Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Cost of Being a True Christian - J.C. Ryle

Biblical commentary by godly men is a tremendous resource in understand God's Word and digging deeper into the riches of Scripture.  The Classic Bible Commentary: An Essential Collection of History's Finest Commentaries in One Volume is a good resource, and it has many different people providing commentary on each book of the Bible: Matthew Henry, John Calvin, A.R. Faucett, Martin Luther, Charles Hodge, and others.  The best commentary I read from this book was from some guy I had never heard of before, J.C. Ryle, and his commentary on the gospel of Luke.  Joel Beeke likes J.C. Ryle because his writing style is straightforward and easy to understand.  I like him because his commentary dug deeper into the heart of the gospel and provided me with more Biblical insight than any of the other writers.  I highly recommend The Complete Works of J. C. Ryle which includes his excellent commentary on all four gospels, available on Kindle for only $10.

This post contains quotes from J.C. Ryle's book Holiness, part 1 of the chapter "The Cost."  This portion of the book is very applicable today, since it is easy for Americans and people in many parts of the world today to say they are Christians in societies with relatively little religious persecution (for now) and where it is socially advantageous to appear to be "religious."  Not much thought is given to what is the cost of following Christ. 

"And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.'” 
Luke 9:23-24

Jesus didn't water down His message like many preachers today in order to attract larger numbers (and make more money).  Rather, He made it a point of emphasis to discourage fair-weather followers by reminding them of the cost required to follow Him.  Jesus tells us specifically what the cost is: we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, follow Christ, and to lose our life for Him who lost His very own life for us.

Here is J.C. Ryle:

Which of you, intending to build a house, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost?”— Luke 14: 28.

"Many would save themselves much sorrow and trouble if they would only remember the question—“ What does it cost?” But there is one subject on which it is specially important to “count the cost.” That subject is the salvation of our souls. What does it cost to be a true Christian?"

"We live in a day of great religious profession.  Yet nothing is more common than to see people receiving the Word with joy, and then after two or three years falling away, and going back to their sins. They had not considered “what it costs” to be a really consistent believer and holy Christian."

"We must mind what we are about. If we desire to be truly holy, it is a good sign.  But still the cost ought to be counted.  It is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown."

I.  I have, first, to show what it costs to be a true Christian.

"Let there be no mistake about my meaning. I am not examining what it costs to save a Christian’s soul. I know well that it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement, and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. We “are bought with a price.” “Christ gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Corinthians 6: 20; 1 Timothy 2: 6)"

"The point I want to consider is another one altogether. It is what a man must be ready to give up if he wishes to be saved. It is the amount of sacrifice a man must submit to if he intends to serve Christ."

"I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week.  All this is cheap and easy work: it entails no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity, we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, 'Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!'”

"But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of 'counting the cost.'”

"Let us suppose that a man is disposed to take service with Christ, and feels drawn and inclined to follow Him.  His heart may be completely changed, but still he should count the cost."

The Costs of Following Christ

1.  "For one thing, it will cost him his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts, and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another.  He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ."

2.  "For another thing, it will cost a man his sins. He must be willing to give up every habit and practice which is wrong in God’s sight. He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it, and labour to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think.  He must count all sins as his deadly enemies, and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced. They may struggle hard with him every day, and sometimes almost get the mastery over him. But he must never give way to them. He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins."

"He and sin must quarrel, if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But He will not receive them if they will stick to their sins."

3.  "For another thing, 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 take heed to his behaviour every hour of the day.  He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible -reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace."

"The soul can have “no gains without pains.”  To be a Christian it will cost a man his love of ease."

4.  "In the last place, it will cost a man the favour of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast, and a fanatic— to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says—“ Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15: 20)"

"The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by His disciples. They must be “despised and rejected of men.” (Isaiah 53: 3)  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. When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. 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."

Ryle, J. C (2012-12-14). The Complete Works of J. C. Ryle (Kindle Locations 34704-34852). E4 Group. Kindle Edition.