20 September 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
(Luke 14:27-33; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Everything in our world of value comes at a cost. Gold is valuable, not because it is easy to acquire, but because it is not. A good name does not come without cost and dedication. Our names are our badges of honor, or dishonor. We are known by our characters which our names represent.
I am amazed at the courage of our soldiers in the field of battle who selflessly are willing to lay their own lives on the line for the sake of their compatriots. Sometimes the cost of honor, and even victory, comes at the loss of life or limb. It is not just his fellow soldiers for whom the good soldier is willing to risk all, but for the life he remembers back home of hearth and kin. It is the American values expressed in the faith of our fathers that compel the soldier on through swamp and desert dune to forsake all if need be.
It is the same for the men and women of the church. Many have died terrible deaths, or suffered horrendous tortures, to defend the faith that has brought them to our Lord Jesus Christ and made them to trust in Him above all else.
As Jesus counseled His disciples, “And he said to them all, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) Notice, our Lord did not simply say, Take up your cross” – He said “Take up you cross daily!” We are faced with daily temptations that beckon us to the Broad Way that leads to destruction. Temporary pleasures can lead to eternal suffering in an eternity of darkness. It is a daily battle of the heart against the forces of the flesh. One victory does not signal the cessation of hostilities for the war is to the very end. The devil neither sleeps nor takes a vacation. He lurks in the jungle wilderness of the world and in the halls of king’s palaces to turn the ear of power. He is busy today selling his wares of perversion and reprobation to world leaders and, unfortunately, he has gained a foothold with most of them.
Wars, famine, disease, and greed are some of his favorite weapons in the war he wages. But the devil is also quite subtle in his subversion of the Church on its own grounds. He whispers in the ears of the ministry and laity lies which contradict truth and common decency. But those willing and itching ears will pause to listen to that insolent voice just as did Eve at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil back in Eden. He promises them more than he is able to give, but their greed and pride causes them to rationalize away any sense of guilt of abandonment of truth. They may have intended to follow only a short distance, but look up to see that they are far removed from the place of God and Love.
In following the ways of the world and her Prince of Darkness, our spiritual senses may become dim of hearing and seeing truth. The paltry rags and mudholes of the world for some reason appeal to us more than the celestial stairway leading up to the Gates of Splendor. Our eyes are made blind to beauty, and our ears deaf to truth. Our consciences become seared as with a hot iron so that feeling has waned. Our knowledge dwindles and our wisdom fails of lack thereof.
“In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck Rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muck rake in his hand; who was offered a celestial crown for his muck rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor”. True knowledge and wisdom cannot abide in a wicked heart. The enemy may be cunning and shrewd, but he lacks true wisdom for he has lost sight of the Eternal.
When Jesus found Peter and Andrew engaged in casting their nets at the beginning of His ministry, he beckoned: “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)Did these two gather their nets and stow them in a safe place of holding? No! “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:20) The same was true of Matthew. He had a table full of customs receipts when Jesus called. He likewise followed immediately.
What about you, friend? Is following Jesus today worth the costs?