Counting the CostLuke 14:25-33Theme: Paying the price.This week’s lessons teach us that there is no such thing as “easy Christianity.” LessonIt is not hard to be an outward Christian. A person can go to church once or twice on Sunday and pretend to be tolerably upright during the week. There is no self-denial, no sacrifice here. If this kind of mere outward Christianity is all it takes to gain heaven, then, as Ryle suggests, we must alter our Lord’s words to read: “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to heaven” (Matt. 7:13). We must imagine Jesus saying to the rich young man: “You can serve God and Money.”
Ryle writes, “It does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict in which it costs much to win the victory.”1
It is why Jesus urges us to count the cost and see if we really are prepared to give up everything we have to be his disciples.
The point of this examination of the cost of following Christ is not to discourage anyone from following him, however. It is rather to encourage him or her to follow Jesus to the end. To do that we must count the cost, by all means, but then pay it joyfully and willingly, knowing that this must be done if a person is to be saved.
Bishop Ryle, who also listed the examples of those in Scripture who fell away from their profession, as I have done, pressed his listeners to examine the type of religion they have and turn from it if it costs nothing. He pressed them to turn to Christ. “Very likely [your religion] costs you nothing,” he suggests. “Very probably it neither costs you trouble, nor time, nor thought, nor care, nor pains, nor reading, nor praying, nor self-denial, nor conflict, nor working, nor labor of any kind…. Such a religion as this will never save your soul. It will never give you peace while you live, nor hope while you die. It will not support you in the day of affliction, nor cheer you in the hour of death. A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing. Awake before it is too late. Awake and repent. Awake and be converted. Awake and believe. Awake and pray. Rest not ’til you can give a satisfactory answer to my question, ‘What does it cost?’ “2
I challenge you to add it up. Make a balance sheet and list the cost; know what you are getting into. But at the same time list the benefits that Christ brings.
What must I pay to be a Christian?
I must pay the price of my own self-righteousness, no longer counting myself a good person but rather as one who has transgressed God’s righteous law and is therefore under the sentence of his wrath and condemnation. But when I pay the price of my own self-righteousness, I gain Christ’s righteousness, which is perfect and imperishable. In that righteousness I can stand before the very throne of God and be unafraid.
I must pay the price of those sins I now cherish. I must give them up, every one. I cannot cling to a single sin and pretend that at the same time I am following the Lord Jesus Christ. But in place of my sins I find holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). I come to know the joy of holiness rather than the empty mockery of transgressions.
1 J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1959), p. 69.2 Ibid., p. 81.
Why does Jesus urge us to count the cost before embarking on the path of discipleship?
In what ways will there always be a cost for the committed Christian?
How do we pay the price of our self- righteousness?
ApplicationAre you pondering discipleship? If so, you are acting biblically! Do what Dr. Boice suggested: make a balance sheet and list the pros and cons based on the Scripture passages we’ve been studying this month.
Scripture MemoryMemorize Hebrews 12:14.