I was 18 and at a young life summer staff camp when I first thought about the cost of following Jesus. I was a leader at this three-week camp. During this time, I was confronted with some hard questions while living among other Christians. It was the first time I realized that to follow Jesus; there would be some sacrifices. I realized at this moment that following Jesus will cost more than you think. Although at the time I didn’t clearly understand what the cost entailed, I knew that it required me to leave some things behind that I just wasn’t ready to let go of yet.
I don’t remember making a clear decision either way. But looking back, I can see it was in those weeks and months following, (without knowing) that I chose my way and began walking away from God. I wasn’t willing to count the cost that my relationship with Jesus required. That it required complete and utter abandon to the life I once lived. Sadly, I felt like that was asking too much of me. I can see so clearly now that essentially what I saw as a cost was something I wasn’t willing to pay at that point of my life.
What I didn’t know then is following Jesus would be the most rewarding sacrifice I could ever make and essentially the biggest cost I would ever endure would be during my time choosing to not follow Jesus.
In the years that followed, I did as every young college student should do (by means of this world), and six years later, I found myself in a bit of a crisis. All of my actions seemed “normal” compared to the world I was living in. But I knew when looking at the wreckage that could have become my life that somewhere I had taken a wrong turn. Not only had I squandered precious years of my life, I realized my life as I knew it was really broken.
I remember so clearly asking God how I had arrived here. I never remember deciding to turn away from God. My intentions were always good. I still felt like I was a believer, but I had forfeited an intricate part of Christian faith; which required my obedience. I remember being so shocked I ended up here. A place where, I didn’t make a conscious decision to end up, but upon waking up, had to deal with the consequences of my disobedience.
The Bible talks so clearly about the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus talks of taking up our cross to follow Him. He also tells us that to follow Him, we must give up the things of our old life. Luke 14 27-33 states:
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 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? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So, therefore, anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
How does one live out this cost of following Jesus?
It’s a radical obedience. One where you can no longer have an appetite for the things of this world but one where you are so infatuated with your love of Jesus that you can’t live life any other way. A love where you abandon all worldly comforts and say, “Jesus, you are worth it all.” It’s a life that no longer is about you or your comfort but a daily surrender to God and His leading and purposes.
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s difficult. It means abandoning everything this world has taught us to believe is “success.” It means trading an eternal inheritance that we can’t even begin to comprehend. Mark 8:34-37 tells us that a life sanctified for God is the greatest and only gain. When we forfeit our life, we actually gain it. Anyone who tells you that by becoming a Christian, you don’t have to do anything is robbing you of the sweetest truth that God has to offer us. Our actions in no way determine our salvation but are a beautiful expression of our utter abandon to God and His purposes.
In light of these scriptures, lately, I’ve felt scared about something I’m seeing. I see churches that don’t adequately explain the cost of following Jesus. They focus on appealing to the ravenous appetite in this world instead of showing you it’s the very thing that could keep you for really experiencing God. They tell you following Jesus will take nothing of you. The truth is, it will be that most intentional thing you ever do. The bible tells us we must renounce all that we have to follow him.
As Christians, we can do a huge injustice to people by letting them think there is nothing involved in following Jesus.
So often I hear the Christian walk being boiled down to a simple raising of a hand on a Sunday morning. I can’t help but be devastated over what a misrepresentation that is for Christianity. Christianity entails not only the decision to accept Jesus as our savior but also the lifelong obedience of walking out the relationship with Him.
It will take everything; it will change your life. Your job, your aspirations, what your family looks like, your spouse, and your so-called American retirement. If following Jesus does not change everything, you’re not doing it right.
I’m so grateful for the cost because in fact, the cost is where my total happiness was found. I’m so thankful that the obedience that God calls us too is the greatest gift we could ever be given. I no longer count it as loss but the biggest gain of my life. Because when I lost my life, I finally found it.