Martin Luther was absolutely correct when he said that “a religion that gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing is worth nothing.”
Perhaps because of what we know the Bible teaches concerning the grace of God and that salvation is a free gift, we’ve been led to believe that being a Christian costs nothing! Going to heaven is a “free ride” and it’s not only free, it’s profitable!
There is abroad today a current popular preaching known as the “prosperity gospel” that would lead one to believe that since God owns everything, His children are heirs to all things and can, therefore, expect to be well-to-do in material things. Good health and great wealth are to be expected prosperity preachers proclaim.
The truth is, that’s simply not the gospel Jesus preached; nor is it taught anywhere in the Word of God. There are, however, some elements of truth in the prosperity gospel. It is true, for instance, that God owns everything; and it is true that God’s children are heirs to all things. But to put those two statements together and come up with the conclusion that all believers can expect to be wealthy and healthy all the time is to embrace a flawed logic and a false gospel.
What Jesus did teach is that being a believer has never been financially profitable, whether this side of Calvary or the other!
While some of God’s people have known what it was to be very wealthy, they have been the exception rather than the rule. In fact, Jesus said that a wealthy person would enter heaven with great difficulty! He urged men to lay up treasures in heaven as opposed to on earth. James exclaimed that rich men should weep and howl for the miseries that would come upon them. Paul asserted that not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble were called…but God hath chosen the weak, the base, the despised…that no flesh should glory in His presence. (I Cor 1:26-29) Jesus said at His first public preaching opportunity that He had come to preach the gospel to the poor! (Luke 4:18)
So, the myth that all believers are and will be well to do in this world should be dispelled.
Also, the myth that says that since salvation is by the free, unmerited grace of God it costs nothing ought also to be dislodged from the minds of those who have believed that false teaching.
The fact of the matter is, salvation, though a free gift of God to all who will believe and receive Christ, did cost God His only begotten Son! It did also cost the only begotten Son of God the humiliation the Holy One suffered when He was made in the likeness of men, took upon Himself the form of a servant and temporarily laid aside the independent exercise of His Godhead attributes. Finally; He suffered infinitely while the sin of the world was put upon Him as He tasted “death” (eternal damnation) for every human being who ever had lived or would thereafter live. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Yes, salvation was unspeakably costly to the Godhead, but, thankfully, “He… spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all….” (Romans 8:32)
Not only did salvation cost God, it cost others also. It cost Abraham his only son as well: “By faith, Abraham offered up Isaac and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, accounting that God was able to raise him up from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Hebs. 11:17) To be sure, God provided Abraham the lamb that was in the thicket so that Abraham’s knife was not plunged into the body of his precious son of promise, but in Abraham’s mind when he raised the knife, in faith believing and obeying God, Isaac was as good as dead. Abraham’s faith cost him his only begotten son.
And then Moses is cited in Hebrews 11 who “by faith, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt….” (Hebs. 11:24-26)
So, from an earthly perspective, it “cost” Moses a fortune to stand for God and with God’s people. What has it cost you here today?
And then the prophets of old paid a price for their unashamed stand for God, giving in many instances their lives, their blood along with “mockings, scourgings, bonds and imprisonments; they were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” (Hebs. 11:36,37) These were not only prophets but “others also,” i.e., men and women of old who “quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of aliens. Women received their dead to life again: and others were tortured not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (Hebs. 11:33-35) There was no hint of any prosperity gospel here in these “Hall of Faith” testimonies in Hebrews 11, stories of men and women of faith in yesteryears who paid the ultimate price for their faith standing forever as a witness to the fact that following God will cost you something!
According to the best traditions, it cost many key New Testament church planters and pioneers of the faith, including all of the Apostles, except the aged John who suffered banishment and exile, martyrdom after having been cruelly tortured. Matthew was slain with a sword in a distant Ethiopian city; Mark died in Alexandria after having been mercilessly dragged through the streets; Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in Greece; Peter was crucified in Jerusalem with his head downward; James the less was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple and then beaten to death; Bartholomew was flayed alive; Andrew was bound to a cross from whence he preached to his persecutors until he died; Thomas was run through the body with a sword, Jude was shot to death with arrows, Matthias was stoned before he was beheaded; Barnabas was also stoned to death and Paul, after unspeakable tortures and persecutions, was said to have been beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero.
So much for the “prosperity” gospel!
What might being a follower of Christ cost you? “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s foes shall be they of his own household…he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt.10:35-37) Songster C.F. Weigle having paid a dear price for his faith, losing a loved one to the world, wrote of it when he penned the song No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus writing “I would love to tell you what I think Jesus, how I found in Him a friend so kind and true….” It may cost you a fortune; or “friends,” or a future or fame or “freedom,” or “fashion,” or some other thing you had treasured, but know that following, loving, serving Christ, will cost you something, probably something dear.
“I had walked life’s path with an easy tread,
Had followed where comfort and pleasure led;
And then, by ‘chance’ in a quiet place,
I met my Master face to face.
With station and rank and wealth for my goal,
Much thought for the body but none for the soul,
I had entered to win this life’s mad race,
When I met my Master face to face.
I had built my castles, reared them high,
Till their towers had pierced the blue of the sky;
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace—
When I met my Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him, and blushed to see
That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me;
And I faltered, and fell at His feet that day
While my castles vanished and melted away.
My thought is now for the souls of men;
I have lost my life to find it again.
Ever since alone in that holy place
My Master and I stood face to face.”
By Lorrie Cline