Jesus challenges His disciples in Luke 14:25-34 to weigh the cost of following Him, making sure to warn them with an illustration in verses 28-33 (New International Version):
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
I have a sinking feeling that many so-called Christians in our culture take little consideration of the calling that is the Christian faith. In many ways, it seems, Western Christendom (is that still a thing?) is treated more like a worldview, perspective, or philosophy, than it is a devoted, long-suffering commission. (Reducing anything to a mere worldview nullifies any real significance it has, making it one of many “options” among the plethora of competitive frameworks. This is a grave mistreatment of the promise of salvation through Christ Jesus.)
Christ calls us to discipleship, a calling to lose anything and everything that stands in the way of our devotion to Him. Twentieth century german theologian and martyr, Diedrich Bonhoeffer, once wrote, “[t]he first Christ-suffering which [everyone] must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old [self] which is the result of [an] encounter with Christ,” (Diedrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, italics added). [Click here to read where else I use this quote.]
In His mercy, Christ bids us to weigh the cost to follow Him. This isn’t to say that we choose our salvation. Christ won salvation for all that are called by God. However, those who respond to the free gift of salvation are those to whom Christ beckons to consider how to respond. Those who respond in humility and lay down all else for the eternal gift of salvation commit to abandon earthly things (sin and anything that competes with God). These are chosen by the Heavenly Father and united in eternal fellowship with Him.
Christ is recorded in an earlier passage in Luke, speaking to this.
Luke 9:22-26 (NIV):
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
So what does it mean to forfeit one’s self? A common english definition of the passive verb “forfeit” is “to lose or to be deprived of something, (have something confiscated) out of consequence of wrongdoing.” So, Christ’s warning is to those who refuse to come under His Lordship and give up the things that claim allegiance in their own lives, in place of Him–the rightful claimant of their allegiance. These are the ones who shame themselves in the end and are rejected by Christ, as a consequence of rejecting Him.
However, the wellspring comes to those who, unlike the former, see the gain of surrendering to Jesus. I doubt this could be possible without them first truly understanding (and appreciating) salvation. This is of course is our undeserved redemption from sin and bondage, but also our inheritance into the Kingdom of God and position as His holy stewards on earth–set apart for His mission.
Those who realise the gravity of their sins and understand the impact of Christ’s grace over them are those who are not only capable to weigh the cost to follow Jesus, but acknowledge the worth in doing so. They, not unlike their counterparts, forfeit their lives as well, consequently. However, theirs is an active forfeiting–out of allegiance to Christ. A necessary consequence of honouring Him. They have concluded that the world is worth losing in light of gaining much more: the abundance of knowing Jesus Christ.
My prayer is that more in this world would come to grips with this and surrender what can only serve as a loss in the end. I know that I would rather suffer earthly death than to give up eternal life with the God who loves me and calls me His own. The weight of losing this marvelous gift is far more than I can bear.