There were a bunch of people following Jesus, but He wanted them to realize what following Him really meant. They were following along physically but if they really wanted to follow it would have to be spiritually. Jesus tells them about the bumps in the road that might cause those who are only fooling themselves to turn back.
When it comes to committing your life, you don’t continue to follow something unless you hope or trust in it. Jesus was not putting conditions on God’s love for us. He was teaching us that while many may seem to start out on the path, most are not willing to walk in the way when the reality of that walk is tested. Jesus is showing us how our walk will be made manifest. Are we really following or only fooling?
Jesus says that we cannot be a disciple, in other words, we will fail to really follow, if we are not willing to put the relationship with Christ above all others. God is not against the family, He invented it, and He’s all for it. But He is not for it over and against the allegiance to Jesus. God wants you to bring your family closer to Jesus, not to let your family pull you away from Jesus (Matthew 10:37, 15:4).
Jesus says that we will fail to really follow if we are not willing to suffer for His name. Taking up our cross means we must be ready to bear up under the afflictions God sends our way as discipline to conform us to the image of Christ. Your cross to carry is not the sin; it is giving it up and having to feel the pain. Some presume that if we walk by faith, we will be removed from all problems, but that’s not the truth (Philippians 1:29 / 2 Timothy 3:12).
Jesus says that we will fail to really follow if we are not willing to lose everything we have. Following Jesus means going all out, and you can’t go all out unless you are all in (Philippians 3:7-10). It is not that you will have to live beaten, bare, burdened, and broke, but would you be willing to (Matthew 10:28)? The answer is provided in the tests along the way.
Following or fooling it is not about how well but how willing. If we are willing to put even good things aside for Christ, then we will be a disciple. We will learn to trust and to treasure Him above all else. Otherwise, the obstacles along the way will stop us in our tracks, and our walk will only be talk at that point. Direction always determines where we end up.