The love of God must trump all other loves in our lives.
Something Needs to Change
By David Platt
I wake up this morning feeling tense. Not that this trip hasn’t already had its fair share of tension, but last night I went to bed wondering if God is calling me to move to this country and serve here. That made for restless sleep.
So this morning I have countless questions about what that would mean. And the questions aren’t just mine. I’m thinking about all the questions Heather’s going to ask me when I wonder aloud with her whether God could be leading us to move here. I’m thinking about what all this might mean for my wife, my kids and our future.
Needing to hear the Word of God, I open up my Bible to Luke 13–14. My morning reading ends with these words:
“Great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, 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, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.”
“‘Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
“‘Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty? It isn’t fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.’” (14:25–35)
I’ve preached and written on this passage before, but these words take on entirely new meaning as I sit here reflecting on the possibility of my family following Jesus by moving to this part of the world. I remember one of my favorite quotes on this passage from pastor and author John Stott. In his words:
“The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers—the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. All too many people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of so-called nominal Christianity. In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become a little bit involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder cynics complain of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.”
Reading Luke 14 now, I’m reminded of how easily I can shape my religion to suit my convenience. So am I really willing to follow Jesus wherever and however he leads me, no matter what that means for me or my family? According to Jesus, following him requires a love for him so supreme that it makes love for even our family look like hate in comparison.
I remember the 17th century preacher John Bunyan. Authorities threatened to throw him in prison if he did not stop preaching. Bunyan knew that if he went to prison, his wife and children (one of whom was blind) would be left destitute. Even when he was a free man his family had little food or clothing. His imprisonment would mean their impoverishment. Yet Jesus had called him to preach the gospel, so he could not stay silent. He was subsequently imprisoned, where he wrote the following from his cell:
“The parting with my wife and poor children, hath often been to me in this place, as the pulling the flesh from my bones, and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all besides: Oh! the thoughts of the hardship I thought my poor blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces. … But yet recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you: Oh! I saw in this condition I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet, thought I, I must do it, I must do it.”
As if superior love were not enough, Jesus goes on to say that he requires one’s entire life. Devotion to Jesus means denial of oneself and death to one’s thoughts, desires, plans and dreams. According to Jesus, following him means making him your entire life.
So I write,
“Jesus, you are my entire life. Whatever you want me to do, I want to do. Including moving here. What would this look like for me and for my family? Please help me to count the cost of what that might mean. O God, I want to renounce everything in this world that you want me to renounce. I don’t want to shape my Christianity to suit my convenience! Please guide my steps, and please guard me from myself every step of the way. Please lead me by your Spirit however you desire, I pray!”
Excerpted from Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need. Copyright © 2019 by David Platt. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.