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Count the Cost

Count the Cost

And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” Exodus 32:29

I grew up in an evangelical tradition, which places an emphasis on sharing the gospel message, making a personal decision to follow Christ, and on being born again into a new life of faith. Evangelicalism appropriately teaches that we don’t earn God’s love or forgiveness, but rather, that salvation – through Christ’s sacrificial death – is a gift offered to us simply because God loves us. Under Old Testament law, regular animal sacrifice had to be offered for the propitiation of sins, but because Christ died once-for-all, we no longer need to do anything. So, we rightly teach that if someone wants to know God, all he (or she) must do, is ask forgiveness, confess Jesus as Lord, and he’s saved. If I had a criticism of evangelicalism though, it would be that we often stop with the free gift part, suggesting that faith costs us nothing.

Today’s passage illustrates the cost of faith. In the story, some of the Israelites worshipped a golden calf idol in direct defiance of God. When Moses discovered the abominable act, he commanded the faithful among the Israelites to kill the ringleaders of the idol worship. After, he addressed the faithful, reminding them that they’d been called by God and pointed out the cost and the reward of their faithfulness. Being obedient to God meant losing family members who’d worshipped the idol. What was the alternative though? If they’d have been unfaithful, they’d have lost their own lives. In being faithful, they made a tremendous sacrifice but they also experienced God’s profound blessing.

The whole story may seem severe, but the principle stands. We all make a choice to follow God or not, and we should count the cost. Yes, we may freely receive salvation, but it would be a profound mistake to believe that it costs us nothing. God wants all of us. Jesus asks that we daily die to ourselves to follow him (Luke 9:23). In following God, we abandon the right to live as we please, living instead for his will. We may find this terribly expensive . . . until we realize what it is that we’re actually surrendering.

In my addiction, I came to recognize that my way is misery. God’s way is life. Yes, following him costs me my will, but the only thing I’m actually surrendering is the disaster of me. In return, I receive the blessed new life for which I was created. And that’s a trade for which I’m profoundly and daily grateful.

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