Following Jesus is not cheap!
The essence of discipleship, according to Bonhoeffer, is found in the invitation from Christ to come and die. This invitation is not cheap. The gift of salvation is free, it costs us nothing. If there were a price that humanity could pay, and to be sure there is none, the richest person in the world could not afford it. God bankrupted heaven by paying the most costly price, God’s own son, for the sins of the world.
Jesus paid it all! The debt has been satisfied. The account has been settled. I remember an old man in my first church, down in Kentucky, lovingly and affectionately called “Doc.” He was in his nineties and he loved to sing. I got some of those “holy ghost goose bumps” listening to Doc Stevens singing from his heart:
“Well, it was a time on earth
When in the books of heaven
An old account was standing
For sins yet unforgiven
My name was at the top
And many things below
But I went unto the keeper
And settled it long ago
Long ago, Down on my knees
Long ago I settled it all Yes,
the old account was settled long ago
And the record’s clear today
‘Cause He washed my sins away
And the old account was settled long ago”
Doc understood that there was a price to be paid and he could not pay it. As a ninety-plus-year old, I got the sense that Doc knew he was closer to catching that chariot to heaven than most of us were. He expressed great joy in knowing that the price had already been covered and his record said, “Paid in full.”
The Lenten season is a time to remember that we owed a debt that we could not pay; while Jesus paid a debt that he did not owe. Our accounts are paid in full by the precious Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. His sacrifice was not cheap! But his sacrifice is fully sufficient.
Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship. The call to those original disciples reveals the pattern that Jesus expects. The gospels record that they left everything and followed Jesus. The cost of discipleship requires that we surrender ALL!
Following Jesus is not cheap. The modern day church wants folks to believe that there is no cost in following Jesus. Sometimes churches and pastors reduce Christianity to easy believe-ism and a simple set of no cost formulas. Accepting the call to discipleship require us to give up everything.
I remember a gospel passage (Matthew 19:26) where, in seeming frustration, Peter said to Jesus, “We have left everything and followed you.” While not denying Peter’s reality, Jesus gave him a precious future promise.
The promises of Christ do not come with chocolate hearts and roses. The cost of discipleship is complete abandonment to our past way of living. The call is to “die to self” so that we might be alive with Christ as fully devoted disciples, yoked with Jesus, and learning from him how to serve until we have nothing left to give. Grace is free, but following Jesus is not cheap.