The Cost to be Counted

Jesus Christ tells those considering following Him that it will be tough. It will cost you all things.

whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
–Luke 14:33

“All things” here means “all things.” Like, everything. Your life. Your family. Your possessions. Your career. All things.

Now, this will look different for each person. It will depend on where you’re coming from. But be not deceived: following Christ will cost you.

The basic idea is that if you follow Christ, you’ll have to decide over and over again: will I do what Christ says, or will I do what allows me to keep my stuff?

The Bible is very honest and open about this cost. Paul explains the cost in his own life in Philippians.

Ever since I was 3, people told me “Philippians is a book about joy.” Certainly joy is in Philippians; but suffering and loss are in there about as much.

Why isn’t Philippians ever described as a book about suffering?!

Because no one wants to hear about suffering; we are all about the happy-happy, joy-joy. today.

Paul says that he suffered the loss of all things to gain Christ. Paul wrote Philippians from jail. Paul talks about how he had no other man besides Timothy to help him. He was alone and rotting in prison.

Paul did have joy, but the reason he had joy is because he was looking forward eternal life after death! He wanted to die when he wrote Philippians–the strait between two; his desire to depart, which is far better.

How we translate that into your best life now and health and wealth happiness is beyond me.

Many years ago church people actually read the Bible. They discovered that the Bible used harsh terms about following Christ.

These church people realized that if they went with that message, no one would sign on.

So church people told outsiders that the Gospel would make them happy, rich, and healthy. You’ll have a stronger marriage and better kids. On and on the lies went.

People signed up. Churches got full and church people got paid well. It was a sweet deal for everyone involved.

Until they died.

Notice this is the same thing Israel did in the Old Testament. “Peace, peace when there is no peace.” The false message of the false prophets won the day, which kept everyone happy.

Until they died.

We’re doing the same thing today. There’s nothing new under the sun.

There is a cost to following Christ. If church people had stuck with New Testament teaching, they would been rejected and impoverished, and would have taken part in the suffering Christ spoke of.

But people don’t count the cost anymore. Today we count the benefits we imagine the Gospel will bring us.

If you stick with the real Gospel and teach it, you’ll lose friends, cause tension in your family, you’ll be disrespected and maligned. You’ll feel lonely and misunderstood.

It’ll cost you. It will hurt and won’t be much fun.

It’ll also drive you to hope, which is the only thing that brings true joy and peace. This was Paul’s point in Philippians: my life is pretty terrible, so much so that I want to die. But after death! After death is when I get my glory! So I’ll let that hope buck me up and I’ll stick with the Gospel and I’ll keep serving and suffering until that day comes.

Too many people are holding too tightly to the wrong life and the things of the wrong world.

Let go of this life, this world and its things and lay hold on eternal life. Let hope drive you and lead you to true joy. Not dependent on material, temporal success, but on eternal hope.

Count the cost. Are you wiling to lose everything in this world to gain the next world?

Count the Cost of What?

Jesus Christ once told a multitude to “count the cost.”

This was in relation to following Him. Previous to this statement, He said if you don’t hate various family members, deny self, and take up the cross you can’t be His disciple.

So, count the cost.

The reason He said to count the cost is so you won’t be embarrassed when you don’t finish the job.

This was in relation to building a building and a king going to war (click here for the passage). Doing things without considering what you’re doing will make you look dumb.

Jesus Christ does not want you to look dumb.

He tells people up front how difficult it will be to follow Him.

If you follow the Suffering Servant, guess where you’ll end up? I’m going to go with: I’ll end up with suffering service.

If you follow the man of sorrows acquainted with grief, guess where you’ll end up? You’ll end up with sorrow and grief.

This is so out of place in our day. Today’s Gospel tells people that if you believe this cute story about this guy from 2,000 years ago, you’ll have your best life now and when you die you’ll go to heaven.

That’s it.

“Count the cost” is the most ridiculous thing a person could say in relation to today’s “gospel.”

“Count the cost of what? I just get a wonderful plan for my life and then more wonderful after I’m dead. Where’s the cost in that?”

So, we must conclude one of two things:

1) Today’s Gospel is wrong, or
2) Jesus Christ was wrong

I’ve heard people on both sides.

I can tell you for certain which side I’m on!

Today’s Gospel is wrong.

Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be right. He’s also going to be your Judge. Imagine explaining to Him how you didn’t follow Him because you thought He was wrong.

Evangelical Christians and Politics

I am reading a book called, The Evangelicals. It is a history of the Evangelical movement within American Christianity, particularly the political involvement they have gotten into over the years.

It’s a 600 page book. The first 200 pages dealt with Wesley through Billy Graham. The last 400 is from Billy Graham to today. It has bogged down tremendously.

One fascinating thing that stands out to me is how ridiculous, from a historical perspective, church leaders look when they get involved in politics.

Politics is driven by fear. There are HUGE problems, so vote for us to solve them. If they solved them; you wouldn’t need them anymore! So, they never get around to solving issues, just changing them and freaking everyone out along the way so they get votes.

When the Church, which is allegedly filled with people with eternal hope, gets involved in temporal squabbles heightened by fear, they look really stupid.

This is especially true when they fall for predictions about the future. There have been so many “threats” to us that should have wiped us out. But none of the major fears ever developed and predictions, predictably (!), fail.

What happened was Evangelicalism, which originally just meant people who were focused on the Gospel (the “evangel” part of Evangelical), got wrapped up with politics. Billy Graham solidified the movement. He thought he was doing the right thing at the time. Richard Nixon broke his heart.

The church got sucked into Republican politics with the Moral Majority and so forth in the 1970’s-90’s. They got carried away and got used, while America continued to remain firmly nowhere near Evangelical ideals.

So, the church learned its lesson. It got tired of being lumped in with rightwing nutjobs. Which brings us to today.

While reading this book about the roaring 70’s-90’s Republican Christian Might, a debate over the Social Gospel erupted.

The Social Gospel, often called Social Justice, Movement is nothing more than leftwing nutjob thinking.

The lesson the church apparently has learned from our losing with the Right, is to join the Left.

I fully expect that in about 40 years all these church leaders fired up over the new leftwing Social Justice stuff will look just as ridiculous as the rightwingers of the 70’s look to us now.

Allow me to posit a theory.

Perhaps the lesson the church should have learned from the disastrous Moral Majority days, is not to shift from the Right to the Left, but rather to stay out of the world’s fray to begin with.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, come out from among them and be separate. What fellowship has light with darkness? Set your affection on things above and not things on the earth. Not falling for the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that choke out spiritual growth.

Maybe something like that. You know, like, what the Bible says and stuff.

Just a theory.

Love Believes All Things and Hopes All Things

Love is tough. Love is great when someone shows it to you, but showing it to someone else, boy howdy. it aint easy.

Love covers a multitude of sin. Covering sin, which means to overlook it and act as if they didn’t just offend you, is hard.

It’s way more fun to be a victim, yell and scream, throw a tantrum, and fight for your rights.

What’s harder is to take a beating for no reason.

Love believes all things. How insane is that?!

I know people who lie and break promises all the time. I know better than to believe the words that come out of their mouth. Is love supposed to believe liars?

After believing all things in 1 Corinthians 13, we’re told that love hopes all things.

Hope is about the future, that something better is coming.

Perhaps these go together.

OK, I know this guy is lying, so I can’t believe what he’s telling me, so now I shift to hope. Perhaps this time he’ll be true. Perhaps he’ll repent at some point, maybe even because of my loving response to him, and stop lying soon. Or maybe it goes beyond to see what reason there is that this person is untrustworthy, maybe there’s a legitimate reason they are letting me down.

Adam Clarke has this to say about it:

When there is no place left for believing good of a person, then love comes in with its hope, where it could not work by its faith; and begins immediately to make allowances and excuses, as far as a good conscience can permit; and farther, anticipates the repentance of the transgressor.

I think that is well said.

Love basically gives people the benefit of the doubt. Chill. Relax. Remember that you lie too. Remember that you sin and let others down too. You have no problem defending and excusing your own sin!

Why do you think you are so good at justifying your own sin? Perhaps it’s because you love yourself?!

That’s exactly why. If you love others, you’ll begin to lighten up about their faults. Love your neighbor as yourself. You’ll be quicker to forgive, just as God, who is love, is quick to forgive.

Love gives people a break. Stop being Perfect in your own mind and outraged at other people’s faults. You aint perfect; neither are they. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Give people a break.

Faith and Hope

Faith is the substance of things hoped for.

Faith contains all the things hoped for that we do not yet see or possess.

Faith is trusting that God knows stuff you don’t know, and since you don’t know, you’re going to take His word for it.

Much of faith has to do with the future. The future aspect of faith is “hope.” Hope is always about the future.

Hope is a confident expectation that what God says will happen, will happen.

I have no ability to see into the future. I have no proof of what the future holds. Nor do I even have power to guarantee my own future.

Therefore, in me, I have no hope. I have no confidence, trust, or faith in me. What do I know?

But God knows all and has told us some of what He knows. Our job is to trust His word.

Part of what His word tells us is that believers will be glorified in the future. He tells believers they will live in righteousness in the future. Believers will enjoy God’s presence for eternity in the splendors of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

This gives us hope, and hope brings joy and peace.

If there is no hope, then there can be no joy and there can be no peace.

But if we know our future is wrapped up securely in the promises of God, and there’s nothing anyone can do to remove us out of God’s hands, then we have joy, peace, and all hope.

This sort of hope can get you through a world of tribulation and suffering. It was the joy set before Christ that helped Him endure the cross. The same is true for us.

If there is no resurrection, then there is no hope, and if we have no hope, then are we of all men most miserable.

But we aren’t the most miserable; we are the most joyful. Not because our present circumstances are great, but because our future eternity will be glorious.

Let this hope transform your life, make you willing to take up the cross and be a living sacrifice, and fill you with anticipation, joy, and peace that all will be well for eternity!

Faith and hope go together. Where there is faith; there is hope. You can’t have one without the other.

Faith and Death

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of thins not seen.
–Hebrews 11:1

This is how the great Chapter of Faith, Hebrews 11, starts.

Following this, you have a long list of people who were told to do something today because something was going to happen in the future.

Noah was to build an ark for 120 years because a massive flood was coming. Noah didn’t know the flood was coming for sure, there was no Doppler radar. But Noah built a large boat because he was told he’d need it later.

Abraham and the following two generations were going to live in tents, waiting for an established city to come. They never saw the city. They only saw tents.

Down the list he goes, touching on many lives, some whom we know and others we don[‘t, of people who all took scary steps of faith based on what God said.

We are told earlier in Hebrews 9, that it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.

How do you know what’s going to happen after death?

You have no idea what’s going to happen after death. You can’t ask dead people. You can’t see into the future beyond the grave. So, how do you know a judgment is coming after death?

There’s only one way: if someone who is beyond death could tell you. That someone would be God. He knows and He tells us a judgment is coming.

By faith I hear what God says about the future and take action today. That is the message of Hebrews 11.

In this world we will have tribulation, and then we die, and then there’s a judgment.

That’s what the future holds for you.

You can’t take the scientific method out and test this hypothesis. There is no physical proof that a judgment follows death.

Faith is proved by what is not seen. Think about that one for a while!

Faith comes by hearing. We walk by faith, not by sight.

You have no idea what’s going to happen after death, nor are there experiments you can do to find out. You are left with taking God’s word for it.

Now is the time of salvation. Now is the time to awake out of sleep. Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Death is coming, which means judgment is coming. Current life is the time to prepare.

Get ready. It’s coming.

Faith and Proof

Faith is hard.

No really. Seriously. Faith is hard.

I’m shocked by how many people think it’s easy and further shocked by people’s responses to those who have doubts.

Faith can’t even live in a place without doubt.

We are a physical people who mind physical things.

Our modern scientific method has become our test for all things. “If there’s no physical proof; then it’s false.”

This is said with no physical proof that this is the case!

Granted, you can certainly learn things by making observations, not against that. But observing things can’t prove everything that needs proving.

At a certain point you will run out of physical proofs and yet still have questions left.

Faith, biblically speaking, is not taking a blind leap.

Faith is taking someone else’s word for something. A something that, although not proved, can still be found to be logical or not and then believed or not.

There is a dehumidifier running next to me as I write this.

You have no idea if that is true or not. So, how do you know I’m telling the truth?

Well, first of all, why would I lie about that? Is there anything I benefit from by saying that if it isn’t true? Has your past experience with me shown that I lie about stuff?

Second, am I known to be a believer in the effectiveness of dehumidifiers in basements? Yes I am. You can ask anyone who’s been in my basement if there is a dehumidifier there. Evey basement I’ve ever been in control of has had a dehumidifier.

Third, you can find out when I wrote this and see what the weather was. I am writing this on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. You can look up the weather and see that we had torrential downpours all last night. If a dehumidifier were to be running, it would certainly be on the day after a night of torrential downpours.

So, do you think there is a dehumidifier running in my basement as I type this? Am I telling the truth? You can’t know for sure, but you can analyze these points and probably believe that there is a dehumidifier running next to me.

At a certain point, with all the above facts taken into consideration, you still need to believe what I said.

Faith comes by hearing. We walk by faith, not by sight. Faith is the evidence of things not seen.

If you were standing next to me right now you would hear the dehumidifier running and you can see it shaking in the corner and see drops of water falling into its reservoir. Therefore, at that point when you see the thing in action, you no longer need faith; you just know.

Seeing is not believing. Seeing is the end of believing.

That’s why faith is hard. Faith believes what it cannot see. If I can’t see it, I must take someone’s word for it.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Is God known for lying? Does God say His word is true? Do you know everything the Bible says is true?

You can’t know it’s true for sure with absolute, infallible, physical proofs, but you can take someone else’s word for it and trust that they do know. That’s what faith does!

Faith says, “I don’t know, but I believe you do, so I’ll go with what you say.” Faith is humble and dependent. That’s why faith is hard!

If you don’t find faith hard, there’s a chance you aint doing it!