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Winter 2016: The Gain of Losing: The Ultimate Cost
Publish date: Apr 4, 2016
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The Bible is full of them— paradoxes—spiritual realities that, to all outward appearances, seem to be contradictory, unbelievable, even absurd, and yet, are absolute truth in God’s sight. For instance, we see unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18); we conquer by submitting (James 4:7); to be least is to be great (Luke 9:48); when we are weak, we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10); we are exalted by being humble (James 4:10); we become wise by becoming fools (1 Corinthians 3:18); we live by dying (Galatians 2:20). At first glance, some of these spiritual realities seem very mysterious, but as a person grows in their love relationship with Jesus through earnest prayer, heart-searching study of God’s Word, and humble service, these supposed paradoxes begin to take on real meaning and become an intimate part of wearing the heavenly-tailored garment of salvation (Isaiah 61:10).
This leads into what I believe to be the foundational cost of salvation that makes all the aforementioned paradoxes in God’s plan of salvation virtually real for the redeemed of the Lord. For most of us, what immediately comes to mind under the category of salvation expenses is what it cost the King of Kings to provide eternal redemption for each of us.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son… (John 3:16)
(Christ Jesus) gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (Galatians 1:4).
But there is another cost that is quite often obscured in contemporary Christian thought that is an absolute necessity in order to receive the free gift of salvation offered to all of mankind through Christ. What might that be? Our personal cost.
This cost is brought to light in the first three verses of Isaiah 55.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
Did you see it? Here is God’s invitation to come to the waters without money, without price, and “buy” and eat that which is good, bringing fatness to your soul and possession of the same mercies our loving Lord extended to David in an everlasting covenant with Him! Buy? Without money? Yes.
The Bible gives definitions to unpack this spiritual paradox. In terms of salvation, Christ made it clear that “water” spiritually represents His Spirit given to those who believe in Him (John 4:14; 7:37-39); “wine” represents His death through His shed blood (Matthew 26:27-29); and “milk” represents His Word (1 Peter 2:2) through which He imparts His life to growing children of God (John 1:1; 6:63; 1:4).
Now we can plug these inspired definitions into Isaiah 55:1:
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come and believe in Jesus Christ and experience the Holy Spirit’s work upon your heart (water), and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy Christ’s death (wine) and Christ’s life (milk) without money and without price…
There it is—buy salvation’s food and drink! Wait a minute! How can we buy salvation when we are told in Ephesians 2:8,9 that “…by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast?” Humanly speaking, we are very accustomed to believing that the only way we can buy something is through cash, check, or credit card. But here we are faced with spiritually “buying” without money. That’s what the verse says. To top it off, we are to buy something that is without price, or priceless—there isn’t enough money in the universe to purchase it! And yet, if we want our soul to live, delight itself in fatness, and experience the Lord’s everlasting covenant, verse one implies that there is a price, or we wouldn’t have to buy it! So the price of a salvation experience must be a different kind of price than the currency we use in stores to make purchases.
Jesus spoke of this price in His parables. Notice Matthew 13:44-46:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Now here’s the question: What did the man who found the treasure in the field do in order to buy that field and own the treasure? Answer: He sold all that he had! What did the man who found the pearl of great price sell in order to buy the treasure? Answer: All he had!
These men considered the treasure they had found of such great personal value that they were willing to sell all they had to acquire it. So remember this: In order to “buy” the treasure Christ offers us, the kingdom of heaven, we must be willing to sell how much? All we have!
When those men sold all they had, what were they actually doing? They were exchanging all they possessed in order to acquire something they deemed more valuable—a treasure—the pearl of great price!
If we consider the treasure and pearl representing lost humanity and the Merchantman representing Christ, it rings powerfully in my heart—Jesus exchanged all He had—His very life—in order to purchase us for His prized possession! 1 Peter 1:18,19 states it this way:
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
What a price! Aren’t you thankful Jesus considered you that valuable of a treasure?
But if we look at the treasure and pearl as the priceless gift of salvation Jesus offers us, here’s the question: What is it that a person possesses that he must exchange (sell) in order to truly possess the kingdom of heaven? We find the answer to that question in Christ’s response to the rich young ruler who came to Him with the same basic question.
I call this young man the “universal man” because he possessed everything that the secular world considers to be of great value in a person’s life. This man was young, healthy, and wealthy. He was a very religious, well-educated executive with many good deeds under his belt. But there was still something missing in his life. And the Holy Spirit was wooing him to Christ. The young man came and knelt before Jesus with a vital question swelling up in his heart. We find the question in Matthew 19:16, “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Where I come from in the northern United States, some Christians get a little uneasy when someone starts talking about “doing anything” in order to receive eternal life—because they rightly say all you have to do is “believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved…” That’s true, amen? But then, we’re confronted with Christ’s answer to this rich young ruler’s question found in verse 17: “And He said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but One, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” If Jesus says something, I ought to believe it. If He says a person must keep the Commandments to enter into life, who am I to argue with Him?
Is there a contradiction between being saved by God’s grace through faith and this statement by Christ Himself saying a person must keep the Commandments in order to enter into His eternal kingdom? No way! Let me ask a couple of questions to resolve the dilemma: What are the fruits of saving faith in Christ’s shed blood and true love for Christ and His self-sacrificing life? Galatians 5:6 answers, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” How does faith that works by love act? John 14:15 & 23 answers, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments… If a man love Me, he will keep My words…”
So in Matthew 19:17, Jesus is speaking of the fruit of a faithfilled love relationship with Him. Remember this, dear friends, if someone who claims to be a born-again Christian really knows and loves Christ, they will be delighted to obey His word, including all TEN Commandments! 1 John 2:3,4 —“And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” We were originally designed by God to love Him and each other. However, who or what we love is our choice. And if, after clearly understanding one of the claims of God from His Word, someone is unwilling to obey our loving Savior, according to John 14:24, that person doesn’t love Jesus—there is someone or something in their lives they love more! They are in deadly conflict with the First Commandment of God’s moral law of liberty! They are not buying the Pearl of great price, which requires exchanging all that we have.
Well, let’s find out in Matthew 19:18-22 how Jesus communicates this truth to the rich young ruler.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Why did the young man go away sorrowful? Verse 22 answers “he had great possessions.” Is it wrong to have great possessions? No. Abraham and Job had great possessions. So what was Jesus trying to accomplish by asking that rich young ruler to sell what he had and give to the poor? You probably have already guessed, but Jesus was striking at the very root of the problem that was separating that young man from eternal life—gently uncovering that man’s innermost heart motivation! Mark this: Christ was revealing the ultimate cost of salvation for that precious man, and I believe, for you and me also, regardless of our financial status. Why do I say that? Look at those verses and tell me: From the six Commandments in God’s moral law, having to do with loving your neighbor, which Commandment did Jesus leave out of his comments? The Tenth one, “thou shalt not covet.” To “covet” means “to earnestly desire someone or something.” This is the Commandment that strikes at the love of self. Notice the long list of human traits spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
How many of these character traits come from a “love for self”? What did covetousness cause that young man to do? Walk away from Christ’s call upon his life! And what was it that this young man had that was more important to him than following Jesus? Great possessions.
What does the Word of God say about possessions? “… Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Luke 12:15.
It may be pretty easy to think this parable doesn’t apply to us because not all of us fit the picture of being young, attractive, highly educated, and rich. However, what are some other things that could have just as much of a controlling influence upon a person’s heart as that rich young ruler’s possessions? Could it be family or people?
(See Matthew 10:37,38; Galatians 1:10.) Could it be cares, riches, pleasures of life? (Luke 8:14) Could false doctrine fit the scenario? (2 Timothy 4:3,4; 1 Timothy 4:1) What about things of the world? (1 John 2:15-16) Unhealthy lifestyle habits? (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) Unforgiveness? (Ephesians 4:29-32)
Well, Brother Dan, how can I tell what I consider to be my riches? How can I tell if something is more important to me than following Jesus? The answer is quite straightforward. Matthew 6:21 tells us, “Where your treasure is there shall your heart be also.” Precious reader, whatever has major occupation of our thoughts, our time and energies, reveals the master of our heart! “Where your treasure is, there shall be your heart also!” In order to have Jesus and all the blessings eternal life will bring, anything you have been convicted of by the Holy Spirit that is more important to you than following Jesus in loving obedience to His Word, must be sold, given up, exchanged for His righteous life! “No man can serve two masters. . . .” (Luke 16:13). We cannot have the world and have Christ! ( 1 John 2:15).
Some time ago, Charles Swindoll, a well-known Christian author in America shared this testimony of his life:
For a number of years after I’d thought I’d become a Christian, I messed around with spiritual things. Just messed around. I ran around with church folks, I learned the God-talk, I sang hymns, I even memorized the verses. I prayed pretty good prayers, I carried my Bible to church Sunday after Sunday, I sang in the choir, and I added to my schedule a Bible class every now and then. But my life was MY life. I did not let all that religious stuff interfere with things like my career, my home, my strong will, my pursuit of things, my determination to go my own way, or my own personal plans. I wasn’t a wife beater, or a criminal, or an alcoholic, or some awful notorious sinner. No, I was just a selfish man. I knew how to get what I wanted, and nothing was going to stand in my way… including God.
You know, dear friends, being a true disciple of Christ is more than just being consistent with attending church on the right day and being on church boards and committees.
In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” To take up the cross is to give Christ service that costs time, money, work, and tears. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis because of his testimony, made this statement:
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die (to self). To follow Jesus no matter what the cost—that’s the way of the cross.
Yes, salvation has a price tag—all that separates us from Jesus, anything that is more important to me than obediently following the lowly Savior.
But what does it really cost us? What do we give up, when we give up all for Christ? As Steps to Christ, p. 46 puts it:
But what do we give up, when we give all? A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love. And yet men think it hard to give up all! I am ashamed to hear it spoken of, ashamed to write it. God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures.
Before you walk away like the rich young ruler, let me ask you: Is that too much to sell—to have Jesus and eternal life as compared to eternal death?
Is this too much to sell—to have the peace and comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, as compared as compared to the dissatisfaction, guilt, and fear of eternal death?
Is that too much to sell—to have the Lord Jesus to guide us, protect us, and fight our battles, as compared to fighting the battles of life with no hope for the future except eternal death?
What about the world to come? Which of these eternal riches are you prepared to give up in exchange for the things of this short, difficult life?
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:3,4).
There, immortal minds will contemplate with never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love. There will be no cruel, deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body. . . . All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God’s redeemed (GC 677).
Let me ask you, would you exchange all this for a few moments of fleeting fleshly pleasure?
As you count the cost of salvation, please consider one last thing: What your salvation cost Jesus.
It was not convenient for Jesus to leave all the glories of heaven, to come to this sin-cursed earth and be born in a feed trough, but He counted the cost of the pearl of great price—your salvation and mine—and then chose to come. I’m so thankful He came so we would have the chance to choose eternal life! Aren’t you?
It wasn’t convenient for Jesus to live the Christian life, knowing He would stick out like a “root out of dry ground” and be different than everyone else. It didn’t feel good to be despised and rejected even by some of His own earthly family. but He counted the cost of the pearl of great price—your salvation and mine—and chose to live the life eternal in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, as a perfect example of the true joy and happiness of service that we were designed by a loving Creator to have. I’m glad He did it for you and me, aren’t you?
It wasn’t convenient for Jesus, to knowingly allow Himself to be betrayed into the hands of a devil-possessed mob bent upon His destruction.
It wasn’t convenient for Jesus, to stand quietly through a series of mock trials, being spit upon, whipped, and harassed.
It wasn’t convenient for Jesus to allow Himself to be stretched out upon the cross and have spikes driven through His tender flesh.
It wasn’t convenient for our Savior to hang there on the cross in agony of soul, waiting for death to rip life out of His grasp.
But Jesus counted the cost, and considered you and me so valuable— pearls of great price—that He gave His life, all He had, to buy us back from the path of sin and eternal death. He knew eternity would not be the same with one of us missing. In the light of all that Jesus Christ has done for me, I want to respond to Him by daily surrendering all that I have—all my known sin, all my selfishness—to be washed away by His precious blood. I want Him to keep me covered with the robe of His righteous life. How about you? Jesus is asking you to surrender right now—to sell—to exchange—anything and everything you know to be more important to you than following Him.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it (Luke 9:24).
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