Have you ever been shopping for a big ticket item online?
You see all the advertisements for “Super deals” and “slashed prices” and other gimmicky draws. You float around to websites checking for deals, you see prices on just about all of them, but sometimes you come to a special deal that’s SO good they can’t even tell you about it! This deal is so special you actually have to pretend to buy it before you can see how much it is. “Just “add to cart” and we’ll clue you in on just how super-fantastic this deal is.” I am inevitably drawn to these deals. I can’t help it. I know the item is what I want, I’ve read the reviews, I’ve scoped the competition. All that remains is to see what it will cost me. Inevitably I will “add to cart” and inevitably I will be let down because this super deal still costs the same. Deep in my subconscious I knew this would be true because I knew what I was asking for would cost me.
I have been thinking a lot about the cost of discipleship lately. I have been observing and reliving my experiences attempting by grace to walk like Christ, and recognizing that it can be difficult. Sometimes it can be very difficult!
And sometimes, I feel like it’s not supposed to work that way. Didn’t Jesus say “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”? Aren’t we promised a peace that passes all understanding? To me, this sounds nice. – easy and nice – with no challenges, no bumps in the road, like running around in one of those giant inflatable hamster wheels. I am insulated and protected from a world that hates God and hates me, and then one day a long time from now I end up in Heaven. Sounds cozy, huh?
“All well and good,” except that Jesus says other things too. He says things like “take up your cross”, and “in this world you will have trials”, and that people will hate, exclude, insult, and persecute us because of Him. He tells some to sell all they have if they want to follow him, and that if we don’t hate our fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers, even our own lives, we can’t be his disciples. This does not sound easy. This does not sound nice, or insulated, or safe by any stretch of the imagination! This is looking an awful lot like the “add to cart” option that always gets me and then disappoints me.
I wonder. If we took a poll, how many of you would say you came into the Kingdom of God hearing that it would cost you nothing? How many of you thought that being a Christian would only make your life “better” (i.e. easier, nicer, etc) only to find it not quite playing out that way, and finding yourself too afraid or ashamed to admit that it wasn’t “working” for you? How many of us (myself included!) have faced challenges, or suffering, or pain and thought that either God was failing us, or we were failing God? These moments cause us to question, to doubt, to dismiss those claims of “easy” and “light” and sometimes replace them with words like “fraud” or “lies” because we haven’t been told the cost.
It is a fact that salvation comes freely to us. Repeat for emphasis. It is a fact that salvation comes freely to us. “ For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9). Salvation was not free for everyone though, it cost Christ everything. It cost him his family and his comfort, his friends, and his life. He paid the price so that we could freely experience this gift of saving grace. But… We are saved by grace from sin and death so that we can become like Christ in all things. It cost him to live for his Father, why shouldn’t it cost us too? Jesus said in Matthew 13 that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who finds this crazy awesome treasure in a field, and knowing that he has to have it, he goes and sells everything he has so he can buy the field and get the treasure. What do you think he sold? Old socks? His garbage cans? A freezer-burned prime rib from two years ago? Probably not.
He sold his house, his properties, his clothes, his tools, his livelihood, everything, so he could own that treasure. I wonder how many of our journeys would have changed had the people that brought us to Christ told us this first? I wonder how many more people would have made lasting decisions to follow after Jesus if they had heard that the opportunity to be a disciple is a gift freely given and paid for by Christ; but heard that it’s so great an opportunity we should be willing to give up everything we have in order to have it, and that it’s not going to be easy and it will cost us something in the end -even up to and including our lives. This is why Jesus said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Mat 16:24-25) Jesus never hid the true cost of discipleship. He never pulled a bait-and-switch, or pretended to offer a better price if we “order within the next 10 minutes”, and still he says it’s worth it. Paul thought so too. “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage (i.e. caca), that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8) Millions of people throughout the ages have understood the cost of following Jesus, and have found it oh so very worth it for the joy and peace and love and communion that flow out of a willingness to give what God asks for. It’s worth everything you have!