Words by Al Blanton | Image by Ryan McGill
For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who are watching it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This person began to build, and was not able to finish!’ – Luke 14:28-29
Many years ago, I found myself at a crossroads. I’d been saved at age 16 but had fallen into unhealthy patterns that took me far away from God. Struggling with varying forms of addiction—partying, tobacco, alcohol, pornography—I felt a strong sense that I needed to figure out what kind of man I was going to become. Was I going to pursue a life of licentiousness and self-indulgence, or was I going to return to my Christian roots and follow Jesus?
It was a real identity crisis. Like in old cartoons where the pitchforked devil appears on one shoulder and the haloed angel on the other, I felt myself straddling these two philosophies, my soul at stake.
The truth was, I was greatly apprehensive about choosing God’s path because I knew there were habits in my life I needed to give up. Forsaking those things didn’t seem too pleasant at the time—the other side of the fence was rather boring—but over the next few years, the Lord began to chisel away at each of these issues to bring me back to Him.
How often do you think about the cost of discipleship? How often do we consider what we need to give up to be called a disciple of Jesus?
Today’s Christian messaging is often tailored to appeal to the individual, and it is rarer that churches talk about what we need to give up to follow Christ. As a result, sanctuaries are filled with easy, throw-pillow messages, and the “fire and brimstone” sermons of a bygone era have all but dissipated. Discussions on the seriousness of sin are often avoided, and all you need to do to become a Christian and go to heaven is simply “ask Jesus into your heart.”
But I think it is important for believers and new converts to have a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be justified by faith. It’s not simply a “get out of hell free” card that licenses us to live how we want, God’s grace abounding. No, it costs something.
Furthermore, faith in Jesus not only gives us the possibility of heaven, but it is also the only thing that rescues rotten sinners like me from the atrocities of hell. We need to recognize that we cannot save ourselves, and without Christ, we don’t have a chance. Our righteousness is absolutely filthy, and the only thing that saves us is the innocent Jesus, who offered propitiation and atonement for our sins at the cross of Calvary.
Faith, it should be realized, is more than just giving God lip service; it cuts to the heart, and we are changed and regenerated (see Matthew 15:8). It is active, not dead. It bears fruit and demonstrates love.
If we are truly His, we will be convicted of sin. We will be interested in doing God’s will.
And we will have to give up stuff.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)
Due to selfishness or unbelief, from time to time, I still find myself compartmentalizing areas of my life, holding things back and not surrendering these areas to Jesus. Instead of saying, “Lord, you can have the whole thing,” I reserve part of myself for myself.
But Jesus does not instruct us to give him the 99 percent and indulge the other one percent. What He is asking for is full surrender. What he is asking for is costly.
Are you willing to lay down everything for the sake of following Jesus? Your desires, your hobbies, your pocketbook, your time, your plans, your locker room talk, your off-color jokes, your future, your obsession with sports, your favorite shows, your little indulgences…or are you like the rich young ruler in Mark 10, who walked away sad when Jesus asked him to give up the thing he loved for the sake of following Him?
What I’ve discovered on the other side of the fence is not a boring life, but true richness, joy, peace, abundance, meaning, and fulfillment. The things of the flesh and what Satan dangles in front of us, dressed up all nice and pretty, are a counterfeit—the costume jewelry of life—while Jesus offers real pearls. Yes, it will cost us our lives, but what we gain is priceless. WL