“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? … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Jesus Christ, Luke 14.28-33.
i) it will cost him his self-righteousness … He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-recieving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.
ii) it will cost him sins … There must be no separate truce with any special sins which he loves. He must count all sin as his deadly enemies and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced … He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins … Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand… but it must be done.
iii) it will cost a man his love of ease … He must daily watch and stand on his guard like a soldier on enemy’s ground. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation in life … This also sounds hard… Anything that requires exertion and labour is entirely against the grain of our hearts. But the soul can have ‘no gains without pains’.
iv) it will cost a man the favour of the world … “Remember the word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15.20)
I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. But who in his sound senses can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew think nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo… Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown…
Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back ‘the cross’ of self-denial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men and women to repent and come to Christ; but bid them at the same time to ‘count the cost’…
The time is very short. A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle, and shall need to fight no more. The presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below… We shall marvel that we could ever doubt on which side the balance of profit lay.
Let us take courage. We are not far from home.
It may cost much to be a true Christian and a consistent believer; but it pays.
J. C. Ryle, Holiness (chapter 5.)