Sunday, April 07, 2013

A Faith that Costs Nothing

I Chron.21: 23 And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all.
24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.
25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

Lk.14: 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

In Chronicles we have a man who wishes to please God by giving to David items to be sacrificed to God. But David, although his sins were many, was a man after God’s own heart. That is the paradox called grace. So David desires to provide a sacrifice to God but he will not offer that which he had gained for free. That would only be a fire and not true worship. In fact that would be strange fire.

The Spirit through Luke presents a cross as a measure of a man’s sacrifice toward Christ. And the Spirit uses the word “cost” as it pertains to following Jesus. Rarely do you hear that word used today even in church, but it is an important part of true discipleship. And if it is an integral element in following Jesus, and if it is mentioned rarely in church, then how many of us are actually following Jesus? Which Jesus are we following if there is no cross and there is no cost?

Salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus the Redeemer as He shed His blood to redeem us from our sins. But if that is true than what about this cost? Where in our theology is this word “cost” if Jesus paid it all? That is an interesting as well as dangerous question. It is dangerous because we may find out just how shallow, contrived, and even ineffectual is the brand of Christianity now embraced within this fallen and hedonistic culture. To put it in dramatic terms, perhaps this new breed of Christians have constructed a new and false brand of faith which like water flows downhill and seeks the path of least resistance. And such a concoction is a fraud and a mirage and only satisfies the religious flesh. Lift up your eyes; it is all around us.  

Throughout the New Testament and in the ministry of the Incarnate Christ sinners were called to leave their former lives and follow Jesus. This always had deep implications and it not only cost people time and treasure, it many times cost them their lives. And down through the ages of church history believers were called to lives of sacrifice and self denial. But today men and women can claim to believe on Jesus with nary a care to say nothing of sacrifice. They can enjoy the same entertainment as the world, they can go into debt to fulfill their lusts like the world, they can go without prayer like the unbeliever, they can speak with hate and self righteousness, they can seek money and success, they can fill their closets with the latest clothes, they can live just above or just barely within their means, and they can go through the motions of worship without any cost whatsoever.

The sinner comes forth during a well oiled invitation time accompanied by emotional music, and as he passes the last pew he is met by a well trained worker who can guide him through a slick program designed to elicit a profession of faith. Did you hear what I said? The worker is trained in the art of getting a sinner to make a profession of faith. There is no room for the ministry of the Spirit, and regardless of where this sinner is in his heart the worker can answer all his questions and alleviate all his fears and at the end pronounce him “saved” and move on into baptism and church membership. Count the cost? Are you kidding? This is the Eli Whitney school of evangelism.

But that is not New Testament evangelism. That is not being a witness for Christ. That is multi-level marketing being juxtaposed in an evangelistic setting. And it is precisely that methodology that has produced the western evangelical church which is consumed with itself and enjoys all the delicacies of the surrounding fallen culture and yet professes to follow Jesus. And just because you are aginst the sinner's prayer model, and just because you are against the teachings of Joel Osteen or others, do not assume for as moment that you are immune from the trappings of this culture.

But what has it cost us to follow Jesus? What have we sacrificed to become His disciple? We open our religious suitcase and pack a trip to heaven, and then close the suitcase and go about our lives which are unremarkable within a culture of darkness. Are we radical? Please, we are hardly noticeable except with our certificate of church membership in our hands or as we back out of the driveway on Sunday mornings. In fact, going to “church” is our most prominent evidence of being a Christian. And that trip begins with soft and air conditioned seats and ends with more soft and air conditioned seats. And after enduring a few comfortable hours we resume our lives which cost us nothing except the same thing it costs our unsaved neighbors: money for the many cultural accoutrements we must have.

Ah, that’s the life. But it that His life? When Jesus spoke of picking up our cross what was He saying to those who would desire to follow Him in 2013? When He said to count the cost of what cost was He speaking? We hear those words so little that they no longer come with any practical and substantive definition. It all seems so ethereal and so philosophical but without any real and tangible cost in these days where evangelicals can wallow in the cesspool of politics and in the mire of wealth and prosperity and yet claim doctrinally a belief in Jesus. It’s a religious freak show which has become a curiosity to the fallen culture that neither elicits conviction nor persecution.

So we invent our own self serving brand of persecution that suggests we are being persecuted for our moral stands and by unkind words. Yes the church loves to play the martyr and insist we are standing for truth. And the word “truth” has become so detached from Jesus that it now represents a few moral tenants etched in legislation and read in voting booths. We hear about gay issues and abortion and socialism and earthly freedom, and in defense of these issues we can even compromise the ultimate truth of the gospel. We can endorse those who do not believe in the Jesus of the Bible and excuse their heresies as long as they have the same moral credentials as do we. So the only truth that matters in eternity, the gospel, can be placed on the back burner as we go big game hunting for some legislation or some conservative majority if the government.

And, pray tell, what cost is there in that? Sinners are not against us because of Jesus. They have just taken the opposite side in the moral arguments in a democratic society. They shout; we shout. They vote: we vote. They criticize; we criticize. They complain; we complain. They have their voices of leadership; we have our voices of leadership. They organize; we organize. What madness is this which plays all the world’s useless games but still claims to be carrying a cross? And sitting in front of the television, or working to save up more money, or occupying a conservative seat, and then we suggest our devotion times serve as a sacrifice or a self denial. But let us be honest here. No one even suggests they sacrifice or deny self anymore unless it is denying ourselves the luxury of certain sins.

So really, what does it cost a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The answer is everything.

Lk.14: 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Go ahead and present your inerrancy and your literal interpretation credentials, but who really believes those words literally? We approach those kinds of words with an exegetical template which begins with a “he can’t mean” preamble and then with a list of things which He could not possibly mean. Instead of beginning with a literal and comprehensive interpretation and then work our way back, we make those words fit our cultural mode and in essence disembowel them. And again, verses like these get minor cameo appearances on the silver screen called the pulpit, and when they do their edges have been so well rounded that they soothe rather than convict.

And millions upon millions of professing believer will file into a church “service” on Sunday morning and offer God that which cost them nothing, In fact, the most costly thing the church in the west has to offer God is their mortgage payment and their staff salaries.

Lk.14: 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

The word “all” must be redefined and manipulated and constricted in order to be doctrinally reasonable. And when that has taken place we have a costless and crossless Christian experience which assumes all the glories of heaven but accepts none of the sacrifices on earth. We will see one day where that takes people.

1 comment:

Cal said...

Good thoughts. Even what is considered "church", where one goes and gets his/her fix, is so out of whack. Church is supposed to be like a family, dysfunctions and all, and not a McDonald of easy to swallow food, that has no nutrition and only makes you hungering for more.

A lot of this too is that our very union with Christ is rejected. If only it was understood that our sufferings, our cross bearing, is entering into the fellowship of Jesus' sufferings. Yet, it seems there are quite many in America who do not want to sit at the Master's feet, do not want to be walking with Him, and only see Jesus as some abstract figure. They follow Him for benefits, not for His very life that we receive in fellowship with the one and only Lord and God.

My 2 cents,