Theme: Considering the Cost
This week’s lessons show the price that must be paid to follow Christ, as well as the blessings that come when we do.
Scripture: Luke 14:25-35
It 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” (Matthew 7:13, emphasis added). We must imagine Jesus saying to the rich young man: “You lack nothing. Keep what you have, and you shall have treasure in heaven too.” We must suppose Him to be teaching, “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 arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict in which it costs much to win the victory.”4
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, 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?’”5
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.
When Jesus tells us to seriously consider the cost of following him, what is that really meant to do?
Why do you think so little preaching these days seems to include the need to follow Christ in everything and to the very end?
Reflection: Considering how little costly discipleship is talked about, is it surprising why too often Christians’ beliefs and actions are not clearly distinguished from the world around them?
4Ibid., p. 69.
5Ibid., p. 81.