Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke14:27-33NKJV)
It may not be the emphasis that comes across from many pulpits these days but Jesus tells His would-be disciples carefully to evaluate the cost of discipleship, like someone intending to build a tower or a king about to go to war. This implies substantially more than obtaining Church membership, receiving a sacrament, making a profession of faith or reciting a prayer; it is the assessment to be made by those who are to enter pilgrimage as a learner of the Christ. And such who are called, chosen and faithful will be those who are ultimately fitted for Kingdom service in eternal partnership with the One before Whom every knee must bow once He is revealed as Lord of all. That would be the context of the resurrection and imperishable crown for which Paul strove and disciplined his body like an athlete so as not to be disqualified (1Cor9:24-27). It requires God’s grace for sure but also personal self-discipline and effort – “Strive to enter (the Kingdom of God) by the narrow gate, for many I say to you will seek to enter and will not be able” says Jesus.
The irony is that those who weigh up the cost of discipleship and take up the challenge of the gospel and in Paul’s words, “aim for glory and honour and immortality by persevering in good works so as to obtain eternal life” (Rom2:7) will find that as they take the Master’s yoke upon them and learn from Him, He is gentle and lowly of heart, and they will find rest for their souls. Even from an earthly, material perspective, Jesus indicates they will gain “a hundredfold” more than they have sacrificed in service for the Kingdom (Mt19:29). It should also be evident from Jesus’ illustrations and his “narrow gate/broad road” language that this is not to be the destiny of the majority. How that aligns with Scripture’s insistence that God intends to reconcile all redeemable humanity to Himself is set out in my book*.