We’ve established that the road leading to eternal life is the Narrow Road. The Wide Road only has destruction at its end. To walk the Narrow Road requires that we relinquish all that we have and all that we are to Him, take up our cross, and follow Him. These are very serious things, and Jesus further underscores His point when He tells us that one who considers following Him must count the cost.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:28-33)
“But,” you may object, “I thought salvation is the free gift of God!” It is free! There is nothing that we can do to earn salvation. However, salvation and the grace that makes it possible is not cheap. We in the western church have cheapened the Gospel, insisting that the sinner only assent to “accept the Lord Jesus as your personal savior.” The only thing that is important is fire insurance: I get to go to heaven. All else is unimportant and up to me. In fact, I can even live any way I choose now. That is cheap grace, and cheap forgiveness. The true grace of God leads to repentance and change (Romans 2:4, 2 Corinthians 7:10).
You see, when Christ saves a man or woman, He doesn’t just dispense a ticket to heaven. He purchases him or her with His blood. I am no longer my own. I have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). That price was His blood. Therefore, I belong to Him. When Christ tells us to count the cost, He is telling us, “Listen, My disciple must have an undivided heart. He is called to love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. He cannot do that while hanging onto things, people, or attitudes.” Discipleship is a life of following Christ, no matter the cost. The one who would seek to follow Him, Jesus says, must ask himself if he is ready to commit to such a life.
Over the years, I’ve heard many people say, “I am not ready to become a Christian because I know I might have to give up certain things.” I commend such people for their honesty. At the same time, I should point out that salvation is not about what we give up. Salvation is about being transformed into His image, with the result being eternal life. What Christ is looking for is commitment. Obedient faith is not blind faith. Abraham obeyed God, even when it cost him his family and when it almost cost his son Isaac. Abraham knew what he was giving up. In the same manner, the one who would follow Christ is called to make a conscious choice to relinquish all to Him. Will He actually take “all” from me? There’s no need to speculate on that, because each person’s journey is different. The point is that when Christ asks us to give something up, it is for our ultimate good.
There is another perspective to this that emerges from looking at economics. When I taught economics to high school students, we learned about opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the next best alternative. If I have only enough money to by either a hamburger or a hot dog, whichever I do not choose is the opportunity cost. So it is with our lives. We can’t have both Christ and this world. We must choose. And Christ does not want us to choose blindly. He wants us to count the cost–and then choose Him.
[Much of the material in this post is adapted from my book From Blessed to Transformed: Moving Beyond the Blessed Life. You can find it here to order.