A well-known preacher made this comment, “If you don’t realize that there is a ‘cost’ to following Jesus, then you have heard American Christianity.” While some may see his comment as a statement of deep commitment and consecration, sadly, it violates the reality of the truth of the gospel. It places the focus on man’s efforts and not on what Christ has accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection for mankind.
Let's take a look at what Scripture actually has to say about this subject. First off, we see that salvation is a free gift from God, not a reward or sacrifice for good behavior (Romans 5:17). Faith itself is defined as a rest (Hebrews 4:8-10). Believers in Christ have been freely given everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The Bible teaches very clearly that we were bought with a great price. We didn't buy Jesus; He bought us. He paid for me in full and redeemed my life from destruction (1 Corinthians 6:20). The word “ransom” is also used to describe what the cross accomplished for all of humanity (1 Timothy 2:6).
So what is there that requires me to pay a “cost”? Personally, the sacrifices I have made for the gospel come from a response to the love God has for me, which He poured out so richly into my heart when I first believed (Romans 5:5). The disciplines in my life are a result of His grace working in my heart (Philippians 1:6). His joy is my strength and, as Paul said, even in my weakness, He is strong on my behalf (2 Corinthians 12:10). For me to try and boast or take credit for all that God has done in my life is pride solidly rooted in self-righteousness. How can I take any credit for what He has freely given me to live for Him?
My faith comes from His Word (Romans 10:17). He even gave me as a gift the very same Holy Spirit Jesus had, who enabled Him to obey His Father and who raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11). How could I possibly think that anything I could do or sacrifice could earn me the right to follow Him? (Matthew 9:13).
The fruit of the Spirit, which is love, is His expression and the reality of Him in my life (Galatians 5:22). It comes from my confidence in God's character, faithfulness, and goodness toward me (Romans 8:35-39). It isn’t some divine bargaining chip I use to prove my worth or value to God.
The work of the cross has made me holy and acceptable to God. It isn't my work, sacrifices, or even my suffering; Jesus did it all! (Ephesians 1:6). He alone is my life and worthy of all praise. As the author of Hebrews says, there remains nothing more to do, no more sacrifices, etc. Jesus did it all! (Hebrews 10:26).
Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer for wanting to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:20). Is this any different from telling people that they must pay a price to follow Jesus? What is it one has to pay that Jesus didn’t pay? Jesus tells the Pharisees in Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He tells the Pharisees He will use mercy to bring sinners to repentance. So it's His mercy that causes people to turn and follow God, not any sacrifice they have made.
So I strongly disagree with the well-known preacher because the reason I follow Christ has nothing at all to do with any sacrifice, suffering, or personal discipline I have done to “pay a price.” But it has everything to do with trusting totally and completely in the sacrifice of God's Son, the price Jesus paid, as well as His free gifts of salvation and righteousness. It also has everything to do with the Holy Spirit who has enabled and empowered me through His love, grace, and mercy to want to follow Him and live a life pleasing to the One who has loved me perfectly.
It is for these reasons I, like Paul, cannot boast of my own strength or abilities. I recognize and give all glory and honor to God for the great work He has done in my life. I refuse to boast, take credit for, or even suggest that my sacrifices, efforts, or disciplines have earned me any right at all to follow Jesus. The reason I follow and live for Him is solely and solidly rooted in all He has done for me! The truth is without all that Jesus has done and freely given to me, I could not have followed Him. That is why He deserves all the glory!
Anytime we believe that our sacrifices have earned us any blessings from God, we exalt our own sacrifices and end up cheapening the sacrifice Jesus made.
When we truly understand how great and valuable Christ's sacrifice was, we wouldn't dare cheapen it by adding our own.
When I look at the sacrifice Jesus made for me why would I ever want to devalue or diminish it by comparing it to my own.