We find ourselves in the sixth chapter of John. According to the text, Jesus is trying to find a place to be alone with the disciples. That is why they are on a mountainside on the far side of the Sea of Galilee. The problem was they were not alone. The crowd had followed them. That crowd can be broken down into two categories. We have covered this information in the past. Some in the crowd wanted Jesus to heal a sick, or limited, loved one in their life. There was a surplus of the blind and the lame. Some wanted Jesus to lead a political revolution. They had grown tired of Roman rules. To them, the miracles were a sign that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. They were right, yet they were wrong. Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but he was, in their opinion, the wrong kind of Messiah. It is safe to say the crowd was near sighted. The crowd was more interested in the temporary. It is also safe to say, Jesus was more concerned with the eternal. The crowd wanted something from Jesus, but Jesus expected something from the crowd. For this reason, some in the crowd decide to leave.
Look at what the scripture does not say. The scripture does not say Jesus implored the crowd to stay. The scripture does not say Jesus blocked the exit. The scripture does not say Jesus preformed another miracle to get the crowd’s attention. The scripture does not say Jesus organized a fundraiser. The scripture does not say Jesus does say he formed a committee to study the problem. The scripture does say some left and Jesus really did not care. Jesus knew something we have forgotten in our time. If you expect nothing, then you get nothing. Jesus’ goal was not to establish a crowd; Jesus’ goal was to find the committed. Being committed is extremely important. The great evangelist Billy Graham once (1918-2018) said, “Make sure of your commitment to Jesus Christ, and seek to follow him every day. Do not be swayed by the false values and goals of this world of this world but put Christ and his will first in everything you do.” However, it is not just Billy Graham who understood the importance of commitment.
One of the great names from the twentieth century was Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). I have spoken of him in the past, so you may remember his story. He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship. In that book he defined Christianity’s role in the secular world. His thoughts were not just empty words. They defined his commitments. Those beliefs brought him in conflict with the Nazi Party from the very beginning. He went as far as to get involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler (1889-1945). When that plot failed in July of 1944, Bonhoeffer was arrested. He was executed on April 8, 1945, just two weeks before his camp was liberated. He died at the age of 39, but his theological legacy is alive and well. He believed there is a cost to discipleship. One just could not claim their salvation with no further thought. He believed what you did with your life revealed your appreciation. It is a matter of cheap grace versus costly grace. Cheap grace requires nothing. Costly grace requires everything. Listen to these words:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.
I hate to say it. We live in a time of cheap grace. Bonheoffer believed the greatest threat facing the church was cheap grace. I have asked you the question many times, how is the Gospel influencing your life? It is a matter of commitment. If that makes you think say, “Amen!”
Today, I want to challenge your level of commitment. Are you part of the crowd who expects to get something for absolutely nothing? Or are you committed to Jesus, who expects everything? I am going to challenge you by asking three hard questions. Each one relates to a different area of your life. How you respond to these questions says a great deal about your commitment to Jesus. Remember, Jesus was not interested in assembling a great crowd. Jesus was interested in finding the committed. How cheap is your grace?
Would you walk away from Jesus if there were a time requirement? Would you walk away from Jesus if you were required to spend 10% of your time with him? You do the math, 10% of your time is 2.4 hours a day. That means you are going to have to spend 16.8 hours a week involved in the spiritual disciplines. (Reading the Bible, prayer, meditation and fasting) How much time do you spend with Jesus now? How much time are you willing to spend with Jesus? I have told you this story in the past.
In The Last Days Newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994) talks about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village. They walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.” That frothy question brought a profound answer. Some things take time. One of those things is spiritual maturity. How much time are you giving God? If you were required to spend 16.8 hours a week with God, would you walk away from Jesus? How cheap is your grace?
Would you walk away from Jesus if there was a talent requirement? Would you walk away from Jesus if you were required to spend 10% of your talent serving other people? That means you would have to spend 2.4 hours a day serving someone else. That means you would have to spend 16.8 hours a week serving someone else. How much time do you spend serving other people? I am not talking about family members and loved ones. I mean serving strangers.
Did you know the great musician Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840), willed his marvelous violin to Genoa — the city of his birth — but only on the condition that the instrument never is played upon? It was an unfortunate condition, for it is made of a peculiar wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay. The exquisite, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The moldering instrument is a reminder that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning. How much time do you spend serving others? If you were required to spend 16.8 hours a week serving others, would you walk away from Jesus? Unhappy people only seem to worry about themselves and their loved one. Content people worry about others. How cheap is your grace?
Would you walk away from Jesus if there was a money requirement? According to the Pew Research Group, the average church member gives 2.5% of their income to their congregation. What if you were required to tithe 10% of your money and give it to the church? The finance committee would not know what to do with all the cash. Just think of the people we could help. What percentage of your income do you give to the church?
At the very beginning of the twenty-first chapter of Luke, we find Jesus in front of the temple. The rich are placing their large sums of money into the treasury. The finance committee loves them. They hate the poor widow who only drops in two copper coins. She is the face of the annual stewardship drive. Her offering is worth nothing, but it tells us about true stewardship. She teaches us that true stewardship is not the amount you give away. It is how much you keep for yourself? How much of your income do you spend on yourself and your loved ones? How much money do you give to the church? If you were required to give 10% of your income to the church, would you walk away from Jesus? How cheap is your grace? Let’s go back to the scripture one last time.
Jesus was trying to find some solitude with the disciples. It is for this reason they travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilea. The solitude Jesus hungers never happens. The crowd follows him. Everyone in that crowd wanted something from Jesus. However, some in that crowd started to leave once they discovered Jesus wanted something from them. The Master knew what we often forget. If you expect nothing, then you get nothing. Jesus was looking for complete commitment because he was expecting a great deal. How committed are you? How cheap is your grace?
History tells us when Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC) landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! They had no choice but to be completely committed to their task.
Your commitments say a great deal about you. Where do your commitments lye? How cheap is your grace? Do you remember what Billy Graham once said? He said, “Make sure of your commitment to Jesus Christ, and seek to follow him every day. Do not be swayed by the false values and goals of this world of this world but put Christ and his will first in everything you do.” How committed are you to Jesus? How cheap is your grace?