BIBLE READINGS: Jeremiah 18:1-11 Luke 14:25-33
Alexander Mackay of Scotland was sent to Africa by the Anglican Church Missionary Society in 1876. He was an engineer by profession and a jack of all trades who was conversant in linguistics and theology. Mackay's heart was set on Africa. On November 15, 1875, a letter appeared in the columns of the Daily Telegraph. It was from H. M. Stanley, the famous explorer who had found Livingstone, and it told of the needs of the ancient kingdom of Uganda. "Here, gentlemen, is your opportunity," it concluded. "Embrace it! The people on the shores of the Nyanza call upon you.
Aged twenty-six, Alexander Mackay headed for Africa. But before he left he and the seven other missionaries who were bound together for service in Africa met for a farewell meeting with the committee of the Church Missionary Society.
Each of the missionaries said a few words, the last speaker being the youngest of the party, Alexander Mackay. "There is one thing," he said, "which my brethren have not said, and which I want to say. I want to remind the committee that within six months they will probably hear that one of us is dead." All eyes were fastened on him as he went on: "Yes, is it at all likely that eight English men should start for Central Africa and all be alive six months after? One of us at least - it may be I - will surely fall before that. But when the news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place."
Within the first year 5 of the original missionaries were dead, and by the end of the second, Mackay was the only one left.
Jesus said “Whoever comes to me cannot be my disciple unless they love me more than they lover their father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and themselves as well. Whoever does not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Jesus says that we are to love him more than anyone else! That means that we are to love our Christian brothers and sisters more than family - because they are Christ’s body! That means we are to love all those who confess Christ as their Saviour and Lord, no exceptions.
The commands of God not to sin are so reasonable - don’t kill, steal, etc., to hate evil and do good. These are easy - there are many moral people who do these things. But for Jesus - morality is not the issue of discipleship, good versus evil is not the issue. Rather we are called upon to place the natural love we have for our family second to our love of Jesus. When this is a reality in your life Satan will find you a hard nut to crack. You see, Christians are usually well educated about good and evil. They know the right thing to do and know when they have done wrong. But if they have not got their priorities right they can still come adrift.
It’s interesting to note that the enemies of Christianity have seen quite clearly that loyalty to Jesus for the Christian takes precedence over all other loyalties. For instance, Hitler banished all professing Christians from his government and government officials because he said that their loyalty to the state was endangered and interrupted by their loyalty to Christianity. He knew quite well that, in the case of a Christian, if such a clash of loyalties came, then Jesus would come first.
I remember a mother who came to me anxious about her daughter. Her daughter had been coming along to the church youth group and had made a first step of faith. I honestly believe that her mother would have preferred she was sleeping around. When I asked what was wrong she accused the church of brainwashing. I asked whether her daughter was obedient. She said yes - and she admitted that her daughter had even offered to do the dishes! As if that were some great evidence of evil and corruption. The mother knew deep down, that her daughter was obeying someone else - not her anymore. She was obedient - true - but obedient because of love for another.
I am quite sure that many of you have sat down to count the cost. The cost is your very life. The cost is all you hold dear. The cost is a life - not of glory and popularity - but of hardship and suffering.
To follow Jesus is not for the fainthearted. R.F.Copon said “On the one hand it is terrifying and unreasonable: in order to gain salvation, life and reconciliation, you have to lose every amenity, every relationship, every last scrap of the good life you might have had. In short, you have to die to yourself. On the other hand, the deal is a bargain to end all bargains: sooner or later, you’re going to have to lose all those things anyway!
While it is true that our lives as Christians are tough and demanding - I wouldn’t want it any other way! As a Christian, I’ve never doubted that life has a purpose and meaning. I might know trials and temptations - but life is as crisp and juicy as an apple. I wonder what non-christians find to fill the space that was built for God.
Where do you stand with God? Have you counted the cost? Better to back out while the going is good than to commit yourself to something you discover later you cannot follow through on! That’s the warning. Now hear the Good News - take up your cross and follow Jesus and follow him into a new life, full of purpose and meaning. Count the cost, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.