About two years ago and just after we moved from a house to a condo, and from a church we attended for twenty years to another church, I started taking a degree in theology and began praying that God would work in my life. My desire was for a deeper love for Him and a deeper commitment to do His will.
Without relating a long story or all the details, God paid attention to my prayer. He put things in my path that were unexpected. I learned truths about myself, also unexpected. After months of being tried and tested, even feeling battered and bruised, I could see that my prayer was being answered. However, I had no idea this would involve such a battle. When someone asked me what I was learning in the degree course, I said, “I never realized that I was such a sinner.”
Jesus knew. He also knew that anyone who follows Him will begin to walk in a light that exposes far more than they could ever see apart from Him. He knew that as His child, I needed to grow up, something that a child seldom realizes or even understand. And growing up involves growing pains.
This is why He said to the crowds that followed Him, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a 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 out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. ‘Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’” (Luke 14:25–35)
In these verses, hate is a relative term. That is, compared to the love I’m to have for the Lord, all other affections will seem like hate. I’m not there yet, but at least am now aware of how far short I am in the ‘love of God’ department, and how much more I could love Him compared to all the other loves in my life.
In these verses, Jesus challenges my willingness to carefully assess the cost and invest everything I have in His kingdom. This goes far beyond abandoning material possessions. That is actually easier than most would think. What Jesus means is an absolute, unconditional surrender of everything. As His disciple, I can retain no privileges and make no demands. I cannot safeguard any cherished sins; treasure any earthly possessions; cling to no secret self-indulgences, or put any other relationship over the relationship I have with Him. He wants my commitment to Him to be without reservation.
I thought I had done that before all the moving and changes. I thought I had done that when I prayed wanting to do that. What I understand now is that absolute surrender rides in the same train car as sinless perfection — it isn’t going to be fully realized this side of heaven. Lord, I hear You, and I know now that the best I can hope for is an occasional glimpse of what I asked for, just enough to be more obedient than I was last week, more deeply committed to Jesus than I was yesterday, and more in love with Him than I was a minute ago.