• The Explore the Bible lesson for Dec. 1 focuses on John 12:24-33, 35-36, 44-48.
There seems to have been a great number of books written over the last half century that ask us to count the cost of following Jesus. Of course, their goal is to have us lay down our lives in complete surrender to Christ. I just wonder why it takes so long for us, as believers, to realize that this is the clear call of Scripture.
It is interesting how quickly we can turn just about anything around and make it all about us. When you first heard the gospel and when you present the gospel today, how often is “complete sacrifice” mentioned? Rightfully so, we talk about God’s incredible love for us. He sent his Son to die on that cruel cross “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). And Jesus willingly followed the Father’s plan.
All have sinned
We also talk about our great need for a Savior. The Bible tells us we all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and that the “paycheck” for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). It is not very popular in our culture today, but the idea we all have sinned and that sin separates us from God is as true today as it has ever been. We deserve complete separation from God for all eternity. And yet, because of God’s amazing level of love, Jesus became our “scapegoat.” The great exchange took place—his righteousness for our sin.
All of these concepts are true, and they usually are followed by asking for a response. I often quote what Jesus said just a few chapters back, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). In other words, there is nothing we could do that would merit forgiveness of our sins and the earning of our own eternal life. We have to put our faith in God’s way of salvation. And so, we call on people to accept or receive God’s great gift of new life through Christ.
This, however, is where the real difficulty comes in to play. I believe our intentions are good, but we need to be a little clearer in our delivery. Jesus never asked people to make a nominal commitment to become a follower. He never told people to casually place their faith in him and then go about their lives as if nothing had happened to them. Yes, Jesus called on them to “believe,” but in using that term, Jesus was calling people to a full commitment.
However, new believers do not have to understand everything in order to make a commitment to Christ. Just think about any aspect of your life. Before we make a commitment to our jobs, we do not know everything that will happen to us while we are employed with that company. The same thing can be said about schools, families, teams, etc. That is part of the adventure of life—not knowing what the future holds. At the time of commitment, a person is making a full surrender to Christ; they just do not fully understand what that entails.
Count the cost
I know this: Jesus told those first century followers to count the cost before they made a decision to follow Him.
Luke 14:28, 33 says, “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?”… “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
I believe Jesus wants us to count the cost for at least two reasons. First, Christ said this because life is not always going to be easy for those who call themselves “Christ-followers.” And second, he said this because he desired “real followers.” Again, he came to this earth to do away with religion and replace it with an opportunity for a meaningful relationship with God.
I believe we should use Romans 12:1 when we are talking to people about making a commitment to Christ: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
To me, this is the clearest example of Christ’s expectations for his followers. God has done so much for us—forgiveness of sin, relationship with God, secured eternal life, etc.—that the only reasonable thing we can do is give ourselves fully to him. When we surrender at this level, the evidence of that commitment will be clear in our lives. Everyone around us will know that Christ is making a difference in us and through us.
A life fully surrendered to God is one primed to receive the most joy a person can have in this life and will bring the most glory to God. It also will bring the most good to people around us and the most reward when our earthly life is over. We should not be fearful to ask people to make such a commitment.