Counting the Cost of Discipleship
October 25th, 1964 @ 7:30 PM
COUNTING THE COST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-25-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio turn with us in the Word of God to the First Gospel, Matthew, chapter 8, reading verses 14 through 27. Matthew chapter 8, reading verses 14 through 27. And the title of the sermon tonight is Counting the Cost; counting the cost of discipleship. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas; and with us, get your Bible, and read it out loud. It will bless your heart. It was written to be read aloud. Matthew chapter 8, ending at verse 27, all of us together beginning at verse 14:
And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.
And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.
When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.
And another of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead.
And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him.
And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep.
And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!
Counting the cost of discipleship. The first is difficulty: "And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. And Jesus saith unto Him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man have not where to lay His head." Did you ever read of a completer devotion than this? Did you ever see a more overwhelming and abounding consecration: "Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." You would think Jesus would leap to meet such a man as that and would cry tears of joy on his shoulder. Look at this consecration; look at this overwhelming dedication: "Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." But from the reply of the Lord, it is easy to see that the man took into no account at all the difficulties of that commitment and that discipleship. For you see, a romantic and a sentimental dedication will not do.
What became of this scribe? You never heard of him again. What becomes of most of these who give their lives in a full commitment to the Lord? I never hear of them, nor does the world. In some ecstasy, in some rapture, in some glorious vision, they say, "I will follow the Lord whithersoever God shall lead." On the spur of the moment, in a moment of inspiration and exaltation, they offer themselves to God. Then when the vision dies, and the inspiration is gone, and the hard road of study, or commitment, or discouragement, or difficulty awaits, then they perish by the side of the way. The Lord spake darkly of a crown of thorns, and so many times He would say, "And take up thy cross, and follow Me" [Mark 8:34]. And these, like the scribe, who in a moment of ecstasy offer themselves unto God, wilt away like snow melting under the sun, as they face the privations and the discipline and the difficulties that inevitably lie ahead when one gives himself to be a disciple of the Lord.
The cost of discipleship, the second one: "And another of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead" [Matthew 8:21-22]. Urgency. Isn’t this a filial commendation? Isn’t this a sweet and a tender thing for the called disciple to say, "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father;" how fine, how noble, how commendable, how filial. And the answer of the Lord seems so unsympathetic; it is chilling, it is without understanding, it’s without kindness and compassion. For the Lord said to him, "Let the dead bury their dead. You follow Me." But you see, the reply of our Lord is a particular answer for a particular kind of a man you will find in every age and in every generation. There are always those who say, "Lord, I will follow Thee," presently, "Lord, You know my devotion unto Thee is high as heaven and deep as life; but first, Lord, I have my children to raise, then I have my grandchildren to raise, then I have my great-grandchildren to raise. But first, Lord, I must add to my estate. But first, Lord, I must make this call. But first, Lord, I must accept this challenge. But first, Lord, I must make these arrangements." They have a reluctant obedience. They have a mixed answer. "Suffer me first, Lord, thus and so; and then I will follow Thee to the death." The call of the Master is always exclusive, and relevant, and urgent, and present, and immediate, and now! Now we can be slaves of amenities in many of the social relationships in life. And there are many, many things in which we can delay in man to man, and friend to friend, and business to business. But when time comes for a man to make a commitment to Christ, it is to be unreserved, and immediate, and now!
How many times when you press the cause of Christ on the heart of a lost man will he say, "Yes, yes; but not now." And how many times do we visit people who come to the city of Dallas, and they are already Christians, and they’re already baptized, and they’re already members of the church, "And we’re going to join the church, but not now."
And how many times is the appeal made to disciples of our Lord in the circle of this congregation, "We need you in this ministry, and in this task, and in this assignment."
"Well, I’m going to do it, but not now; but not now."
The cost of discipleship: "You follow Me now, now, now!"
A third one: sorrow. "And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever. And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose and ministered unto Him" [Matthew 8:14-15]; sorrow. There’s not a one of us but that would seek a house where there’s not any sickness, and not any fever, and not any death. Oh, these things that crowd into the homes of people are nightmares to us! Brother Mel Carter came just before this service, and said, "Pastor," and he called the name, name of one of our deacons, "Pastor, unless God intervenes, he’ll not live through the night;" one of our young men, one of our young men.
Oh, that we could find a house of refuge; and there’s not any sickness, and there’s not any sorrow, and there’s not any pain, and there’s not any suffering, and there’s not any fever, and there’s not any death! Well, surely such a house will be one that belongs to the chiefest apostle, Simon Peter. God hath in store great honors for him. So we’ll make our way to his house, and there we’ll find deliverance from the storms, and the stresses, and the fevers, and the sorrows, and the death that overwhelms us in this life. All we need to do is to make our way to the house of the chiefest apostle. And when we walk in the door, the first thing we meet is a fever, an illness, and sorrow, and suffering.
There is no flock, howe’er watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no hearth, howe’er defended,
But has one vacant chair!
["Resignation"; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]
You would think that God would heap on the home of the infidel, and the atheist, and the unbeliever, and the agnostic all of the blackness of midnight! And if there are fevers, they’d be heaped upon them. And if there are sorrows and illness and pains and death, they’ll be poured out on the household of the infidel. My brother, the unbeliever who lived next door to Simon Peter had less fever in his house than in the home of the chiefest apostle. Counting the cost of discipleship: we’re delivered from none of these things because we love God, none of them.
The fields of the wicked sometimes bring forth abundantly, and the fields of the righteous wither away. A fat and a succulent and a sinful Dives lives his whole life through in affluence and pleasure; and the saint of God lies at his gate with dogs for a companion and crumbs for his portion [Luke 16:19-21]. The sorrows to which flesh is heir is a common lot of us all. The only difference is in the infidel’s house next door, when the dark day came, he faced it by himself. But in Simon Peter’s house, when the evil hour arrived, Jesus was there. The cost of discipleship.
Now, popularity: "Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart unto the other side" [Matthew 8:18]. What an amazing and an astonishing Master is this Rabbi! When Jesus saw the great multitudes about Him, what a glorious reason to stay! Look at this revival, look at this marvelous outpouring, look at these throngs and crowds that press on every side! When Jesus saw the great multitudes about Him, then He stayed, and He stayed, and the meeting continued for another week, and then for a month, and for six months, what a glorious, what a glorious visitation! Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t this amazing? Jesus gave commandment to depart to the other side.
You know, our Lord was so strange. To the curious, to the onlooker, to those who were seeking the signs and miracles, He was like a stone image. Before Herod Antipas, who called for Him in Jerusalem, visiting there, hoping that He might do some marvelous miracle before him, He never said a word, He never did a thing; He was like stone, He was like brass, He was like iron! [Luke 23:8-9]. But to the humblest, humblest peasant dressed in rags, who needed Him, Jesus did the miraculous thing, raising the dead [John 11:43-44], healing a leper [Mark 1:40-42], opening the eyes of the blind [John 9:1-25], touching those who were sick [Matthew 8:14-15]. Isn’t that an amazing thing?
And that’s God. That’s the Lord. You and I overwhelmed by all of the accouterments of success. Look at it, look at those crowds, look at this throng, look at this amazing work! It didn’t impressed the Lord, not at all. But somebody prayed and cried to God, and the Lord stopped the whole universe to hear somebody pray. And He left the great multitudes to find somebody who needed Him.
Where did He go when He left? Over there, across on the other side was a demoniac in Gadara, who need Jesus. And He left the throng and went over there [Matthew 8:28-34]. Isn’t that God? "And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Get thee up." Now where was Philip? He was in one of the greatest revival meetings the world ever saw: the entire country of Samaria, with its capital city of Samaria, was turning to the Lord! And there was joy unspeakable in those days of revival! And the angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get thee up, and get down into Gaza, which is desert" [Acts 8:26]. Philip was down there by himself, walking by the side of the road, wondering, why? Why? But that’s God. There was an Ethiopian eunuch who was driving by, who was reading the prophet Isaiah, who wanted to know who it was on whom all of our sins were laid. And God sent that evangelist down there to stand by the side of the road in a desert place because that eunuch was seeking Jesus [Acts 8:27-35]. Isn’t that remarkable?
In the revival that I held, the choir stood up one time in that revival and sang a song – oh, how I love to hear them sing – "Kum Ba Yah." Dear Lord, kum ba yah.
Someone’s praying, Lord, kum-ba-yah
Someone’s praying, Lord, kum-ba-yah
Someone’s praying, Lord, kum-ba-yah
O Lord, kum-ba-yah
Someone’s crying, Lord, kum-ba-yah
Someone’s crying, Lord, kum-ba-yah
Someone’s crying, Lord, kum-ba-yah
O Lord, kum-ba-yah
Stand by Me, pass by Me, that’s the Lord. You know what’s a great revival? If you and maybe a preacher, and a lost sinner; that’s enough. Maybe a fourth, One like unto the Son of Man. That’s enough. That’s enough.
You would think that the Lord had reserved for the great multitudes those mighty sermons and those glorious pronouncements that He made! You’ll not find it in a single instance. Greatest sermon on the new birth, preached to an audience of one [John 3:1-21]. The great sermon on spiritual worship, delivered to a Samaritan woman [John 4:7-26]. The invitations of the Lord are always personal. "If any man hears My voice" [Revelation 3:20]; again, "If any one hear My words,whosoever will, let him come" [John 10:3]. God doesn’t look on us by oceans full and buckets full and multitudes and gobs; but the Lord looks on us, you, and you, and you. And He calls you by name [John 10:3], and He knows all about you, and He speaks to your heart. That’s God. That’s God.
I hasten, for I must close. Storms, storms: "And Jesus gave commandment to depart. And behold, there arose a great storm, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves; and He is sound asleep" [Matthew 8:24]. Now you known I could understand the storm, if the disciples had done this of their own initiative. "Now we’re just tired of this place, and we’re going across the sea; for the work is too hard here. We’re going to greener pastures"; or, "We’re just weary per se, and we’re going out and have a good time"; or, "We’re just weary of this period, and we’re going to forsake it, and walk off." Now I can understand that storm, had this choice been made by the disciples themselves. But the Book doesn’t say that. The Book says, "And Jesus gave commandment to depart unto the other side [Matthew 8:18]. And behold, there arose a great storm." Now isn’t that something? Isn’t that hard? Isn’t that unusual? Here we are doing God’s work, and the highest impulses of our lives have led us into these ministries, and behold, a great storm. The boat goes down, the airplane falls out of the sky, cancer destroys the life and the testimony, a thousand things overwhelm God’s servants and God’s people. How do you understand that? How do you explain that?
Why, by that one simple thing: the Lord Jesus is magnified, not because of our deliverance from all the vicissitudes and difficulties and sorrows of life. My brother, if to follow Jesus meant we never cried again, we were never sick again, we’d never experience disappointment and despair again, if to follow Jesus meant that all of the affluence and wealth and gladness and pleasures of life would be heaped upon His disciples, you’d have everybody in this world coming to Jesus, just because of these material and mundane and terrestrial rewards. But discipleship is not counted like that. "Come after Me," says the Lord, "I will give you a cross to die on. Come after Me," says the Lord, "and there will be suffering, and trial, and heartache, and disappointment, and sometimes almost abject despair. But I will be with you. And if the ship goes down, I will be sinking with you. The airplane falls out of the sky, I will be watching over you. And if cancer cuts and assails and destroys, in the darkest of an awful night, I’ll never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with thee" [Matthew 28:20]. And that’s what it is to be a Christian and a disciple of Jesus. He giveth songs in the night, His presence, and His comfort, and His promises, and all that lies before us in the hands of our blessed Savior. If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him [2 Timothy 2:12]. If we die with Him, we shall live with Him. If we are buried with Him, we shall be resurrected with Him [Romans 6:4-8]. If we love God and magnify His name in this weary world and veil of tears, God shall own us and crown us in the world that is yet to come. This is true discipleship.
And while we sing our song of appeal tonight, somebody you give himself to Jesus; a family you coming into the fellowship of His church; a youth, a child, as God shall say the word and lead in the way, would you make it now? Make it tonight. "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." The Spirit of God alone knows the human heart. I could never frame an appeal that would be all God would have it be. My voice is an echo; I don’t originate the message, it’s just an invitation voiced in the name of our Lord. You come. If God bids you here, you come. "Lord, whatever the price, whatever the cost, whatever the discipleship, here I am; here I come, Lord." "Trust Thee as my Savior, and here I am." "Put my life in this dear church, here I am." "To offer Thee whatever I might mean to Thy kingdom’s work, here I come." "To reconsecrate my life and all I am and have to Thee, here I am." Whatever God shall say, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come. Come, on the first note of the first stanza; make it tonight, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
I. Difficulties (Matthew 8:19-20)
A. Romantic and
sentimental dedication will not do
B. The man sees no
of the moment inspiration wilts away in hardship (Mark
II. Urgency (Matthew
A. A noble,
1. The answer of
the Lord seems unsympathetic
a. Particular answer
for a particular kind of man
B. It is a reluctant
to Christ must be immediate, now
III. Sorrows (Matthew
A. We are not
delivered from sorrows just because we love God
Sometimes fields of the wicked bring abundance and fields of the righteous
wither away (Luke 16:19-21)
IV. Popularity (Matthew
A. Jesus went away
when He saw the multitude
B. To those
seeking the signs, miracles, He was like stone (Luke
the humblest who needed Him, Jesus did the miraculous (John 9:1-25, 11:43-44, Mark 1:40-42, Matthew 8:14-15)
Jesus left to find someone who needed Him (Matthew
8:28-34, Acts 8:26-35)
D. His invitations
always personal (John 3:1-21, 4:7-26, 10:3,
V. Storms (Matthew
may arise while we are in the highest times
can know His comfort (Matthew 28:20, 2 Timothy 2:12,