By Kris Fernandez
This is the last week we’re going over the first half (“An Honest Diagnosis”) of the series. By asking ourselves the questions, and their implications, we might get an understanding of where we are standing in our relationship with God.
If anyone... does not hate
In Luke 14:25-27 Jesus is again followed by a huge crowd. Whenever these things happen, Jesus would probably say some really difficult things to try to thin out the crowds – to separate the “fans” from the “followers,” if you will.
Here Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple. […] those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."
This is not exactly a Joel Osteen-style, people-friendly, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” message (not that any of these things are wrong per se).
But the question remains: how can the same guy who said “love your neighbors” say “hate your mother”?
Well because following Jesus will mess up the “priorities” in your life -- family, friends, job, school, popularity, sports, etc. Jesus will want to be ahead of all of these things, so much so that to put him before all of them will make you look like you’re now “hating” the things that you’re supposed to love (like you’re mom).
In New Testament days to follow this strange itinerant preacher Jesus against the wishes of your parents will be an insult to your family; people will think that you’re disobeying your parents, and are now hating them. In the same way, Jesus wants you to put him at the center of everything you do so that everything else must be at a distant second to him (and people are gonna think you’re crazy for doing that).
So our question number 4: Is Jesus your one of many or your one and only?
To help us answer this question it might be helpful to ask additional questions like, “Where do I find my greatest joy?” “Where is my greatest hope?”
Jesus teaches us “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21).
“Where do I find comfort?”
Paul says in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians that God is the “father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”.
“What really gets me so excited that I tell people about it?”
Jesus says that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”.
Jesus further tells a story in Luke 14 that a person who plans to build a tower should “count the cost” if he’s able to finish what he started. Otherwise he would lose money and not get any benefit from an unfinished tower. He uses this analogy to warn his followers that following him will cost them everything. So his followers should count the cost if it’s worth it to follow Jesus even if it meant following him to their deaths. Otherwise, those following Jesus half-heartedly will lose time and money, and will not really get the benefits of salvation. Its essentially all-or-nothing.
Religion or relationship?
In reading the New Testament you will encounter two somewhat similar but different groups of religious leaders: Sadducees and Pharisees. We can learn a lot from these two groups.
First the Sadducees were generally those in charge of the daily duties of temple worship. They mostly inherited their positions from their parents. On the other hand, Pharisees were those who worked hard for their positions. They had to go through a lot of religious training in order to get to where they are now.
- We have to ask ourselves then, are we like the Sadducees and "inherited" our Christian faith from our parents? Remember that God will not judge us on the basis of our parent's faith; we stand or fall on our own relationship with Jesus. (Sadducees also didn't believe in the Resurrection; so they were sad, you see).
- Perhaps we are more like the Pharisees and we worked hard to become "Christians". We learned our Bible, went to Bible studies, went to church, and even attended church camps. But of course, none of these things by themselves make us a follower of Jesus. Jesus doesn't want us to be religious for the sake of religion; rather he want us to follow him personally.
Both of these groups may score high on a "religiosity index" but God does not judge by these standards. He cares more about the inside of the person rather than on outside appearances of religiosity.
So Question 5: Are you more concerned about the outside rather than on the inside?
Sometimes we want to make ourselves look "Christian" as a cover-up for our actual inner self. We might fear being judged by others so we put up a show. Maybe we're so good at it we might be fooling ourselves too, but we're just no more than hypocrites.
While Jesus doesn't expect his followers to be perfect, ,he does call them to be authentic.