Counting (Not Negotiating) the Cost

Jesus himself tells us to “count the cost” of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33).  But I’m afraid many people want to negotiate the cost rather than count it. (Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, p. 200) 

Control keyWhen Jesus calls a person to salvation, which is the same as a life of discipleship according to the Bible, he is making a call to surrender our lives unto him and make him Lord of our lives.  All of a sudden, there is a paradigm shift from “me” being in control to Jesus being in control.

If we are honest, rarely is it “me” in control, rather it is something else such as status, money, sex, reputation, lifestyle, or something else that is truly dictating the terms to us about why we opt to do or not to do something.  If we are truly honest, when we say “yes” to Jesus, we are removing a created thing from being god in our lives and making the uncreated, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God who loves us and knows what is ultimately the best for us and saying “yes” to him being Lord of all aspects of our lives.

Realistically, whether or not to say “yes” to Jesus is a no brainer.  We simply seem to opt for “no brain” rather than the “no brainer” decision, when it comes to the day-to-day choices of having Jesus as Lord.

Timothy Keller, in his book Encounters with Jesus, aims right at the heart of our decision making process and the excuses that we too often make to try to wiggle out of saying “yes” to Jesus being Lord; whether the “yes” is in coming to Jesus for salvation or whether the “yes” is in the day-to-day of a Christian:

People sometimes say to me, “I would like to be a Christian, but will I have to do this?  Will I have to give up doing that?  Will I have to pray, give up sex, quit my job, change my views?”  Certainly questions like this have some legitimacy, because you do need to consider what it will cost you to become a Christian.  Jesus himself tells us to “count the cost” of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33).  But I’m afraid many people want to negotiate the cost rather than count it.  That is, they are willing to give up things, but they won’t give up the right to determine what those things are.  They want to be in a position to do ongoing cost-benefit analyses on various kinds of behavior, which keeps them in the driver’s seat, on the throne of their life, as it were.  I once heard a Bible teacher put it like this – “When it comes to following Jesus, the hardest thing to give is in.”  When God comes to Abraham, he says, “Abraham, get out of our homeland, out of the land of the Chaldess, and follow me.” Abraham says, “Where am I going?” And God essentially says, “I’ll show you later.” God wants Abraham to give up the right to determine for himself the best way for him to live (pp 200-201).

 If you really want Jesus in the middle of your life, you have to obey him unconditionally.  You have to give up control of your life and drop your conditions.  You have to give up the right to say, “I will obey you if…I will do this if…” As soon as you say, “I will obey you if,” that is not obedience.  What that is really saying is: “You are my consultant, not my Lord.  I will be happy to take your recommendations.  And I might even do some of them” (p 204).

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The Million Dollar Question

Thinker Question Mark29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:29-34, ESV)

A Sight of the Cross

nail crossOnly a sight of the cross will make us willing to deny ourselves and follow Christ.  Our little crosses are eclipsed by his.  If we once catch a glimpse of the greatness of his love to suffer such shame and pain for us who deserved nothing but judgment, only one course of action will seem to be left.  How can we deny or reject such a lover?

If then, you suffer for moral anemia, take my advice and steer clear of Christianity.  If you want to live a life of easy-going self-indulgence, whatever you do, do not become a Christian.  But, if you want a life of self-discovery, deeply satisfying to the nature God has given you; if you want a life of adventure in which you have the privilege of serving him and your fellow men; if you want a life in which to express something of the overwhelming gratitude you are beginning to feel for him who died for you, then I would urge you to yield your life, without reserve and without delay, to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…

This is not to say that you emerge from this [salvation] experience…perfect in the twinkling of an eye.  You can become a Christian in a moment, but not a mature Christian.  Christ can enter, cleanse and forgive you in matter of seconds, but it will take much longer for your character to be transformed and molded to his will.  It takes only a few minutes for a bride and bridegroom to be married, but in the rough-and-tumble of their home it may take many years for two strong wills to be dovetailed into one.  So, when we receive Christ, a moment of commitment will lead to a lifetime of adjustment.

-John Stott (Basic Christianity, pp 119, 126)

God and “Good” People

GOD AND GOOD PEOPLE

By Michael Ramsden

“People are basically good,” writes one poet. “It is only their behavior that lets them down.”

Good bad scalesIt is remarkable today that despite religion, creed, or practice, many believe they are good enough to get into heaven. Perhaps there is so much bad news about others that they conclude by comparison they are superior, and thus, deserving of a place in eternity. But then it is even more remarkable that when Christians claim they know they are going to heaven, they are regarded as being conceited, boastful, and arrogant. People immediately ask: How can they think that they are better than everyone else?

The fact that the same person can think of himself as superior to others, while at the same time criticizing Christians for arrogance, underlines one of the effects of living in a world comfortable with inconsistency. Though the contradiction is frustrating, we all need to be able to respond coherently to the questions at hand: Why can’t I just be a good person? Isn’t it unfair of God to say that you can’t get into heaven unless you believe, even though you have been a good person? Who does God think He is?

Jesus was once asked a similar question by a group of inquirers: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28). Interestingly, the question was posed in plural form; it seems they were looking for a list of good things to do. But Jesus replied in the singular, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one God has sent” (6:29).

Of course, in the minds of those who feel they have lived a good life, Christ’s answer will not go unchallenged. What makes belief so special? Surely what we do is far more important than what we believe. How can a good person, who is not a Christian, be denied access to eternal life on the basis of belief?

The difficulty here lies in the assumption that is being made in each of these questions—namely, that there is such a thing as a good person. Jesus again offers further clarification in the form of question and answer. He was once asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). The theory of the questioner was clear: Jesus is a good person; good people inherit eternal life, so what must I do to be in the same group? But Jesus’s reply was surprising. “Why do you call me good?” he asked (18:19). He then answered his own question: “No one is good—except God alone.”

The simple truth is that the issue is not about good people not inheriting eternity. Alas, the problem is much worse! Jesus seems to define goodness in terms of being like God, and on that basis there are no good people anywhere. Thus, the real question is not about who is good enough to get in to heaven. The real question is how God makes it possible for anyone to know and follow and be transformed by an eternal God at all. The answer is that we need to be forgiven, and that forgiveness is won for us through the Cross.(1)

In fact, this is precisely why the Gospel is called Good News, and why Christians do well to declare it. The good news is that knowing and following God is first and foremost about forgiveness. And thus, the Christian testimony is, in fact, far from arrogant! If a Christian is sure that he is forgiven it is not because he is good, but because he has received that forgiveness by believing in Christ.

In other words, if we will trust in and rely on Jesus—his promises, his person, his life, death, and resurrection—we can be sure that we are saved and living in his presence. Christians are not good people because they live morally superior lives to everyone else. They have been made “good” in God’s eyes because Christ has made forgiveness possible—because Christ has extended his own righteousness to those who will believe.

Good people will certainly inherit eternal life. However, the path to real and eternal life today lies not in religious observances or respectable acts, but in the forgiveness of a good God, given to us through the Cross of Christ.

Michael Ramsden is European director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in the United Kingdom.

(1) For further reading on this subject, I recommend The Cross of Christ by John Stott.

Salvation by Diversity?

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has denounced the Apostle Paul as mean-spirited and bigoted for having released a slave girl from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34…“Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!,” the presiding bishop said…She concluded her sermon by stating that we are not justified by our faith but by our respect for diversity.
(Diversity, Not Jesus, Saves, Says Presiding Bishop)

Salvation by Diversity?

Diversity can be a very good thing.  Different cultures. Different perspectives. Different styles. Different races.  To celebrate and respect diversity is commendable.  But there is a limit – compromising truth in the name of tolerance and celebration of diversity.

We can choose to respect someone and their views that may be different than our own.  We can respect someone who holds to a belief system that is different than our own.  But tolerance and respect do not mean condoning, accepting, and validating a false belief; especially at the cost of the Truth.

Trash BibleIt is cause for lamenting when Christians in general compromise Scripture; but it is deplorable when a person who is supposed to be shepherding the flock of God calls it evil to release someone from demonic bondage instead of celebrating the “diversity” expressed in that form of “spirituality.”  It is sickeningly sad to see evil called good and good called evil, especially when such twisted thoughts come from behind a pulpit.

As Christians, we are called to stand with the truth and for the truth of the gospel, even when some call our good news evil since it doesn’t “celebrate diversity” to the extent that some in society demand.  Yes, there is such a thing as celebrating diversity – and the Bible does so – but there is a clear line between celebrating diversity and placing diversity over doctrinal truth.

As a couple of writers have noted in regards to this so-called sermon, “This is quite possibly some if the most delusional exegesis I’ve ever read in my life…I’m sorry, but this sermon is not a Christian sermon.” And another, Rev. Bryan Owen rightly pointed out, “What’s happening here is the exploitation of a biblical text in service to a theopolitical agenda.  Given what she says in the first paragraph I’ve quoted from her sermon, the Presiding Bishop suggests that anyone who doesn’t buy into that agenda – anyone who holds to the traditional, orthodox understanding of such matters – is likewise afflicted with the same narrow-minded bigotry as Paul, and thus in need of enlightenment.”

As Christians, we are called to be lovers of the truth.  A mark of spiritual maturity is standing for the truth, even when it is unpopular.  A sign of spiritual maturity is learning how not to be drawn in by the siren-song of political correctness, but being “those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14 ESV).

How Jesus Saved the Marriage of Phil & Kay of Duck Dynasty

‘Duck Dynasty’ Stars Phil, Miss Kay: How Jesus Christ Saved Their Marriage, Restored Their Family

By Melissa Barnhart

Phil and Kay Robertson, the patriarch and matriarch of A&E’s highest-rated reality show, “Duck Dynasty,” were guests on CBN’s “700 Club” on Wednesday to talk about their family’s success and to share how their faith in Jesus Christ saved their marriage, which is about to hit the 50-year milestone.

The motto of “faith, family and ducks,” is a running theme for the Robertson family, whose Duck Commander business in Monroe, La., is the backdrop for the reality television show that beat out American Idol with 9.6 million viewers during their hour-long season finale last month.

Phil and Kay Duck DynastyThe show features Phil and Kay Robertson, Phil’s brother, Si, who’s a Vietnam veteran, and three of their four sons, Willie, Jason “Jase” and Jules “Jep,” and their wives and children, as well as a few of the Duck Commander employees. Everyone in the family has a role in the business, and the TV show follows the antics of the Robertson family as they navigate hunting season and familial relationships.

Before their family became millionaires and reality TV stars, Phil, a Louisiana native and former first-string quarterback at Louisiana Tech University, walked away from the game his senior year and handed off his position to Terry Bradshaw. He later completed his master’s degree in education, and in the midst of the ’60s, ended up leasing a bar in Junction City, Ark., where he was enveloped in the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.”

In their interview with Terry Meeuwsen of the “700 Club,” Kay spoke about how her marriage and family struggled for 10 years when Phil was leading a life filled with fighting and drinking. Kay was the first to be converted to Christianity – one year before her husband. And even though Phil had kicked her and their three sons out of their family’s home, she continued to stay in her marriage and pray for Phil’s salvation.

During their separation, Phil eventually turned his life over to the Lord. They attend the same church today where Kay received her salvation more than 38 years ago.

“My life was spiraling out of control in a hurry,” Phil said. “It’s literally what Jesus said, ‘from darkness to light.'” After he became a Christian, Phil gave up drinking and “with a clear head” went back to Louisiana with his family and bought a house on the river. He then started working as a commercial fisherman while he built his duck call business from the ground up.

Speaking at a May 5 benefit for the Prestonwood Pregnancy Center in Dallas, Texas, Willie, the Robertsons’ second-eldest son, said his father “hit rock bottom,” in Arkansas after he got into a fight with the bar’s owner who ended up in the hospital. “State troopers were searching for him, so he runs into the woods and lives in the woods for four months running from the law,” he said…Part of Phil’s mission today is to “try to make amends, and go forth and tell people about Jesus and what he’s done for us on the cross. I’ve repented, and I’m trying to get my generation to do the same thing.”

duck prayerHe told Meeuwsen that he noticed A&E’s production team was taking Jesus’ name out of the show when he gave the family’s dinnertime prayer. He later asked them why they were doing that, and they replied they didn’t want to offend their viewers.

During the next taping of the dinner scene, he prayed: “Father, thank you for the good food, thank you for our children, thank you for loving us and saving us. And I pray that you give these people that are filming us time to repent before you burn them for not using your name in a prayer.” That ended the battle and brought Jesus’ name back into the show.

Phil and Willie often speak at churches and civic groups across the country to talk about duck hunting, the founding fathers and the right to life. Phil is a staunch supporter of the pro-life movement; and Willie, who has three children, one of whom is an adopted son, said as a father he now understands how God’s love for his son, Jesus, is equal to his love for humanity.

Willie attended Harding University in Searcy, Ark., and speaks to college students about money and fame, and how neither can bring the happiness that’s found in the Gospel and salvation through Jesus Christ. He tells students that the most unhappy people he meets are those who have money and fame but are void of a relationship with the Lord.

Both Kay and her brother-in-law, Si, will be releasing new books this fall, along with a Duck Commander Devotional. Kay’s book might delve into issues she touched on during her interview with CBN’s Meeuwsen, when she spoke about her grandmother’s influence on her life, and how she became a Christian when she was a young mother of three boys, living in a tumultuous marriage.

The fourth season of “Duck Dynasty” is expected to start this fall and will include their eldest son, Alan, a preacher, who has been absent from the first three seasons of the show. Phil’s book, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander was released on May 7.

Thomas Hurst – Changed by God

“Christ took a broken little boy who grew to be a broken man and made him whole, a broken wife and made her pure, a broken marriage and made it beautiful. He gave life where there was only death, He rose from the grave, He is alive, His name is Jesus Christ, He is our hope.”
(From How God Changed Thomas Hurst on the Mars Hill Church Blog)

The above is a summary of the life of Thomas Hurst.  He is not a rock star. He is not a celebrity.  He is not a world-renowned pastor.  Thomas Hurst is a husband, a father, and soon to be a leader in his church.

Hurst’s story is one of tragedy, brokenness, searching, discovery, healing, redemption, and hope.  The details of his life may not match your life or my life, but his attempts to live a moral life, his plumbing the depths of the dumpster of life, and his encounters with the grace of God may very well show some parallels with your life and my life.

To read the wonderful story of Thomas Hurst, check out How God Changed Thomas Hurst.