The Cost of Discipleship

There is a song which is sung in many Christian churches which contains the line, “Have you counted the cost if your soul should be lost?” Most of the time it’s irrelevant because virtually everyone singing it has already been saved, but I suppose that sometimes someone might hear the words and respond positively. Regardless, we really should consider what eternal hell would cost us and take every step necessary to avoid it. At the same time, we should consider the cost if our soul should be saved. How many of us do that? How much does it cost to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ? What is the price of following God’s will in our lives?

Of course, we know that Jesus paid it all, that His atoning death erased any debt we owed to God as restitution for our sins. In that sense, we have nothing to pay. There is no charge to us on that account. Salvation, however, even though it may be free does not come without cost to us, because when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we acknowledge Him as our Lord as well. It is no good to say that Jesus is our Savior if we refuse to submit to Him as Lord and He demands a very heavy price from us: total, unconditional surrender and obedience to His will.

How many times has someone walked through church doors saying the right things, but later leaving because they were unwilling to submit some area of their life to the Lordship of Jesus? How many times in our own lives have we wrestled with this very issue? How many times has God spoken to us about something which He wanted to change, regardless what it was, and we resisted Him? Jesus says that, “…if anyone comes to me and does not hate…his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine.” In other words, unless we are willing to give Jesus total, unconditional control of our lives, unless we are willing to become completely submitted to His will, we cannot be His disciple.

This is a hard saying. Many people would turn away (and have) from it, but these are not my words. Instead, they come from the lips of the only one who can demand that. The fact is that this complete submission to Jesus actually happened definitively at the moment of our salvation. From that point on, as we are willing, it becomes a progressive surrender of our will to His, until God’s will becomes more important to us than our own. Until God becomes #1 instead of #2 or #345. Until we can honestly say with Jesus, “…not my will, but yours…”

You might protest that you’re doing all the right things. You tithe, pray, read your Bible, go to church at least an hour a week, give money to poor people, etc. What more does God want anyway? If this is you, let me point you to the story of the rich young ruler who did all these things, yet was unwilling to give up the one part of his life which was blocking his entrance into the kingdom. ¬†(Mark 10:17-27, Luke 18:18-23) In fact, Scripture tells us that there are people at the judgment who will say, “Lord, Lord, we did all these things”, yet He will answer them, “Get out! I don’t know you.” God wants our hearts. God wants us to have no idols. God wants us to give up those things which keep Him from taking His rightful place on the throne of our hearts. The price of discipleship, the cost of following Jesus is that we lose our lives, that we die to ourselves every minute of every day.

What are some of the things we have to give up? First and foremost, I believe, is that inner drive and determination to be independent. To be our own boss. To call the shots ourselves. This was Adam’s sin. Adam wanted to decide his own life and determine his own version of right and wrong.

God speaks to us from time to time about something we need to be free of. It could be pride, greed, lust for power, sex, money, or material things. It could be fear, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, or the desire for revenge. It could be a relationship which is dragging us down. It might be apathy, laziness, or hardness of heart toward spiritual matters. Whatever it is (and I have only scratched the surface), if God says, “This is cluttering up your life, get rid of it!”, respond in a positive manner. Just do it! We must come, by God’s grace, from a point of total rebellion to total submission.

Why are we so unwilling to give Jesus the lordship of our lives? I believe it boils right down to one thing: we don’t trust Him. We don’t trust Him to supply all our needs, to protect us, to watch over us. Because of this, we grasp and clutch all these other things hoping that they will fill that area in our lives which only God can fill. We just simply don’t trust Him. Yet, God has a way of working His will and orchestrating circumstances which bring us to the point where we have nothing else to trust in, where we realize we can’t make it on our own, where we willingly allow Him to become King and Lord.

When Jesus saw that some of His disciples were deserting him, he asked the Twelve if they wanted to go as well. We would do well to remember Peter’s answer, “Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life.” Indeed. Where else are we going to go? In fact, as the world system increasingly breaks down and becomes more and more chaotic, this question becomes more and more prominent.

Jesus has the words of life. There is nowhere else to go.

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