By Roland W. Keith
Jesus informed one of His audiences that there is a need to count the cost of being His disciple (Luke 14:26-33). Not that the cost was high in relative terms— compare life on earth to a place in heaven. However, Jesus was telling them to consider what it would take to follow Him. To examine themselves and be prepared to do what would be necessary to live a successful life as one of His disciples. Today each of us should make that same self-examination. Are we willing to commit everything to God? Consider what the Prince of Heaven gave up for us. He left His throne in heaven to live as one of us knowing that His destiny was to suffer and die for our sins. He allowed His fallen creation to mock and humiliate Him, our Creator, so that He could pay the price of our sins to relieve us of the eternal debt attached to them.
What Jesus accomplished pleased His Father; so much so, that Paul wrote, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and when He rose from the grave, He became the Savior of the world, establishing the covenant through which that work continues today. The path to heaven is revealed in the testament He left behind. There is only one way or path to heaven— His way (John 14:6; Matthew 7:13-14; Acts 9;2); There is no other entrance into His kingdom (John 10:1; I Timothy 2:5-6; I John 5:10-12; Acts 4:12).
It took the better part of a century for the Holy Spirit, working through His apostles and other select disciples, to complete the word He had given in written form. Along the way many years were spent spreading the gospel throughout the world, meeting the challenges, preparing the groundwork, establishing His kingdom before the world was ready for the New Testament in its completed form. Everything, however, was done in due time. It even took some time for His followers to finally be called by their proper name— Christians (Acts 11:25-26). Nonetheless, even before His people took His name as their own, the name of Christ had become, and continues to be at once a beacon for the lost of the world, a badge of honor and glory for those who own it, and a target for persecution among those who have hated it throughout the ages (Acts 26:28-29; John 15:20; Matthew 5:10; Acts 22:4; II Timothy 3:12). But, as Peter wrote, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (I Peter 4:16).
Why become a Christian? Of course, the most obvious answer is for our own eternal welfare. There is, however, a greater reason even than that. We owe it to our Creator for all that He has done for us. As the Psalmist wrote, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. O LORD, I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds” (Psalm 116:12-16). Just as King David praised the Lord for being there for him we should honor our God Who rescued us when we were condemned to the eternal fires of hell (Psalm 18:18-19), not because He owed it to us but because He loves us and wanted to be merciful to us. Not only did His Son give His life for us, but He set the example for us to follow to ensure our own success in life (I Peter 2:21; see also I Corinthians 11:1; II Corinthians 5:17-18).
Jesus is leading the way. He overcame the world and has cleared a path for us to do the same (John 16:33; See also 14:27; Hebrews 6:19-20). In his letter to the Hebrews Paul wrote, “So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (13:6). Later, he would write Timothy, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (II Timothy 4:17-18; John 14:3). At the end of the letter Paul would acknowledge that his own death was eminent. He was to be put to death for his faith. Considering that, what was the Lord rescuing him from? Apparently that which would prevent his entrance into the kingdom of God. Just as with the apostle we too can be sure that even if someone were to take our lives there is nothing they can do to effect our ultimate fate when we trust in the Lord, Who said Himself, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him Who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28; see also I Corinthians 10:13; Revelation 2:10).
In the end, God has done more for us than we can ever repay. Nevertheless, He wants us to accept His gift of grace, even though we do not merit it. Notwithstanding, His requirement for justice must also be met. On the one hand, He exercises absolute power and authority over His creation, on the other hand, He has given us the choice of salvation or condemnation. We can exercise our free will to choose either. If we make the wrong choice, we have no one to blame except ourselves. However, if we elect the salvation made available by the death of His Son, we opt for a path that benefits not only us but increases the value and responsibility that goes with our influence over others. For those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior are given the charge to be examples to those around us, with the obligation to share His gospel with the lost souls of the world (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:14-15; Acts 26:18).
For those who convince themselves that doing the ‘Lord’s work’ is burdensome, just remind yourself what He did for you. And recall these words: “And He said to all, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25; see also 14:33; Matthew 7:14). Seen in a prudential light God’s tasking is a light load after all (Matthew 11:30)! For many of us our Christian walk requires us to make what are often radical changes in our behavior as evidenced by the words of Paul: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2; see also Ephesians 4:20-24), and also “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13; see also II Peter 1:4-9). Regardless of what changes are necessary considering the benefits gained weighed against what will be lost if we turn away from the Lord’s gift should make such sacrifices seem trivial in comparison.
With regard to what can be gained or lost Paul wrote, “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven… Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25, 28-29). God is merciful, but God is just. And He is all powerful. We should stand in awe of our Creator and be grateful that He has provided us with an avenue to escape the due punishment for our sins— the unquenchable fire of hell (mark 9:43.
On top of the benefit of escaping hell’s fire (Luke 12:5; Matthew 25:31-46), the children of God profit in many other ways. In John 8:31 it is recorded: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Throughout the ages man has sought the truth. In many ways he has searched and failed. Yet Jesus said that the truth, the ultimate truth, is available to those who follow Him. Not only can we have the truth revealed to us as children of God but we become heirs of the promise, as Paul told the Christians in Rome: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:16-17). As members of His holy nation (I Peter 2:9), we have taken hold of and been made heirs of eternal life (I Timothy 6:12; Titus 3:7); We will spend that eternity in His heavenly kingdom with Him, where a place has been prepared for us (James 2:5; John 14:2); Each of us will share in the treasures of heaven (Luke 18:22), with the guarantee that what awaits us is imperishable and unfading (I Peter 1:40), among which are the crowns of righteousness that each one of us will receive due to our faith in and obedience to Christ Jesus.
Such unimaginable treasures should be enough to compel us to be become a Christian and to make all our thoughts and actions captive to His will (II Corinthians 10:3-5), but in the end it is our love for God and our desire to please Him above all these things that should drive us forward in our lives. Do we look at the evening sky or the stars of the night in awe and want to know and worship their Creator? Our Creator? If so, all those other things become ever-so-much easier.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.