Counting the CostLuke 14:25-33Theme: Paying the price.This week’s lessons teach us that there is no such thing as “easy Christianity.” LessonI was talking with a distinguished doctor who was commenting on missionary practices in his area of the world. According to him, there is much valuable work being done, and the people doing it are certainly earnest and dedicated believers. But there is one thing lacking. “We want so much to win the people to Christ,” he said, “that we are watering down the gospel to the point where believing in Christ hardly means anything. There is no repentance, no change of life. It is easy to become Christ’s follower.”
I was interested in this man’s opinion, because, as I assured him, the same thing is true of much “gospel preaching” here.
One person who has seen this and challenged what he calls today’s “synthetic gospel” is Walter Chantry. In Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? Chantry examines Christ’s encounter with the rich young man, recorded in Mark 10:17-27, and concludes that Jesus’ approach was radically different from what most evangelicals do in similar situations today. The man was clean-cut and earnest. He wanted to be saved. In that kind of encounter, most of today’s evangelicals would give the inquirer a three- or four-step presentation of the gospel, ask him to make a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ,” and then send him away with assurance of salvation. Jesus did nothing of the sort. He challenged the young man in regard to his conception of God: “Why do you call me good? No one is good – except God…” He confronted him with God’s law: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.” Then he called for repentance and faith in himself: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Chantry points out that Jesus “demanded this turning from everything to himself as a condition of discipleship for everyone.” Because it fails to declare this cost, much of today’s church “isn’t preaching Jesus’ gospel!”1
When a person becomes alerted to the teaching about cost in Christ’s utterances, he or she is amazed at how extensive it is. Jesus just did not make following him an easy matter. On the contrary, following him involved radical life-changes. Everything he said about discipleship implied this costly change. It meant “denying” oneself, “taking up a cross,” and “following him” (Luke 9:23).
Jesus also said many specific things about the cost of salvation. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or supposing a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-33).
1 Walter J, Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (London and Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), p. 55.
What frequently gets left out when people present the gospel message, thus rendering a false gospel?
Why was Jesus’ approach to presenting the gospel so radical?
Based on the story of the tower builder, why is it important to be up front with the whole gospel?
ReflectionHow do you present the gospel? Do you pattern your approach after Jesus’ approach, or do you try to make it more palatable?