, this is really extreme stuff here this evening!'. I vouch to say - and I know your Pastor would be faithful in preaching this - but this isn't a popular message, this is not the message to draw in the crowds! This is the message to thin them down, this is the message that sends people packing! People left Jesus Christ because He preached this message - but there must be a crisis of love if we're going to encounter God! It is the call of discipleship.
There could be a disordered love in your life tonight - what does that mean? Your spirit that is meant to bow down in worship of God is bowing down to another love. It could be a sinful love, but it may not be. It may not be inherently immoral. It might be a church, it might be a doctrine, or a basis of belief, or a theological persuasion, or it might be a religious practice - or it might be a member of your family, it might be your husband or your wife, or your son or your daughter, or your brother or your sister, or yourself. We're talking about disordered love, which effectively is idolatry, when our spirits bow before them and they come before the Lord God. 'You shall have no other gods before Me', one. 'You shall not make unto you any graven image and bow down to it', two.
Maybe this crisis of love is because you're looking for love and meaning somewhere else. Jesus is not saying we ought not to love our husbands and wives, and our children, He's not even saying we ought to hate ourselves. We ought to have a certain self-esteem and respect, no one should hate themselves - but we ought not to look to other loves for meaning and self-worth. Some of you husbands are looking to your wives for meaning, and vice versa. Some of you are looking to your children - and this is often the evangelical sin. We don't maybe go to the clubs and pubs, we're not involved in drug abuse and promiscuity and sexual looseness, but some of us are living and worshipping for our families or our careers! That's why we're not encountering God! We wonder what's wrong, we wonder why the heavens are brass, we wonder why we're not getting through to God, and God doesn't speak to us the way He speaks to others - but we are looking to other things, other loves for meaning.
What is Jesus saying here? Listen: 'If you want to encounter God, if you want to be My disciple, you've got to be aggressively violent with every heart tie that keeps you from loving Christ above all'. The worst love of all He mentions last, self - that instinct of self-preservation. Instead of living self-centred lives, we are meant to live Christ-centred lives. Instead of asking the question, 'How every action will affect me?', We ought to be asking, 'How will this affect Christ, His glory, and the extension of His kingdom?'. You say: 'Boy, I came here to get a touch from God! You're so negative!'. I'm not negative, this is not being negative, this is how we know the fullness of Christ in our lives! You see, whenever you realise the love of Jesus for you, Paul said: 'We love Him, because He first loved us, and gave Himself for us'. Whenever you know the all-encompassing love of God - that's what Paul prayed for the Ephesians, that they would know the four-dimensional love; the height, the length, the depth, the breadth of this eternal love. In fact the Bible says Christians are going to spend all eternity just opening up all the different layers of this glorious love, it's inexhaustible! You see, when you get a touch of that, you realise that Jesus can make such audacious claims like this because it's motivated by love, it's motivated by love:
'When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the young Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour content on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all'.
Napoleon Bonaparte understood this principle, he said: 'I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires - but on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force! Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love, and this hour millions of men would die for Him'. Is there a crisis of love in your life? Do you want to be His disciple and encounter God? I'm not saying I love Jesus more than my wife, or my children, but I know I need to and I know I want to! Wait till I tell you this: I know I will love them more and better, if I do love Him over them.
A crisis of love, the second thing Jesus says is: to be His disciple, you've got to carry your cross. Verse 27: 'Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot', there it's emphatic again, 'cannot be My disciple'. Now there are two errors here that people fall into - the first is that they think they have to carry the cross. You see this tragically, particularly in parts of South America and the Philippines, some dear misguided Roman Catholic people who are dying on crosses, or at least mortifying themselves and flagellating themselves on crosses, because they believe they have to still pay something for their sins, penance. Jesus cried from the cross: 'It is finished!'. You don't have to pay anything for your sins to be forgiven, the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, has been shed and cleanses us from all sin. You don't have to bear the cross, your sins can be forgiven by receiving it by simple faith. Others make the mistake of thinking: 'Well, this cross is some kind of physical or mental infirmity that I have to bear in my life' - or maybe it's troublesome neighbours, or a nagging wife, or a grumpy husband - 'That's my cross to bear!', you hear people talking like that, don't you? That's not what the cross is here that you've got to bear. You see Jesus' cross, Jesus' cross, is what He suffered for righteousness' sake, and your cross is what you will suffer for righteousness' sake also, for following Christ, for standing with Christ. It will be a pathway of reproach, of suffering, of loneliness, of perhaps even death - but here is the whole point: it is voluntary! You must take up your cross, and you must follow Christ.
This is not some illness inflicted on us, or circumstance or situation that we cannot get out of - this is something that we choose for love of Christ. Not all Christians bear their cross, that's obvious. It is possible to avoid this by living a nominal inconsequential 'Christian' life. You see, when you choose to encounter God, when you choose to go out and out for Jesus, you will experience something of what Jesus did. You will experience ostracisation, you will experience suffering, rebuke, scorn, the opposition and contradiction of sinners - and even satanic opposition, demonic opposition! You see, the disciple will need to follow the road of self-renunciation, of fiery temptation - you thought that if you got to know God a bit better, temptation would just melt away like a snowball? I've got news for you: it gets worse, it gets worse. Humiliation and all sorts of opposition will come your way, but here's what I want you to understand: we choose this. Jesus says: 'You've got to take up your cross' - identify with Christ, and die to self, and suffer for Him - because crosses were made not to live on, they were made to die on! Every morning you wake, if you're going to be a disciple of Christ, you need to go and look in the mirror and say: 'Today you've been called to die to self-indulgence, self-interest, self-promotion. Die to the world, die to the devil, die to the flesh, and live unto God!'.
So, have you taken up your cross? Have you? A missionary going into the virgin territory of a pioneer field noted that there was a van that preceded the missionary caravans, and it was a van filled with coffins. It was their own coffins. They knew it was more than likely that they would die on the field for their faith, and they literally were taking up their cross and following Christ. You see, we have all this religious regalia now, and terminology and language - and thank God for a lot of it - but sometimes it obscures the reality of these spiritual truths. What was a cross? It was an instrument of execution. It was tantamount to Jesus saying to you tonight: 'Take up your electric chair, and come and follow Me', 'Take up your hangman's noose, and come and follow Me'.
I hope you're getting this. He's saying: 'Come and walk on death row, and follow Me, if you want to be My disciple'. You say: 'You are making us miserable! You really are! If you're trying to encourage us to go on with God tonight, you're not doing a good job of it!'. Listen: this is the blessed life, this is the Christ life. Jesus said: 'You must lose your life to find it', and it is a heavenly life that we can even know down here - but you've got to be prepared to lay down the life here.
Tom Landry was Coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and he once said: 'The job of the football coaches to make men do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they've always wanted to be'. To make men do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they've always wanted to be. Some of your like the lady that goes into the fancy boutique - not that any of you ladies would be like this - and you see a beautiful garment, and you think: 'That's for me!', maybe a wedding or some kind of function, 'That's mine! That's just right for me!'. You imagine it, and fantasise about you wearing it, then after thinking about that for a while you then see this little bit of cardboard, this elusive little thing that hangs on a bit of cord on the sleeve or the hem or something like that - you men know about that - and you just turn around, and then a quick intake of breath! Do you still want the garment? Of course you do! You still dream about wearing it! Are you prepared to pay the price? Probably not!
Oh, you want the blessed life, you want to encounter God. Oh, you want to go on with Jesus, you want to know the supernatural, you want to live a life of daily miracles - well, it isn't a life of daily miracles I'm afraid - but the call to encounter God is to pay the price.
The Cambridge Seven were students who left Cambridge University and went to the mission field. They were radicals, I mean if you saw them today they would be radicals. They shaved their heads, and grew moustaches to look like Chinamen, and dressed up like Chinamen - that's radical in today's terms, let alone way back then. One of them was C.T. Studd, who I've already mentioned, and he gave away his fortune - he had a great inheritance, and he was also a great cricket player. He gave away what's probably the equivalent of about a million pounds in sterling today. He signed it all away, some of it to the Salvation Army, some of it to George Mueller's homes, and the rest of it to the China Inland Mission. He said: 'The stuff went!'. He went to China, and then he went to India where his father made his fortune, and he felt he had a debt to India. Then he went to Africa, and he wrote some scorching booklets in Africa. One of them was called: 'The Jihad of Jesus' - what about that, eh? 'The Jihad of Jesus', another was 'Christ's Etceteras', one that you can still get today is 'The Chocolate Soldier', and in it he talks about heroism as the lost call of Christianity. He says: 'How can we become so hot for Christ that others will be scorched?'.
Then there was another little booklet that he wrote called 'DCD' - have any of you ever heard of that little booklet by C.T. Studd? 'DCD' - I'm sure you haven't, let me explain what it means. The WEC missionary organisation was split, there was coldness in the ranks, there was backsliding among converts - some of them on the continent of Africa, and in the Congo in particular, were going back to witchcraft and drunkenness. Studd got his workers together and he said: 'What can we do? We need to do more to stir up these people!'. They were reading that morning in their study in Hebrews 11, you know that great Hall of Faith, and at every juncture where it said that some man or woman of God suffered for their faith, C.T. Studd banged the desk and he said: 'There must be more that we can do! What more can we do?'. One was sawn asunder, it says, he smacked the desk: 'What can we do?'. There was a man at that meeting called Staniford, he happened to be a Sergeant Major in World War I, and he spoke up and told of how one day in the trenches they were surrounded by the Germans and they knew there was no way out except up and over the top, and undoubtedly they would all be killed to make room for the British troops coming from behind - you just jump over the top and take the risk. As those soldiers contemplated that great act, Staniford said one said: 'Boys, for King and for Country, let's go over the top - and if we die, we die, I don't give a d**n', (a word beginning with 'D' which I'll not say in the church tonight), 'If we die, we die, I don't give a d**n'.
Now that upset a lot of people, that story, but C.T. Studd wrote a booklet, 'DCD', 'Don't Care a D**n' - yes, he did. That might not have been the right wording, but it was the spirit that overcame the lethargy and the schism that was in the WEC. It wasn't the right wording, but it was the right sentiment, and it took over the whole organisation. That heroism, that 'If I die, I die; if I perish, I perish - who cares? It's for Christ and His kingdom!'. We haven't got that today, I don't have that today - but that's what Jesus asks of us.
Do you want to encounter God? The call of discipleship is a crisis of love, carry your cross, and finally: count the cost. Jesus said: 'If you're not willing to do it, you cannot be my disciple'. He told two stories to illustrate what it meant to count the cost. The first was the parable of the tower. Jesus said that 'You need to sit down and see if you can afford to follow Me, just like this builder didn't sit down to account whether he had enough finances and resources to build this tower'. In fact, if you look at verses 29 and 30, Jesus said: 'Lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish''. Do you know something? The world has nothing but contempt for half-hearted, half-baked Christians - they really don't. They know the real thing when they see it, that's why the world is laughing at the church this very evening in the United Kingdom, in Ireland. Then He told a parable of the King, and he said: 'Sit down and see if you can afford to refuse my demands, if you've enough to fight with'. Look at this verse 33, look at this verse, He sums it all up: 'So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple'. Wow! There's a lot of debate goes on about verses that should be in and out of the Bible, I imagine - I hope you don't mind me saying this - but if that one fell out, there would not be too many people would be worried about it, eh? Let's be honest, that must be one of the hardest verses in the Bible: 'So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple'.
Did the Lord know what He was saying? Did He? Did He know what He was asking? Do we know better today? You see, the Lord knew, listen: this is what it would take to get the job done - a crisis of love, people who will carry their cross, and count the cost. In fact the ancient Greek phrase here for 'forsake all that he has', applied to people it literally meant: 'You need to say goodbye to all that you have, or you cannot be my disciple'. Now people get freaked out and frightened about the will of God, and think: 'Oh, here, I can't handle this!'. I'm not saying God is going to ask you to do this, people get afraid of the will of God - sometimes the devil can do it on them, and they think that God's going to call them to the back end of beyond, and there will be no showers and no toilets, and you'll be eating rice for the rest of your life and sleeping with rats. Listen, I'm not saying God is going to require your life, I'm not saying He's going to send you to the mission field, but what Jesus is saying is: 'If you want to encounter Me, if you want to be My disciple, you've got to be prepared to say goodbye to anything!'.
General Booth made a need known in a meeting like this, and a young man responded. Booth spoke with him afterwards and found that he was genuine. He said to the young fellow: 'Make your will, pack your box, kiss your girlfriend goodbye, and be ready in a week' - that was the Salvation Army then. Speaking to new recruits on one occasion, he said: 'I sentence you all to hard labour for the rest of your lives'. Oh, that's very strong, isn't it? Measured against Calvary love, what is it? If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, what sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose. Bramwell Booth, the son of William Booth, was asked what the secret of his success was. He said: 'One day in Nottingham, General Booth knelt down and vowed that God would have all there was of William Booth'. Yet years later, Eva, his daughter, commented on this incident and said: 'No, no, that wasn't the secret. The secret was: he never took it back'.
Some of you surrendered once, but you took it back. Do you want to encounter God? Many Christians felt strongly when this letter that I'm about to read as I close was first read by Billy Graham. Listen carefully, it could have been written by a fundamentalist terrorist today, but it was written by an American college student who had been converted to communism in Mexico. Listen carefully, the purpose of the letter was to explain to his fiancee why he must break their engagement, listen to the letter: 'We communists have a high casualty rate. We are the ones who get shot and hung and lynched, and tarred and feathered, and jailed and slandered, and ridiculed and fired from our jobs and in every other way made as uncomfortable as possible. A certain percentage of us get killed or imprisoned. We live in virtual poverty. We turn back to the party every penny we make above what is absolutely necessary to keep us alive. We communists do not have the time or the money for many movies, or concerts, or T-bone steaks, or decent homes, or new cars. We have been described as fanatics. We are fanatics. Our lives are dominated by one great overshadowing factor: The struggle for world communism. We communists have a philosophy of life that no amount of money can buy. We have a cause to fight for, a definite purpose in life. We subordinate our petty personal selves to the great movement of humanity; and if our personal lives seem hard or our egos appear to suffer through subordination to the party, then we are adequately compensated by the thought that each of us in his small way is contributing to something new and true and better for mankind. There is one thing in which I am in dead earnest about, and that is the communist cause. It is my life, my business, my religion, my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife, and my mistress, my bread and meat. I work at it in the daytime and dream of it at night. Its hold on me grows, not lessens, as time goes on; therefore, I cannot carry on a friendship, a love affair, or even a conversation without relating it to this force that both drives and guides my life. I evaluate people, books, ideas and actions according to how they affect the communist cause, and by their attitude toward it. I've already been in jail because of my ideals, and if necessary, I'm ready to go before a firing squad'.
A crisis of love, carry your cross, count the cost. 'If you would encounter Me', the Lord says, 'You must be My disciple'. Let us pray. Now I want there to be silence just in these moments please. I want to give an opportunity of a response tonight. Is there anyone here this evening that has a heart that desires to encounter the Lord in a deeper way. Maybe you've never been saved - well, I'll tell you, anybody who gets saved tonight, I think they'll go on with the Lord, I'm pretty sure about that - because you know what you're getting into! If you want to be saved tonight, you can respond. Repent of your sins and believe, turn from your sins, trust in Christ. If you're a backslider, you've heard the call tonight, it's clear and plain. Confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you - come to the Lord tonight. Maybe you're a believer who has been saved many years, and you've been saying: 'There must be more than this'. You know that there's something wrong, and maybe God the Holy Spirit tonight has put His finger right on the very issue. There has been a disordered love, a reluctance to suffer for Christ, or to give things up - you're not prepared to pay the price. But tonight, you realise that that is the missing part of the formula, that's the missing piece. There is no point - and I'm not wanting to drive anybody away, you keep coming this week - but really you need to move on from here tonight, you need to hurdle this barrier. Is there anyone here in the building that will stand to their feet, and say tonight: 'I hear the call, the call of Christ to be His disciple, to encounter Him. I'm counting the cost, and I'm coming now, whatever the cost I'm coming now'. Stand to your feet just now in these moments of silence, stand here feet. Don't give me this about 'standing in your heart', you need to stand to your feet. Jesus hanged on a cross for you naked, and you can't stand to your feet tonight in a meeting?
God bless you, is there anyone else in the building tonight? You've heard the call - you must all, bar one, be disciples of Jesus. I'm preaching to the converted tonight - I'm not looking just for a response, but I want reality here in these meetings. I'm not prepared to come and tickle people's ears every night, and give sermons for you to go home and say: 'Well, that was interesting' - I'd rather sit at home than do that. If I'm going to be real with God this week, and be real with you, you need to be real with the Lord in this place. Is there anyone who will say tonight, before we close the meeting: 'Tonight I respond, tonight I respond. Lord of all, Lord of my life, I crown Thee now. Thine shall the glory be'.
Father, I come to You this evening thanking You for the passion of Calvary, thanking You that the Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive the reward of His sacrifice. I pray, like those early Moravian brothers who sailed out to the unknown, that there will be people here tonight that will cut the ties, whatever they may be. I know that there is a battle going on here in the heavenlies, Lord, in the spiritual realms. I invoke the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the blood over the enemy, and I pray now, Lord, that You will silence principalities and powers that are channelling down right at this very moment, and ungodly, unclean spirits that are seeking to distract and distress and take away from the seed of the word of God. Lord, I pray that You will cut off those influences now, in Jesus' name, and I pray that You will allow people, Lord, now to come and respond to You - even in the pew in their hearts, and say: 'Lord of all'.
For those who want to respond tonight, I want to lead you in a prayer, just say this after me, if you would even take it upon your lips - the person beside you doesn't even need to hear, but if you would just whisper it: 'Lord Jesus, I acknowledge my need of You, and I accept You now as Lord and Saviour of my life, my Redeemer and my Deliverer. I invite You now to be Lord of every area of my life. I thank You that Your blood was shed so that I might be free and cleansed. I commit myself to You now, body, soul, and spirit - everything that I am, and everything that I have. Amen'.
Don't miss part 2 of Encountering God: “The Practice Of The Presence - The Atmosphere Of Encountering God”
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This sermon was delivered at Abbots Cross Congregational Church in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'Encountering God' series, entitled "The Cost of Discipleship - The Call To Encounter God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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