Count the Costs   Leave a comment

There’s a thought that goes something like this — Salvation in Christ is easy. All that’s required is faith. Just believe, walk an aisle, claim your fire insurance and your eternity is set. Your sins are forgiven. God won’t even remember them. You can do whatever you want now.

It’s not true. For those of us who read the whole Bible, it’s clear that Christian faith is not the easy choice. For those of us who read the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples were clear that Christianity was a choice that would cost believers something. Truth be told, you can’t even base easy believism on Jesus’ teachings.

“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your ownOr how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye,and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:3-6

First, recognize that Jesus is speaking to disciples here – to adult believers who made an informed choice to follow Him. These were not children or people who did not want to be closer to God. They were following Jesus and listening to His sermons.

Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus is saying “God is an exclusive deity and He has set out a path for you to come into His presence. There are not multiple ways to get there. There is one and it’s not all that easy (later He says it is well worth the effort).

“Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruitEvery tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.” Matthew 15-20

Jesus warned that there would be those who would try to infiltrate Christian ranks and destroy God’s good work by changing what He was teaching. Later, Paul, Peter and John (Jesus’ best friend) warned of the same thing.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’  will enter into the kingdom of heaven– only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ Matthew 7:21-22

In another place, Jesus said that if you try to enter His salvation by any other means than what He was teaching, you would be considered a robber and tossed out on your ear to a place where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teachingbecause he taught them like one who had authoritynot like their experts in the law.” Matthew 7:28-29

Being a believer is going to cost you. The first thing it costs you is the illusion that you’re a good person. Paul describes that in Romans. He had every reason to believe he was a fine follower of God, but he was wrong and God opened his eyes on the road to Damscus. The second thing it is going to cost you is your will. You will never be more vulnerable in adulthood than when you allow another Christian to lower you into the water and bring you back up in full immersion baptism. And that is the point. You are not in charge. God is.

Choosing to become a Christian and follow Jesus in baptism makes you responsible for your subsequent actions — for every word, thought and deed. Yes, you’re forgiven by God, but you now have a responsibility to conduct yourself as His child and representative and not resemble the father of lies, Satan.

Christians are also called to live in community as believers, which makes us responsible for each other. Yes, we should look toward our own discipline first and foremost. We cannot remove the speck from our fellow Christian’s eye when we’ve got a log in our own. On the other hand, when our friends are up to their hips in quagmire, it is our responsibility to throw them a lifeline — to become the partially sighted leading the blind out of the ditch.

Christians, give that a good long thought and then do it.

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