There is little cost associated with following Christ these days, at least in the West. The message of self-denial has been replaced with a message of self-promotion. If Jesus helps us along the journey to a fulfilling life, we add him to our list of spiritual and cultural guides. When he challenges our beloved beliefs about life and culture, we reinterpret what he said or ignore it altogether. Syncretism, the blending of multiple worldviews, has won the day and many Christians are unaware of its affect on their spirituality.
If anything must be made clear, it’s this: Jesus will not accompany a smorgasbord of sovereigns. He is and will always be the one true path to God (John 14:6). His claim on our life is exclusive. All other allegiances must cease when Jesus enters the equation. Nothing else and no one else will do.
When we declare Jesus the Lord and Savior of our lives, we sign up for at least three things.
First, we trust him alone for our salvation. What Jesus accomplished on the cross was more than a thoughtful deed. He satisfied the just wrath of God by dying on the cross in our place and for our sins. We need look nowhere else for justification than Jesus. Instead of our exhaustive attempts to make ourselves right and pure, we only need to embrace the blood of Jesus shed on our behalf.
Second, we die to our old self and continuously wage war against selfishness. Prior to Christ, our heart’s inclination was toward evil all the time (Genesis 6:5). Indeed, our hearts were deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Now, instead of self-promotion, we seek God-glorification. Everything we do post-conversion is for His glory and the establishment of His kingdom. He gives us new desires and a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). He gives us life abundantly (John 10:10). When sin wrecks us yet again, we turn to Christ for the forgiveness of our folly and the washing of our wounds. But we never look back. We die to sin and self. We know those who look back are not fit for the kingdom (Luke 9:62).
Third, we seek God’s will in all of life. No longer do we allow the ways of the world to dictate our comings and goings. All our decisions such as who to marry, where to live, how to vote, when to say no, are all determined through prayerful combing of the Scriptures. Jesus and the gospel color every fabric of our being. We continually pray for God’s will to be done in our lives as it is in heaven.
Yes, friends, following Jesus will cost us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explained well the difference between cheap grace and costly grace. I’ll quote him here at length:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Knowing these things, we cannot scurry about the world attaching to anything that gives us temporary pleasure. We must not turn to earthly wisdom or clamor for empty slogans and feel-good jargon. Jesus asks us to give our lives for that which is truly life. Following him will cost us, but our reward, our sweet, sweet reward, will never be destroyed or taken away (Matthew 6:19-20).