Is there a price to be paid for following Christ? A young man asked this question of Jesus many years ago. Jesus’ reply to him was to give all he had and in so doing become a genuine follower of his Way, gaining riches in heaven and receiving eternal life. (Matthew 19:16-21) Upon hearing this requirement made of the rich young ruler, Peter asserted that he and the others with him had done just that, to which Jesus assured him, “…no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children and fields – and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:28-30 Jesus setting the standard this way. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel, will save it.” Mark 8:35 (See also John 12:25) Further stating that anyone who does not, “...cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27
But what does that really mean? Again Jesus explains with a practical lesson based on common tasks requiring thoughtful preparation. “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 suppose 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 army 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 Does that mean we must literally give up all we have, living like a hermit or become a street preacher? Or are we being told we must be willing to give up all we have if a need arises; living elsewhere, becoming something other than we are now vocationally or meeting a financial need other than our own with money freed up by down-sizing how we live? That would require an emotional, spiritual, intentional readiness to sacrifice self – our wants, our dreams – for God; putting him first in all we do, hope for, and plan to do in the future. One word change might refocus and emphasize more readily this request, lose your life for me as you lose your life in me.
What are the consequences if we don’t? For the one claiming Christ as his Lord and Savior, all he may otherwise attempt to save. Paul put it this way, “…I have laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. (In this case, you – your life.) But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Christ Jesus. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is,...It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” (Fire in some instances indicating intense scrutiny or a refining process that strips away what is superficial and valueless, keeping only that which is useful; the precious worth of a life lived in Christ.) “If what he has built survives he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
How about you? Are you attempting to just get by, or do you want to excel? Which begs the question: Can a person just slide by or even fall away from adherence to the faith, backsliding into old habits and sin, and still be OK; or is it possible to reach a point of no return? Hebrews 6:4-8 declares that, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” Peter unequivocally agreeing, warning that, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” 2 Peter 2:20,21Be assured that this is not alluding to the occasional stumble and fall we are all prone to but to willfully, consistently living outside the will of God. For, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left,…” Hebrews 10:26
At a time when “…every inclination of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil all the time.”, God declared that, “My Spirit will not contend with man (K.J. – remain in man) forever.” Genesis 6:3,5; possibly indicating a point at which God will quit prodding man to obedience. Could the same be true for our indifference and lack of diligence in following his will; is it possible our desire to do just enough to get by rather than excelling in our Christian life and lifestyle might become tiresome and insulting to him?
But even if that is true, who has the right to tell us how we should live? Jesus, “…gave himself as a ransom for all men…” 1 Timothy 2:6 Paul was beheaded after a life-long dedication to Christ’s Lordship in missions and Peter was hung on a cross – upside down so as not to be compared to his Lord and Master too closely; thereby gaining the right to at least admonish, teach, and encourage. All made the ultimate sacrifice, but only by the One have we, “…been made holy…” Hebrews 10:10 As our sacrificial Lamb, he was offered once for all; making us indebted to him. (Hebrews 7:27) We owe him allegiance, our obedience, our love and our praise. For, “You are not your own, you were bought at a price...” 1 Corinthians 6:20 In fact, “…how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” Hebrews 2:3
Check back next week as we consider – How much is enough? – when contemplating true discipleship.
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